You have to admire the Mason Jar: They chose a theme and they’re fully committed. As you probably already guessed, that theme is the ubiquitous canning vessel and Pinterest darling, a.k.a. hipster water bottle/coffee mug/overnight oatmeal serving bowl/country-themed wedding decoration.
At this Eagan restaurant, the namesake serves as both decor and glassware. There are mason jar windows, a wall o’ mason jars in the dining room, and mason jars hanging from the ceiling (about 500, according to the restaurant’s website). Your water and soda, and some cocktails, are served in mason jars. And although said containers are everywhere in the restaurant, they don’t come across as too precious; you feel more like you’re having a casual meal at a friend’s place – and your friend likes to repurpose.
The restaurant, in a nondescript strip mall, is owned by Kevin VanDeraa, winner of the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars in 2012. VanDeraa at one time had four Cupcake bakeries in the Twin Cities; the Minneapolis and St. Paul locations were shuttered earlier this year, but the outposts at Mall of America and in Eagan live on. The Eagan location preceded the Mason Jar, and when you walk in the front door, the bakery cases are the first thing you see (and the last – just try to resist the temptation of taking some cupcakes home for dessert).
The food is familiar, in a good way. It’s classic comfort food, nothing too fancy, but just what you want for breakfast on the weekend or dinner on a busy weeknight. For breakfast, the scratch kitchen turns out favorites like French toast and pancakes, but also more adventurous options like the pulled pork huevos rancheros served on tortillas with refried beans, eggs, sour cream, salsa queso, fresco, guacamole, and pico de gallo. At $12, it's the most expensive breakfast item.
With a breakfast like that, you may not be hungry for lunch, but judging by the crowds, the pizzas and burgers are a big draw. The Mason Jar boasts a wood-burning stone oven custom built for the restaurant. It turns out pizzas with a crisp, crackly crust, like the simple Margherita highlighting basil, buffalo mozzarella, and red sauce, and the more adventurous Wild Hen, topped with roasted chicken, BBQ sauce, tomatoes, corn, and mozzarella. Corn on your pizza! What could be more Midwestern?
Well, maybe the hot dish, which is also cooked in the stone oven. It’s like the ones grandma made, only better, with ground beef, corn, and tater tots bathed in homemade cream of mushroom soup and topped with cheddar cheese, with the benefit of a hint of smoke from the oven. That oven also makes a delicious pot pie that will forever spoil you for the ones from the frozen section of the grocery store. For dinner, the menu adds a selection of entrees that includes pan-seared walleye with a lemon beurre blanc, pot roast, and steaks. Pizzas range from $11 to $14; entrees top out at $22 for seafood risotto.
The bar area, in contrast to the homey dining room, is sleek and modern. The beer list is strictly local, with the rare exception for the occasional “imported beer” from Wisconsin. On a recent visit, the list included choices from Summit, Mankato Brewing, Bad Weather, Indeed, and Fulton on tap, with even more options in cans.
The wine is also on tap; it's a zero waste system that reduces packaging, and keeps exposure to oxygen from degrading the wine. And don’t worry – while you can’t buy a bottle of wine to share, you can get a great deal on a bottle-size carafe. The cocktail list includes winners like the Gin and Juice, with gin and Grapefruit Crema from Tattersall Distillery, mixed with peach puree and raspberry syrup for the perfect summer drink. Take advantage of happy hour Monday through Saturday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. for $2 off wine, beer, and Mason Jar cocktails; there are also food deals on select appetizers.
The Mason Jar
1565 Cliff Rd., Eagan
Monday–Friday 7 a.m.–10 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m.–10 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m.–3 p.m.