Tiny Minneapolis diner with big ideas

MINNEAPOLIS - The new Tiny Diner in the city's south Powderhorn neighborhood is a small spot built on some very big ideas. It's a greener take on the classic American diner.

"We're just trying to demonstrate that food should be healthy, it should come from a healthy environment," restauranteur Kim Bartmann insists while sitting underneath a cavernous roof of giant solar panels.

"I think it's really great that this big solar array is very visible in the neighborhood. It shows that it's possible for people to get solar on their roofs and yards. There are a lot of programs available."

The $250,000 dollar array of solar panels at Tiny's is being paid for in part by government incentives. The panels can fuel up to six homes and are expected to take a 30-percent bite out of the energy gobbling power bill at the diner. Bartmann's not even wasting water at the restaurant.

"We do 100-percent water capture here", she explained while pointing to gutters that have been installed along the roof and sides of the building. "None of it goes into the sewer system when it rains. There's a dry river creek bed here that will take the water directly into the garden."

That water is used to help grow a vegetable and fruit garden that has been planted on the site. It's one of three plots of land around the metro supplying Tiny's and other Twin Cities restaurants Bartmann owns. (The others include Lake Harriet's Bread and Pickle, Pat's Tap, Cafe Barbette, the Bryant Lake Bowl and Red Stag.)

Unlike those other restaurants, turning this into a reality has taken over three years to accomplish. But Bartmann isn't complaining.

"We are really excited, " she said. "We're trying to show that healthy soil begets healthy food and solar energy is better for us in the long run than gas, coal or oil because it pollutes the air we breathe."

The Tiny Diner is located at 1024 East 38th Street in Minneapolis.

Hours: Open daily 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

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