If you head west from the west metro on Highway 7, after an hour or so you’ll find yourself in the town of Hutchinson, surrounded by miles of farm fields, the South Fork of the Crow River, and Campbell and Otter Lakes. It’s a thriving town that’s home to both industry and agriculture, and it has its share of chain eateries and fast-food joints. Fortunately, it also has Zella’s.
Zella’s is located in the center of Hutchinson’s main street, appropriate for a place that is firmly rooted in its community. The interior is upscale, yet warm and inviting, and service is friendly and efficient. Best of all, the food is beautifully prepared, with a lot of thought, taste, and heart.
The local farm community plays a major role in what Zella’s serves, and Zella’s baked goods and homemade granola make regular appearances at the Hutchinson Farmers Market. The restaurant uses locally grown, organic produce and meat whenever possible — and treats them well. Take the Pork Tacos ($13). The pork shoulder comes from Hutchinson’s Legacy Lane Farm. It’s braised until it melts, combined with a zesty topping of apples, carrots, and red peppers, and served with a side of jalapeño-cabbage slaw. The result isn’t spicy, but wildly flavorful, with lots of satisfying crunchiness balancing out the tender meat.
The Mushroom Brie Flatbread ($12) features a heaping portion of sauteed mushroom finished in sherry and a more-than-generous portion of Brie. It’s a luxuriant dish, but the delicate, crisp flatbread keeps it from crossing into over-the-top richness.
Perhaps the most surprising dish was an order of sweet potato fries ($6) — these don’t tend to be that exciting (it’s a fry! But it’s nutritious!), but here they’re treated as if the nutritional aspect didn’t matter. Instead, you get a perfectly crispy-on-the-outside, melty-on-the-inside stack of fries, generously salted immediately after frying. They’re served with sides of chipotle ranch dressing and brown sugar mustard, but they’re pretty addictive on their own.
Ending the meal was a delight, with the two desserts ($6-$8) available during our visit. The first, Earl Grey Lavender Creme Brulee, boasted a heavily caramelized top that produced a satisfying crack as we broke into it. A thin layer of smooth creme, eggy and pleasantly scented with the combination of Earl Grey tea and lavender, stayed with us as we moved on to the next dessert, Raspberry White Chocolate Layer Cake. While many layer cakes are too cake-heavy or too filling-filled to be truly satisfying, this one reminded us of the best version of wedding cake, with several layers of cake, whipped cream, and a lightly-sweetened raspberry filling. This cake lover was sold.
Katie Cannon contributed to this review.
Farm-focused cafe in Hutchinson
14 Main St S
Hutchinson, MN 55350
Mon-Wed 11 a.m.-2 p.m., Thu 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri-Sat 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sun 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Ask
ENTREE RANGE: $8-$22
PARKING: Plenty of free street parking