The culinary team at Common Roots Cafe believes that the best way to create a welcoming restaurant is to fully embrace local flavor in every sense of the word. Even the interior speaks to this mission?reclaimed barn wood makes up the dining room's floorboards and tabletops, the counter is composed of recycled cardboard, and the air is one-hundred percent Minnesotan. The overall effect is one of casual warmth, an atmosphere that makes the cafe an ideal spot for guests to chew on eclectic, yet accessible, cuisine and relax with a choice of 10 local craft beers.
The menu itself also bursts with hometown pride, highlighting local organic and sustainable ingredients. As much as half of the restaurant's food comes from farms located within 250 miles of Minneapolis, while some produce is picked right outside the door at the cafe's urban garden. And since the selection of ingredients alters with the seasons, the chefs adapt their dishes each month to showcase their fresh flavors. Previous offerings have included redfish tacos with jicama slaw, mac 'n' cheese with local cheddar, and house-made tagliatelle pasta topped with a hearty bison bolognese sauce. Bites are complemented with sips from a drink list featuring wines?many made from organic grapes?and local beers. And, in the unlikely event that diners leave any food on their plates, the scraps are carefully composted to continue the cafe's green production cycle.
At Faces Mears Park, Chef David Fhima's use of local, sustainable ingredients puts a contemporary spin on traditional bistro cuisine. His chefs seek out grass-fed beef for their steaks, hand-make pastas with organic whole wheat, and stock the wine cellar with as many organic and biodynamically produced bottles as possible. This approach results in fresh renditions of classic American and Mediterranean comfort foods, such as an Asian-style tuna melt on house-made sourdough and lamb tagine with a cinnamon and onion marmalade. Even the pizzas manage to incorporate some more inventive toppings, including options with everything from Sicilian andouille sausage and a fried egg to salmon, kale, and chevre.
The bistro's dining room shares a similarly casual, yet modern aesthetic. Large plate-glass windows line the front walls of the atrium section and allow plenty of natural light to flood the space during the day. The mixture of hardwood and gray-tiled floors complements the rich earth tones of the tan walls and sturdy columns. At the same time, the restaurant gets a contemporary, industrial vibe from its gleaming metal tables and Charlie-Chaplin-manned pizza assembly line.
White Wolf Creek's ever-changing bistro menu teems with wild-game entrees, each paired with a complimentary chunk of house-made fudge. Have a seat at a cozy table and feast peepers on Lisa Loucks Christenson's bald-eagle documentary and wildlife-themed art while stealing glances at the day's sumptuous offerings, which include a heaping plate of elk meat loaf ($19.95). Three pairs of frog legs cartwheel through a field of homemade breadcrumbs, landing in a pool of house tartar sauce and drying off with a pillowy baked potato ($18.95). Treat yourself to scratch-made chocolates, fudge, dipped fruits, and chocolate bacon, all housed in display cases much in the way a third grader displays his collection of prized cootie catchers. While scooping up salsa, guacamole, and sour cream with buffalo chips ($7.95+), patrons can take a gander at gifts such as handmade wooden toys, hand-turned pens, and handmade jewelry and art from local artists (purchases of gift items are not valid for this Groupon).
Although the drive-thru of West Side Perk lets patrons easily grab their coffee to go, this café is no caffeine assembly line. Instead, owners Dave and Deb Irvin have sought to create a community-oriented cultural hub where locals can banter about significant issues, get some work done via free WiFi, and catch up with old friends over cups of gourmet coffee. The full menu of coffee, tea, and smoothies pairs up with a selection of sandwiches and soups that rotate by the day of the week or by which vegetable was not pardoned by the chef. When the lights begin to dim at week's end, the café entertains patrons with its Friday Night Movie Series, which showcases kid-friendly films to audiences nestled in the café's cushy seating.
An extension of the Thai and Indian cuisine cooking classes and Community Supported Agriculture programs of Ethnic Foods Co., Collage Global Cafe introduces tastebuds to new flavors and cultures with a smorgasbord of pizzas, soups, chicken dinners, and curries. Like Midwestern fall weather, the menu changes each day, with culinary designer Kavita Mehta selecting fresh produce from local markets to whip up dishes such as savory-sweet pad thai noodles, peppery Afghani eggplant, or whole-wheat pizzas topped with chicken satay and basil.
Warm up your taste buds with an appetizer order of tuna bites (sliced sesame-ahi tuna on crispy wontons atop a spring mix of greens, $8.99) or some spicy stuffed mushrooms (Italian sausage, gorgonzola, and sun-dried tomatoes, presented in a shallow bath of marinara topped with parmesan, $8.99). Woody's dinner menu grills up the prime rib of beef served with horseradish crème fraiche and sides of garlic mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables ($18.99/queen cut). Aquatarians will enjoy Woody’s pecan-crusted walleye, pan fried and served with the same savory sides ($17.99), as well as the succulently stuffed salmon filled with a wild-rice, prosciutto, and portobello blend, finished with classic beurre blanc ($15.99). After sinking your teeth into a build-your-own, hearth-baked pizza (starting at $7.99) or sticking your fork into butternut-squash ravioli ($11.99) for dinner, complete your repast with a decadent dessert or after-dinner drink. Try a slice of the Chocolate Decadence Cake ($5.99) paired with a Keoki Coffee (Kahlua, brandy, crème de cacao, fresh coffee, and whipped cream).