When Forager Brewery co-owners Annie Henderson and Sean Allen decided on the branding for their new restaurant/coffee shop, I’m not sure they knew quite how much of their project would be “foraged.” As it turns out, from the light fixtures to the ingredients to the other projects that have popped up along the way, about everything they do involves finding and repurposing local gems.
I got to take my first bite (and sips) at Forager recently, and today, I’m bringing you my first bite of what might be Rochester’s most ambitious hybrid restaurant business I’ve seen yet.
When you decide to fill your space with found objects such as windows from an old Mayo Clinic auditorium, reclaimed wood from barns across town and antiques (including Charles and Edith Mayo’s old stove), it’s gonna need some polishing.
But all the elbow grease it took to fit the puzzle pieces of Rochester’s past was worth it — because it’s come together to form something entirely new. The result is a homey but chic atmosphere. It’s cozy like your favorite old story but different and new every time you walk in the door.
There are so many spaces to explore here, from the secluded library to the market, from the penny-table taproom to the gorgeous patio with pergola, each one lending a different, welcoming note. The vibe is definitely laid-back cool.
Right now, Forager’s Executive Chef Jordan Bell (who worked under one of the most creative and fiercely local chefs in the region, Greg Jaworski at Nosh in Lake City) is focusing on perfecting a limited menu of wood-fired pizzas and a few appetizers. His menu offers a great complement to the beer, which is fitting because it’s half the reason you’re there.
Definitely go for the pork belly nachos, topped with a generous helping of chimmichurri that makes the dish. The pizzas are creative and varied, from the Portobello mushroom pizza with white gravy to the “Hot Stuff” pizza featuring spicy sausage and fermented hot sauce. Other atypical pizza toppings include egg, corn, potato, goat cheese and even local honey.
When the menu expands in the coming weeks and months, the first dishes I’ll try will be the cast-iron mac and cheese; the Forager burger with house bacon, amablu, relish and aioli; and the poutine.
One of Bell’s specialties is food preservation, so we can look forward pickled, dried and other riffs on local fare all winter long.
I first met Forager’s head brewer Austin Jevne when he was working out at the Thirsty Belgian, which is still one of my fave little spots to head after work. He’s running the brew show here and has created an impressive list of brews, which promise to keep changing and shifting.
My favorites of the night were the Starry-eyed Blond, Johnny C’s brown ale and the Forest Nymph French saison. But Jevne has lots more brews up his sleeve (and in the brew room), including special infusions, foraged ingredients and varieties I can’t wait to try out.
When I said this place was ambitious, I meant I can cover just a fraction of what they’ve got in the works here. I’ll cover the coffee shop open during the day in the future, as well as the market featuring local vendors and (most exciting for me) the pop-up restaurant that will bring Rochester new flavors constantly. I can hardly wait.
Forager Brewery, which bills itself as a “gastropub,” (which means I have another brewery/brew pub term to remember) is open from 4 to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Find it at 1005 6th St. NW, in the space of the former Good Food Store.