I love writing about restaurants. It means I get to drink tax-deductible beer – or free beer, when they expect me. It becomes even better when I get to write about a place like Tavern 4&5: an unpretentious neighborhood hangout, socketed away in a quiet corner of town just off Eden Prairie Road. There is no better place to hole up on a Saturday afternoon.
Dave Guistolise, who was Tavern 4&5’s original general manager before continuing on to work for Nova Restaurant Group in a broader capacity, sat down beside me at the bar. Had I met Dave under any other circumstances, I still would have known he is a restaurant manager. It is impossible to feign composure like Dave’s. You foster it by doing as many different things at once as possible, and only orchestrating a restaurant provides such an education.
“Before we opened, when we all sat down together to decide what kind of restaurant Tavern 4&5 would be, we came up with a simple concept,” said Dave, motioning to the bartender to fix my empty beer. “We wanted it to be the Cheers of Eden Prairie. And for someone who’s as passionate about hospitality as myself, that begins with the staff.
“We can train our team members about our service standards, our food, and our beer, but one thing we cannot do is train them how to be nice. Our guests want exceptional service, food, drink and hospitality, which is why we go out of our way to exclusively hire nice people. Fortunately for us, Minnesota has no shortage of them.
“But what’s a restaurant where everyone is nice to you if they don’t also bring out great food? Not a long-lived one. I remember sitting down in the test kitchen with our owner Scott Foster and our original executive chef before our grand opening. They were passionate about each and every detail, right down to whether to use salted or unsalted sunflower seeds in a salad, which cheddar cheese melts best, and which goat cheese we should serve.
“From all that attention to detail came an extraordinary menu. No ‘tweezer foods.’ No ‘micro cilantro.’ Just approachable bar fare with a little twist to make it memorable. Our burgers exemplify this. They’re playful but familiar – the perfect balance between ‘chefy’ and approachable. And when people want a great steak without the haughty atmosphere, they’re delighted to come to Tavern 4&5 where they don’t have to pay an extra $9 for a side of hash browns.
“Our signature dish is our wood-fired rotisserie chicken. We keep those birds rotating all day long over a bed of red oak, cherrywood and hickory charcoal. Our restaurant’s signature rub takes care of the rest. That rotisserie oven fuels a lot of our restaurant. We also pull our amazing chicken apart so we can put it on everything from salads to pizzas.
“We’re definitely not a pizzeria, but man, do we ever make great pizza – and lots of them! On a busy Friday like yesterday we pulled over 100 pizzas from our wood-burning oven. It’s no secret why people love them so much: a simple sauce, made with just premium tomatoes, a little bit of water and a pinch of salt, and fresh gourmet toppings that speak for themselves.
“We have been in Eden Prairie for eight and a half years now. Like any restaurant, we were afraid the pandemic would be the end of us. But we couldn’t have expected the outpouring of support we would receive from our community. We had people going out of their way to order carryout two or three times a week. Many of them told us they’d do whatever it took to keep us in business. I’ll be honest. That brought me to tears.
“Ahem. Anyway, here’s to another eight and a half years,” said Dave, raising a glass which I enthusiastically clinked my own against, “and no more lockdowns!”
Tavern 4&5 is located at 16396 Wagner Way in Eden Prairie. You can learn more about them and order online at tavern4and5.com.