On a farm in Plato, Minnesota, Scottish Highland Cattle graze; Berkshire and Large Black hogs grow fat; produce is grown year-around in fields and greenhouses — all to become the menu at Wise Acre Eatery. Located in a former gas station, this casual restaurant is farm-to-table dining at its finest. (Actually, the management likes to call it “farm to fork.”) It is a fun place — come as you are for brunch and lunch, and maybe make a reservation for supper (I didn’t need one Monday night) — but behind the easy-going air is an earnest mission to serve local food prepared with brio.
A spring vegetable plate of grilled asparagus and green onions on herbed goat cheese is a breathtaking example. It arrives in a cloud of smoky fragrance, the large, perfectly al dente stalks of asparagus so fresh that you want to call them sweet. But they are not really sweet; they are earthy and just-picked fresh. The same asparagus makes a fine, brilliantly flavorful soup that is so thick you almost could eat it with a fork.
The Royal Brie and Bacon Burger, available at supper Sunday through Thursday, is not seasonal. If you like burgers and/or bacon, it is a must. The hamburger itself is a 1/3-pound patty of hugely flavorful beef, moist and fairly humming with protein potency. Atop it comes a single slab of melting-rich Wise Acre bacon that seems itself to be a quarter pound of flavor. On the side are good French fries with house-made beet ketchup.
In fact, much is made with beets in this kitchen, most notably a chocolate beet cake in which the root vegetable adds its own unique sweetness to the dense chocolate cake, which comes topped with strawberry cream cheese frosting. The frosting is shockingly unsweet — at first, disconcertingly so — but a few bites reveals a marvelous strategy in which the creamy cheese on top serves as a brilliant foil to bring out the full cocoa verve of the cake below.
Seating is at bare tables indoors and outside. Service is friendly and enthusiastic. My waitress really seemed sad when she told me that they had been so busy the last couple of days that they had run out of custard for dessert. She made me promise to come back again and try it. I did. No surprise, the custard was wonderful, especially so because it came topped with rhubarb caramel sauce.