That’s What I Like About You


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You know the lyrics from the song by The Romantics:

“That’s what I like about you.
You keep me warm at night.”
Et cetera. That was released in 1979. Now, it’s 2014 and we at Sontes want you to know what we like about YOU, our guests. 
No, you don’t keep us warm at night (for the most part), but you are ADVENTURERS. We keep introducing new dining and embibing experiences and you’re always open to trying new things. 
You’re LOYAL. We love seeing new faces, but it’s so great to be able to create relationships with the folks that keep coming back. We always do our darnedest to remember your preferred flavor profiles, then turn them upside-down and encourage you to broaden your horizons. 
You’re APPRECIATIVE. You enjoy our continued efforts to broaden, expand, and improve every aspect of your dining experience. You usually even say, “Thank you!” to which we reply, “It’s our pleasure!”
You’re BEAUTIFUL. Each in your own way, according to your own style, your own tastes, uniqueness, and individuality – and we appreciate unique individuals around here.

In all, THANK YOU, Sontes guests, for being YOU. You are what makes this whole endeavor so much fun, so fulfilling, and something about which we can feel truly proud!

Unplug and Unwind


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The world keeps changing around us. How can we possibly keep up with everything? Frankly, we can’t. All of the new technology, the latest health and wellness information, fitness fads, what’s good, what’s bad… Let’s face it: it’s beyond overwhelming.
On top of it all, we are inundated in perpetuity with new information. Facebook was too windy, so we found Twitter and lost our patience with 140 characters. Then there was Instagram, which told us, in a single photograph, everything that was missing from our lives. We can download apps to tell us anything we couldn’t possibly need to know and what to do in any scenario. Now, as we try desperately to keep up with all of it, we are glued to our screens. We have the perfect quip for any digital situation, but we forgot the importance of eye contact and a handshake. We no longer call our mothers. We don’t meet to go over papers. We text, we email, and we sign documents digitally. 
I guess what I’m trying to say is that maybe it’s time to disconnect from our devices and reconnect with some humans. In person. Maybe over a glass of wine and a shared plate with some live music on a Saturday night. Come see us!
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Come As You Are


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So often, people ask us, “Do you have a dress code?” There is a long answer and a short answer. The short answer is YES. 

The long answer is: we won’t let you in if you’re naked.
Here is a list of acceptable Sontes attire: 
  • Business dress
  • Casual dress
  • Jeans
  • Shorts
  • Skirts
  • Dresses
  • Sundresses
  • Sandals
  • Pumps
  • Tennis shoes
  • Flip flops
  • Sweat pants
  • Sweatshirts
  • Team jerseys
  • T-shirts
  • Tank tops
  • Swim trunks
  • Hula hoops
  • Gym clothes
  • Yoga pants
  • Baggy pants
  • Tight pants
  • Ties
  • Pocket squares
  • Articles of clothing made from bandanas tied together at the ends
  • Hats
  • A garbage bag
  • Halloween costumes, to include scary masks
  • A cape
  • Sarongs
  • A trench coat with nothing under it (providing the sash remains tied)
  • Bowling shirts
  • Long sleeves
  • Short sleeves
  • No sleeves
  • Cut-offs
  • Chaps (but don’t get carried away)
  • Shants (one leg shorts, one leg pants)
  • Helmets
  • Hat and/or helmet hair
  • No hair
  • Big hair
  • Facial hair
  • Potato sacks
  • Bunny slippers
  • Wall clocks on thick chains a la Flava Flav
In other words, Rochester, come as you are. We love you even at your ugliest!
<– To be clear, this is totally acceptable attire for adults and children alike.

We Are Not a Fancy People


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Over the years, we have received a moderate amount of feedback regarding our tablecloths. Yes, world, the Sontes tables do wear white tablecloths – all day, every day. Why would we do such a thing? Is it because we are so fancy? Contrary to popular belief, the answer is a resounding “no!” 

Our tables are clothed for more than simply the sake of appearance. Yes, we do find them pleasing to the eye. And yes, they do have certain elegance about them. The real reason is that it significantly more sanitary than the alternative. Consider this: most restaurants use a cloth soaked in a sanitary solution to wash the tables clean between guests. How many tables has that cloth cleaned? What percentage of bacteria does the solution actually kill? How effectively are the servers or bus people using the cloths? Did they miss a spot? Is that the spot on the table that my 1 year old is sure to lick halfway through his mac & cheese? Is it the spot where I will drop a dollop of house sauerkraut from my Reuben sandwich at lunch? 

I’ll tell you what: when I drop a dollop of ‘kraut on a freshly squeegeed wooden tabletop, I will cry tears of mourning and curse myself for being foolhardy and wasteful. When I drop it on the white linen tablecloth, I will sneak glances right and left, then scoop it off the tablecloth and directly into my mouth with nary a second thought. Why? Because that tablecloth is mine. It’s just a giant napkin, guys and gals. You needn’t fear it. 

…..And seriously, folks, we are just a friendly neighborhood joint with creative food and outstanding service. Stop trying to impress us. We wear jeans on our time off, too.

Mango Rum Pork Chops from Chef Alex


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photoEnjoy your 4th of July barbeque with this recipe from Söntés Head Chef Alex Sjoberg. “This recipe is great for summer because it’s not heavy, creamy, or saucy,” he says. “Pork chops leave you feeling satisfied and yet ready for outdoor activity.”

You can change up the ingredients however you like. But you know how we cook at Söntés: Fresh is always best!

Juice from 2 limes
1/4 teaspoon lime zest
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon honey (try local Ames Farm honey)
1 chopped shallot
1 chopped garlic clove
1 chopped jalapeño (seeds removed)
¼ cup Gosling’s Black Seal Bermuda Black Rum (the rum is optional, and is available in Tessa’s Office for about $20/bottle)

Mango Salsa:
1-2 cored, chopped mangoes (or try melon or ½ a pineapple)
Juice from 1 lime
1 diced tomato
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
½ of a small jalapeño, diced
½ of a red onion, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
4 bone-in, center-cut pork chops (visit Ye Olde Butcher Shoppe for great cuts)

In a bowl, combine the marinade ingredients, then transfer them to a lidded container or a large Ziploc bag. Add the pork chops, seal the container, and marinate over night in the refrigerator (or a minimum of 3 hours).

The next day, remove the pork chops from their marinade and grill them over medium-high heat, approximately 8-12 minutes for ¾” thick chops. Turn them over once, halfway through cooking. Pork today is very lean and doesn’t need to be overcooked. Use a meat thermometer if you like: the interior temp should be between 145-160 degrees F.

After removing from heat, let the pork chops rest 10 minutes before plating or slicing into them. (Resting can be done anywhere from 5-10 minutes for this dish.) At Söntés, we have a platform above the grill for resting meat. The heat rising from the grill helps to keep the meat warm, but not hot enough to interfere with the resting process. Resting cooked meat allows the juices inside to settle and redistribute evenly throughout the meat, so that they don’t run out when you slice into the pork chop.

Says Chef Alex, “Those juices are where most of the flavor lies. Resting the meat can feel like an agonizing step when you just want to dive right in, but it’s essential. No slicing before it’s time.”

Finally, arrange the rested chops on a platter and spoon the salsa over them. Serve these alongside your favorite BBQ

For an added treat, pair this dish with a bottle of the Drew Pinot Noir ($20), the Landskroon Chenin Blanc ($10), or the New Planet Blonde gluten-free beer ($2/bottle) from Tessa’s Office!


Beginning in July, please welcome Laura Swenson Larson, a former Söntés server many of you will remember, as our Söntés blogger. In true Söntés fashion, Laura was inspired by her time at the restaurant to start her own business, Design Tartare.

Jody Brown
will be headed home to Pittsburgh to write her second novel. She will return from time to time as a guest blogger.

Get In Season: Söntés Is Serving Up Freshness for Summer!


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The season change brings with it a change in our palates as well as great additions now available from our local farmers. To take advantage of the summer freshness, Chef Alex has added four new dishes to our Söntés dinner menu. Here’s the inside scoop on the dishes, as well as Chef’s own thoughts on creating them:

Belly Duo
20140618_145949This new Midwestern Tapas dish combines the rich textures of braised beef belly and braised pork belly with complex flavors of beef jus, jalapenos and pickled onions.

“The flavors work so well together,” says Chef Alex. “I’d been dreaming about doing a combo like this for a while now, and then one of our local producers, Hart Farms, said they could deliver the belly I needed.”

Tessa’s Notes: Try it with the Sotor Pinot Noir

Smoked Chick Pea and Couscous Salad
Mixed greens and frisée with a dash of olive oil and tarragon, mixed with Israeli couscous and topped with chick peas that we smoke in-house.

photo“This dish is a more vegetarian approach to salad,” says Chef Alex. “I tried it on the side of a few plates and everyone loved it. The flavor combination is uncommon. It’s a dish that no one else is making.”

Tessa’s Notes: Try it with the Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier or even the Predator Zinfandel

Roasted Rack of Lamb
20140618_193729With half a rack of lamb served with French green lentils, this entrée is sure to please. Lamb has a wonderful, earthy flavor but is not very heavy on the palate, making it a great summertime dish.

Chef Alex has the lamb brought in from a farm just north of the Cities. “Because it’s so fresh,” he says, “I’m not adding herbs or a spice rub to the meat. I’m letting the lamb speak for itself.”

Tessa’s Notes: Try it with the EOS Petite Syrah

Chocolate Pot de Crème
Chef Alex has added chocolate custard (made with Valrhona French luxury chocolate) topped with Chantilly cream and fresh berries to the Söntés dessert menu.

photo-2“It’s rich, but it won’t weigh you down after eating dinner,” he says. “It’s very summer-approachable.”

Tessa’s Notes: Try it with the Graham’s Natura Porto

Get in season with us at Söntés! Now that you’ve read all about it, stop in and try these fresh, local dishes for yourself. Enjoy them in the air conditioning, or out on the patio!

Fresh. Local. Summer… Söntés.

For more information about blogger Jody Brown, see our Who We Are page.

Paella is Back at Thursdays on First!


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Our little red tent is back at Thursdays on First! We’re serving up our classic dishes: chicken paella, giant empanadas, and Tessa’s signature sangria!

paellaSontes is perfecting the art of gourmet street fare the same way we do it in the restaurant: by starting with fresh, local ingredients. We add in Bomba rice, chicken (with our own spice rub), white wine that gets cooked off, garlic, a little butter, parsley, saffron (which gives it that bright gold color), and bell peppers and onions from the Farmer’s Market. It takes 40 minutes to an hour to make a pan of paella from scratch. The time depends on the wind, as it is truly cooked in the open air. Don’t worry–we always have a backup pan going!

Paella is to Spain what the hot dish is to Minnesota. And at Thursdays on First, we dish up a whole container of paella for you, so it’s easy to eat on the go, or to seal closed and save for dinner.

Alex 2.0In addition to our paella, we’ve got giant empanadas—pies made with flaky, hand-made dough and stuffed with your choice of chorizo sausage, or vegetarian potatoes and cheese. We serve our giant empanadas in a paper sleeve, making them easy to eat with one hand (leaving the other hand free to hold your sangria!).

Tessa’s own secret recipe sangria is always a street favorite! We make it one day in advance, giving the flavor time to marinate. Our red sangria is light and refreshing, with just a touch of cinnamon among the fruit and red wine. Out at our red tent, we also have flavored San Pellegrino water, bottled water, and choice beers. Look for us at the corner of First Street and Third Avenue SW.

If you prefer air conditioning and comfy seating, we’ve got you covered! The restaurant is open for lunch and Happy Hour on Thursdays and every weekday, and we’re open for dinner Monday-Saturday.

And don’t forget: our new wine boutique, Tessa’s Office, is Monday through Saturday starting 11 a.m. (And earlier by request. Call 507.226.7763). Located to the right of our entryway, Tessa’s Office offers specialty liquors, wines, and beer, and an entire wall of wines that are $20 and under! Feel fee to stop in at one of our numerous tastings!

For more information about blogger Jody Brown, see our Who We Are page.

Söntés S/SGE Presents: The Artist Interview (Part 1)


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Continuing the Söntés tradition of community involvement, this year’s Spring/Summer Gallery Exhibition includes the work of thirteen artists who were chosen by application process to showcase their work at Söntés. This is the fourth such exhibition at Söntés, and we’re happy to report that it not only continues to be comprised entirely of regional artists, but also that the application numbers have been increasing every season!

Nearly a hundred pieces of art grace the walls of the restaurant for this Exhibition, which runs through September. Let’s take a moment to get to know three of these artists through their art, their awards, and their own words…

Jody Brown, photography


“I have traveled far and wide, with a poet’s eye, writing and taking pictures along the way. These photographs are from my adventures and are images I call up whenever I need inspiration.”

Of her awards and accolades, Jody’s accomplishments to date have been more for her literary work than for photography. Her first novel, Upside Down Kingdom, was taught by Dr. John Sievers in his humanities course at RCTC its first year in print, and was featured in an episode of KSMQ’s Off90. In 2013, she began writing the blog for Söntés, she received grant funding for work leading to the writing of her second novel, and she was named champion of a poetry slam in Rochester.

Julie Crozier, oil & pastel


“Throughout the years, I have painted in many different styles and mediums, drawing inspiration from my travels, from home life, and from reading about science.”

Of her awards and exhibitions: Julie has shown her work in Wisconsin at the Red Horse Gallery, Art on the Square, the Stockholm Art Fair, and in Minnesota at the Blue Heron Gallery, Lanesboro Arts Center, and Red Wing Art Association. She has been commissioned to reproduce Four Oil Paintings into posters for the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona, and has won Best of Show at the Stockholm Art Fair and a Merit Award at the Madison Art Fair.

Scott Dalquist, photography


“My love of nature and travel has brought my photography where it is today. My images allow me to share the beauty of the world as seen through my viewfinder.”

Of his accolades, Scott says that he has only just begun his venture into the world of printing and framing his landscape images. That said, his work was recently exhibited in the Lynnhurst UCC Gallery of Minneapolis from November 2013 to January 10, 2014. Since his transition to digital photography and has made it his focus of his artistic endeavors. He has worked in architecture for 29 years.

The Söntés Spring/Summer Gallery Exhibition runs from though September and all of the artwork is for sale. The next time you dine with us, and every time, feel free to walk about the restaurant and take in the diverse work of these talented artists of our region.

Wander. Absorb. Our house is your house.

For more information about blogger Jody Brown, see our Who We Are page.


Mark Your Calendar for these Upcoming Events!
June 5, 12, 19, & 26: Söntés will be at Thursdays on First!
Every Saturday: Live Music!
Happy Hour Every Weeknight 2-5 p.m.
See the Söntés Happenings page for more information
& watch for future Söntés blog posts
Söntés phone 507.292.1628

Look No Further: Tessa’s Office is Now Open!


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Part of being a great restaurant in a growing town means that sitting on our laurels is out of the question. From bringing in fresh, local foods from area farms to donating to local charities, at Söntés, we’re always striving to fill a need in our community. This week we introduce our newest endeavor: Tessa’s Office, a wine boutique that also offers beer and

Tucked neatly to the right of the Söntés host station, the boutique offers specialty wines at great prices and hard-to-find items like Pimm’s, Aperol, Campari, Pisco, Luxardo, and Angel’s Envy. For the budget-conscious, one entire wall contains shelves of wines all priced under $30. Tessa’s Office also sells beer, vodka, gin, rum, scotch, sherry, and port, and is the first and only liquor store downtown.

The wines in stock at Tessa’s Office augment the selection at Söntés, each carefully chosen by proprietor Tessa Leung herself, with no repetition. Handwritten postcards placed on the shelves give quick and easy descriptions of the wines.

photo“Just like stories on postcards, wines are experiences from around the world,” Tessa says. “I’m so excited to unveil this new boutique and to invite shoppers to take their time finding their perfect wine.

Working together with Söntés neighbor Aynsley Jones, the owner of The Doggery, Tessa has amassed a liquor selection for the shop that will feature some of Aynsley’s own recipes for specialty cocktails. “Tessa’s Office has an awesome collection of liquors,” Aynsley says. “My recipes will give fun ideas for what to do with them.”

photo-2For the past seven years, Söntés has been here for you when you needed a great wine recommendation to pair with duck, scallops, cheeses, or just for sipping. You’ve trusted us to make your special occasions the events of your dreams, and your everyday lunches and dinners the kind of experiences to write home about. We thank you for your belief in us, and for inspiring us to always aim higher. Tessa’s Office was not only inspired by you, but for you.

Tessa’s Office is open during liquor store hours, opening Monday through Saturday at 11 a.m. (earlier by request by calling 507.226.7763), and closing Monday through Thursday at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 9 p.m.

For more information about blogger Jody Brown, see our Who We Are page.


Mark Your Calendar for these Upcoming Events!
June 5, 12, 19, & 26: Söntés will be at Thursdays on First!
Every Saturday:Live Music!
Happy Hour Every Weeknight 2-5 p.m.
See the Söntés Happenings page for more information
& watch for future Söntés blog posts
Söntés phone 507.292.1628

Announcing Alex Sjoberg, Head Chef of Söntés


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Söntés is pleased to announce that Alex Sjoberg has been promoted to the role of Head Chef. As the kitchen’s new leader, he is responsible for creating the menu, training and supervising the staff and making sure that every dish that leaves the kitchen is the fresh and flavorful creation you’ve come to expect from Söntés.

Chef AlexChef Alex started at Söntés in 2010, taking time away to work at Boston’s Red Lantern and to help open Harriett Brasserie in Minneapolis where he was the Sous Chef. He returned to Söntés in 2013 and has worked as our own Sous Chef for the past year.

Chef Alex has been cooking since he was 14 years old, and he attended the International Culinary School at the Art Institute in Phoenix, Arizona. He’s passionate about flavor, fresh ingredients, and good food done right.  He is known for his creative and delicious fare, his skills in kitchen organization, and the know-how of hard work. At Söntés, he spent his first couple weeks as Head Chef cross-training his staff to work different stations in our kitchen so that they’re prepared for just about anything.

“I’ve learned from great Chefs far and wide,” he says. “But Rochester’s my home. I’m happy for this opportunity to bring what I know home to Söntés.”

A lesser-known fact about him, Chef Alex has a severe seafood allergy. (Yes, Söntés will continue to serve seafood!) But his allergy gives him an advantage in compassion. “I know firsthand what it means to dine out and trust that a restaurant will take me seriously,” he says. “And I’m the first person to figure it out when they didn’t. I won’t discredit a guest’s needs, not on my watch.”

One recent guest asked if she could “meet the Viking.” Chef Alex gladly came out of the kitchen to say hello, and yes, he does resemble a giant, reddish-blonde Norseman.

About his food, Chef Alex says, “I plate for the palate. Some Chefs plate for aesthetics, but for me, the right flavor is more important.”

Curious about Chef Alex? See his bio on our Who We Are page, and check out his interview below.

~ Interview with Head Chef Alex Sjoberg~

Where were you born?
Olmsted Medical Center.

Childhood memories?
I remember a trip to go gold prospecting with my Dad in South Dakota. I was around 8 years old. We left on a Friday night and wrote a note that we’d be back. [Answering the blogger’s next question, he laughs.] No, my mom wasn’t mad.

In Middle School, I had perfect attendance.

Being the Head Chef at Söntés is one of the greatest accomplishments I can imagine.

Unusual Experiences
When I moved to Arizona and Boston, I packed everything into my car and drove with no idea where I was going to live. All I knew was what I wanted to do, to cook, and in Arizona, to go to culinary school, so I just packed and went.

Well, there is the number 13. I was born on Friday the 13th, in hospital room 139. Adding 1+3+9 you get 13. I was my Grandma Lundstrom’s 13th grandchild, and it took me 13 years to become a Chef.

What else do very few people know about you?
I once donated my hair to Locks of Love, on Christmas Eve. That was nine and a half inches, all reddish blonde.


For more information about blogger Jody Brown, see our Who We Are page.


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