Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Part II from Wanamingo: Lunching at Area 57 March 22, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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A signature classy black awning showed us we'd found Area 57.

Area 57 Coffee Cafe lies in downtown Wanamingo, Minnesota, population around 1,100.

“JUST GET THERE BY 2,” Peggy Ryland advised.

There is Area 57 Coffee Cafe, an eatery that is anything but your typical small town Minnesota restaurant.

Located in the heart of Wanamingo, which sits along State Highways 60 and 57 (thus the name), Area 57 possesses a hip and urban feel. It’s totally unexpected in a farming community with a sprawling John Deere dealership on the west edge of town and grain bins at the north end of Main Street.

Ryland, who is from nearby Cannon Falls and who runs a custom embroidery, design and printing business in Kenyon, recommended the eatery when my husband and I stopped by her shop on a Saturday morning. We were on a day trip to wherever and were seeking a good place for lunch. Peggy assured us Area 57 fit our requirement of great homemade food as she praised the soup and sandwiches, the coffee selections and the pie.

A signature black awning and classy lighting grace Area 57.

A signature black awning and classy lighting grace Area 57.

With Peggy’s notations that the restaurant is small, busy and closes at 2 p.m. on Saturdays, we hurried through two thrift stores in Kenyon and then aimed east 10 miles to Wanamingo. Once downtown, we easily found the non-descript brick Area 57 building with the black awning, just as Peggy described.

Wanamingo's source for a burger and a beer.

Wanamingo’s source for a burger and a beer. This eatery rates good reviews on Trip Advisor.

Across the street we simultaneously spotted JB’s Tavern’s sign advertising Great Burgers and Cold Beer. I observed Randy’s hesitation as we walked toward the place with soup and sandwiches. I knew he was thinking burgers and beer. I suggested perhaps we’d need to dine separately. We did so years ago while in Henderson. But this time he obliged and accompanied me to Area 57.

Although a small eatery, Area 57 had plenty of space when we dined there on a Saturday around noon.

Although a small eatery, Area 57 had plenty of space available for us around noon on a recent Saturday.

Once inside, I knew we’d made the right choice. I liked the setting—the sage walls accented by black wainscoting, the comfortable cluster of cozy chairs around a free-standing fireplace, the chalkboard beverage board, the artful travel décor…

A welcoming spot inside the cafe to read, visit and/or relax.

A welcoming spot inside the cafe to read, visit and/or relax over a cup of specialty coffee.

I felt welcomed here. At home.

The daily specials are posted at each table.

The daily specials are posted at each table.

Perusing the menu before ordering at the counter, I eventually settled on the special of the day, half a Rachel sandwich with a cup of soup. I chose tomato soup with roasted red pepper and Gouda over beer cheese soup. Randy ordered a Philly Beef and Cheese sandwich, an atypical choice for him given the sauteed green peppers and onions. He assured me he could eat green peppers.

There are plenty of specialty coffee choices.

There are plenty of specialty coffee choices.

There isn’t a single burger on the menu. I later learned that Area 57 doesn’t want to compete with the bar and grill across the street in serving burgers. That’s small town nice.

My Rachel sandwich served with red pepper tomato soup, chips and a pickle.

My Rachel sandwich served with red pepper tomato soup, chips and a pickle.

Service was quick. My smoked turkey and sauerkraut sandwich oozed with melted Swiss cheese, the flavors blending well with the house dressing. It paired nicely with the tomato soup, a customer favorite. Randy liked his Philly sandwich and the accompanying chips. He didn’t even pick off the peppers or onions.

The homemade pies, like this Oreo cream, were mighty tempting.

The homemade pies, like this Oreo cream, were mighty tempting.

I contemplated dessert, eying pie choices like Oreo, coconut and banana cream in addition to mint chip and other over-sized cookies and Area 57’s bestselling homemade dessert, raspberry bread pudding with whiskey sauce. In the end, I decided I was just too full for a sweet treat. Next time.

A few doors away sits Wanamingo Meats.

A few doors away sits Wanamingo Meats & Catering.

Other menu items such as Crunchy Ranch Chicken with Strawberry Salad, Chipotle Chicken and Cheddar Panini with soup and more sound tasty. Area 57 is also known for breakfast. Omelette selections include a Farmer’s Omelette made from three eggs, cheese and fresh vegetables. That’s fitting for a community centered around agriculture, with Wanamingo Meats and Catering and grain bins within eyesight of Area 57 Coffee Cafe.

Area 57 is open 12 hours on weekdays. This artsy travel and time-themed setting is staged inside Area 57.

Area 57 is open 12 hours on weekdays. This artsy travel and time-themed setting is staged inside Area 57.

FYI: Area 57 is open from 7:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. Monday – Friday and from 7 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Check back tomorrow for my third post in this six-part “from Wanamingo” series. I’ll tell you about this community’s connection to a well-known hymn.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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6 Responses to “Part II from Wanamingo: Lunching at Area 57”

  1. Yum, I love little places like this. Great pictures! It makes me want to take a road trip for lunch.

  2. Don Says:

    Now I’m hungry! The fireplace and comfy chairs looks so inviting, it would be a great place to spend and hour or two with coffee a book and some blustery Minnesota weather outside!

  3. The whole time I was reading this, I kept thinking about Area 51 and aliens! That in spite of the explanation about the name. Cute little place.


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