Wilde Roast Café Celebrates Fifth Anniversary

My first cookbook is titled Garden County: Where Everyone is Welcome to sit at the Table. You could say that’s also the motto of Wilde Roast Café (named after Oscar Wilde, famed 19th-Century gay Irish playwright). It’s a safe and inclusive haven for all people. Everyone is truly welcome to sit at its tables.

Wilde Roast owners and life partners Dean Schlaak and Tom DeGree created a gathering place that is cozy, and offers some of the finest made-from-scratch comfort food in the Twin Cites. Everything is prepared onsite in the open kitchen, using the freshest ingredients.

Latte; TBLT and beer; macaroni & cheese; cheesecake, carrot cake, and La Bête Noire. Photos by Hubert Bonnet

To celebrate the establishment’s fifth anniversary, Schlaak and DeGree have announced an updated food menu, giveways, art openings, and other events in March.

Over the past five years, Wilde Roast has received many accolades and awards. The most famous was the September 2006 cover of Bon Appétit, on which the café’s flourless chocolate cake, La Bête Noire, was featured. I have tried it, and it is an amazing piece of food art. Wilde Roast also was named Best Coffee Shop by Lavender readers.

However Wilde Roast is much more than a coffee shop. True, it offers a wide variety of coffee and espresso drinks, but it also serves wine and beer, along with breakfast, lunch, and dinner entrées, including sandwiches, pizzas, quesadillas, and many specialty items. Desserts are miraculous.

My favorite sandwich is the French Dip ($9), which DeGree calls the “Farm Boy French Dip.” Schlaak came up with it by adding bacon to lots of sliced roast beef and Swiss cheese, topped with horseradish mayo. It’s accompanied by a bowl of au jus. You can add kettle chips, or, for a little extra, a salad with mixed greens or soup. I believe I have ordered this sandwich more than 25 times—it’s that excellent!

One of Wilde Roast Café’s most famous appetizers to share is the Crab Cakes ($12.50). Mostly crab and very little cake, it’s mixed with savory seasoning, and served with basil aioli. You’ll think you’ve gone to crab heaven. I would compare this dish to something you would find at Oceanaire, but priced more like Panera. Wilde Roast wants to be affordable for its guests, but it’s not McDonald’s.

As Schlaak shares, “It’s American with a twist at a good price.”
You must try the breakfasts. If the Crème Brûlée French Toast ($7.50) doesn’t impress you, nothing ever well. It’s one of the favorites of Wilde Roast customers. Imagine French toast with a caramel top and a peach-and-cherry bottom, then add whipped cream and toasted pecans for one of the best breakfasts around. The Breakfast Pizza ($8) is also amazing, with mixed cheeses, egg, sausage, tomato, onion, mushroom, and white sauce.

Wilde Roast has become a destination spot for anyone longing for a place that is both inclusive and diverse.

I visited the Web site, and read a wonderful entry on the Diary page about two people who met at Wilde Roast: “Wilde Roast Café has played an important role in our relationship. Mark and I have been together (very happily) for nearly a year and a half, and have just finished moving in together….Our first date lasted nearly seven hours, half of which was spent at a corner table at Wilde Roast Café.”

Actor and Metropolis Music Recording Artist John Trones and I have built a wonderful friendship over several years by having lunch or coffee at Wilde Roast. We never have been anywhere else. He is one of the sweetest guys I know. It’s through Wilde Roast that we have become such good friends.
Schlaak and DeGree survived a financial crisis following the collapse of the nearby I-35W Bridge in 2007.

Explaining that business dropped almost 50 percent during the first months after the disaster, DeGree relates, “From January 2008 through January 2009, business has built back up. During that time [in the months after the bridge collapse], we discussed closing, selling, or redefining Wilde Roast.”
Fortunately, they redefined Wilde Roast, and now can rejoice.

Another reason to celebrate is that DeGree is on the cover of the recent St. Thomas Alumni Review. That’s quite a well-deserved honor.

Visit the Web site for information on the menu, catering, box lunch delivery, art showings, and wonderful Date Night. The latter includes two bottomless glasses of red or white house wine and two entrées of any pizza or Field Green Salad, all for only $25, Monday through Friday.

Schlaak and DeGree have a lot to be proud of at Wilde Roast’s fifth anniversary. So, I raise my glass to them. Congratulations on delighting the taste buds of your guests, bringing friends together, and helping to create new relationships. Cheers!

Wilde Roast Café / 518 E. Hennepin Ave., Mpls. / (612) 331-4544 / www.wilderoastcafe.com

John Michael Lerma is a local chef, author, and Food Network personality. His company Garden County Cooking offers cookbooks, cooking classes, consulting, private events, and culinary vacations to Italy and the Caribbean. www.GardenCountyCooking.com. Check out his “Word of Mouth” Blog under Extras at LavenderMagazine.com.

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