I’m not a dog person, but I’m glad we did some dog sitting for some friends last week. The dog behaved and because we were such totally awesome dog sitters we were treated to dinner at Café Twenty Eight in Linden Hills.
Although it was my first visit, Linden Hills’ residents have been patronizing this small, family owned restaurant since 2001. Committed to sustainable agriculture, they have the farmer and rancher partners to prove it. They have partnered with Larry Schultz for organic eggs and chicken, Fischer Family Farms Pork for their pork, Thousand Hills Cattle Company for their grass fed steaks, and Clancey’s Meats and Fish for their grass fed beef steer burger meat. Their beer list is heavily populated with Surly Beer which is, interestingly enough, brewed by the bistro’s co-owner, Todd Haug.
We had a reservation for four on a Thursday night. Light poured forth from the large front window of the former firehouse building that houses the restaurant, illuminating the understated entryway and leafy sidewalk. The quiet, casual bistro was dimly lit, set with small tables, and hosted by a convivial staff. The entryway to the restaurant displayed information and artifacts about the Linden Hills area. I wanted to spend more time on the display, but we ran short on time (we were seated immediately and we were the last table to leave).
We ordered a couple of pints of the various Surly beers they have on tap and scanned the menu as we kibitzed about our day. The menu was loaded with familiar comfort food, ranging from gnocchi to roasted chicken to apple crisp. They offered a number of vegetarian options, but vegans might be a bit hard-pressed to find a balanced meal.
We started with a couple of items from the starters menu. With a mushroom-lover in our midst, we ordered the Wild Mushroom Pâté. The generous portion of blended mushrooms was served warm with toasted French bread and sliced apples. The aptly seasoned pâté was full of umami flavor and the sweet, crispy apples provided a decent contrast. The deep fried calamari was unlike typical calamari; it was sliced lengthwise, not in rings. The large pieces were coated in crispy peppered bread crumbs. It was tender, succulent, and served with both tartar sauce and a cilantro-lime chili sauce.
As for entrees, we tried their grass-fed beef burger with Fischer Family Farms bacon and sharp cheddar cheese. The grass-fed beef was tender and juicy, topped with bacon and cheese and served with a side crispy unseasoned French fries. Ketchup and mustard were served on the side. Our second entrée probably should have one of their big salads, but instead was their fish special – a plate of four pan-seared sea scallops served with buttery mashed potatoes, crispy fried shallots and a Surly 2010 Smoke "beer"blanc. The scallops were tender with a buttery glaze on the outside. The plate was rich with butter throughout – certainly not a light preparation, but full of body and flavor.
As the meal came to a close, the group split the apple crisp for dessert. It was large enough portion to be shared, and the tart Minnesota apples were topped with crunchy brown sugar and oats and creamy Sebastian Joe’s vanilla ice cream.
On the dark drive home through the windy autumn night, we agreed it was a satisfying meal. If you’re looking for a tap of Surly and a cozy bistro serving up comfort food made with local, seasonal ingredients, Café Twenty Eight will satisfy.
Café Twenty Eight
2724 W 43rd St