It’s a very rare thing that I don’t find something wonderful about the places I visit, but Minneapolis is especially fun for a veggie-lovin’ girl. I believe my first blog entry was on eateries in this fare city, and I just keep finding more to write about.
Last night I returned to one of my favorite dining establishments. I really had every intention to visit all new places this trip, but after just driving back from Willmar, MN (aka The City that Never Sleeps) I was exhausted and wanted something familar. It was straight to Café Agri for me.
While they do not promote themselves as a vegan dining establishment, the majority of the fare at Cafe Agri is vegan. Chef Derek Deker is very committed to humane farming and cooking with local ingredients. They have an amazing wine selection, and offer many varieties by the glass (all $5) or bottle (all $20). Minneapolis has this great law saying if you have at least ½ glass in the restaurant you can take the bottle with you. This was good news, as I’m in town for a week and my hotel room needs a little buzz.
The portions at this cozy neighborhood spot are quite large, so although the special of curried tofu with various vegetables looked as tempting as the pasta putanesca, I opted for comfort food, which meant a BBQ tempeh sandwich on homemade multi-grain bread and a side salad of mixed summer vegetables with vegan ranch.
French fries would have completed this comfort-food plate, but you can’t get a whole lot more comfortable on less calories.
When my meal arrived even the bread was wonderful. It was nutty and slightly toasted with a golden-brown crust. There was a good deal of drippy BBQ sauce, but not obnoxiously so. You could taste and feel the earthy tempeh and appreciate the gooey cheddar cheese sliding out the sides. I’m not sure if the cheese was vegan, but my thinking is it was not. My mouth is watering as I type this out.
My side-salad was bursting with little tomatoes and bell peppers, along with a rainbow of other veggies. The ranch was good, but not super-thick or flavorful. Next time I’d likely get the vinaigrette, but the vegetables were so good they needed no embelishment.
This meal, along with a bottle of 2004 Monte Santa Maria malbec, made for a really great evening. Excluding the bottle of wine, which I did not expense, my bill was around $14.00.
Today I had lunch at Birchwood Café. I arrived there in a downpour that quickly evolved into several tornados. Still the restaurant was packed at 1pm. The Café is not vegan, but promotes “good real food,” in a neighborhood diner fashion. I believe all the ingredients are locally sourced, with many vegetarian and vegan options.
I had a salad sampler. I chose 3 salads from an array that are made daily. My pesto barley salad was really flavorful and creamy, with many bits of fresh basil. The spicy peanut pasta salad was good, but not my favorite. I loved the black bean salad, with the exception of quite strong raw green scallions, but that is my own personal issue and has nothing to do with the preparation.
Thankfully, I had the good sense to get a dessert. I opted for the coconut tapioca pudding. This may sound so 1940’s, but if something has “coconut” in the description you can bank on me trying it. This dessert did not disappoint. It was light and creamy, with a really distinct taste of coconut that, while not completely "natural" tasting, was exactly what I expected and loved. I had to stop myself from polishing off the whole parfait glass as I still had meetings to attend. My entire meal, including dessert, tip and drink, was $16.
I still have intentions of giving other local veggie spots a try like Ecopolitan and May Day Café a try, but am not entirely sure if it’s going to happen this trip. As it stands my tummy is really happy with Minneapolis, and my head is so impressed by their plethora of talented and conscientious chefs.
****This just in****
Just visited Ecopolitan for dinner. Their entire menu is organic, vegan and raw. The atmosphere is a little more "earthy" than my previous dining spots, but very warm and comfortable. Ecoplitan is not just a restaurant, but also a juice bar, a shop (featuring all the accessories for living in the raw)and offers health education and service. On my way out I picked up fliers on therapeutic massage and colon hydrotherapy (which I can't imagine anyone needs who eats there on a regular basis).
I have eaten a fair amount of raw food in the past at both yoga camp and at various other restaurants around the country and in Europe. But, I can't say I am a connoisseur. I probably did not order the most harmonious combination of dishes, and perhaps that is why I now feel about 4 months pregnant with twin lobsters. It’s just a guess.
I started …. Wait, I ordered the vegetable-soup, but was brought the gingered carrot soup. It was chilled and fresh, and the flavors were very bright with that expected bite of ginger. Unfortunately for me, I ordered the ginger-lemonade. This too was spicy, clean and fresh tasting. And I know that ginger is good to munch on for stomach issues, but right now it just burns. It was too much for one sitting, but not because there was anything off on the individual items. As an accompaniment to my soup I asked for a couple house-made sesame crackers. I really enjoyed the nuttiness of the dehydrated wafers, but the saltiness which likely comes from tahini or something similar was a little much.
My main course was a healthy half-order of the tostados. The presentation was really beautiful, with bright colors and very identifiable fresh veggies. Their “taco” meat is made from a spicy lentil concoction, and cashew “sour cream” was drizzled over the entire affair.
I took things apart in my mouth. The guacamole was really good. The lentil “taco meat” was delicious. I loved all the veggies and the salsa. But, everything had a good deal of spice (again, not a bad thing, but consider my precursor) and was really salty. That was my biggest issue; too much salt. Mind you, I almost cleaned my plate, so it wasn’t that I disliked the flavors at all, it was just a lot for my palette to take at once.
Of course, I like my sweets, so dessert was a must. However, since Ecopolitan doesn’t use processed sugar I was a little leery. They use a good deal of dates and dried fruits. They also use carob instead of chocolate (or at least I didn’t see any chocolate on the menu. I’m not a huge fan of carob or dried dates. I opted for the pecan pie bar (they serve many bars in Minnesota) and it wasn’t bad, but I’m from the South and I know my pecan pie. There was an amazing apple cinnamon sauce drizzled over the top that I could have easily eaten with apple slices to dip.
After the fact, I read two great reviews that I wish I'd made an effort to find before. The raviolli looks beautiful, and I was so tempted to try the cheese roll or hummus. Rats! Overall, I would likely go back with an adventurous friend, and I would love their taco meat recipe, but of all my great meals in Minneapolis, Ecopolitan wasn’t my favorite. And right now I can’t say it’s my tummy’s favorite either, but I may very well wake in the morning, feeling like a new and better person. Who knows? For now, sweet dreams and where are those damn Tums???