Apertif and Terra Waconia: Is the drive worth it?

In search of good dining in the suburbs

Downtown Waconia looks like a quintessential small-town Main Street, between the quaint storefronts and billowing American flags. Among the bars and theater and chiropractic offices sits the restaurant Terra Waconia, tucked into the first floor of a narrow, barn-red home. The space previously housed the Green Room, which spent about four years as the westernmost point on the Twin Cities' gourmet farm-to-table dining map. Two former Green Room employees, head chef Craig Sharp and general manager Tracy LeTourneau, recently bought the business and have kept the dining concept pointed in a similar direction, while also giving it a stamp of their own.

The tiny space looks as charming as ever, with a local artist's paintings of ice-fishing scenes lining the walls and a pretty wine rack at the restaurant's rear. A slight whiff of char in the air gives the room a homey, wood-stove scent, and a large chalkboard menu reads as spare as a poem: Mussels. Brussels. Cheese. Duck confit. A few salads and entrées: Walleye. Pasta. Duck. Chicken. Risotto. Pork.

It's a nice contrast to overbearing menus that read like CVs, where each ingredient on each plate comes with its own provenance and pedigree. While the approach encourages guests to interact with servers, the process can feel a little amateurish for the first few tables of the evening if the server relies heavily on notes.

Aperitif is a nice place, but what does the name mean again?
Alma Guzman
Aperitif is a nice place, but what does the name mean again?

Location Info

Map

Aperitif

772 Bielenberg Drive
Woodbury, MN 55125

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Woodbury

Details

Aperitif
772 Bielenberg Dr., Woodbury
651.578.3000; www.aperitifrestaurant.comappetizers $6-$21; entrées $16-$28

Terra Waconia
140 W. Main St., Waconia
952.442.3353; www.terra-waconia.comappetizers $6-$12; entrées $15-$23

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One of my favorite dishes at Terra Waconia was a simple—and generous—bowl of mussels soaking in a buttery broth with a slight kick of chiles. My friends and I greedily sopped up the liquid with slices of bread and used the empty shells to scoop the remainder into our mouths.

The other items I tried were good but not as remarkable. Risotto with seared scallops had a gently woodsy flavor from its tender, spicy lamb sausage. Duck confit had a luscious texture but was overpowered by a scatter of kosher salt between the bird and its bed of spinach and almonds. Roast pork on a pool of molten polenta was a welcome comfort for the chill of early spring, though it would have perhaps been better served with either tomatoes or tomatillos, rather than both. The only outright disaster was a Clementine curd cake with piercingly sweet frosting and a dry, crumbly interior. I would have preferred just a thimble full of the bright, potent curd.

The restaurant's entrée prices, which hover in the low $20s, seem appropriate for an upscale-but-neighborhoody restaurant, though by-the-glass wine selections could risk feeling out of reach, with most priced in the $9 to $10 range. (When I visited, the only glass less than $7.50 was a young or "green" and typically inexpensive vinho verde.)

But especially with peak produce season on the horizon, I think neighbors will be grateful to have a restaurant like Terra Waconia furthering a locavore ethic. Sharp, who says he's generally skeptical of Minnesota wines, was so impressed with those produced by Parley Lake Winery, an upstart Waconia vineyard, that he hopes to include Parley Lake in a few upcoming wine dinners. 

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