Yesterday restaurant ‘pops up’ in Soe Cafe

Published 5:26 pm Thursday, January 16, 2014

Submitted photo

Submitted photo

SAWYER­—There is some good news for local diners who may have been saddened to learn of the closing of the Soe Café in November of last year.

Chef Brandon Baltzley has made arrangements with the owners of the restaurant, located at 12868 Red Arrow Highway in Sawyer, Mich., to use the space for a pop-up restaurant, Yesterday, beginning on Jan. 17.

“We met up with the owner when we heard what happened,” Baltzley said, “and he agreed to let us use the property.”

The pop-up restaurant will only be open to serve dinners from 5:30 to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday evenings, and then a bar menu will be available from 10 p.m. to 12 a.m. on those nights. A Sunday brunch will be served from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Baltzley strongly suggests that guests make reservations in advance because he and his team have intentionally capped the seating capacity to 40 persons per night.

“We want to put out really well-executed food, thoughtfully and carefully,” Baltzley explained. “This is more for fun and team-building than it is to make a buck.”

“People should make reservations by calling (508) 367-9762. They can use the Soe Facebook page — we will post menus there every week — but they should definitely call to make reservations,” Baltzley said. “We will take walk-ins, but we’ve already had a really good response for the first two weeks, and we don’t want anyone to be disappointed because we’re full.”

The name, Yesterday, relates to Baltzley’s concept for the restaurant, which is a nostalgic approach to well-loved recipes from “The Joy of Cooking.” However, he will be preparing each of them with an unconventional twist.

“We’re definitely tweaking the recipes,” Baltzley said of menu items such as the pigs in a blanket, which he plans to serve with bacon jam, fennel relish and hot pepper jelly. Similarly, the liver and onions will be prepared with calves’ liver, caramelized shallot and buttermilk juniper sauce.

If prospective patrons do not see a dish that catches their fancy on this week’s menu, Baltzley encourages them to return to view the offerings for the following week.

“We’ve put out the first week’s menu, but it’s going to change every week,” Baltzley said. “The entire menu will flip the following week.”

Baltzley’s desire to pay homage to the past while innovating can be seen not only in the menu for Yesterday, but also in his vision of the permanent farm-to-table restaurant that he plans to open later this year.

That restaurant, TMIP—which stands for “The Most Important Part”— will be housed in a century-old farmhouse that stands on Exterior Farm, located at 8734 W. 400 N. in Cool Springs Township, just outside of Michigan City, Ind.

Baltzley purchased the farm in May 2013, and despite the shortened growing season, he was encouraged by the bounty of the first year’s crop.

Built on the idea of sustainability in food production, Baltzley hopes to create a restaurant that specializes in all-native American foods, the majority of which will come directly from the farm.

“I have Cherokee in my family — quite a bit — and we’re trying to catch the eye of Michelin, to achieve a Michelin star rating,” Baltzley explained. “There has been a big trend in doing native foods throughout the world, but nobody else is doing Native American foods.”

With that goal in mind, Baltzley and his three associates—a farmer and two cooks—are working hard to balance extensive renovations in the farmhouse, the growing of their crops, and the running of the pop-up restaurant.

“Right now, we spend half of our week working on the farmhouse and half of it on cooking,” Baltzley said. “One of the cool things about doing this thing at Soe is that we’re ordering food from local farms and finding out the best places to get certain ingredients. It’s good to be smoothing out those connections for when we open up TMIP.”

At both restaurants, Baltzley hopes to cater to those diners who appreciate efforts towards sustainability and unique approaches to the dining experience.

“Although we’d like to supply everything for the restaurant from the farm, we’ve come to realize that won’t be entirely possible,” Baltzley said. “But, it will definitely be as local as possible.”