Craving comfort food? Bring your tastebuds to Brasa.

By anne
August 19, 2007 - 15:48.

Ah, rain—finally! Rainy days and Mondays always get me…in the mood for comfort food. Fortunately, I have found a new favorite supplier: Brasa, in the spot formerly occupied by Betty’s Bikes and Buns at 600 E. Hennepin. The brand new, budget-conscious brother of Restaurant Alma, Brasa bills itself as a premium rotisserie and serves, bless their hearts, only two main dishes: Marinated & Spice Rubbed Rotisserie Chicken ($11.50-$14) and Slow Roasted Berkshire Pork Shoulder ($11.50-$14), with a combo plate for $14.50. I’m a fan of the limited menu. It makes the decision easier, which is part of the comfort in comfort food.

But lest avid foodies can’t take two for an answer, there’s an abundance of side dishes to get the adrenaline going. (Foodies never quite relax for fear of missing the mention of fennel in an entrée and wondering halfway through dinner if that’s what they’re tasting…necessitating an anonymous phone call to the host stand from the bathroom.)

Sugar is the comfort that my friend Karl and I were seeking on this rain-soaked Saturday after a matinee of The Bourne Ultimatum. Dashing from the car á la Matt Damon and Julia Stiles, we burst through the door to meet the smiling visage of chef and proprietor Alex Roberts, ready at the register in case we wanted take-out.

We chose a table by the glass-paneled garage door, evidence that the building was once a service station. We looked out upon the cozy patio, imagining sunshine on the dripping umbrellas and the happy flower boxes. It put us both in mind of our respective trips to Puerto Rico (although my mind is fuzzy on the subject, given that I was all of age three). Now I am considering a vacation on Isla de Vieques. But I digress.

Desserts. There are four: Little Chocolate-Chocolate Cake with Candied Orange, Sweet Biscuit with Seasonal Fruit & Cream, Coconut-Tapioca Pudding with Passion Fruit & Pineapple, and Classic White Birthday Cake. We chose the chocolate, a chewy little bundt with the kind of candied oranges that took me back to pedaling my purple Schwinn bicycle to Richard’s Market in Austin, Minnesota, where I grew up, and taking half an hour to decide how to spend my allowance. (Slo’ Pokes, Bit o’ Honeys and orange slices usually won out.)

After dessert, naturally, we ordered dinner. It’s amazing how a craving for sugar can mask the desire for slow-roasted pork! Brasa’s (and Alma’s) pork source is a Cottonwood, MN, co-op; the chicken comes from a farm in Glenwood. More local ingredients are harvested for side dishes: Slow Cooked Collard Greens, Yellow Rice & Stewed Rosada Beans, Black Eyed Peas with Local Berkshire Bacon, Garnet Yams with Andouille Sausage…and more. It was difficult to choose (okay, true foodies, you win).

After much debate, Karl and I selected Crispy Fried Yuca and Heirloom Corn Grits with Sharp Cheddar. The yuca was perfect—like a Krispy Kreme doughnut with 10 times the nutrition and a fraction of the calories. The grits—well, I just love grits, and these are chewy/cheesy and I couldn’t stop eating them. Best of all was the succulent pork, which could rival my grandmothers’ cooking (may they rest in peace).

Thankfully for non-meat-eaters, Brasa serves a substantial Sides Only Plate with bread for $11.50, and you can add more sides for $3 each.

Bottom line: Brasa is cozy and the fare is satisfying. Service is pleasant but it would be nice to get a bit more of a description of ingredients, knowing that free range meats, organic produce and fair trade products are the pride and joy of the place. Oh, well, they’re new. They’ll come along. Hours: 11am-10pm Monday-Friday, 12noon-10pm Saturday, closed Sunday. Parking: Tiny lot with four regular spaces and one handicap space. More parking on side streets. Reservations: 612-379-3030.

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