The sign on the building says “Taran’s Market Place,” the menus say “At Sara’s Table Chester Creek Cafe,” but to the regulars it is known as the most locally sourced meal you can get in town. General Manager Andrew Mattila says: “When people ask ‘What does your restaurant stand for?’ we say we stand for sustainability.”
Seven years ago, Carla Blumberg and Barb Neubert reopened Taran’s Market Place with the new names “At Sara’s Table” and “Chester Creek Cafe” with the goal of creating a farm-to-table restaurant that was sustainable. “Carla has always been interested in the farmer aspect and the sustainable aspect, getting the good food to the people,” says Mattila. Sourcing 80 percent of food locally in the summer and 45 percent in the winter, a percentage based on the amount of product used in the kitchen, their focus on local foods and sustainability has made Chester Creek Cafe become for Duluth what Common Roots Cafe is for Minneapolis.
Bay Produce, Larry Schultz, Thousand Hills Cattle Company, Kadejan, Flying Snakes, and Stickney Hill Dairy Farms are among the farms that the restaurant uses. “It grows over time,” says Mattila. “After you’ve met one farmer, they introduce you to someone else.” Mattila has seen the restaurant add more farmers to their menu each year, and this year, “the Duluth Community Garden Club is going to start selling us green onions.” The restaurant’s staff has also started growing their own herbs, sprouts, Swiss chard, and other vegetables on site.
The duck ($17), a recent menu item, is Mallard sourced from Wild Acres in Pequot Lakes. Whole ducks are purchased; the breasts are used for the dinner entree and the carcass for making duck stock. Beet marmalade accompanies the duck with beets, from Flying Snakes Farm at Chantrelle Woods Preserve in Bayfield, WI, alongside a mint panzanella salad made with ciabatta from Franklin Street Bakery in Minneapolis.
Every six to eight weeks the menu changes. AM Chef Peter Ravinski, PM Chef Bruce Wallis, owners, and managers sit down for a brainstorming session to create new menus. A theme is selected and the menu is based on flavors and dishes that reflect the theme and what is available locally. “Sometimes you have to go with a flavor profile and see what you can find here. We don’t want to import Asian food here; we would rather pick their flavor and try to find something to match it locally,” says Mattila.
At Sara’s Table Chester Creek Cafe has led the community not only in using local foods but also in composting; they are a drop off center for the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District. Anyone in the community can pick up biodegradable plastic bags for compost and drop them off at the restaurant. “Very little garbage leaves the restaurant,” says Mattila. Along with recycling and composting food waste, “we don’t use a lot of oil, but our used peanut oil for frying goes to a guy locally who uses it to make bio-diesel.”
The only meat that is not sourced locally is the Alaskan salmon from Simple Gifts Syrup and Salmon. The salmon is line-caught by Duluth local Dave Rogotzke. “The salmon is flash frozen and stored in a warehouse in Washington,” explains Mattila. “Sure, we feel bad about shipping it half way across the country, but we are also trying to support this local business.” The salmon ($20) is served with a miso glaze, black barley pilaf, and house-grown sprouts. The salmon is moist with a light crust from the miso glaze that is both sweet and savory.
“Other places in town are trying the best they can [to purchase local and organic], but we feel we are a bit ahead, we are trying to make it our one thing,” says Mattila. As the restaurant continues to work with farms and build community support, their goal of being 100 percent local and organic is within sight. Using more local cheese, finding quality local wines, and using organic butter are part of the vision for the future. Mattila says, “[Local] is like a buzz word now; everybody is saying local is the new thing for this year. And we look at it and say, ‘This year?'”
At Sara’s Table Chester Creek Cafe
Locally sourced food restaurant in Duluth
1902 E 8th St
Duluth, MN 55812
OWNERS: Carla Blumberg and Barb Neubert
BAR: Beer + Wine
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: Yes / Not needed
AVERAGE ENTREE: $10-$20