Each Saturday from 1-2 p.m. on Mytalk 107.1, I have the pleasure of talking about food, on my radio show the Weekly Dish. A few weeks back we got to spend time with James Beard Award winning chef Alex Roberts who was recognized for his culinary work at Brasa and Restaurant Alma. Chef Roberts has a real commitment to sourcing local ingredients. He donates time to support Youth Farm Market that engages 600 kids from 5 neighborhoods at 15 different farm sites. In West Saint Paul, there are four farm sites and a year round greenhouse located at Cherokee Heights Elementary School, all run by kids and volunteers. At these sites kids learn about farming and the value of putting healthy food in their bodies. Chef Roberts has children himself and sees the value of teaching kids to cook with healthy ingredients and enjoy the family meals.
Nothing says family meal more than Brasa on Grand Avenue. Brasa is really proud of the fact that nearly 100% of the meat, dairy, eggs, flour, sweet corn and cornmeal they serve is produced in Minnesota, Wisconsin & Iowa on small family owned farms and cooperatives. Many of their ingredients are organic or sustainably raised and they feature local vegetables including those from Youth Farm Market.
Brasa started in Minneapolis and opened a second location on Grand Avenue a few years later. Chef Roberts has a simple mantra for Brasa; He only serves food that his family would eat. Because of this philosophy many of the items at Brasa are served family style. At Brasa you can order any of the meats and add sides that will feed a few or a group depending on the size you order. Brasa has something for everyone including localvores, vegetarians, people that are gluten free and of course kids. The restaurant has lots of kid friendly favorites including macaroni and cheese, cornbread with honey butter, cheesy grits and rice and beans. I will admit. Brasa is one of my favorite restaurants to go to with my family on a weeknight.
I love braised and smoked meat and Brasa does them really well. My favorites are the roasted chicken with a Creole style dry rub or the slow roasted pork with garlic and lime. I also love their smoky braised brisket with barbecue sauce. You can really taste the smoke in their meats and they smell so good as you lift them to your lips. The barbecue sauce that tops the beef is sweet, smokey and zingy. The fried catfish with a seasoned cornmeal and rice flower crust is excellent. The breading is heavy but you don’t mind because it is so flavorful and tasty and crispy. The chicken is cage-free and naturally raised without hormones or antibiotics as is their pork and beef.
Eating with a vegetarian for lunch or dinner? You cannot go wrong at Brasa. The black bean fritters or fritter sandwich is one of the best black bean burgers in town. It’s crispy on the outside and moist on the inside with a spicy hit. The texture is great either alone or on a sandwich with chipotle mayo. The spicy masa corncake with cheese is topped with some pickled onions and a bit of cheese so it’s light, crispy, salty and sour all in one bite. Other favorites of mine are the macaroni and cheese, creamed spinach and the cheesy grits which really shine due to the high quality organic cornmeal in them that give the grits some substance without them being too thin or gruel like. The guacamole is a must for the table with house fried chips and if you are lucky enough to find the brussel sprouts on the menu that are roasted with lime, salt and garlic and topped with pickled ginger get them! This simple dish is one of the best things I have eaten all year!
777 Grand Ave,St Paul,MN