A little over a year ago, Quaintrelle turned on the lights at 3936 North Mississippi Ave., its kitchen helmed by Bill Wallender, a chef with experience cooking at Ava Gene's, Little Bird Bistro, and Clarklewis. With this pedigree and his intimate connections with local farmers, Wallender wanted “to create a restaurant like nothing else on North Mississippi.”
“The only people I’ve ever wanted to alienate are people who don’t enjoy themselves,” says Wallender. “I don’t want people to feel as though this is a formal space at all, but if you want a nice night out, you can get that, too.”
Over the last 12 months, Wallender says he has been surprised by two things: the lack of foot traffic and the particularly warm reception from vegetarian and vegan diners.
”We’ve become popular among the vegetarian and vegan crowd,” says Wallender, “because we used local vegetables throughout the winter. So we’ve added regular vegan options for someone to get a full, multi-course meal any night of the week.”
Wallender says he didn’t necessarily choose to feature more vegan plates, so much as discover new and exciting flavors through plant-based ingredients; for instance, for a classic French dish of green beans with an almond purée, he found that removing the bread and cream from the purée actually resulted in bigger flavor, while also making the dish vegan and gluten-free.
“I was really impressed that we could even do that, never mind that it would make it better,” he says. “The almond flavor is huge.”
As for foot traffic, Quaintrelle does sit a half-courtyard back from North Mississippi, in a neighborhood whose reputation for food is growing but hasn’t reached the heights of Northeast Alberta or Southeast Division.
“I think a lot of people don’t even know about us, yet,” says Wallender. “Honestly, I think we’re more of an underdog. I’ve heard a lot of people saying it, like Gary the Foodie. I have a strong background, but I’m not a big name.”
To entice curious eaters, Wallender shares some of the restaurant’s first-year hits: sheep’s cheese dumplings (they will become goat’s cheese dumplings, from September to February); tempura-fried summer squash and blossoms; pork confit with radicchio, rainier cherry mostarda, and hazelnuts; and the daily seafood specials.