Pengilly put on the map as buzzworthy restaurant gets New York Times praise


It's not often that the tiny town of Pengilly graces the pages of the New York Times* – but it's been put on the map now that it's home to one of the hottest new restaurants in Minnesota.

Eyebrows were raised when celebrated Twin Cities chef Sarah Master revealed earlier this year that she would be returning to her hometown of 400 in the Iron Range, giving up her role at Barbette, in Minneapolis' Uptown to take over the Mr. Roberts Restaurant and Resort.

But the chef, who co-owns the resort with business partner Dan Beckwith, is receiving high praise for her efforts crafting an eatery that the Times describes as "Midwestern with a Modern Twist" at the lakeside location.

Take a look at its menu, and you can see why you'd be unlikely to find an eatery like Mr. Roberts in most other small towns in America.

You still find the burgers, fish fry dinners and hanger steaks customarily found on most Minnesotan menus, but with some unusual additions, such as dehydrated olives, peach BBQ sauce, bacon jam, rhubarb chips and cashew butter.

Master's combinations went down well with Times reviewer, the Duluth-based Robert Lillegard, who said they show "flourishes that take them far beyond their church potluck roots."

Lillegard tried out the restaurant's braised shredded lamb, which he said had "added depth" thanks to the accompanying Minnesota-harvested cremini, oyster and shiitake mushrooms, while he was also impressed by a Goulash "brought up-to-date with seared grass-fed rib-eye, stewed cippolini onions and roasted cherry tomatoes."

Lillegard said her menu and location is "almost a political act," given it's in a traditional mining area "where tastes run towards Miller Lite and mashed potatoes."

The chef added that there has been some grumbles from some about the prices, which while not particularly expensive for the Twin Cities, is still more than you'd expect from traditional outstate eateries.

Business is doing well though, the Times' notes, because her local roots – combined with her appearance on ABC cooking show "The Taste" (where she reached the semi-final) – keeps the patrons coming.

You can read the full review here. It will appear in the Sunday print edition of the New York Times.

* On a side note, we did take a look at whether Pengilly has been mentioned in the New York Times before this – and it has, twice.

Once when Pengilly native turned New Jersey Devils hockey player Mike Peluso was quoted in 1995, and the other in 1948, when 20-year-old Lois Hall, of Pengilly, was cast in Hollywood film "You Made Me Love You."

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