Garden on a Plate
Spring is a great time of year for locally grown food. While several restaurants in the Twin Ports are adding local produce to their menus, the following three stand out for the extent of their efforts.
At Sara’s Table/Chester Creek Café
1902 East 8th Street, Duluth
This cozy progressive hotspot (and consistently popular breakfast joint) was one of the first restaurants in the area to really embrace locally grown food. Now, their website reads like a who’s who of local providers. The beef? It’s from Thousand Hills Cattle Company. The pork? Pastures A Plenty Farm. The eggs? They’re from Larry Schultz (well, technically they’re from his chickens). Chef Kirk Bratrud says buying local is a great way to reduce the restaurant’s carbon footprint, boost the economy, and get better quality food. It’s also a way to make sure the livestock are being taken care of.
“These are chickens that still have beaks,” Bratrud says. “They are actually able to go out into a field and exercise and do what chickens do, then come back in to roost and they produce their eggs.”
While the menu’s got influences from all over (Peruvian lomo saltado, anyone?), there’s a solid Minnesota core. Each night, diners can choose from local fish with wild rice, organic turkey with mashed potatoes, or even hot dishes like chicken pot pies or potato ham bakes. And as any Minnesotan will tell you, you can’t get more local than that.
Lake Avenue Restaurant and Bar
394 South Lake Avenue, Duluth
When owners Derek Snyder, Mark Swenson, and Michael Schrapfer took over the Lake Avenue Restaurant and Bar in 2009 they knew they wanted to take the place in a more local direction. So right away, they started contacting farmers.
“We kind of took a page out of what Duluth Grill and Sara’s Table had done—they led the way,” Snyder says. “A lot of farmers started showing up at our door. They told us what they could grow, and we let them know we could buy all their product.”
The fish and chips features Lake Superior whitefish, the pasta is hand-cranked, and all the salmon was caught by Duluth’s Dave Rogotzke. The local vibe has worked its way into the bar, which itself is made of reclaimed timber from the Duluth Timber Company. Creative cocktails with names like the Enger Tower or the Ol’ Chester include cucumber vodka from the Midwest, ginger soda from Minnesota, and coffee brewed right in Duluth. But one of the most local cocktails has to be the Apostle Island, which includes maple infused rum from Wisconsin and apple ginger liquer from Michigan in addition to organic ginger syrup and cranberry juice. For people interested in keeping it local, that’s definitely something to toast to.
118 S 27th Avenue West, Duluth
No discussion of fresh, local food would be complete without the Duluth Grill. The restaurant’s gotten attention everywhere from Midwest Living to the Food Network for its friendly service, homemade condiments, and very—no, make that very—local food. How local? Try the gardens in the parking lot, which have sunflowers, basil, tomatoes, and more. Better yet, look to the roof, where they’re planting enough squash and pumpkin to use all summer long.
“We were looking at this first, saying, we’ll grow some herbs,” owner Tom Hanson says. “Then we said, wait a minute, we can grow more than herbs.”
Those initial decisions to go local just keep snowballing. A couple of years ago Hanson and his wife bought a house within easy walking distance of the restaurant, then turned it into an urban farm with apple trees and a greenhouse to keep the produce going all winter long. And new this year is a 4,600 gallon aquaponics tank, which means the fish are even MORE local than fish from Lake Superior.