How Hygga Lowertown Became So Much More Than A Little Coffee Shop

“Hygge” is a Danish term referring to coziness. And one of St. Paul’s latest hot spots, Hygga Lowertown ( 213 E. Fourth St., Suite 100, St. Paul; 651-353-3751; hyggalowertown.com), is fast becoming a place where people can cozy up.

We chatted with 37-year-old Chad Northrup, co-owner with wife Rebecca Northrup, about how plans for a quaint coffee shop and roastery grew into a bakery, restaurant and bar.

What’s your first food memory? I used to spend all my summers on my grandparents farm in southern Iowa. My grandmother was always quite the cook. It was quite the big process. Dinner preparations would start at noon. I remember helping with prep work like peeling potatoes.

What did you want to be when you grew up? I always knew it would be food related.

What was your first job in food? Detasseling corn when I was 13.

How did you wind up in the restaurant business for good? I’ve worked in the food business since I was young. I’ve worked at several places, including New French Bakery, Caribou Coffee and Dunn Brothers Coffee. At one point, I wanted to open a coffee shop with some sandwiches, salads and soups. I was looking for 600 square feet. But then we tabled it for a while and I went back into consulting. I worked in downtown St. Paul and came across this empty space. I thought it’s way too big but got a hold of the building owners anyway. They were super helpful and made it become a reality.

We have a total of 6,000 square feet. At first we were kind of hesitant to serve alcohol, but here we are. We made it a place where you can get coffee in the morning but get wine, beer or craft cocktails in the evenings.

What’s your favorite dish on your menu right now? The lefse breakfast burrito wrap — I’ve been really into lefse lately. Another favorite is our breakfast croissant sandwich. We make our croissants in house and we got the biggest, thickest bacon I could find. I’m a big breakfast guy and love going to restaurants that offer breakfast throughout the day. At Hygga, we serve things off our breakfast menu until 6 p.m.

What’s the last thing you cooked at home? Corned beef roasted and carved up to make sandwiches for everyone. That was on St. Patrick’s Day, so that shows how much I’ve been cooking at home lately.

If you had to eat or drink only five things for the rest of your life, what would they be? Coffee. Our breakfast sandwiches. Strawberries. Mangos — I could eat those all day. The last one would be cheeseburgers.

What’s next? We roast all of our coffee in house. I think we do a good job of roasting, and the next step would be taking it and offering it elsewhere, too.

By Nancy Ngo, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.

 

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