Local Restaurants Serve Up Comfort Food Each with Their Own Unique Flavor

Try the feta sesame Saganaki drizzled with honey from Nola Bistro & Lounge.

With about 2,000 different cheeses worldwide, plenty of recipes include at least one kind, creating a strong flavor that differs depending, usually, on its age. Macaroni and cheese is one of the most popular dishes in America, but there are many cheese-inclusive meals and appetizers to try out around Maple Grove. And, as winter gets into full swing, facing the cold will be easier with a comfort meal nestled warmly in your stomach.

Feta Sesame Saginaki with Honey Drizzle ($9)
Nola Bistro & Lounge
In Nola’s global fusion tradition, this is a classic Greek appetizer, care of one of their managers who happened to be Greek. “This is one of our more popular appetizers. It’s been on the menu for over a year now and I’m sure it will stay there,” says Aashika Mehta at Nola. It’s filled with feta cheese and coated with sesame seeds.

Spinach and Goat Cheese Salad ($9.95)
Pittsburgh Blue
This salad kicks in the flavor with a  topping of goat cheese, which has a tart taste and only gets stronger as it ages. After it’s mixed in with loads of spinach, candied pecans and strawberries, a light honey vinaigrette is poured over the top to add a touch of sweetness. Goat cheese is lower in fat than cheese produced from cow’s milk, making this salad more than just a treat for your taste buds. “People love the salad,” says event sales and private dining coordinator Molly Smeija. The lighter meal can be made heartier with a choice of chicken, steak or shrimp for an additional charge.

Mediterranean Sea Grabba Grain ($10)

Feta cheese brings Mediterranean flavors to downtown Maple Grove in this grain bowl with Greek origins. Feta cheese can be made from cow milk, goat milk or sheep milk and takes few months to mature, creating a tangy flavor by the time it is served. Semi-organic, preservative-free ingredients at Grabbagreen are used in this healthy meal. Brown rice and antibiotic-free chicken are mixed with tons of veggies, including cucumber, Kalamata olives, mint, red onion, red pepper and spinach. The super-food dish is topped with a Mediterranean pomegranate sauce to accent the flavor. This meal is perfect for busy days and won’t leave you feeling guilty.

Mac and Cheese ($13.59)
3 Squares Restaurant

This classic dish is a flight of stairs up from the box of pasta sitting in most pantries. Three Squares Restaurant uses a fondue sauce in addition to a four-cheese blend, which is sautéed with spiraled cavatappi noodles. The richness of Parmesan, Asiago, white cheddar and mozzarella mixes together to create a strong flavor poured over a unique choice of noodles, straying away from a typical mac and cheese. The dish is then topped with breadcrumbs and baked for a few minutes for a little extra crunch. “It’s probably the best macaroni and cheese I’ve ever had—let’s start there,” says associate general manager Allie Turner. “And, that’s kind of the general consensus.” To spice up the meal, ham and tomatoes can be added for $2.59.

Cheesy bread ($7.49)
Roasted Pear

Classic French bread topped with a special blend of garlic and seven golden brown and bubbly cheeses is perfect dipped in a side of Tuscan pasta sauce. This one’s practically a staple at Roasted Pear where you can also order baked brie, a burger with blue cheese, or even a pear and gorgonzola pizza. 

Five Cheese Ziti al Forno ($15.99)
Olive Garden

With five different flavors, this dish sells itself. Olive Garden’s ziti is smothered with a mix of Italian cheeses, including Parmesan, Romano, mozzarella and ricotta. Ricotta and mozzarella both fall under the category of “fresh cheeses,” so they are best eaten almost immediately after they’re prepared, creating a fresh flavor as two of five cheeses in this hearty meal. Marinara sauce and loads of cheese cover the ziti pasta before baking in the oven for just a few minutes to melt the cheese into the pasta and add a crispy outer layer. This dish comes with a choice of soup or salad, as well as the Olive Garden’s famous breadsticks that everyone craves.

Homemade Cheese Curds ($8.79)
Wild Bill’s Sports Saloon

The Ellsworth white cheddar cheese in these bite-size treats comes from 30,000 cows raised on local family farms in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Their homemade cheese curds are battered the night before in-house, frozen overnight, fried to order fresh the next day and served with a creamy side of ranch. The quality, locally made cheese melts in your mouth every time, and they have a big name to live up to in Minnesota. “We sell a lot of them,” says manager Alicia Boucher. “They’re probably the most equal to state fair cheese curds I would say.” This appetizer comes in original, ranch and Buffalo flavors, and you can try all three for $9.99. Cheese curds are also on special Monday through Friday during happy hour at Wild Bill’s for a quick treat.

Chicken Bruschetta Salad (13.95)
Granite City

Blue cheese has its very own category, well deserved because of its distinctive flavor and appearance created by exposure to air as it is made. Blue cheese crumbles bring a fresh flavor to this Arcadian blend of greens, chicken breast, tomato-onion relish, black olives, toasted ciabatta and Parmesan cheese. The light fare is tossed in a house-made balsamic vinaigrette. At Granite City, there are multiple salad options with bleu cheese crumbles scattered across the top, exploding with flavor.