Editor’s note: Glen Lake Cafe is now closed.
Tucked into a modest strip mall on Excelsior Boulevard in Minnetonka, Glen Lake Cafe’s unassuming exterior may cause some people to drive by without a second glance. But one would be wise not to overlook this light-filled, orange-accented dining room, helmed by former Metro food critic Mecca Bos. With a carefully curated menu of salads, sandwiches, and entrees and a bakery cafe that’s hard to resist, Glen Lake Cafe is a charming, friendly alternative to typical strip mall fare that would be welcome in any neighborhood.
Whether as a starter or an entree, fish is a solid choice. The Thai fish cakes ($10) offer bites of tender, flaky fish under a crispy crust, and the chile sauce lends a sweet note that’s prevented from becoming too sweet from the addition of green curry. The fish tacos (above, $11) come two to an order, and Bos wisely bolsters each with two small tortillas to keep the swirl of sauteed fish, guacamole, salsa, arugula, and queso from falling apart. The guacamole is tasty enough to eat with a spoon — some might be tempted to order a side ($3) and do just that. Watch for stray bones, though. The pan-seared walleye ($19) features a perfect, flavorful crust and a tangy red onion-carrot slaw. The dish could benefit from more slaw and less of the flat ricotta-pea puree that coats the plate, though.
The abundant salads will appeal to anyone who loves to — or feels he should — eat more greens. The green goddess salad (above, $11) combines a heaping pile of kale mix with a pleasing combination of sweet roasted red peppers, salty queso, and nutty pepitas. The avocado dressing tastes a bit scarce, though, so a few more tablespoons would bring the salad to the next level. Take advantage of the smoked salmon salad ($15) if featured as a special — the tender, smoky fish is tossed with spinach, blue cheese, and cashews to create a protein-packed entree that needs no side dish. But if you need one, the daily cup of soup ($4) will do just fine — the recent golden beet-quinoa-spinach variety balances the sweetness of the beets with the bitterness of the greens for a very hearty bowl.
The steak frites ($18) will satisfy the carnivores with a juicy, well-seasoned flat iron steak topped with an aromatic red wine sauce. The crisp fries will lap up any sauce the steak leaves behind. Less successful is the black bean and quinoa falafel ($12), featuring patties too large and not crusty enough to wear the name “falafel” and lacking enough flavor to really sing. The creamy tzatziki helps but can’t carry the entire dish.
The bakery case will be the first thing you see upon entering Glen Lake Cafe, and it should be the last thing you remember. An enormous slice of double chocolate cake ($5) manages to cure a chocolate craving without venturing into too-sweet territory. It’s the rare piece of cake that’s more cake than frosting — but no worries, frosting lovers, there’s enough to amply coat the layers. The lemon tart ($4) borrows its texture from a brownie — it’s lighter and fluffier than the typical curd-dense bar — but the lemon flavor shines through admirably, and the tender crumb is a delight. While the chocolate chip cookie ($1.25) may not be “the best cookie ever,” as the server described it (we prefer the brown-butter version recently sampled at The Copper Hen Cakery and Kitchen), the generous round offers lots of chocolate chunks among its vanilla-scented base. A little more chewiness would make it a true contender. For those without a strong sweet tooth (who are you?), choose a glass from the very reasonably priced beer and wine menu instead.
Owner Tom Peterson writes on the cafe’s website that a neighborhood cafe like Glen Lake should feel like home, and he and his team successfully have created a welcoming vibe. Servers encourage patrons to sit wherever pleases them, and fellow diners have no qualms about striking up a conversation or offering their two cents on the menu. Attentive but non-intrusive service helps sustain the homey feel as well. A neighborhood cafe that lives up to its label — that’s a trend we’d like to see repeated in more neighborhoods around the Twin Cities.
Editor’s note: Over the weekend, and after our visits, Glen Lake Cafe updated their menu for the summer, including new renditions of the falafel and fish cakes.
Neighborhood cafe in Minnetonka
14725 Excelsior Blvd
Minnetonka, MN 55345
OWNER / CHEF: Tom Peterson / Mecca Bos
Sun 9am-8 pm
BAR: Beer and wine
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED: No
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / A few sides
ENTREE RANGE: $11-19