It’s tempting to assume that the Minnetonka General Store Café is opportunistically jumping onto the “farm to table” bandwagon, but in fact, owner Gail Bollis and family helped build that wagon in the first place. Adding the word “bistro” to the café name isn’t a marketing ploy, but an expression of a personal tradition that was a long time coming. It will now be “Minnetonka General Store Café and Bistro.”
The Bollis clan is all about honoring family and community; their business is almost 30 years strong. Gail’s father Phil was a driving force and her teacher; they farmed a portion of their own food and they always ate “organic”—except, back then, it was only because it was easiest and it tasted best. To this day, the café’s motto remains “good food, real ingredients.” Gail Bollis has kept the tradition alive: her daughter Jenny Putnam and grandson Spencer work in the garden too.
Jason Jacobson, the chef at the Minnetonka General Store Café and Bistro, has been cooking for 15 years in southern Minnesota, California and most recently in Wisconsin, working for the Kohler Company. “We’re lucky to have him back in Minnesota,” Bollis says. Jacobson is excited about the café’s new bistro slant and will help devise entrees based on what’s fresh and available. The bistro also offers small bites and other specialties from the garden; additionally, they honor local beverage makers by serving beer and wine from local breweries and vineyards.
We recently caught up with Gail Bollis and Chef Jason Jacobson to find out a little more about the new café format and their plans for its future.
Lake Minnetonka Magazine: What is your food philosophy?
Gail Bollis: We’ve had the café for 13 years; always, our philosophy has been good food, made from scratch. We decided to add breakfast cooked-to-order, new entrees and dinner specials, adding things from local farms.
Jason Jacobson: Keep it simple and use what’s fresh.
LKM: How did you connect with your talented chef, Jason Jacobson?
GB: I knew when I first started talking to Jason that he was the guy, because we had some of the same values. He’s down to earth and also very talented. He had similar ideas about keeping it simple but using really good ingredients.
JJ: Easy; they were looking for a chef and I was looking for a position.
LKM: What are some family recipes that you serve at the café?
GB: Cucumber tomato salad using a recipe that belonged to my husband’s mom—it has dried mustard vinegar, sugar, salt and onion. Normally I don’t like following directions, but this was handed down from my husband’s family; one of the only things I measure [so that] all ingredients taste as it should.
LKM: What are some of the café favorites?
JJ: Our chicken salad and our pasta salad with peas, tomatoes and parmesan are popular; our arugula salad with berries, mixed greens pecans and crumbled gorgonzola is great. It all depends on what we get. We have some unique offerings with cage-free eggs, like our tostada: white corn tortillas pan fried, black beans, fried eggs and fresh pico de gallo with homemade guacamole.
LKM: What’s your definition of “bistro”?
JJ: It’s casual. You can get glass of wine, breakfast, lunch or dinner. It’s more of a comfort thing. We want to keep our offerings as responsible and as seasonal as we can.
GB: We are not on a crusade to change the world, but we want to tell people where their food is coming from. We’re not here to force anything on anyone.
LKM: What’s the most rewarding thing about bringing fresh produce to the café?
GB: I remember dad’s huge garden and my mom’s canning. I was one of six kids. Every spring we’d help plant […] He passed away [but] I’m using his old tomato stakes and it makes me feel closer to him. I’m lucky enough to have grandkids near us; they help. Dad was so proud to take his produce to special customers around the lake—[gardening] must be in the genes. Dad put a spark in me to carry on his gardening. He’s the guy who built this building, so it has extra meaning.
General Store of Minnetonka, 14401 Minnesota 7; 952.935.7131; 952.935.2215.