Wise Acre Eatery is true farm-to-table dining in south Minneapolis

Try the Royal Brie & Bacon Burger

Wise Acre Eatery is true farm-to-table dining in south Minneapolis
Emily Utne

Here's what's for dinner, er, supper, at the new Wise Acre Eatery: picked-this-morning lettuces piled with crunchy snap peas, radishes, pickled egg, chicken salad, and a thick slab of smoky bacon. It's a feast so fresh with flavor that it doesn't even need its vinaigrette. (If this is how we should be eating—mostly vegetables, treating meat as a garnish—then why is it so hard to find such an enticing, meal-worthy salad on a restaurant menu?) This Shades of Spring salad is even more unique because it's what you might call a single-origin, or estate-grown dish: All the ingredients come from one farm, near Plato, Minnesota, which grows produce and raises cattle, pigs, and chickens.

Wise Acre Eatery is the restaurant for which Twin Cities locavores have long been waiting. Seeds of the venture were planted about nine years ago, when two grown-up farm boys, Scott Endres and Dean Engelmann, started the Tangletown Gardens retail shop and landscape business. The two grew plants for the garden store on Engelmann's family farm, located about an hour southwest of the Twin Cities. Then, roughly five years ago, Endres and Engelmann began raising livestock on the farm, and three years ago they started selling the farm's produce at the garden store. Last summer, the duo supplied a 300-member CSA and sold the surplus goods as jam, chutneys, and pickles. The farm operates with a sustainability-minded ethic and is now home to a herd of about 50 Scottish Highland cattle, 50 Large Black and Berkshire hogs, hundreds of egg- and meat-producing chickens, plus ducks, turkeys, and even three miniature donkeys to protect the free-range flock from coyotes and foxes. Engelmann oversees the country side of the enterprise while Endres manages the business in town.

Last winter, when Tangletown's owners learned that their neighbors across the street, Liberty Frozen Custard, were ready to move on, they bought the building and opened Wise Acre. They've created a symbiotic relationship in which farm ingredients are dropped off at the restaurant and exchanged for compostable food waste that will eventually become soil for growing more farm crops. Other restaurants certainly have a close farm-to-table connection, but Wise Acre is the first local eatery to source so much of its raw material from its sister farm and sell some of those ingredients at its retail counter. After finishing your meal, you can take home everything from eggs (cheaper than the co-op's at $3 a dozen) to first-of-the-season strawberries (sold at the practically pick-your-own price of $3 a pint).

A locavore's delight: Bacon & Pork Steak with fingerlings and greens
Emily Utne
A locavore's delight: Bacon & Pork Steak with fingerlings and greens
Shades of Summer salad
Emily Utne
Shades of Summer salad

Location Info

Map

Wise Acre Eatery

5401 Nicollet Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55419

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Southwest Minneapolis

Details

Wise Acre Eatery
5401 Nicollet Ave. S., Minneapolis
612.354.2577; www.wiseacreeatery.com
appetizers $2-$7; entrées $12-$19

The former Liberty Custard's 1950s-era Standard Oil station is still covered in its vintage porcelain-enameled steel panels, which take on a lovely glow when the Wise Acre Eatery sign is lit. The same grand garage doors open onto a small patio with umbrella-topped tables. On the north end of the building is a walk-up window where diners can order sandwiches and such.

Beautiful greenery has, unsurprisingly, migrated from the garden center to the restaurant, inside and out, with the landscaping even including some edibles. High up on one of the dining room walls, an array of dirt-and-plant-filled pouches adds greenery and absorbs sound. (The restaurant may want to consider incorporating even more plants, because the space can get awfully loud when the garage doors are closed.) The restaurant's decor might be described as a sort of Northern California, country-meets-contemporary style, as if Chez Panisse or the French Laundry moved into the heart of San Francisco. Out went Liberty's vintage arcade games, Coca-Cola signage, and patriotic color scheme. In came new table and bar tops hewn from rustic white oak boards reclaimed from the former plank road behind the Mill City Museum. To symbolically fuse the farm to the restaurant, Plato soil was incorporated in the bar's rammed-earth base. Vintage mechanic's trouble lights hanging from the ceiling pay homage to the building's automotive history. The bulbs, which vary in their wattages and dangle at irregular heights, are meant to evoke a rural sky full of fireflies.

Endres and Engelmann hired partners Beth Fisher and Caroline Glawe to run Wise Acre's kitchen and the front of the house, respectively. Fisher and Glawe are both Lucia's alumnae who have spent the past several years doing boutique catering and teaching cooking classes. The two approached Endres and Engelmann about consulting on the project, but after visiting the farm they knew they wanted more involvement.

Fisher calls the field-to-kitchen arrangement "a chef's dream." Cattle and hogs are slaughtered every couple of weeks to supply the kitchen with meat, and the restaurant receives its produce deliveries daily—all the more reason to order one of Fisher's immaculate salads. The Field combines greens and vegetables (roasted zucchini and red peppers when I had it) with toasted pumpkin seeds, smoked beef-and-pork sausage links, buttermilk dressing, and a sprinkle of tiny purple chive blossoms. I'd happily eat it at every meal, though there's another variation on the brunch menu that's topped with two poached eggs.

Wise Acre's focus is everyday food, and the juicy Royal Brie & Bacon Burger is something that would be nice to indulge in again and again. The French fries sometimes come out soft and oily, but, on the plus side, they're served skin-on and actually taste like potatoes. The kitchen's fryer does better with the corn dog, which replicates the delightful crunchy-soft batter of the dipped-to-order State Fair treat, except without the mystery meat.

1
 
2
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
2 comments
Bnj235
Bnj235

I ordered the single scoop a couple weeks ago and was very disappointed. They put the custard in a tiny plastic cup and pour some hot fudge on top that just pools on the surface of the custard making it very difficult to eat due to the tiny size of the cup. Not impressed with this place so far.

John
John

Single scoop ice cream portions are about 1/4th of a scoop.

 
Loading...