IF “STRIP MALL IN WAYZATA” doesn’t immediately suggest “bold, experimental cuisine,” the Wayzata Eatery & Wine Bar may change your mind. At this elegantly appointed little spot, which formerly housed Louie’s Habit, diners can experience chef Matt Quist’s food from the comforts of a cozy booth, or get closer to the open kitchen’s action from a seat at the wine bar.
Some locals have started calling the place “the 112 Eatery of Wayzata,” for its high-concept take on familiar fare, an approach similar to that of the wildly successful Minneapolis gastropub. Take your basic Midwestern cheese curd: At Wayzata Eatery, fried bites of manchego are paired with a quince dipping sauce. Or your standard crab cake: Here, it’s wrapped in a crÃªpe and accompanied by a carrot-ginger reduction. Or your classic egg-salad sandwich, which becomes recolonized comfort food when tucked into grilled Indian naan bread and served with mango chutney—it’s worth the drive from anywhere in the Twin Cities.
It’s Quist’s job is to be creative, as the restaurant is essentially a test kitchen for Taher Inc., a food-service management company based in Minnetonka. According to Quist, Wayzata Eatery is the company’s “sandbox” for playing with new food ideas—and it’s supported by deep corporate pockets and staff with experience at such upscale joints as Heartland and Cue.
You won’t find anything resembling bland institutional cuisine—where re-heating often substitutes for actual cooking—on the restaurant’s menu. And each dish’s success is evident in the wait staff’s excitement, an eagerness that seems to exceed “training” and go all the way to “genuine enthusiasm.” Quist himself made the rounds during both our visits, strolling the dining room wearing his chef’s toque, welcoming guests, asking for feedback about the food, and thanking repeat visitors. With its warm staff and enterprising fare, Wayzata Eatery will make you re-think suburban stereotypes—about restaurants, at least.
1179-A E. Wayzata Blvd., Wayzata, 952-288-2866 Â» Lunch and dinner daily. $$ [w]