When Chef Aaron Hagerdorn first told me he was leaving his job as chef at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Minneapolis to open a restaurant in St. Michael, Minnesota, I had one question: Where is St. Michael, Minnesota?
Ridiculous, since it’s just about 20 minutes from Maple Grove, right up I-94 near the Albertville Outlet Mall. It’s actually an adorable small town Main Street with a handful of small town bar eateries as well as a smattering of chain restaurants. After a recent visit to the Main Street Farmer Eatery, I’m here to tell you it’s worth the drive from the western suburbs.
The room is beautiful: lots of exposed brick on the wall, a gorgeous exposed kitchen and huge bar. The concept is farm to table, as Hagerdorn lives in Delano and wants to make the restaurant as locally focused as possible. But he’s doing it without being precious or making a big deal out of it. So the Beef Carpaccio comes from nearby. You need to order this, by the way. The flavor of the beef is incredible: sliced incredibly thin with roasted cashews and these amazing fried capers on the side.
For $3.50 you can get a cup of chicken and wild rice soup that’s almost a meal in itself: a deep, rich, thick broth with root vegetables, and a real herby flavor.
I like the grain and vegetable bowl concept—it’s a fun way to eat, it’s light, and Main Street Farmer does it well. We liked the Southwestern Brown Rice bowl with avocado, roasted tomatoes, charred jalapeno and black beans.
For main dishes, you can’t go wrong with beef braised in cabernet wine, served with root vegetables and pearl onions on potato pancakes. The rich flavor of the beef brightened up that cabernet braising, and was perfect on a cold winter’s day. We liked the spicy braised pork fettucini, that pork rib meat melted in my mouth; and you can’t be near a Minnesota farm without a giant thick cut grilled pork chop. It’s simple but well-executed with a nice cider mustard glaze and pan seared apples.
Prices were very reasonable, the lineup of classic cocktails mostly hovered around $10. And the room was packed on the Thursday we visited. Chef Hagedorn told me that there’s virtually no competition in the area for this kind of restaurant, and so guests are coming from all over to eat. Which is one of the best trends in food right now: quality, honest cooking with great ingredients in communities beyond the center cities. I’d love to see more spots like Main Street Farmer Cafe throughout our suburbs and exurbs.
Main Street Farmer Eatery
21 Main St. S., St. Michael