Brunch at Esker Grove is a game changer for weekend art gazing and quaffing

"Waiter, there's a weenie in my bloody."

"Waiter, there's a weenie in my bloody." Mecca Bos

You know how it is when you go to a big city: You want to go to the art museum and then spring for a slightly overpriced but amazing lunch at the cafe, and that will be your whole day because it’s a plenty good, super luxe way to spend an entire Saturday.

Well now you can do it in your very own big city, because The Walker isn’t just art anymore, but good, artsy food, too. And the addition of brunch at the new Esker Grove restaurant means you’ve got a newfound reason to visit.

As we reported previously, the new restaurant is on the ground level, a smart maneuver that brings it down from the esoteric, out-of-the-way space that once overlooked Hennepin Avenue from a high perch.

The inventive yet approachable menu designed by Doug Flicker and his team is finally the sort of eating that seems to go with the surrounds, the kind of menu that says “destination” instead of “I’m super hungry so I guess I’ll eat this mediocre and overpriced sandwich.”

At brunch, the obligatory bloody Marys are fun. We especially liked the fresh tasting “verde” version with tomatillo, wheatgrass, cucumber, and aquavit, masquerading as if it's actually good for you and tasting like it too -- until you catch the inevitable buzz.

The signature Esker Bloody with roasted tomato, cheese bricks, and cocktail weenies is very, very fun, but if you’re not a gin lover, avoid it, or request a swap for God’s true morning booze, which everyone knows is vodka.

While the menu touches on all the “gotta have it” greatest hits of brunch-- something sweet (French toast with pistachio and country ham), something healthy (granola with nuts and seeds), something over-the-top (Croque Madame with raclette and bechamel), something Mexican (tostadas supreme) -- they’ve strived toward invention here, too.

We especially loved the semolina porridge (think polenta) made decadent with shaved black truffle, a jiggly slow cooked egg, lightly cooked kale, and an onion purée that tasted of meat jus. If you’re the kind of vegetarian who really, really misses the flavor of meats, head right over. This kind of vegetarian cooking is what the place is doing at its best. Veg-forward food that’s not ascetic or punishing. Quite the opposite.

The actual opposite is the steak and eggs, served with soft scrambled eggs and a sturdy toast swiped with bone marrow, the crowning glory of the dish. The sirloin steak was standard issue but good, thought it was served with a strange, inedibly salty “spicy fermented broccoli,” the only miss of the meal.

Do yourself a big favor and order the curry caramel donut holes, the biggest triumph in donut news since Chef Shack’s Indian spiced mini donuts. The kitchen uses curry in the ever-so-lightest judicious portion so as to add, not subtract from total donut bliss.

And, they’re served with hot caramel. Hot caramel! Hot caramel donut bliss. If that's not art, then what is? 

Pro tip: Go on Free First Saturdays and spend the dough you saved on admission on bloodies and donuts. 

Bonus pro tip: Look at art first, then eat. Perambulation will be severely limited post-brunching.

Brunch at Esker Grove is served on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

723 Vineland Place, Minneapolis