Mellow Out
A chutney of apples, tomatoes, ginger, and golden raisins complements caramelized roasted garlic in Café 128’s signature appetizer.

Mellow Out

Café 128 tames "the stinking rose."

You might want garlic at its full potency for staving off vampires—or cholesterol, though garlic’s ability to do that could prove equally mythical. The Mayo Clinic says research so far is inconclusive.

For eating and trying not to repel your companions, however, you might want garlic the way the 128 Café in St. Paul serves it. The roasted garlic appetizer helped put this charming little place—in the pine-panelled basement of an apartment building—on the local culinary map.

The concept is pretty straightforward and hasn’t changed since founding chef-owner Brock Obee created it, says current head chef Ian Pierce: Whole bulbs of garlic are sliced across the top, drizzled with olive oil, and oven roasted so they mellow and caramelize. A squeeze of each clove releases a rich, creamy, and only mildly aromatic paste from the papery skin. It makes a superlative spread.

The 128 sources local garlic when it’s in season (more than 100 varieties are grown in Minnesota) and serves it with goat cheese from Stickney Hill Dairy and other regional producers along with the restaurant’s legendary apple and golden-raisin chutney. The textures and flavors—on slices of perfectly toasted baguette—are a fabulous combination.

Not afraid to let your reputation as a garlic lover precede you? Order the 128’s killer Caesar salad, where the dressing balances the intensity of raw garlic against roasted garlic, lemon, anchovies, rosemary, and parmesan cheese. (You’ll also find garlic among the grilled peppers, onions, ginger, horseradish, and cumin that accent Café 128’s baby back ribs, which many critics—myself included—have pronounced among the best around.)

128 Café
128 Cleveland Ave. N., St. Paul

Read more from this issue