Short Listed

During a delightful night of dining at Terra Waconia, the recently opened, farm-to-table-inspired restaurant in Waconia, the guy sitting next to me leaned over: “What do you think about the chalkboard?”

You don’t get a leather-bound menu at Terra. No luscious descriptions of the ramps, the locally produced chèvre, or the involved demi-glaces. You get a chalkboard, with one-word descriptions of three appetizers, four salads, and eight main courses. “It’s so charming!” said one of my dining companions. “It’s annoying,” said another.

To me, the chalkboard is the defining metaphor of Terra Waconia. Charming. Imperfect. Ever-changing.

When we arrived, the smell of applewood filled the dining room. Our server, who turned out to be co-owner Tracy LeTourneau, told us it was the game hen, which they smoke in-house. Yes! LeTourneau returned to tell us they were out. Game hen was crossed off the chalkboard.

Don’t miss the mussels. They were tender, swimming in a luscious, rich, ever-so-slightly-spicy butter sauce. We weren’t the only diners using the bread to sop it up and slurp it down.

The Bibb salad with bacon and cranberries was a winner. The salty-sweet combo was in exact balance. The lamb chop and the veal chop entrées were both expertly prepared: crispy, caramelized perfection on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside.

You might say Terra Waconia is a farm-to-table-inspired restaurant—because it’s not quite there. The chèvre, blue cheese, and ramps were local. But when I asked where the beef tenderloin ($28) was from, the chef told me, “Stock Yards [a commercial supplier], but I’m working on that.”

The wine list has some nice choices, but it’s pricey. Most of the glasses were over $9. The restaurant is planning on improving that by partnering with nearby Parley Lake Winery—producers of a lovely Frontenac dessert wine.

In fact, it was the winemaker who sat next to us and asked about that chalkboard. And I think both my friends were right: It’s charming, but imperfect. Luckily for Terra Waconia, the food more than compensates for it.

Terra Waconia, 140 W. Main St., Waconia, 952-442-3353, terra-waconia.com

Jason DeRusha is a reporter for WCCO-TV.

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