August 18th, 2010 by Jihye Chang
Eureka! I finally found a cafe that has good philosophy about coffee, great machines and brewing equipments and good beans – in Fergus Falls! I tumbled upon this place at a reception for a recital that I played at the Center for the Arts. Cafe 116 both hosted and catered the reception, so I did not get the whole cafe experience then, but the wonderful roast beef sandwich with horseradish sauce and gorgonzola was unforgettable. I’ve since been there on my own three more times and have just fallen in love with this little gem.
First of all, their espresso machines mean business: Synesso and La Marzzoco GS3 espresso machines & Mazzer and Rio grinders. You see these machines and you know that someone cares about their coffee and has put some resources behind that passion. Both Synesso and La Marzzoco at Cafe 116 are smaller machines, but this establishment isn’t turning out a shot every 45 seconds for hours at a time like some places, and a bigger 3- or 4-group machine would just be overkill. The espresso macchiato I had yesterday was pretty darn good (almost as good as the one that Ben makes at home and close to what I had at Gimme! Coffee, Ithaca), with beautiful milk foam and even two little hearts on it. Their espresso lacks that tiny touch of sweetness that I look for in espresso, but still it was easily the best espresso macchiato in the region. Period.
For their brewed coffee, they have three options: normal machine brewed coffee at $1 (with a ‘reasonable’ number of free refills), Micro brewed cup with Hario V60 ($2.25), and Yama Siphon pot, 16oz ($7). Microbrew (also known as hand-dripped coffee) is THE way to brew coffee at any reputable cafe in Korea and Japan, but somehow not a lot of American cafes are doing it. Intelligentsia has developed an interesting way of doing it a bit faster (and more organized), and I hope more places will catch up soon since it brings out so much more aroma and flavor from the coffee grounds – If the beans are freshly roasted and ground. And since the Cafe 116 has their own roastery at the back, the beans are likely to be fresh! (The roasting company is called Stumbeano, which supplies a few places in Fargo, including Nichole’s Fine Pastry.) Siphon is not my favorite method of coffee brewing, but it’s fun and Greg, the coffee person, is always studying the perfect combination of bean, roast, grind, and brewing method for the Siphon. It’s definitely worth checking out.
On top of this, the food here is great, too. The menu is simple soup-sandwich-salad fare, and there is nothing fancy about it. But what they have is simply good food made with good stuff. Cafe 116 uses organic breads from the Falls Baking Company, and Jenny, the food person, says that she tries to use local and seasonal ingredients as much as she can. “The Union” sandwich with roast beef, gorgonzola and horseradish ($5.95 full/$3.75 half) is so delicious. Spicy shrimp and sausage gumbo ($5.45 bow/ $3.45) is spicy yet well balanced. (Something I miss about the South is a goo d bowl of gumbo, and I think I will go to the Cafe 116 on many Tuesdays to come..!) Sesame noodle salad and sugar snap peas ($4.95 lg/ $2.95 sm) is flavorful yet not too sweet or oily. Reuben sandwich was yummy (not as yummy as The Union, but still very good). Oh, and the potato salad is more vinegar and less mayo – so tasty and again, really well balanced with right amount of saltiness, sourness, and green onions. Creme brulee ($4) was also the best I have eaten in the area – not too thick or eggy, very smooth , and real vanilla bean speckles! An order of Beignets ($2.75 for 4 small triangles) make a very good afternoon snack or dessert for sharing.
As you can see the price is nice, too! You can order about 5-6 things between 2 people and not pay over $25. Plus I hear the breakfast items are great as well. And they also have a small but nice wine list and good beer selection.
I just wish this place was closer. But then..it gives me a very good excuse to drive down the highway and see my wonderful friends in Fergus Falls! I highly recommend anyone visit this place whenever you are in Fergus Falls or on the way to Minneapolis. 🙂
Cafe 116: 116 South Union Avenue, Fergus Falls, MN (Phone: 218-998-3780)