This is a thing I’m going to try: A series where I pluck out restaurants “from the crowd” aka the seemingly endless options we’re provided in the Twin Cities and do a brief write-up on my experience. First up: L’Etoile Du Nord.
For the first post, let me transport you to Bayport, Minnesota – a town that, when driving through, appears to be so small that “quaint” is almost too excessive as a descriptor. It’s the sort of place where everybody wants to extend a personal welcome and ask how you are, nearly to an uncomfortable degree (to someone who’s lived in a city for only two years but has apparently lost all sense of warmth when it comes to interacting with other humans). It’s nestled nearby equally-charming downtown Stillwater, a shopping haven for all things quirky and antique-y. I grew up just across the St. Croix River from this area — and, yes, I did eat dinner at the illustrious Stillwater Perkins restaurant before my senior prom — so driving into Bayport feels especially cozy and familiar. And, as quick day-trips go, it’s a reasonable distance from Minneapolis for a good meal.
I can’t remember where I first heard about L’Etoile Du Nord — named after Minnesota’s motto, “Star of the North” — but I do remember that the menu sounded appealing enough for me to trade a brunch in the city for one out there. The chef/owner is originally from Belgium and, according to the restaurant’s website, there is a strong focus on seasonal, from-scratch cooking using locally-sourced ingredients. They do switch up the menu items regularly but keep customers in the know of what’s being currently offered on their website, which is a nice touch.
To start, I chose between a mimosa or the seasonal Bloody Mary. Look who won:
Savory or sweet is the ultimate struggle I encounter each time I’m out for brunch, generally opting for both because I am both greedy and cannot easily make decisions. This time I started with a liège waffle with chocolate. In my not-very-scientific-or-thorough research, I read that liège waffles originate from Belgium but unlike the Belgian waffle you’re probably thinking of, these are tiny, rich and so, so delicious. I first tried them while visiting Portland earlier this year at Waffle Window. They make waffles piled with bacon and cheese or berries and cream, but but my favorite was the simple pearl sugar waffle, which is why I went for the one here topped with just chocolate.
I ate it with a knife and fork to appear polite and adult-like when really I could have just as easily used my hands, creating a torrent of dark chocolate and powdered sugar with how quickly I wanted to devour this dang waffle. I am no foodie, food reviewer or anything similar. I’m not great at describing textures or tastes and don’t know the various techniques that are used to create the food I eat – I just know what tastes good to me and can appreciate a quality meal. This waffle lived up to the hype I’d created in my head from memories of the Portland trip. It was decadent and not overly sweet.
For the savory side, I chose the eggs benedict with basil pesto, heirloom tomato, ham, poached eggs and hollandaise with a side of wilted greens. Instead of an English muffin, there were slices of baguette sitting underneath and I’m totally OK with this substitution.
The whites of the poached eggs were left slightly raw, which wasn’t my favorite thing to see especially after what could be considered a long wait, but overall it was fine – the fresh pesto stole the show here.
While I might not make a specific trip out to Bayport again for the benedict or bloody, I would consider another stop-in for a waffle or two on my way to shop in Stillwater or to visit my parents across the river. As an overly-enthusiastic pizza eater, I’d also be interested in trying out their versions. Overall, I can appreciate what this café is doing and providing for their locals and out-of-town visitors. They do the rustic charm thing really, really well.