MANKATO — Alexa Swindell Prosser spent 12 years in hospitality and then many years in corporate America where she did lots of traveling and sampling of local foods.
"Every time I had something unique and good, it would stay in my memory, and over the years I've come up with quite a menu catalog."
She will put that eclectic menu to use as she moves ahead with plans to open Nolabelle Kitchen + Bar in downtown Mankato.
The restaurant, which is just beginning the permitting process with the city, will be at 520 South Front St., in the building where Julee's Jewelry and Primp Boutique are, in the retail/apartment building built by Tailwind Group.
She said the full-service farm-to-table dining concept will focus on made-from-scratch food with local, fresh ingredients whenever possible.
"We live in the agriculture epicenter of the state and we have so many local producers and such a variety of foods produced in the area."
Swindell Prosser said she wants Nolabelle to be fresh, thoughtful and fun. "It's also important to me to deliver a fun brunch atmosphere on the weekends — an easygoing place to have brunch with friends and family."
The plan calls for a dining area, kitchen, bar, host area and a future outdoor patio. The indoor seating areas will have 46 seats in the dining area, 16 seats in the bar area and 11 seats adjacent to the bar.
They intend to hire 38 to 45 full- and part-time employees.
Nolabelle will be open 8 a.m.-10 p.m. seven days a week.
She said if all goes well with permitting and the construction schedule, she hopes to have the restaurant open by late fall.
A sample of the appetizers includes fried green tomatoes with yogurt ranch dressing and lemon basil aioli; fried goat cheese balls — pretzel battered and fried to order with tomato dipping sauce; charcuterie — local cured meats and artisan cheeses, arugula salad with lemon herb vinaigrette, almonds, cashews, pistachios, dried fruit, stuffed olives, gherkins, ground mustard, olive oil.
The breakfast/brunch menu includes avocado toast — thinly sliced avocado and jalapenos drizzled with fresh lime juice and avocado crema served open-faced atop grilled multigrain toast topped with soft boiled farm fresh egg; brisket farm hash — burnt end brisket with smashed potatoes, onions and peppers, topped with two eggs
Some of the entrees will be farro mac and cheese — melted Wisconsin cheddar and Parmesan, topped with crispy cracker crumble and bacon; pistachio salmon — grilled salmon with pistachio crust, served with sautéed broccolini and farro mac and cheese; zucchini lasagna; cast iron porterhouse — served with hand-cut garlic Parmesan fries and sautéed broccolini; pork chop schnitzel.
Desserts will include house-made cinnamon sugar doughnuts and strawberry shortcake; ladyfingers dipped in espresso, layered with whipped mascarpone cheese and cocoa powder.
She also plans a variety of salads, soups and sandwiches, including a chopped kale salad with crisp bacon, red grapes, goat cheese crumble and warm bacon vinaigrette; Thai curry chicken soup, served with grilled naan dippers; blackberry bacon grilled cheese — melted American, Swiss, gruyere and Wisconsin cheddar cheeses, topped with thinly sliced jalapenos and blackberry preserves, stuffed between two slices of toasted multigrain bread.
Specialty cocktails will include mimosas; bacon Bloody Mary using a Minnesota-made Bloody Mary mix served with bacon-infused vodka, bacon salt rim and candied bacon garnish.
Swindell Prosser's family is filled with generations of entrepreneurs, including her great-grandma Nolabelle, for whom the restaurant will be named.
"She was a restaurateur in the '30s, '40s and '50s in downtown Detroit, where I originated. Then she opened a hotel and restaurant on Lake Huron in northern Michigan. She did it all on her own. She did so many great things it was unheard of at that time."
Swindell Prosser most recently worked for MTU Onsite as a senior manager of distribution for all of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. It's through her work that she met her husband, Mankato-based Al Prosser, director of sales at MTU.
"I worked for the company that bought Katolight in 2006 and that's how I met my husband."
She said that since moving to Mankato she's completely embraced it.
"I love this town. I love seeing the growth. It's becoming a real destination and that's so cool."