I’ve made it to the grocery store in time for happy hour. Past the deli and cheese counter, around the corner from the pasta salads, a long, curved bar faces the dome of a wood-fired oven. The menu animates from a fleet of iPads – a few on the bar and one at each table. Things in Wayzata have changed.
1. Kitchen In The Condo
Wayzata is my hometown. Many of my fondest food and drink memories originated along Lake Street, the main drag that hugs the north shore of Lake Minnetonka. Among them, the unbeatable lo mein at Jade Fountain, the no-frills breakfasts at Maggie’s, and patty melts at the Municipal (don’t you dare call it the Wayzata Bar & Grill).
At the time, the Muni was a dingy bar, connected to the city liquor store by a hallway and a pull tab station. I recall my hands shaking as I held out my clipped license and brand new papers to buy my very first (legal) Summit EPA. The Muni was in the parking lot of the Wayzata Bay Center, a run-down eyesore of a mini mall. Both buildings were razed a few years ago and the Muni moved into shiny new digs across the street.
Mere feet from where I purchased that first six-pack, I now sit at the bar at Lunds Byerlys Kitchen. A cluster of luxury condos has sprung to life from the Bay Center site and this grab-and-go Lunds is taylor made for the residents. I sip on a glass of Château la Boutignane Corbières Blanc ($6), a southern French wine that tastes of lime zest and the sea. I also order guacamole ($5). The tortilla chips are hot from the fryer.
“Did you know George Washington became one our country’s first major distillers of whiskey?” the iPad menu asks me, as a fun fact underneath my wine selection. I did, in fact, know that. But being told that by an electronic wine menu in a grocery store makes the information seem new.
2. Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay
Across the parking lot from the new Muni, a new outpost of the People’s Organic franchise has moved into the corner space next to Woullet Bakery. It looks unlike any restaurant along the usually prim boulevard, with neon green floors and lavender walls sporting black and white photos of smiling coffee farmers. I sip on a Deschutes Fresh Squeezed ($4). It’s a cheap pint for Wayzata and, to say nothing of the food, that makes it a worthy addition to the block.
In 1867, the railroads first reached Wayzata, becoming the last stop on the St. Paul and Pacific line. It blossomed into a resort town in the wilderness, where steamboats trudged across the pristine lake transporting guests to the resplendent hotels lining the shores.
Across those train tracks, next to the depot built by James J. Hill, stands the Boatworks building. A fortress on the edge of Wayzata Beach, the building contains perhaps the most cursed restaurant location in the western suburbs. It’s not an obvious spot to drop in during a Lake Street promenade. My family has been going there for decades to sample food from one failed concept after the next.
Now, 6smith is the tenant and I hope this one finally sticks. I’d heard that their focus was to create the best patio on Lake Minnetonka and, arguably, they have. The interior still feels blocky and closed-in, but the dockside is expansive and luxurious. I sip on a gin and tonic and feel the breeze and watch the boats travel out into Browns Bay and beyond.
3. Treasure CōV
After graduating from college at the beginning of the Great Recession, with my bank account dwindling and job prospects non-existent, there was always Sunsets. Wayzata never had the party-bar scene that can be found on the southern shores of the lake, but Sunsets was its singular gathering spot. It was were I could be sure to run into all my old classmates on the day before Thanksgiving. It was the place where late night happy hours offered a mug of Michelob Golden Light you could barely lift for $3.50.
The restaurant was sold and recently re-opened as CōV, a squeaky-clean concept that begs one to recall that place on the ocean shore that made wonderful soft-shell crab. Part of me wants to dismiss CōV as pretentious. From the macron above the ō (I mean, just spell it “Cove”, right?) to the presumption of putting “Est. 2014” on the coasters, to the blue and white color scheme that turned my Montauk dive into a polished veranda straight out of comme il faut Nantucket.
But in reality, I just miss the place that was perfect for me at a certain time in my life. I’ve grown up, and so has Wayzata, and that’s a good thing. I’m hoping that at some point, a recent college graduate will sit out on CōV’s patio, lounging on a couch with a Fulton in hand. He’ll look out at the lake and realize that no matter his current anxiety, change is not only inevitable but necessary. He’ll smile, sip his Sweet Child Of Vine, and know that things are looking up.
Lunds Byerlys Kitchen, 250 Superior Boulevard, Wayzata. 952.476.1122.
People’s Organic, 765 E Lake Street, Suite 120, Wayzata. 952.473.0509.
6smith, 294 East Grove Lane, Wayzata. 952.698.7900.
CōV, 700 East Lake Street, Wayzata. 952.473.5253.