Beef Pot Pie from Loretta’s Tea Room in Minneapolis

63

Location:
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Status:
Permanently closed

Dates active:
1949-1975

The apartment hotel at 2615 Park Avenue in Minneapolis was built in 1929 by Swedish immigrants C.A. Anderson and Gustav Nelson in the popular Art Deco style. The building sits back from Park Avenue, allowing for an expansive front lawn and a semi-circular drive. Stylish double entry doors lead into a lobby with hand-carved wood panels, etched glass light fixtures, ornately carved wood tables, wood-paneled elevators, and terrazzo and marble flooring.

Residents were typically well-off business owners and professionals. Swan and Lillian Turnblad lived there, overlooking their mansion across the street, from 1915 until Swan died in 1933.

John Hruza and his wife, Mary, opened a tea room and small grocery store there in 1937. It was a series of bright and cheerful rooms on the main floor of the building, just off the lobby. Mary managed the tea room, and John handled the grocery. Baked goods and sandwiches from the tea room were also sold in the grocery store for residents to grab and go.

The building changed from a resident hotel to a cooperative in 1947 when residents purchased their units and pooled money together for shared amenities such as doormen, cleaning staff, chauffeurs, and more. 

The tea room space was vacant for much of the war years, but a lively entrepreneur saw an opportunity to change that. Loretta Wright moved to 2615 Park to open Loretta’s Tea Room in 1949. She’d worked at the tea room inside 510 Groveland, another of the city’s co-op buildings, and the Sliver Latch downtown for many years.  

Many residents and ladies from the neighborhood gathered at Loretta’s to enjoy light fare in the bright, cozy atmosphere of the tea room or outside on the veranda. Tray service was available to residents who couldn’t make it downstairs. 

Lunch offerings included soups, chicken or beef pot pie, egg, tuna, or ham salad sandwiches with coleslaw. The dinners were a bit more fancy. They started with tomato juice with a slice of lemon and a cracker or fruit shrub — a small ball of sherbert floating in sweet fruit juice. Then came an appetizer served in small amber glasses labeled Loretta’s Tea Room placed on a small plate atop a doily. Entrees included meatloaf, roasted chicken, beef, or pork with a fruit or green salad and dinner roll. 

Pie was always available for dessert. Seasonal favorites include pecan, lemon meringue, apple, coconut cream, banana cream, berry, pumpkin, and mincemeat. Plum walnut pie was always available and always the most requested.

Loretta’s was not only a favorite of the ladies who lunch crowd, but also male and female workers from nearby businesses like Honeywell, Abbott-Northwestern Hospital, Minnesota Children’s Hospital, and the Ebenezer Home. They enjoyed the unique atmosphere, excellent food, and chatting with head cook Lorraine Meehan.

Loretta developed and perfected many of the dishes on the menu. Since the tea room was open for lunch and dinner, along with Sunday brunches, she oversaw the creation of many of their guest’s favorite meals. Her daughter Audrae managed the tea room until Loretta retired at age 70 in 1975. They decided to sell their beloved restaurant the same year.

Several subsequent owners honored Loretta by keeping her name on the door until the tea room closed for good in 1998. Loretta Wright died in 1983. 

Beef Pot Pie

Served at Loretta’s Tea Room in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Servings 5

Ingredients

  • ¾ cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 3 pounds beef stew meat, cut into ¾-inch cubes
  • 3 teaspoons oil
  • 6 cups hot water
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 – 16 oz. package frozen peas and carrots
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes or 1 tablespoon beef base
  • ¾ cups cold water
  • 1 pie crust (9-inch)

Instructions

  • Combine ½ cup of the flour and the salt and pepper. Coat the meat with the flour mixture. Heat oil in a Dutch oven or heavy skillet and brown flour-coated meat mixture in hot oil. Add hot water and onion. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered 2 to 2½ hours until tender.
  • Cook peas and carrots according w to package directions, drain. Add to stew mixture along with bouillon cubes; stir to dissolve bouillon.
  • In a separate bowl, combine cold water with remaining ¼ cup flour.
  • Bring stew to a boil, add the flour mixture and boil for 1 minute, stirring often.
  • To make pie tops: Preheat the oven to 400°. Cut pie tops from the prepared crust with a large cookie cutter; prick with a fork.
  • Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or until they look flaky and slightly brown.
  • Place stew mixture into 5 individual 2-cup casseroles.
  • Just before serving, place an individual pie top on each casserole.
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