How's this for a restaurant origin story: First-time restaurateur and decadelong Shoreview resident Carly Gatzlaff entered the business because she grew tired of residing in a dining desert. Be the change you want to see in the world, right?
To make the project a reality, she tapped Northlands Consulting partners Jonathan Gans and Josh Hoyt, the executive chef and director of operations, respectively, of the former Bachelor Farmer. They've recruited an impressive talent lineup. Running the Churchill St. kitchen is Eau Claire, Wis., native Aaron Marthaler, who has returned to the Midwest after a long tenure at several top Northern California restaurants, and former Bachelor Farmer pastry chef Emily Marks is baking up a storm.
Location: 4606 Churchill St., Shoreview, 612-466-2596, churchillst.com.
Hours: Open 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Thu.-Sun. Coffee and pastries only served 7-8 a.m., all-day brunch menu served 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Counter service, no reservations and no tipping; a 15% service fee is added.
Good looks: Locus Architecture transformed a former free-standing hardware store into an airy, light-filled destination, and JDD Studio designed an interior that simultaneously hits the "stylish," "casual" and "welcoming" buttons. Of special note is a dual-sided fireplace, cozy private events room (which doubles as the dining room's overflow space) and sheltered patio (which was once the store's garden center), plus a handy market stocked with goodies from the kitchen as well as a discerning array of made-elsewhere pantry products.
Beverages: Bar manager Michael Lindgren crafts a dozen classics-with-a-twist cocktails (daiquiris, caipirinhas, Old Fashioneds) in the $9-$12 range, plus four creative zero-proof libations ($6). Eighteen wines are sold by the glass ($8-$15) and the bottle ($28-$56), and there are nearly 20 beers, ciders and seltzers ($4.50-$8), including several non-alcoholic and gluten-free options.
Food: Gans and Marthaler have crafted a menu of familiar, uncomplicated classics that often feel brand new, thanks to the combination of sharp cooking skills and top-flight ingredients.
Golden blueberry pancakes griddled in bacon fat and topped with maple syrup- and smoked salt-infused butter, are an affectionate tribute to the campfire-style wild huckleberry pancakes that Gans' family enjoyed at their Montana cabin. A colorful hash of sweet potatoes, onions and peppers is enriched with housemade sausage and topped with a bright, lemony hollandaise. There's a well-stuffed breakfast burrito and a pair of too-pretty-to-eat (well, almost) toasts, one featuring avocado, the other lavished with house-smoked salmon.
Sandwiches include a BLT for the ages that's stacked with thick slices of Nueske's bacon and flavor-jammed roasted tomatoes (the olive oil they're packed in doubles as a brilliant dipping sauce for the house-baked focaccia); a superb double-patty cheeseburger topped with white and yellow American cheeses and a sauce (crying out to be bottled and sold) fashioned from Worcestershire sauce and the brine from the kitchen's pickles; and a crispy-juicy (and, like several key menu items, gluten-free) chicken sandwich. Other highlights include a Cheddar fondue that's tailor-made for sharing, plus several pretty salads and a hearty tomato soup.
Marks is, well, making her mark, turning out All-American temptations such as cardamom-scented coffee cake, dreamy glazed old-fashioned doughnuts and decadent brownies. The ice cream sandwiches, filled with frozen goodness from Milkjam Creamery, are not to be missed.
Next up: Dinner service will hopefully commence in mid-January, with steak frites, steamed mussels, mushroom risotto and roast chicken. "We'll start with dinner, four nights a week," said Gans. "And then we'll figure out the steps to getting to breakfast, lunch and dinner, seven days a week."