Solo Road Trip: Harvest Thyme Bistro, Wadena, MN

I don’t know anything thing about cars and it stinks.

My car tires were going on 80,000 miles. This has been no season to prolong purchasing new tires with the slippery roads. I called car shops and received quotes ranging by hundreds of dollars and varying in brands. Of course, each shop claimed their tire recommendation was the best. A family friend who owns a car shop was kind enough to provide his personal recommendation, which is why I ended up at Discount Tire in Baxter, MN.

When I reminded the staff member which tire I wanted, he offered to find a “deal” for a higher quality tire at a lower price. I explained that, although it may sound weird, I wasn’t interested in any specials. I just wanted that certain tire. “But I think I can find you a higher quality tire for less money. . .” he replied.

But, tire guy. I drove all this way for these tires. Tire guy. Stahp

I didn’t actually say that. And in all seriousness, the service was friendly and efficient. Within ten minutes, I was on my way back to Fargo.

The journey to and from Baxter was pleasant, thought it wasn’t as scenic as I expected. Still, the drive provided an opportunity to daydream and sing along to Katy Perry songs. At least it was more interesting than the drive to Minneapolis-St. Paul. As I slowed down to pass through small towns, I curiously eyed signs pointing towards dinner clubs, bars and church camps.

A solo road trip isn’t complete without stopping for a meal or snack in a new town. Once, a friend had mentioned enjoying a meal at Harvest Thyme Bistro in Wadena, MN, situated about halfway between Fargo and Brainerd. Author Brett Laidlaw was also kind enough to suggest Harvest Thyme via Twitter, mentioning the food wasn’t necessarily earth shattering, but made from scratch with local ingredients.

On some solo road trips, I’m in a more adventurers mood than others. Sometimes I feel plucky enough to walk into a divey establishment, alone, with a c’est la vie outlook. Or, I may wait until my husband can join me. Generally, solo dining adventures are pleasant. At worst, the service may not be the warmest or it may be tinged with apathy. I can deal with this. Every once in a while, these experiences are flat-out uncomfortable.

Today, I was just not in the mood. I wanted people to be nice to me. I wanted to feel comfortable and I did not want to be stared at or hit on. Fortunately, Harvest Thyme Bistro was just this place.

The bistro is located along the Wadena’s main street. To reach the cafe, one must walk to the back of a beautiful, independent bookstore. It’s spacious and decorated with colorful sculptures of hanging birds. I couldn’t help but hope heaven would also be a bistro within an independent bookstore.

Harvest Thyme serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The lunch menu was concise, consisting of a few chalkboard specials, soup, salad, and sandwiches. I chose the wild rice burger with a cup of soup (sandwiches come with soup, salad, or chips), $8, and hot green tea, $2. I practiced self control by only admiring the ramekins of creme brulee in the dessert case. Then, I chose a seat between ladies who lunched and an older couple celebrating a birthday. A server brought over a large mug of hot tea and came back to deliver a teapot filled with more hot water.

I took advantage of the wireless Internet service provided to patrons of downtown businesses. A short wait later, the server brought my burger and soup.

I wasn’t so crazy about the potato soup, though it was far from inedible and served hot. It’s texture was a little pasty and the flavor was bland, save for red dots of smokey, hot sauce.

On the other hand, the wild rice burger was wonderful. The patty was clearly homemade. I really liked its crispy and chewy texture. It was sandwiched by a toasted bun and topped with caramelized onions and mushrooms. The bottom half was spread with a tangy barbecue sauce that tasted much better than those overly sweet, bottled versions. A umami bomb.

I dare say this wild rice burger was every bit as good as the HoDo Lounge’s. Totally craveable.

Harvest Thyme Bistro made me happy. From the general atmosphere and hospitable service to its affordable, hot food.

One visit was enough to add it to my short list of happy places.

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