Almond Cookies from the Nankin Cafe in Minneapolis


Minneapolis, Minnesota

Permanently closed

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The Nankin Cafe was a downtown Minneapolis landmark for over 80 years. Founder Walter James opened the Chinese restaurant at 14 South Seventh Street in 1919. Several downtown diners wondered if Minneapolis could support two Chinese restaurants. John’s Place was the first, opening in 1903, but the Nankin offered new dishes and a different atmosphere. As it turned out, the city supported both eateries for over 50 years.


The restaurant’s popularity soared — customers would come from all over the upper midwest to eat at the Nankin. In the 1950s, the Nankin moved into a larger space across the street and then relocated to City Center in the 1980s.

The 1990s were troublesome for the restaurant — a labor strike and a drug raid where 19 customers and staff were arrested damaged the Nankin’s reputation. Customers that once flocked to the best Chinese restaurant in the midwest began avoiding the Nankin.

The restaurant was forced to close in 1999.

Did you know that the Nankin had its own orchestra in the 1920s? Listen to a recording from the restaurant here.

Nankin’s Almond Cookies

Served at the Nankin Cafe in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Servings 24


  • cups flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • pinch of baking powder
  • ½ cup shortening
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 24 halved or whole almonds


  • Mix flour, sugar, and baking powder together. Work in the shortening. Mix in egg and extract. The dough will be very dry.
  • Chill for 1 hour.
  • Roll into 1-inch balls. Place on lightly greased baking sheets. Press down a little bit with either a half or whole almond.
  • Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes.
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