You’ll think you’re in Sweden or Norway when you visit Linnea Bakery in Downtown Kenosha. Would you like a delicious Kanelbulle with your cardamom coffee? Or perhaps you’d like a serving of Swedish Limpa Rye bread. Have a Norwegian Waffle for breakfast or a Swedish Meatball Bomber at lunch. Looking for a special, one-of-a-kind Nordic gift? Be sure to check out the wool tomtes, straight from Lapland. Locally owned and operated, Linnea Bakery is a Scandinavian Bakery and Nordic Café.
It was July 1, 2012, when husband and wife Mark and Kim Rutkowski opened their first business, Linnea Bakery. Located at 512 56th Street, its neighbors include Rustic Road Brewing Company and Rhode Center for the Arts. The business serves breakfast and lunch and features Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Danish and Icelandic breads and pastries, and gourmet soups and sandwiches – all made from scratch. The House Blend coffee with cardamom is a must-try! There is also a selection of gifts from the Nordic countries. Customers may dine in or carry out. There is seating for 20 indoors, and an additional six outdoors. With advance notice, special orders can be filled.
Mark’s grandfather was born in Sweden, and while Kim’s grandmother was born in the United States, she is of full Norwegian descent. With that background, Mark and Kim knew they always wanted to open a business along these lines. While Kim is originally from Iowa, and Mark from Illinois, they settled in the Kenosha Area and decided this is where they wanted to be. They looked at the types of businesses Kenosha had, and thought the city had a need for this type of one. Much research was done, with Mark using census figures, and discovering that 10% of Kenosha residents were of Scandinavian descent. Kim says they fell in love with Downtown Kenosha right away, and began networking with other business owners and searching for a location. “We’re really happy with everything so far,” Kim says.
What they’ve created is an authentically Scandinavian business - a mix of traditional and modern. A good portion of it is Swedish and Norwegian, like their family. Kim explains it’s built around what they love. Mark still has family in Sweden, who Mark and Kim visit. Many recipes have come from Mark’s grandfather’s cousin. Kim says it’s fun corresponding with her. While it’s modern day, she says it’s important to know the history of the ingredients traditionally used. For instance, Norwegian recipes would often include potatoes because that’s the crop they could grow.
Imported products are available – candies and foods from Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway – while Mark and Kim also try to source their ingredients locally. Everything that is available at the counter is made in the bakery’s kitchen, as much from scratch as possible. Kim likes the homemade idea. She says she’d rather spend the time than take shortcuts, noting “you can really tell the difference.” Breads are started fresh every morning; no pre-made dough is used. They don’t like leftovers; so they make small batches.
They have so much to offer, and yet it wouldn’t be possible to make and serve every product every day. Thus, different foods are offered each day. Products are rotated, based on demand and traffic. They hope to develop a schedule so customers know what to expect and when to expect it. They have been consistent on the third Saturday of the month in offering Lefse Norweigan potato flatbread. (If customers have a specific need, they should check the bakery’s Facebook Page or call ahead to see what is available.)
The bakery’s most popular item is also Sweden’s most well-known sweet treat: Kanelbulle. What can be described as a Swedish pretzel-esque cinnamon pastry, this treat is made every day. Sweet cardamom dough is used with a cinnamon filling, and then it’s twisted. The word translates to cinnamon bun. Among the other popular items: braided cardamom bread, Swedish Limpa Rye bread, and cardamom coffee. The coffee is regular black Swedish dark roast, roasted in Milwaukee. It’s brewed at the bakery with cardamom (a powder/spice).
Kim’s favorite item is their layered cakes, including with Lingonberry and whipped cream. She says it’s not very sweet, and is something a little more special than going to the grocery story for a sugary birthday cake. She considers hers more flavorful. She also likes anything with almond in it.
Visit Linnea Bakery’s Facebook Page, and you will drool!! The photos and descriptions will make your mouth water. You’ll see the breads include: Finnish carrot oat, Finnish seeded barley, Icelandic brown soda, and honey cardamom. They make strawberry muffins with a dollop of gooseberry preserves baked inside, cider-soaked apple flips, and an authentic Norwegian recipe waffle topped with whipped creme fraiche, strawberries and powdered sugar. Also among their offerings: Sandbakkel (like a shortbread tart), Skorpa (similar to Biscotti), Saffransbullar (saffron buns), individual sized pumpkin and rutabaga pies, Daim Cheesecake, and Prinsesstårta (Swedish cake).
Stop by for lunch, and the menu may include Swedish Meatball Bombers; other sandwiches such as ham and havarti, apple balsamic cheddar, turkey apple cheddar with celery leaf and clover sprouts; and soups like chicken dumpling, rutabaga, or a 3-color stuffed pepper. Canned homemade pickled beets have also been offered. There is nothing fried (like donuts or rosettes) on the menu at Linnea Bakery, as they don’t have the necessary kitchen equipment.
Imported products for purchase on the bakery’s shelves include: From Sweden: Finax banana and papaya muesli, Kex choklad bars, Makerel tomato spread, salty licorice, and Grevé cheese wedges. From Norway: Lerums brand strawberry and raspberry preserves. Cheeses and caviar are also among the offerings. Kim notes fish is very big in Sweden, since the country’s surrounded by water.
In early February, Kim and her baker Sydney visited Sweden. Kim calls it an “educational experience”. This was her second trip. They tried to go the route of a local person, visting different restaurants and coffee houses, experiencing life in Stockholm. They made a visit to the Tea Centre of Stockholm in Södermalm where the bakery gets its Söderblandning tea and they also did a round of pastry and cake research. They purchased ingredients in Stockholm, including cloudberry. This is a berry grown in the wild, and not cultivated. Kim says it looks like a raspberry, but doesn’t taste like any other berry. They gathered a few more recipes, which they look forward to implementing. They also went sightseeing and visited museums.
They traveled up to the Arctic for a buying/purchasing excursion. They purchased handmade crafts straight from the source. A market is held once a year in a small village, where Laplanders (the Sami people) gather to sell the goods they’ve been making all year. Kim called it “really neat” to see their nomadic lifestyle, and to purchase what can’t be ordered online. “We have something to offer that not a lot of places have.” A lot of the gift items are made out of wood, such as birch mugs. They also brought back leather and silver bracelets, antler keychains, and wool tomtes (similar to gnomes).
St. Lucia Day on December 13 (when saffron buns are served) and Midsummer in June are among the Scandinavian holidays the bakery celebrates. Midsummer is a traditional celebration of the summer solstice, the longest day of the year.
Inquiring minds want to know where the bakery’s name comes from. “Linnea (Linnaea boralis), also called twinflower, is a tiny woodland flower native to the arctic and subarctic regions of the northern hemisphere. With two nodding delicate pink flowers born on one stem, the plant was a favorite of Swedish taxonomist Carl Linnaeus and was later named after him. Over time, Linnea has also come to be popular female name in both Sweden and Norway.” (www.linneabakery.com)
Linnea Bakery was one of the featured businesses on the Kenosha edition of "Around the Corner with John McGivern", which made its debut on Milwaukee Public Television in January 2013. “We were really so happy to be included,” Kim says. She notes the bakery was very new when the show filmed in July 2012, and they were glad to have their “few minutes in the spotlight”. They’ve had new customers drive from Milwaukee because of the show. Kim notes they love it when people tell them “you’re the reason I came to Kenosha.” The staff makes sure to recommend other nearby businesses.
“We have fantastic customers. It’s been really good,” Kim says, adding they listen to their customers’ suggestions. Reaction has been very positive. Note these two posts on the bakery’s Facebook page: Karen S. (1/6/13): “I met a couple friends at your bakery last month & enjoyed trying some Scandinavian food. I bought some Lingonberry Preserves (& a few other items) to bring home to Indiana for my husband. He "loves" the preserves -- said it's best preserves he's eaten.” Kari G. (11/4/12): “Lunch was especially yummy today....thanks for making our 3 generation girls' day such a treat! You are such a fabulous addition to Kenosha.”
The bakery has partnered with the KACVB because they appreciate how we get the word out and other businesses steered them in our direction. Also, they visited our Visitor Information Center before they moved here, and they find the KACVB to “well organized” and “everyone is so nice”.
Among Mark and Kim’s future goals: They hope to expand their product/gift line. They also hope to expand their hours and offer evening events. They are willing to open after-hours now. For instance, they have made friends with local groups such as Sons of Norway, Swedish American Club, and Danish Brotherhood, and would like the groups to use their space for language classes, crafts, and the like.
One thing that isn’t certain: whether or not they’ll ever offer Kringle. They have been asked if they make it, and they do not. Kim feels it’s already easily available in this area, and “we want to be different for now.” Should they ever make it, it will be as “authentic, traditional as possible.”
They are certainly drawing in the customers who apparently have been starving for authentic, traditional Scandinavian food in southeast Wisconsin. Customers who pronounce the menu items better than they do. Perhaps not for long though as Mark’s in the process of learning Swedish, while Kim’s learning Norwegian. However, fresh off her trip to Sweden, Kim thinks she is doing better with the Swedish vocabulary than the Norwegian! Treat yourself to Linnea Bakery next time you're in Downtown Kenosha!
(262) 484-4203, Facebook Page