Cup N’ Saucer’s Flavors of Main Street

In the thick of summer, I drove two and a half hours south with Stephanie Meyer to eat dinner in Sherburn, not too far from where she grew up. Roughly 20 miles from the Iowa border, this town has been quietly doing the work of a small farming community for 143 years. Along the way, we rolled through waves of grain—or grasses, really—as the corn was still stretching to reach its full potential, and we passed by towns I knew only from the old snow-day school closings on WCCO Radio: Good Thunder, Madelia (public and parochial). Meyer’s easy banter made the five-hour round-trip drive to the small-town eatery feel like a blink.

I can’t remember how I first heard of Cup N’ Saucer. Maybe I saw a post on social media; maybe someone sent a note telling me I should check it out. Funny enough, I had a harder time getting into Cup N’ Saucer than I did getting into Macanda on a Saturday night. The restaurant is only open for a tasting-menu dinner on select nights throughout the month. Reservations on the website open on the first day of the month at noon, and  you have to be ready—they sell out quickly. I finally got my ducks in line and scored the Friday-night dinner in July. One seating, two hours away, don’t be late.

I didn’t know about the essay contest until I got there.

We parked right outside the restaurant on Sherburn’s two-block-long Main Street, where not much was going on. A bar across the way had a few smokers standing outside, but the sound of midsummer crickets dominated, bouncing off the many vacant buildings. Turn left and you get a glimpse of a city park among the houses; turn right and you can see the street dead-ends on a cornfield. There are a little more than 1,000 residents in the town limits.

Walking into the tiny eatery, we realized we were the last table to be seated. Everyone else was there and ready to go. In the humble café surrounds, not only were the tables set with white linens and flowers, but the silverware for each course was preset like a Victorian dinner, something we haven’t seen for ages. But it wasn’t meant for show, unlike the blue ribbons for prize pigs hanging as wall décor; it’s simple efficiency. There are three, maybe four, people running this multicourse dinner for 40 people.

Chef Seth Lintelman was raised on a hog farm in nearby Fairmont. After cooking in the Twin Cities for many years, he, along with his wife, Elizabeth, began to ponder a move back to small-town life. That’s when they heard about the essay contest.

As buildings along Main Street were closing, a former resident living in Las Vegas bought the town’s beloved café in order to save it, but not to run it. Instead, he offered to give the restaurant to someone who could write the most compelling essay proving that they were the ones to steward the community gathering space.

Seth and Elizabeth wrote the winning essay, and with their daughter Addison in tow, they moved back to Martin County in 2013. “We moved into my parents’ house, which is an earth home,” Seth mentioned. “It was tight until we could build our own house on the property. But it’s great having them around, and my dad is like our chief gardener now.”

That was nearly a decade ago. They now have two kids and farm a .75-acre plot with Seth’s parents that brings a lot to the coursed menus, which are a surprise until you sit down. Ours started with the tiniest bite of smoked local beet nestled next to a pickled beech mushroom on goat cheese mousse. The gauntlet was thrown. What followed was a bright corn chowder with cool bits of cucumber and shishito peppers from their garden; a striking panzanella where the word local came before nearly every ingredient; and beautiful and perfectly pink duck breast that was fanned out over cauliflower-potato puree with maitakes, pea shoots, and currant jus before a serving of bluenose grouper on white cheddar polenta.

These were elegant dishes plated with care, stacked and swizzled with the right amount of sauce and artistry. Though he is the only cook in the kitchen—truthfully the only one creating and plating—Seth would come out as each dish was being served by Elizabeth and two others to go through the ingredients, calling out the farms before explaining his love of ’nduja.

They don’t do this every night, only twice a month and when they do in-home dinners. “We used to be open for lunch, and I think the town misses that,” Seth said, “but after COVID, we had to refigure things. If the farmers had their way, I’d be open at 6 a.m. with coffee for them.”

I wondered if he ever thought that by opening this restaurant he was going to save the town. “No, not really,” he said. “Many of those buildings were bought by people who just use them as storage, filling them with their junk. The buildings are starting to fall down inside, but no one will know until it’s too late because there’s never anyone in them.”

Elizabeth, who works a full-time job remotely, says that their fans are more than just the townspeople. “We get people in here from all over. Not just the neighboring towns and the Cities, but from Iowa, Wisconsin. We have some guests who come down from Fargo.”

After dinner, Seth spent time talking to each table before they left. Everyone lingered. When we finally walked out into Main Street, the sun was setting, and the quiet buildings had a pink glow. Meyer started telling stories of her own hometown, where her father was the town lawyer, and she remembered feeling a bit shiny about that as a kid. That life vanished for her as she grew up, as it does, really, in any town or city.

It turns out that even a great dinner can’t truly save a main street on its own. But in some ways, it can bring people together for a few moments of shared joy, and maybe that’s better than such a heavy lift for corn chowder. Perhaps if we knit those moments together, it’s weaving more of the future than trying to mend the past. 23 N. Main St., Sherburn, 507-764-6721, 

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