Falls Landing at Artisan Plaza marks a new chapter for JD Fratzke and for Cannon Falls

JD Fratzke at Falls Landing in Cannon Falls // Photo by Tj Turner

I’ve always wanted a restaurant that had a canoe as part of the decor,” says JD Fratzke. Fratzke, one of Minnesota’s best-known chefs and a Growler contributing writer, has always led a dual existence: tethered to the fire and knives of the restaurant kitchen, sure, but also escaping as often as he can manage to explore the woods and water of the Upper Midwest. Now he’s getting his canoe. Along with a vintage back bar from an early 20th-century Chicago pub, the boat will help set the mood at Falls Landing, the new supper club–style restaurant Fratzke is opening at the Artisan Plaza space in Cannon Falls.

Artisan Plaza, a project owned by farmer-turned-trucking company owner Dave Olson, is inspired by the Burnett Dairy Cooperative in Grantsburg, Wisconsin. Fratzke serves as the culinary director, helping to unify operations and keep the complex humming, working in tandem with general manager Jimmy Red Layer (formerly of Birchwood Cafe in Minneapolis).

Falls Landing space during construction, with vintage windows and bar // Photo by Tj Turner

The complex is an ambitious hybrid: it includes a local food market, an event space, a casual restaurant (with an emphasis on pizza and an in-house specialty, the Curd Burger), and, as of June 25, Falls Landing. Fratzke (formally of Bar Brigade and Strip Club Meat and Fish, among others) has contemporary dining credentials in equal proportions to his passion for hunting, fishing, and canoeing. It’s his kindred spirits—the hikers, the fisherfolk, the outdoorspeople—who Fratzke is hoping to lure to Falls Landing with a combination of classic cocktails and supper club fare.

“With as many people who come down here and ride the Cannon Valley trail, I want this to be their destination,” he says. “I want them to come in here and feel at home. What we want is for people to have that feeling you get when you’ve driven three-and-a-half hours to the cabin up in the Northwoods, the windows are open, you’ve aired the place out, all the groceries you’ve bought are put away, the fire is in the hearth, you sit down and pour yourself your first drink and you think: ‘Ah, I’m finally here.’”

Fratzke says his menu will start with traditional favorites and elevate them without making them too precious or too pricey. “We’re going to have fried perch filets as a starter, instead of fried smelt you usually see in a supper club,” says Fratzke. “They should be coming to us from Red Lake. Same for the walleye—that’ll be served as a roulade rather than a fried filet or a broiled filet. That’ll be served with white beans and braised greens.”

Other dishes include a duck breast served with artichoke hearts and a lemon vinaigrette, and a smoked prime rib with whipped potatoes and bone broth gravy. “I want some of these really, really robust flavors people are going to recognize, and people will say, ‘I eat duck all the time at home, but I don’t really eat it in a restaurant, and I’ve certainly never had it with artichoke hearts,’” says Fratzke. “I want identifiable and familiar ingredients to be celebrated here. I want it to be a celebration of the southeastern Minnesota lifestyle.”

Entree prices at Fall’s Landing will range up to $30 (for the prime rib) but largely hover in the teens to $20 area. Fratzke says that those prices will be in line with other Cannon Falls options, and shouldn’t be a barrier to attracting local diners. “Looking at the menu I have written compared with Wiederholt’s [supper club], we’re right on par if not less expensive,” says Fratzke. “I have a pasta entree on the menu that comes in at $12. You can get an all-you-can-eat spaghetti dinner for $5.99 at one of the bar and grills downtown. All I’m saying is, put them next to each and tell me which one you like more. It’s not in a buffet, it’s being plated, we’re using real Italian tomatoes to make the sauce.”

Fall’s Landing at Artisan Plaza, 1223 4th St. S., Cannon Falls, MN, opening date June 25, 2019, www.artisanplaza.com