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MSP: Alternatives to Surdyk's

After 20+ years of shopping at Surdyk's, I need to find a new source for wine and cheese. Wine isn't difficult to find, but I'm having a hard time finding a source for cheese that has the wide range that Surdyk's has. Does anyone have suggestions?

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  1. The Wedge Co-op has a really beautiful cheese selection, though they focus more on domestic cheeses than Surdyk's does. Whole Foods, of course, has a huge cheese section where you can sample anything you want, and in my experience their staff has a little less attitude than Surdyk's -- and they're also often more knowledgeable.

    1. I have never failed to find decent cheese at Lunds/Byerlys. Some of the newer more modern Festival Foods have reasonable selections too.

      1 Reply
      1. re: cooknKate

        If you haven't been, the Byerly's in St Louis Park has a huge liquor store connected to it. Go there for both - Cheese & Wine.. and be wowed. It's quite a store =) A friend who lives next door to France/44 goes there in a pinch, but has often said Byerly's has better stuff :)

      2. I haven't been there yet but there's a new cheese shop at 50th and France that I believe is owned by a former Surdyk's employee. Dara wrote a review a few months back.

        I also went to the wine store at 44th and France once. I was able to find what I wanted on the wine side but their cheese/deli selection was lacking. I believe in the past six months they're become even more of a cafe then a cheese store.

        1 Reply
        1. re: katebauer

          I got a wonderful triple cream from france there once (the store on 50th and France). I had it with a butter scone about six months ago, and I'm still thinking of it...

        2. The Lund's in uptown has usually had a decent selection and when I used to frequent the store regularly, years ago, they had a couple of guys who new their stuff. Broder's deli has a limited selection of mostly italian, but you can put togehter a really nice cheese plate from their case. Their red pepper mascarpone is the bomb.

          The shop at 50th and France is really good and I think they have very competetive pricing, especially considering their location.

          1. The Kowalskis on Grand Ave. in St. Paul just remodelled their deli. They have an absolutely first rate selection of domestic and imported cheeses, as well as some of the Fra' Mani Salumis from Paul Bertolli in Berkeley. They sell the Roquefort made by Jacques Carles and his family. This is one of the greatest cheeses produced anywhere on the planet. Also check out the very large selection of Chocolates.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Michael Florey

              I have talked to the cheese guy at Kowalskis and found him very knowledgeable. (Was talking to him specifically about special Wisconsin cheesemakers making exceptional cheese.) And I have talked to the cheese guy at Mississippi Market at Dale and Selby. They have some exceptional local cheeses and they can tell you all about them.

              (Michael -- you can buy me chocolate any time.)

              1. re: karykat

                I agree with kk - the k-wols cheese guy is great (unless you are my nutritionist or accountant, in which case he's the devil's spawn). His cheese knowledge is great - hes really friendly (he invited us to a gig his band was playing nearbye) and when i balked at the price of some pecorino toscano he found me a more reasonably priced alternative. When i mentioned that i had been disappointed before by cowgirl creamery's cheese release strategy (i swear sometimes they ship things expecting them to not sell that well and mature in the store) he graciously cut the round of red hawk in half and let me buy just the half round after we decided it was ripe enough.

            2. For cheese, the shop at 50th and France is a winner.
              For wine... hands down in MSP it Winestreet.

              1 Reply
              1. re: spumilia

                The 50th and France cheese shop - the cheeses they do have are terrific, but their selection is really, really limited. The cheese shop on 44th and France - the employees there, the few times I visited, were clueless.

                Surdyk's has never let me down for their superior knowledge and depth of selection. I also like Lund's/Byerly's and Whole Foods, but the selection is more limited. You just can't beat Surdyk's selection.

              2. the cheese counter at the ne lund's (1 block from surdyk's) is actually quite good. talk to liz.

                golden fig in st. paul has been getting some nice local cheese in, particularly some hard-to-find, not very commercial small-batch wisconsin cheeses. but they don't have a huge cheese *counter,* with a huge selection, they just kinda sell the cheese.

                4 Replies
                1. re: soupkitten

                  I would agree if Lund's didn't murder all their cheese by wrapping it in plastic. No air = dead cheese. They have these big chunks of Humboldt Fog just sitting in that case suffocating. And I think aside from the 10 different types of Beemster you can get there, they have all of these cheeses at Surdyk's. Also the speck @ Surdyks is $5 a pound cheaper and is 5 times tastier.

                  1. re: Foureyes137

                    agreed on the plastic gift-wrapping! when in doubt i always try to get whatever's been packed in the last couple of days there, it's still quite good usually. i do think the ne location's the best lunds/byerly's cheese case in msp, though-- i think they go through more cheese than the others, which would make for less "suffocation" time.

                    surdyk's is a pretty good cheese shop, although the staff can be pretty shabby! i remember this old thread from the first time it came around and always wondered what the op meant by "After 20+ years of shopping at Surdyk's, I need to find a new source for wine and cheese." it almost makes it sound like somebody got 86'ed from a cheese shop :) i suppose the op will never let us know now!

                    1. re: soupkitten

                      Heh, it is funny to me because I boycotted Surdyk's for 3 months a few years ago due to some shoddy service from the older lady that works in the wine shop. (I sent Jim an email suggesting some customer service training. I never heard back, but I hear that is par for the course for Jim). This was before Lund's was there so it was the longest 3 months of my life. Sam's got my wine business and I had to drive to Kowolski's for cheese.

                      Also, Surdyk's needs to accept Amex. There, I said it.

                      1. re: Foureyes137

                        i'll bet that was it!!! i boycotted surdyk's myself for some time because i went, specifically, TO the cheese shop to try to find a new cheese, with a particular flavor profile, to put on a sandwich, to sell in a store far, far, far away from surdyk's. i sampled a few cheeses and had several blocks in my shopping basket to buy. i was honing in on one that i really liked, which was wrapped and just labeled surdyk's style, with the type of cheese and "wisconsin". i asked one of the cheesemongers what i thought were two perfectly innocuous questions: "what is the name of this cheese and where is it from, specifically?"

                        and she got SUPER shady! she outright refused to give me any information about the cheese, or show me any label for it-- which i believe is illegal! i was furious! who needs a secretive, suspicious, underhanded, conniving cheesemonger in their life!?! well, me apparently, because i shop there again. but boy do they piss me off sometimes!

                        oh, and, they also sometimes carry b.t. mcelrath liqueur chocolates there, on the liquor store side, at the checkouts, and you can't buy them anywhere else in town because their alcohol content is so high they can't be sold anywhere that doesn't have a lq license. so you have to go to surdyk's for your chocolate and booze when booze alone or chocolate alone just won't do. curse them.

                2. There's a place at Hwy. 110 and Dodd Road in Mendota Heights/West. St. Paul called E's Cheese. I think they also recently opened another location in Woodbury? I've never been there but would imagine they have a decent selection. There is also a wine shop right next door and they have been very helpful every time I've been in there.

                  1. I have been taking the free wine classes at Haskells the past year and they always provide cheese from The Big Cheese Shop next to their downtown Mpls location. The Big Cheese is a very small shop, but they seeme to have a nice selection of cheese, you just have to tell them what you are looking for.

                    I believe thaey also sell cheeses and food at the St. Paul Haskells location too.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: mnfoodie1

                      Haskell's owns The Big Cheese, and according to their web site, Haskell's owns the St. Paul Deli, also.


                    2. I would have to ask "why"? One of the constant laments on these boards is how we don't frequent the best places enough and they go out of business. Of course that doesn't seem to be much of a risk for Surdyk's, being the institution that they are. But, if they're the best in town, why stop patronizing them just because you've been going there for 20+ years?

                      That said, I do like Sam's Washington Avenue wine shop as an alternative, and their first Wednesday of the month tastings are quite the hoot.

                      And the Premier Cheese Market on S. France is supposed to be quite amazing.

                      Sam's Washington Ave Wine Shop [CLOSED 2009]
                      218 Washington Ave N, Minneapolis, MN

                      Premier Cheese Market
                      5013 France Ave S, Minneapolis, MN

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: Loren3

                        it's another old post-- i doubt the op will be back to tell us why s/he wanted alternatives to surdyk's. ;)

                        that said we should be conscious about anointing any place in town as the "be-all and end-all" of its type. i think this thread would be really valuable to people who don't get close to surdyk's unless they specifically make a trip there, and for drawing needed attention to smaller wine & cheese shops that may not have surdyks' selection or pricing, but may have specialties surdyk's may not offer. these little shops need business too, they have merits of their own, or they just may be more fun/convenient for people. if someone started a new thread tomorrow: where to buy cheese in msp, and there was just one reply, surdyk's-- that would be boring. and not the whole picture, either. it's cool to hear about the new places and wider selection of cheese in msp, even just since the op. viva cheese! :)

                        1. re: soupkitten

                          I agree. I didn't note the age of the post, so missed that part. And even though I have my favorite places (Surdyk's being one of them) I do like to explore other options, in part because of the serendipitous discoveries that can be made, in part because it's good to support the indies, and in part because preconceived notions can be put to rest if someone has a solid rec for some place that I may otherwise have a strong bias against (e.g. the post recommending Whole Foods near Calhoun).

                          1. re: Loren3

                            Curious about your bias against Whole Foods near Calhoun. The cheese, the service, everything?

                        2. re: Loren3

                          As long as this thread has been resurrected, we should probably say that Sam's is no more.

                        3. Try Whole Foods- good selection, informed staff. They will cut any peice you want and will let you sample anything on the floor or in the case. Good turnover too, so the plastic wrap is really only suffocating the cheese for a couple of days. sucks that they can't have a wine department, but minneapolis liquor laws are weird.

                          1. I recently moved to Uptown, and Whole Foods has become my go-to cheese stop. The cheese selection at the Wedge is incredibly disappointing (unless you are looking for cheddar). France/44 has a nice little cheese shop--high-quality, but limited selection.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: jaywhy

                              Re: complaints against Lund's plastic-wrapping their cheese- don't they all do that? And I have to say Lund's uses a more high quality wrap that is more like cellophane than what the Wedge uses which is basically shrink wrap that gives an awful plasticky flavor to that $20/lb cheese. I hate having to shave off the outer layer to avoid the plastic taste. I've asked the Wedge to get what Lund's uses but they haven't seemed interested.

                              And I think Whole Foods uses the same stuff Lund's does, and they have a huge selection of cheeses.

                              1. re: faith

                                Surdyk's now only uses parchment, unless you purchase a pre-packaged piece.