Memorial Weekend Jaunt Home: Cafe 116, Wise Acre Eatery, Clearwater Truck Stop

One of my goals is to compile some sort of food guide for those who travel between the Twin Cities and Fargo.

The drive is notoriously dull, but I refuse to believe it’s devoid of any gems.  Every time I make the drive, I want to stop in a different, small town and try a new truck stop or cafe.  The ride is dotted with intriguing towns, many marked by majestic church steeples.

On this particular drive back to the Twin Cities, I stopped at Cafe 116 in Fergus Falls, MN for a light lunch.  Cafe 116 notes that it makes its food from scratch and utilizes local foods and suppliers.  At least three individuals have recommended this cafe and I remembered reading positive reviews in The High Plains Reader and Jihye Chang’s blog.

I rolled into Fergus Falls around lunchtime on Saturday afternoon and was immediately taken by the town’s cozy homes and plush, green trees.  I easily located Cafe 116, about seven minutes from I-94.   I had to pause to my breath after nearly being T-boned by an elderly couple who ran a red light, and forget to grab my camera.

The cafe is spacious and I sat at the window bar.  At first glance, I was confused if I should order at the counter or wait for a table but was quickly assisted.  I ordered a small pot of loose leaf green tea, $3, and browsed the lunch menu that offers cold and grilled panini sandwiches by the whole or half, soup of the day, a vegan burrito, and selection of salads.

I ordered half of a Cleveland panini, $5.25, made with prosciutto, red onion, apple, and mozzarella.  For an additional $1, I substituted vegetables and homemade ranch dressing for chips.  The half sandwich was petite but tasted of high quality.  Nothing fancy, but the prosciutto and apple slices provided a pleasing salty-sweet sensation.  The bread was crispy and scented with toasty Parmesan cheese.

Despite the up-charge, I was glad I substituted fresh vegetables for potato chips.  The half sandwich and large serving of carrot sticks and pea pods made a lovely light lunch.  I wouldn’t hesitate to return and also try their homemade ice cream or creme brulee.

I spent the rest of the day with my folks and we made spicy tacos.

On Sunday afternoon, my friend suggested a few of us meet at Wise Acre Eatery in South Minneapolis.  C’s friend works there and she wanted to check out the restaurant for the first time.  Last summer, I visited Wise Acre Eatery and didn’t have many positive things to say about the service.  However, I have since visited Wise Acre twice for lunch, and have had positive experiences with food and service.

C’s friend stopped by often to check in, though we were served by a couple of individuals we did not know.

I kept it simple and ordered a cold press coffee, bowl of the daily chowder, and a side of bread with butter.  

I genuinely enjoyed the flavorful chowder.  It wasn’t too rich or too salty and I enjoyed the tender chunks of carrot and occasional piece of thick bacon.  The chowder was covered in croutons, made from both flaky croissants and bread.

C’s friend brought us a trio of house made hot sauces.

I’m not sure if they are typically offered to customers but I kept dipping the croutons into the thicker sauce to the left.

Wise Acres was celebrating its birthday and surprised its customers with jars of custard.

We shared a trio of chocolate, vanilla, and cinnamon custard accompanied by caramel sauce, rhubarb caramel sauce, chocolate-covered cacao nibs, nut brittle.  I suspect the toppings were an extra gift and I loved the rhubarb caramel sauce the most.

On the way back to the Twin Cities, I picked up some spicy, grilled beef salad from Bangkok Thai Deli for Jake and made one more stop at the Clearwater Travel Plaza.  A couple of readers recommended stopping at Nelson Bros. Restaurant and Bakery for sandwiches made with freshly-baked bread.  I was too full to try a sandwich so I grabbed a giant caramel roll.  The employee confirmed the breads are baked in-house.

Since it was late afternoon, the outside of the roll tasted a little stale but the inside was still moist.  The roll was covered in a thick layer of caramel and nuts but I did not taste any buttery richness.  The caramel seemed to taste more like store-bought pecan pie filling.  Sweet and corn-syrupy.  Oh well.  I used to work next to Isles Bun & Coffee which has become my gold standard for sticky buns.  Isles Bun & Coffee emanates the sweet scent of butter and it’s better for that.

I plan to stop by again for one of the sandwiches but will pass on the baked sweets.

If you have any suggestions for food stops along I-94 between the Twin Cities and Fargo, I’d love to hear them.

1 Comment

  1. Anonymous

    The sandwiches are where it is at here. I always try to stop there for lunch on my way to the cities. Best bread for a sandwich shop ever.

    The restaurant has a great salmon breakfast. I cannot remember exactly what it was as it was a few years ago, but I usually do not want to spend that much time at the actual restaurant. That is okay because those sandwiches are excellent. Beats the pants off of subway every time!

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