Continuing the legacy of a historic neighborhood
Upon entering the upscale Taste of Rondo restaurant, customers are ushered in by the aroma of Southern cuisine and blues and jazz tunes. Charles Carter is the owner of the new establishment that opened on Concordia Avenue in St. Paul on July 5, 2020.
The idea for the business came from a moment of enlightenment, said Carter. “I went home one night and went to sleep. The spirit was so connected to me. When I woke up, I just had this feeling, unbelievable, like I wanted to get started with this restaurant, Taste of Rondo.” Shortly thereafter, he took action.
Carter is from Mississippi but felt a strong connection to the Rondo neighborhood immediately. “When I came out to Rondo, it made me feel like I was right at home in the community,” he said. After taking time to learn about the historic Black neighborhood, he felt compelled to contribute to its history.
Carter pursued his dream of opening the restaurant. “This is the only Black American Legion in St. Paul and the City wanted to bulldoze this.” He didn’t want the building destroyed,, so he created the Taste of Rondo as a solution.
Fortunately, “Before I started construction, I finally got everything approved. Four years later, I have a liquor license and a restaurant,” said Carter. “I’m the first Black American man to have a liquor license and a restaurant together in St. Paul.”
Carter added, “The meaning of Taste of Rondo is to remember Rondo, reconnect Rondo, reconnect them with an open, warm, welcome compassion.” Carter called it a place to meet, gather, and enjoy live entertainment. “Every other weekend customers can enjoy live blues and jazz,” he said.
Special precautions have been taken to keep customers safe during the COVID pandemic. “Protocol is following guidelines from the governor. When you come in through the door we take your temperature. We also ask questions, the top five. We also give you hand sanitizer and offer you the patio,” said Carter. Right now they are limiting the capacity to 23% in an effort to ensure guests feel safe.
The process of opening an upscale restaurant has required patience, drive and perseverance. Asked what served as motivation, Carter said, “To remember Rondo and the Black community. It was really my motivation, and it took four years.” He held onto his vision, remained optimistic, and kept fighting for his dream.
Customers have a delectable range of Southern entrees to enjoy at the Taste of Rondo. Depending on the time of day, patrons can order breakfast or dinner. They also offer mouth-watering appetizers and sandwiches.
Asked about the most popular items on the menu, Carter said, “Southern fried chicken and blackened catfish.” The sweet peach cobbler pie made from scratch is also in high demand.
The Taste of Rondo breakfast menu is exclusively served on Saturday and Sunday from 8 am to noon. The menu showcases the signature “Rondo Breakfast” that comes with a side of eggs, sausage, bacon and potatoes. Customers can also upgrade to the
“Big Rondo Breakfast” that offers larger portions and a pancake or slice of toast.
More soulful breakfast options include: biscuits and gravy, savory grits, French toast, veggie omelets, yogurt parfaits, oatmeal accented with tasty granola and fresh fruit. If you have a sweet tooth, there’s a satisfying selection of freshly baked scones, apple pie crumble and blueberry coffee cake.
The dinner menu is available Monday-Friday, 3-10 pm. Customers can order southern fried chicken, shrimp etouffee, Cajun catfish, and “Momma’s Pot Roast,” only available on Sundays. They also offer side dishes:; “Rondo Mac & Cheese,” collard greens, pineapple slaw and much more.
There’s a signature “Rondo Kiss” cocktail infused with Grand Marnier, soda, juice, citrus garnish and a cherry on top. Mimosas and Bloody Marys are also offered. The non-alcoholic beverages include fresh lemonade, juice, coffee and tea.
Clarence’s wife Kasara Carter said, “The Rondo community was a thriving Black community at one given time. With this business here now, it’s another opportunity to try to revive some of that history, culture and richness that our community needs.”
She added, “Supporting this business helps feed the seedlings of hopefully more Black businesses from the same community. It’s a great feeling knowing that we are helping pioneer the rebirth of a new generational wealth here in our community at Rondo.”
Taste of Rondo is located at 976 Concordia Avenue in St Paul. Customers can dine in or order pick up or delivery through Bite Squad. They also have gift cards and Groupon(s). Hours of operation are Monday-Friday, 11 am-10 pm and Saturday & Sunday 8 am-10 pm. For reservations call 651- 364-9207. For more info, visit www.tasteofrondostp.com.