Dan Ratte and Tim Cheesebrow, lifelong friends and purveyors of Underground Music Café at 1579 N. Hamline Ave. in Falcon Heights, are both self-educated home cooks whose dream of bringing high-quality, accessible food to the neighborhood hub is becoming a reality.
Chef Steve Rinker, owner of Roma in Mahtomedi and one of the founders of Lift Bridge Brewery, is serving as a consultant for menu selections, strategy and direction as the team introduces new items to its already expanded menu. The new menu includes sharable plates and homemade desserts, as well as pastas, sandwiches and entrees. The Wild Mushroom Ragout, for example, is a blend of wild mushrooms in a red wine reduction served with roasted potatoes and seasonal vegetable, perfect for the cooler, crisper evenings that are right around the corner.
“We always planned to introduce a better menu, but the feedback we got when we first opened Underground Music Café was not to change too much,” Cheesebrow said. “At first we added better sandwiches and pizzas. Now it’s time to focus on bringing the menu up to a new level.”
The duo’s motto is “eat well, do good, make music.” While the café features musical acts every night, supports the nonprofit organization Music Works Minnesota and hosts events for the community, it was time to concentrate on the food.
“It was time to focus on the first part of our vision,” Ratte said.
“We wanted the food to be at the quality level of the music, beer and wine we had brought in,” Cheesebrow said.
The menu is also accessible, with the highest item ringing in at $18 and lunch averaging under $10.
“My goal is to keep everything on the menu under $20,” Cheesebrow said. “We want neighbors to bring the family for dinner, hold a business meeting here, enjoy lunch with a group of friends. We want it to be a neighborhood spot where everyone feels comfortable visiting regularly.”
Cheesebrow is also proud of the beer and wine selection. The wine list does not contain any selection over $8.
“We used to have fancy glasses and higher end wines,” he said. “But it wasn’t really needed in the neighborhood. We listened to what the neighborhood wanted.”
Underground Music Café is hiring for the fall.
“As we hire new staff, we have made it clear that the position will now include full service. There will be a learning curve; we realize it’s in a transitional period,” Cheesebrow said.
“Give us feedback and know that we are going to act on it. We know there are gaps in service now, but we are getting there and we hope people stick with us and let us prove that we can be the affordable bistro the area has been lacking.”
Como Park resident Alex Lodner writes about food and community regularly in the Park Bugle.