A Homemade Dining Experience
By Kara Larson
Photos by 2nd Truth Photography
Featured in Make It Minnesota’s Spring 2015 issue.
February 2015 marked the beginning of Megan Sheridan and Matt Kappra’s visionary dinner club—320 Northeast. A big step for Minneapolis food culture, the club aims to fill an abysmal hole in the market while instilling a great deal of happiness in the young couple’s lives. More yet, the venue is imaginative. These two are serving up beautiful meals in their own home. Megan offers, “It feels right; everything about it feels right. And it is genuine. At the end of the day, making and hosting meals for people is the thing that makes us most happy. And that is what makes people want to show up—it’s not just that 320 Northeast is different. I think it has more to do with the fact that we are living into our purpose.”
But let’s start from the beginning. 320 Northeast began with a soul hunt. Not long ago, husband-wife team Matt Kappra and Megan Sheridan were leading a very different life. For Megan especially, who worked as a very busy and important (she jokes) advertising account manager in the marketing world, her days were saturated with articles on effectively managing time, doubling (or in a perfect world, tripling) her own productivity, and working to build a superficially successful life. Megan shares, “Coming from the advertising world, I went from knowing how many emails I could send in an hour, how many conversations I could have, clocking my time every fifteen minutes to spending almost two hours picking spinach in a greenhouse. It’s a shift from everything revolving around being fast and efficient to trying to live into a slower, deeper life.”
Food Meets Philosophy
Alas, there was one aspect of Megan and Matt’s life that held promise. And it had to do with food. Megan has an environmental bend to her background as she went to the School for Environmental Studies at the Minnesota Zoo, which is where her interest in food and food systems began. Matt’s passion for food stems from his Italian background, but his craft has been honed and perfected through his significant amount of experience with food. His first job in the kitchen was at the Blue Door Pub when it opened, and since then, he has been through many restaurant openings. Some of them include Loring Kitchen & Bar, Cocina del Barrio on 50th and France, and the opening at the Butcher & The Boar. At present, Matt cooks at Lucia’s. Beyond his restaurant experience, right after college, Matt did a summer internship at a farm—something that would greatly impact his understanding of food on a grander scale.
From Matt’s time on the farm and then all his time in restaurants, he has a great deal of insight into the entire system. A couple years ago, it occurred to the duo that they should figure out how to incorporate all of this in one system. And soon, they would. So, as the pair lived the “looks great from the window” lifestyle, Megan reflects that the only real happiness her and Matt experienced were in the epic meals he would prepare every Monday.
A Case of the Mondays
Before 320 Northeast became a reality, Monday night dinners were the tradition that inspired so much. For years, Monday dinner was special for Megan and Matt. “I was at the advertising job and would come home gossiping and talking about things that seemed important at the time. But this amazing meal was the craziest contrast from how we think about Mondays in our culture. All of the junk faded away when we sat down and it was special. And it was weird that it was on Mondays, but it became this thing that people, including my husband and I, really loved. And I’m a host by nature, so I would invite everyone and it just grew and grew.”
As this became a beautiful tradition shared with the couple’s closest friends, Megan and Matt’s devotion and enthusiasm for this meal inspired some heavy consideration of a most basic and difficult question: “Are we happy?”
It was around June of 2014 when Matt sat Megan down to discuss the depth and direction of this very question. Megan offers, “We had that moment of, “Whoa, what are we doing with our lives? We’re young and successful and unhappy and what should we do about that?” So, it was a great moment to pause. And I’m so thankful to have such an awesome husband and that we’re able to rock with each other on the same page.”
A Fresh Way to Dine
And that was it. 320 Northeast had wings and a vision and hope. Megan shares, “We worked so hard to find this thing. We searched for something unique that was going to make us happy and would still find a hole in the market. Being happy and finding holes in the market aren’t really two things that should be figured out in the same vein, but there it was the whole time.”
So, then it was time to have a conversation about what 320 Northeast would be. “When Matt took me out in June to have the ‘let’s reevaluate our life things’ talk, it was right at the time I picked up a book called The Third Plate by Dan Barber.”
From this book, Megan was able to take away so much for their new endeavor. The first came through an “aha moment” where she realized the lack of a culture of food here. In other places, this culture revolves around things like olive oil or grapes that grow in a certain place and in great abundance that inspire a food culture around them. Building on this point, Megan came to realize, albeit through Dan Barber, that the way restaurants work is backwards. In most cases, restaurants write menus first and then go to the farmers to fulfill their menu’s needs. Megan and Matt work in the opposite fashion in their journey to build a food culture for generations to come. The first step comes through exclusively working with a handful of local farms—taking what they grow in abundance and building a menu from there.
Megan and Matt have the ability to appreciate the strength of their ideas on food. From their own plates to the larger scheme of the future of food systems and culture, 320 Northeast serves as the seamless amalgamation of the pair’s passion for good grub. “The last message from the Dan Barber book is that chefs have the power to shape culture. If we can feed ourselves entirely from this place and make it taste amazing, maybe that’s our contribution to shifting things. And if these shifts are new, amazing flavors or combinations of things people never tried before, my hope is that we’re creating cycles and things to look forward to.”
A New American Dream
This is more than a tale of a new place to dine. It is about building a life around a passion—uncovering a purpose in smoked trout and fermented cabbage—and learning what legacy deserves to be left in this world. For Megan, her legacy has to do with the famed and misguided American Dream. She shares, “It is easy to say that we aren’t linked to this place. And this ties into the American Dream of more, more, more and next, next, next—and this oftentimes means never settling in one place. So we’re looking around and saying, “if we’re going to be here, we better be here.” And if it’s not possible to live here year-round from food that we grow here, then we better get out. But the beautiful thing is, it is possible. We’re doing it right now.”
320 Northeast is about living a life that’s not work—a new American Dream. “My legacy is to live and share a new American Dream. A new, more human, fulfilling, and deeper life. We made it. And we made it fast. You get all the right cues from society that you’re successful and great and well done, but you’re still miserable. What’s been interesting about our journey in particular is that people relate so much to this process that we’ve been through and the feeling that stirs the initial exploration—it’s real; people feel it.”
Interested? Sign up at 320northeast.com to get your invite.