When the creative team behind Wise Acre Eatery says that they’re a “farm-to-fork café,” they’ve got just one farm in mind. The majority of food served at the Minneapolis restaurant comes from a single location, owner Tangletown Gardens’ 100-acre farm in Plato, Minnesota. Although Beth Fisher, co-creative and chef, uses animal protein on her menu, her center-of-plate star is often an alternative protein such as farm-grown beans or legumes paired with fresh produce grown year-round in the farm’s greenhouses and fields.
“We always have lots of alternative protein choices on the menu,” Fisher says. “Right now we’re serving butternut squash steak with red bean gravy and roasted winter vegetable lasagna with local sheep’s milk cheese, for example.” While the restaurant has become known as a welcoming spot for those with dietary restrictions, Wise Acre’s co-creative and General Manager, Caroline Glawe, has been noticing a more flexitarian trend. “We sell a lot more alternative protein or veggie-centric meals on weeknights, and find that people will splurge on animal protein on Friday or Saturday,” she says.
While Fisher acknowledges that the vegetarian entrée usually lags behind animal protein choices in the restaurant’s sales, she plans to stick with the menu ratio she has in place. “Vegetarian and vegan choices will always be on the menu, and I’ll devote creative care to developing them,” she says. “Then, when someone takes a chance and tries one, it will blow them away and they’re going to come back for more.”
Farmer Dean goes vegan
Based on their experience, the non-meat trend is certainly growing. And it’s even reached as far as rural Plato. Glawe reports that Dean Engelmann, one of the farm’s owners, has recently lost 25 pounds by following a vegan diet. “Dean’s embrace of a vegan lifestyle reflects the larger food-culture connection,” she says. “We’re becoming increasingly aware that food is more than fuel — it affects who we are, how we interact with each other and how our bodies move through our environment.”