MINNEAPOLIS – Savvy Midwest travelers have known about this treasure for some time – a stop at Kramarczuk’s Sausage Company in Minneapolis has been recommended by travel books, websites and even Guy Fieri on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”
For those who grew up in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area of Minnesota, Kramarczuk’s is a staple that nurtured the Ukrainian community for over 60 years. Even if you’re just in town for a Twins baseball game, you can enjoy Kramarczuk’s bratwurst and Polish sausage at their kiosks in the new Twins Stadium.
Wasyl and Anna Kramarczuk opened Kramarczuk’s Sausage Company in 1954. Eastern Europeans went there to buy their meat, sausage and holiday fare, and exchange a few words with someone who spoke their native tongue while wrapping-up their purchases. In 1974, Orest Kramarczuk (Wasyl and Anna’s son) took over the business and expanded it to include a restaurant that serves, among other things, varenyky, cabbage rolls (holubtsi), borsch and unbelievably delicious tortes from Anna Kramarczuk’s personal recipes; an outdoor café (summer months only – remember, we’re in Minnesota!); and an in-house bakery.
In 1982-1990 Kramarczuk’s received multiple “Best of the Twin Cities” awards and in 2013, Orest Kramarczuk and his daughter, Katie, published a very successful cookbook, Kramarczuk’s Family Classics. Orest semi-retired from Kramarczuk’s in 2012 and the business is now in the hands of his son, Nick, who continue to expand the business.
In 2013, Kramarczuk’s Sausage Company was designated an “American Classic” by the James Beard Foundation and honored for creating a new American cuisine. Orest Kramarczuk, his wife, Carrie, and their four children flew to New York to accept the award.
Even though the above-mentioned accolades clearly illustrate Kramarczuk’s success, what is rarely publicized and acknowledged is Orest Kramarczuk’s and his family’s support for the Ukrainian community. Mr. Kramarczuk, along with his wife, followed the example set by Orest’s parents and continued to support the Ukrainian community for over four decades.
Countless Ukrainian teenagers looking for their first job were hired by Kramarczuk’s and worked alongside Orest’s children, Katie, Nick, Andrew and Lucia. New immigrants were able to make a living while learning English well enough to be hired elsewhere. When it was time to remodel – Orest Kramarczuk hired Ukrainians for the job, and to this day, kovbasa from Kramarczuk’s makes Ukrainian events profitable for organizations putting on fund-raisers.
Perhaps the most important contribution that Orest Kramarczuk and his family have made is the fostering goodwill within and toward the Ukrainian community. He relentlessly promotes Ukrainian heritage, history and culture, while correcting misconceptions and historical fallacies. Like his parents before him, through hard work and perseverance, Orest Kramarczuk has become one of the stewards of the Ukrainian community.
Most recently, he contacted Maidan Minnesota, a new organization in Minnesota gathering funds to send humanitarian aid to Ukraine, to let them know that they could use a recently vacated storefront next to Kramarczuk’s, free of charge, to sell pysanky during the Easter holiday season – a time when Kramarczuk’s is packed with shoppers.
In his cookbook, Orest Kramarczuk said, “Food is the glue that keeps families, nations and societies together.” My own daughter once said, “I love going to Kramarczuk’s because it feels like home.” I think Kramarczuk’s has been part of the glue that has kept the Ukrainian community in Minnesota together. It’s a good legacy.