Jared Brewington, owner of soul restaurant Funky Grits in Minneapolis, just finished his first year at the Minnesota State Fair. His vendor stand was a much buzzed-about addition to the Food Building, where he ultimately sold thousands of shrimp fritters alongside a dip spiked with Cry Baby Craig’s hot sauce.
Days after the final day of the Fair, Brewington is seated inside a coffee shop overlooking his restaurant. He grimaces at a small group of women standing outside Funky Grits. They’re peering inside and reading the note on the door. The eatery is closed and it’s been that way since he began his stint at the fair.
“That makes my stomach boil every frickin’ time,” he mumbles. “I’m sure they understand and I know they’re fine, but they’re hungry and I can’t feed them. It pisses me off.”
Funky Grits is closed until September 10th as they recover from their impressive fair run. Impressive because, as a first year vendor, Brewington made it look easy.
“So scared I was over-prepared” he cajoles. That little phrase became the overarching theme of his fair experience. Last minute acceptance into Minnesota’s great get-together plunged Brewington into a state of outright fear and logistical panic.
He meticulously created a network of systems to work in his favor: regular cash drops to keep the register at a healthy capacity, buying the largest and best fryers he could, and staggered inventory strategies both on-site and off-site were just a few ways Brewington made his process bulletproof.
Of course there was the occasional hiccup. He ran out of fritters for a solid ten minutes one day, ran out of mayo on another; sometimes employees would get sick or wouldn’t show up. But none of that stopped them from being one of the fastest lines in the Food Building.
”We were so focused,” he said. “All we cared about was efficiency.” And it certainly paid off, considering the overall response to their food.
A Parade of Stars
When talking about the fair, Brewington couldn’t help but admit a rare sentiment amongst first-year vendors.
“It was a breeze,” he admitted. “I’m not joking. But it was a breeze because we were successful and people seemed to love us.”
The overwhelmingly positive response to the Funky Grits vendor stand validated the ludicrous amount of work that Brewington, his wife, and his partners did to make it all work.
Media outlets of all kinds were there to try his shrimp fritters. WCCO Talk 830, KARE 11, The Jason Show, and DeRusha Eats, Pioneer Press, Star Tribune, and more had good things to say about Funky Grits.
There was a political turnout too. Current mayor Jacob Frey and Governor Tim Walz both stopped by to show their support. Others included Minneapolis City Council VP Andrea Jenkins and former mayor of Minneapolis Sharon Sayles Belton.
- Jason DeRusha and Jared Brewington
- Kat Perkins and Jared Brewington
- Jason Matheson and Jared Brewington
- Jared Brewington, Jenn Brewington, Governor Tim Walz, and Ben Brickweg.
- Mayor Jacob Frey
- Jared Brewington at WCCO Talk Radio
- Jared Brewington and KARE 11
- Minneapolis City Council VP Andrea Jenkins and Jared Brewington
- Former Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton and Josephine Brewington
Even the artists made their way out. Many of Brewington’s personal friends are musicians, including renowned recording artist Kat Perkins.
The Next Chapter
The morning after the fair was done, Brewington woke up at 7:00 am. He had a chiropractors appointment scheduled. That appointment, plus a few drinks later in the day, was all he needed to fully recover from the grueling, 12-day schedule that alternated between 12 and 16-hour days.
He immediately switched modes with his wife, Jenn, and began to focus on what was next.
The reopening of their brick-and-mortar was the first thing to think about, considering a few changes are expected to hit. For one, the shrimp fritters that he sold at the State Fair will now become a staple appetizer: 6 for $9.
The restaurant itself will see a general overhaul as well. Funky Grits will primarily become a customizable bowl restaurant where customers get to make their own soul food creations. A few anchor items will remain, however.
“These bowls simply allow for quicker service. I like a fast environment,” he said.
Construction will be done on the interior as well, but that will be extended over the month.
Aside from Funky Grits, Jenn and Brewington are working on something else entirely. The two are looking to a November opening for a restaurant concept. Brewington asked that the details of the restaurant be kept secret, but what he did say is that this place will be his attempt at a national chain.
“We don’t like vacation, we like new stuff: to go home and talk about new ideas is our version of a vacation,” he said, as if it wasn’t clear at this point.
But, in fact, Brewington does like vacation. Every night on his little farm in Cologne – 40 miles southwest of the Twin Cities metro – he drives around in his golf cart, drinks a bit, and daydreams about new and exciting ventures.
“As long as I get that in, I’m good for the next day.”
He swears he doesn’t get tired, but if you catch him at the right moment, you might think he’s lying. Either way, the city loves him for it.