Dayton’s debuted on Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis in 1902. Goodfellow’s department store originally occupied the space, but in 1903 George Draper Dayton bought it and renamed the store Dayton’s. When it was time to expand across the river, Dayton’s purchased one of St. Paul’s oldest department stores, Schuneman’s, in 1959. Dayton’s took over management of Schuneman’s popular dining room, the River Room.
Dayton’s made the decision to move out of the former home of Schuneman’s that dated back to the 1890s. A contemporary building designed by Austrian architect Victor Gruen was built across Wabasha Street from the old Schuneman’s. The mammoth building occupied an entire city block bounded by Cedar, Wabasha, 6th, and 7th streets. To make room for the new store, twelve low-rise buildings built in the decades on either side of the turn of the twentieth century. The Schuneman’s building was also razed after Dayton’s moved into the new five-story store in 1963.
Robert Johnston began working as the manager of the River Room in 1971. He brought a popover recipe with him that would become one of the most requested recipes in the history of department stores. The eggy popovers were first served exclusively at the River Room but soon became a staple at the Sky Room and the Oak Grille in the Minneapolis store. They were later served at every Dayton’s store in the Twin Cities. The River Room served their last popovers on February 1, 2013, when the Dayton’s store in St. Paul closed, but now you can make them at home.
- 5 eggs
- 1⅔ cups whole milk
- 5 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1⅔ cups flour
- ½ tsp. salt
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly coat popover pans or deep muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray and preheat pans in oven for at least 15 minutes.
- In a medium bowl, use a mixer on medium-high speed to beat eggs until frothy. Add milk and butter, mix well. Reduce mixer speed to low and add flour and salt. Mix until just combined. Allow batter to rest for 15 to 30 minutes.
- Divide batter among preheated pans, filling each cup just under half full. After filling the cups, fill any that are empty halfway with water. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes without opening the oven door. The popovers will be puffy and golden brown.
- Remove from oven, transfer pans to a wire rack and cool 2 minutes. Popovers should pull away from the pan easily; if not, use a dull-bladed knife to nudge them from the pan. Serve warm.
This article was originally posted on my previous website, Forgotten Minnesota. It was posted there on November 19, 2019.