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Cardinal Cafe open Tuesdays, Fridays through May 25

Senior Maria Nissen, who served as Cardinal Cafe head chef on Friday, March 9, prepares the meat for French dip sandwiches. (Beth Leipholtz / Echo Press)1 / 3
Lunch on Friday, March 9 consisted of a French dip with au jus, asparagus, a Caesar salad and pumpkin bars. (Beth Leipholtz / Echo Press)2 / 3
Nada Hedstrom, a junior, prepares plates for patrons of the Cardinal Cafe on Friday, March 9. (Beth Leipholtz / Echo Press)3 / 3

Maria Nissen has enjoyed her family's French dip recipe for as long as she can remember. So when it came time for her to choose what to serve at the Alexandria Area High School's Cardinal Cafe, it was a no-brainer.

"I've been eating it since I was a little kid," said Nissen, who is a senior. "It's my favorite recipe. My dad makes it, my grandma makes it. It's a family thing."

The Cardinal Cafe is a restaurant open to the public twice per week and operated by students in the Culinary Arts III class in the Business, Communications and Entrepreneurship Academy at the high school. The cafe serves as a way for students to learn about menu planning, advanced meal preparation skills, meal management, table setting and more.

This is the second spring the cafe has been serving meals, which are available to the public.

Each of the 10 students in the class will have the chance to be head chef. Nissen, who was the head chef for Friday, March 9, finds cooking to be a rewarding experience and says this class was a way to expand her skills.

"It's just about putting out food people like to eat," she said. "I work at Raaper's (restaurant) and when somebody pokes their head in the kitchen and says, 'That's the best burger I've ever had,' it makes my day."

The Cardinal Cafe will be open from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays through May 25, with the exceptions of Tuesday, March 20; Tuesday, March 27; Friday, March 30 and Tuesday, April 3.

For reservations, call 320-763-2142 ext. 4275. Leave your first and last name, the date you'd like to attend and the number of people in your reservation. You will receive a call back to confirm. You also may email your request to The cost is $7 in cash or check.

Beth Leipholtz

Beth is a reporter at the Echo Press. She graduated from the College of Saint Benedict in May 2015 with a degree in Communication and Hispanic Studies. Journalism has always been her passion, but she also enjoys blogging and graphic design. In her spare time, she's most likely at Crossfit or at home with her boyfriend and three dogs.

(320) 763-1233