Mendoberri delays opening; Sage Wine Bar seeks new digs


Well, Chef Robert Ulrich didn't quite make his target date of Labor Day, but two weeks out from what should have been opening day, Mendorberri Cafe & Wine Bar looks like it will have eager locals waiting a little longer to try its eats, according to chef-owner Ulrich. The cafe is now estimated to open the end of September, assuming health inspections this week go well, as expected, and no issues arise during the final build-out stage.

The menu is set, offering gourmet cafe grub like the Longini, an artisan baguette filled with soft brie, hard-dried salami, red onion marmalade, and organic lettuce; fire-kissed red wine-spiced pears on a snack board with melted Wisconsin blue cheese and toast; and the Swiss salad, with smoked ham, turkey, peppers, and polenta cheese bites, topped with zesty yogurt herb dressing.

Ulrich is especially enthusiastic about his kids menu, which has been taste-tested by his daughter. "There's a need for kids menus that are healthier and have more vegetables but are still fun," Ulrich says. Prices have yet to be set, but if menu options are any indication, it could be comparable to Panera.

Ulrich has partnerships with Hidden Streams Farm, a grass-fed farm in Elgin, Minnesota, for the cafe's protein (chicken, pork, and beef) and vegetables; Lift Bridge Beer Company out of Stillwater and other local brewers; and B+W Specialty Coffee, which roasts organic beans in Northeast Minneapolis.

The cafe is replacing the former Sage Wine Bar & Market in Mendota Village. Sage owner Bob Kowalski was in mid-remodel of the market side when Ulrich, who had been searching for suitable space for his healthy-to-go concept, decided it was just what he was looking for. "We offered him just the market side, but he wanted the whole space for his plans," say Kowalski.

What used to be Sage Market will now house the cafe and to-go portion of the restaurant, while the wine bar side will stay largely intact, although Ulrich plans to have it feel like one flowing space rather than two distinct areas.

"I wanted to have something like a quick-stop or drive-through, but healthy, and it was hard to find a place that fit that," says Ulrich. "We live in the area, and my wife noticed the location and told me to check it out." Sitting on the intersection of Highway 110 and Dodd Road in Mendota Heights, it allows customers to easily get in and out of the Mendota Village shopping area, or choose to stay and enjoy their meal in the comfortable setting, all of which appealed to the chef.

Kowalski is exploring options for reopening Sage in a new location nearby, but this time sans market. "We're in preliminary discussions with the St. Paul Riverfront Corporation, considering space in the St. Paul Municipal Elevator and Sackhouse," he says. "The location would be great, and the river's always been a passion of mine." Mendoberri 730 Main St., Mendota Heights

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