Minnesota Restaurants Supporting Local Farms
I love all four seasons, but there are few greater things in life than the first days of a Minnesota spring. We love celebrating another winter survived, and if you’re anything like me, food plays a huge role. I can’t wait until restaurants unveil their spring menus, teeming with fresh ingredients we’ve been craving all winter.
Birchwood Cafe, Minneapolis
Photograph by Mette Nielsen
Few Minnesotans have done more for local farmers and purveyors than Tracy Singleton. You can bet everything served at her iconic Seward restaurant was grown organically, sourced ethically, and hails from some cool Midwestern farm. Open all day, the cafe caters to early birds with its savory kale, quinoa and feta waffle served with pineapple pear chutney, lemon rosemary butter and bacon lardon, topped with a sunny-side up egg.
Lunch and dinner are all about super-fresh salads, soups, sandwiches (try the pork belly steamed bun) and hearty, but healthy, entrees like Khmer spiced pork ribs. With lots of gluten-free and vegetarian options, there’s bound to be something for everyone.
3311 East 25th Street, Minneapolis, MN 55406; 612.722.4474; birchwoodcafe.com
Heartland, St. Paul
Photograph by Tom Thulen
Lenny Russo was farm-to-table well before it was a marketing gimmick. Talk to him for five seconds and you’ll understand his passion for artisanal producers and ingredients run deep. So much so that in 2010, he relocated Heartland from a 60-seat spot in St. Paul’s Mac-Groveland neighborhood to a huge space in Lowertown that could also accommodate an on-site farm direct market, offering fresh produce and meats as well as ready-to-eat condiments, preserves, stocks, soups and more.
On weekends, you can peruse the St. Paul Farmers Market right outside Heartland’s front door. If you’re not in a cooking mood, let Russo cook for you. With the best seasonal ingredients quite literally at his fingertips, the menu always reflects the time of year. Try the vegetable panzanella, made with brioche, cauliflower, butternut squash and greens; or beef tenderloin served with sweet potatoes, roasted cauliflower and smoked tomato beef glace.
289 5th Street East, St. Paul, MN 55101; 651.699.3536; heartlandrestaurant.com
Brasa, Minneapolis & St. Paul
Though Alex Robert’s menu is an ode to the South, the ingredients are all about the Midwest. Nearly 100 percent of Brasa’s meat, dairy, eggs, flour, sweet corn and cornmeal come from small farms throughout Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. Protein offerings are short and sweet: simple and sublime slow-roasted pulled pork, rotisserie chicken and smoked beef. You’d be a fool to skip the roasted yams and Andouille, creamed spinach with jalapeno, perfectly acidic coleslaw or cornbread served with butter and honey. Gluten-free folks rejoice—you can enjoy nearly everything on the menu.
For a more upscale version of Roberts’ food, check out Brasa’s big sister, Alma, in Minneapolis’ Marcy Holmes neighborhood.
600 East Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55414; 612.379.3030; brasa.us
Photograph by Gianna Lucci
For more than 30 years, Lucia Watson has provided the Twin Cities with sustainable, seasonal food, made mindfully and served in a cozy space. Though she recently handed over the reins to a local restaurant investment group, the commitment to excellent and Midwestern ingredients hasn’t changed. A well-curated dinner menu is short and sweet, boasting fresh salads (try the mixed greens with bacon from Fischer Farms, topped with roasted parsnips, pistachios and grapefruit vinaigrette); Moroccan-spiced chicken with toasted couscous, cauliflower and currants; and roasted beet risotto with grilled leeks, sautéed kale, dill coulis and locally sourced goat cheese.
For something a little more casual, hit up the wine bar for a glass of rosé, artisan cheeses, meats and flatbread. The adjacent Lucia’s To-Go is an order-at-the-counter spot serving coffee, pastries, soup, salads and sandwiches.
1432 West 31st Street, Minneapolis, MN 55408; 612.825.1572; lucias.com
New Scenic Cafe, Duluth
Fifteen years ago, Scott Graden transformed a greasy spoon into the North Shore’s best destination dining spot. The New Scenic Cafe works with organic, local producers to create elegant takes on comfort classics. Try the pate tartlet—foie gras and chicken liver with lingonberry, petite carrots, roasted pearl onions and greens; sockeye salmon with creamed leek maitake, applewood bacon and walnut oil; and pheasant breast accompanied by roasted carrot puree. They have fantastic beer, wine and desserts, too. It’s one of only a few places where a beautiful view (right along Lake Superior on scenic Highway 61) comes with equally stunning food.
5461 North Shore Drive, Duluth, MN 55804; 218.525.6274; sceniccafe.com
Nosh, Lake City
Situated on scenic Lake Pepin, Nosh offers elegant dining closely tied to nearby southeastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin farms. Seasonality informs chef Greg Jaworski’s menu, and nearly all proteins originate within two hours of the restaurant. Start with a Brussels sprout leaf salad, topped with a poached egg, crispy bacon and red onion. Follow up with lamb rib eye, served with saffron basmati rice, roasted rainbow chard and toasted coriander demi glace; or grilled pork loin with parsnip puree, roasted Brussels sprouts and roasted cherry tomato chutney.
310 ½ South Washington Street, Lake City, MN, 55041; 651.345.2425; noshrestaurant.com
Wise Acre, Minneapolis
It seems just about every restaurant claims to be farm to table. In the case of Wise Acre, it’s part of the business plan. Depending on the time of year, 75 to 95 percent of ingredients originate on sister business Tangletown Gardens’ 100-acre farm in rural Plato, Minn. That includes Scottish highland cattle, Berkshire hogs, and free-range chickens, ducks and turkeys that spend their days roaming the land—stress-free, without crazy hormones and antibiotics. Produce is grown year-round (greenhouses are key in Minnesota!) and delivered to the restaurant daily.
Go for a hearty and healthy breakfast (try the CSA hash, made with whatever’s freshest and in season), or a not-as-healthy-but-who-cares salted caramel pinwheel. Dinner options include rhubarb pulled pork with roasted corn mashers, warm cabbage and dill weed, and house-made black bean burgers with pepper sour cream, quick pickles and fries.
5401 Nicollet Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55419; 612.354.2577; wiseacreeatery.com
Article originally appeared on exploreminnesota.com.
Feature image courtesy of Wise Acre Eatery.