You’d be hard-pressed to find a more sustainable and local place to eat than the Draft Horse, which opened over the weekend in northeast Minneapolis. The restaurant, located in the Food Building, highlights products from two companies that have their production facilities on the premises, Red Table Meats and the Lone Grazer Creamery.
But it doesn’t stop there. The menu lists a veritable who’s who of local and regional food and drink purveyors. Just about the only items not identified by their origin are the vegetables, but chances are if you asked your server, they’d go back to the kitchen and find out for you.
Despite the lofty provenance of the ingredients, the food is straightforward and unfussy. After all, when you start with great products, you want to let them take center stage and shine without a lot of unnecessary embellishment. It’s also the kind of food you crave during a Minnesota winter — even a freakishly warm one. There’s lots of meat, lots of cheese, and lots of vegetables to balance out the first two.
Many of the items on the menu are meant to be shared, so there’s a very convivial vibe at Draft Horse, with folks at the bar offering food recommendations to newcomers, and those seated at the tables oohing and aahing over the plates at the next table over. Servers are obviously fans of the food as well and give such vivid and enticing descriptions that you’ll want to order one of everything. As much as you might be tempted, don’t do that. The portions here are generous. The pot pie, served in a cast iron skillet, could easily serve two people with any semblance of self control. But once you get a forkful of the buttery, flaky crust and the filling — your choice of beef short ribs (Peterson Farms), chicken (Kadejan Farms) or roasted vegetables — enrobed in rich, creamy gravy, any hope of not finishing the whole thing on your own flies out the window.
The Meat section of the menu includes beef short ribs, brick chicken, and roasted pork (Fischer Farms). These proteins are meant to be shared and can easily serve two to three people. Pair them with a couple of sides and your meal is complete.
The cauliflower gratin comes to the table bubbling in a Lone Grazer cheese sauce. Other options are Brussels sprouts with bacon and red wine vinegar and roasted root vegetables with the Beez Kneez honey. Don’t overlook the salt and pepper ribs hidden among the vegetable dishes on the sides menu; they are a standout — perfect little mouthfuls of porky lusciousness.
Draft Horse also has you covered if you just want a drink and a nibble. There’s a meat plate featuring Red Table Meats, a cheese plate that includes selections from the Lone Grazer as well as other regional cheeses or a combo plate that lets you sample all of it. On the drink side, all the beers are local except for one outlier, Guinness. More on that later.
Sociable Cider Werks is also represented, as is Tattersall Distilling and 2 Gingers whiskey. And if you’re in a hurry, there’s a deli counter where you can grab a sandwich on a baguette from Patisserie 46, salads, and soup to go. Coffee is from Spyhouse.
If the presence of Guinness and 2 Gingers has you sensing an Irish connection, your intuition is good. The Food Building is owned by Kieran Folliard, creator of 2 Gingers and Kieran's Irish Pub, who founded the 26,000-square-foot food incubator in 2013. For the Draft Horse, he’s partnered with Luke and Katie Kyle of Anchor Fish & Chips and Anne Saxton of Kyatchi.
The restaurant’s name pays homage to a past occupant of the building, the Dick Veterinary clinic, which specialized in horse care from 1900 to 1922. You can definitely see the shadow of the building’s former life in the exposed beams and rough walls. The space feels rustic yet also Northeasty. It’s a place where folks from the neighborhood just might make it their second home.
The Draft Horse
1401 Marshall St. NE, Minneapolis
Closed Mondays; Tuesday – Thursday, 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11a.m. – 1 a.m.; deli Tuesday – Sunday 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.