by Todd Abrams
Let's face it: The Green Movement has already been perverted by the very same industries that caused the uprising, and anyone else looking to make a quick buck off our new sense of responsibility to environmental health. But Mike Plesz and crew of Mind Body & Spirits, downtown Rochester's new and hip eco-conscious eatery, seem serious about saving the earth all the while dishing up a satisfying meal.
Situated at the corner of Main and Third, their newly remodeled building boasts rooftop solar panels, cork flooring, a bar top constructed of reclaimed wood, rain barrels for irrigating their onsite greenhouse and a bio-digester. But all these nifty, earth-friendly measures don't mean a hill of organic beans without tasty food.
No worries there. Our first taste was a generously portioned starter plate of lush, braised free-range, grass-fed beef short rib with an artichoke and spinach cream stuffed into fresh sheets of mushroom pasta and then topped with a tangy, sweet tomato-caponata demi-glace. A highlight of the menu and something we would surely consider ordering as an entrée if it were available as such. Another appetizer, julienne vegetables, shiitake mushrooms and a piquant, Asian-inspired dressing made for a bright and crunchy vegan handheld salad when rolled into a cabbage leaf — and a nice complement to the beef.
Blue cheese-stuffed dates wrapped in bacon and served with tomato and pepper chutney seemed to be a hit with previous diners, according to notes on the menu. While the blend of silky sweet dates with the salt and tang of bacon and cheese can't be anything but good, we found the sweetness became too intense halfway through the plate. Unless you have a raging sweet tooth, it's definitely a dish for sharing or even as a post-dinner treat in lieu of dessert.
Bridging the gap between appetizers and entrées are a handful of salads and wood-oven flatbreads. The cacciatore flatbread was champion: A crisp, smoky, multi-grain crust holds a zesty mixture of tomatoes, garlic, onion, olives and peppers sautéed in red wine and topped with mozzarella and Parmesan.
One of the vegan entrée options, a mushroom risotto served with sautéed greens, was as creamy, hearty and rich as we figure it can be without any animal fats involved. The seafood minestrone was perfectly portioned with a chunk of walleye, shrimp and a half-dozen mussels that were notably tender. The meat came in a delicate yet deeply flavored broth with white beans and gnocchi. We suggest you allow the slice of toasted bread to rest in the broth to soak up all the tastiness and then eat it last. The children's menu is extensive and makes MBS, as they call themselves, a great place to dine with a child who has food allergies.
The menu plainly defines the dishes that are vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free. They also put effort into creating their dishes for simple removal of any items that might be objectionable to the food-conscious or food-sensitive diner. All the food is organic and local if possible. MBS has cultivated relationships with local farmers, such as Maple Creek in Yale, to supply their seasonal produce and even the edibles growing in the luxuriant greenhouse that faces Third Street.
During good weather, follow the crowd to the roof patio above the greenhouse and dine among the potted tomatoes, herbs and hot peppers while the sweet perfume of smoldering hardwood from the flatbread oven fills the air. There are two levels inside. Beneath exposed ceiling framework, the street-level main dining area is adorned with shades of earth, woods and water for a Japanese tea garden vibe. Flat screens mounted on the wall scroll through images of waterfalls, heads of cauliflower, sunsets, vivid purple eggplant, mushrooms and farm scenes.
The upstairs lounge connected to the patio is similarly designed if slightly smaller. The soundtrack is the type of smooth, ambient grooves you would expect from a crunchy joint like this. Good for chilling with a couple cocktails during happy hour. Even most of the drinks are organic. Select from three different house beers, a half-page selection of wines or a number of specialty cocktails. We liked the simple yet effective aperitif cocktail of Michigan-made New Holland gin with MBS' own ginger ale.
While many of the mega-corporations are devising ways to get at our hard-earned green through insincere green marketing campaigns, Mind Body & Spirits proves that it is possible to run a restaurant with the environment in mind without sacrificing quality. Not only is this a good thing, it's the future, or at least it has to be.
Open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday.
Todd Abrams dines for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.