Reporting Sara Pelissero
When it comes to the phrase “hotel restaurant,” thoughts of chain food, greasy diners and generic menus can often be the norm. But when the downtown Minneapolis Hyatt was deciding how to use $25 million for renovations, they had another idea in mind.
Introducing Prairie Kitchen & Bar — an upscale, seasonally-inspired restaurant ready to immerse itself in the already-booming Twin Cities restaurant scene.
You may — or may not — remember Hyatt’s previous restaurants, Taxxi and Spike’s Bar. Hyatt General Manager Randy Thompson said making the switch to one restaurant meant they had to expand their offerings but it also gave them the opportunity to also take it up a notch.
“Our food needed to reflect the design element in the hotel,” he said. “As we became very local, if you will, in the design of the hotel, we felt that the restaurant needed to also reflect that.”
You’ll find several items on the menu that are certainly reflective of Minnesotan culture with plenty of Midwest staples. One of the most popular dishes, the parmesan crusted walleye, offers a perfect blend of locally sourced ingredients with a sophisticated finish. The crust on the walleye couldn’t be more flaky and tasty but at the same time allows the natural flavors of the fish to sing.
Executive Chef Aaron Hagerdorn said that was completely his intention.
“We like to take the locality of the area, so we’re using a lot of local vendors, local farmers and a lot of local products … and we like to play on some emotions, some childhood memories, we also twist in come Scandinavian influences,” he said. “So we’re kind of taking the best of all worlds and blending them together while keeping things simple, fresh and flavorful.”
Hagerdorn is a relatively new resident of Minnesota, himself, having started at the Hyatt in October to help craft the menu at Prairie. He said he was excited to be part of such a vibrant food scene in the Twin Cities.
Hagerdorn said the menu will change depending on what’s in season and what local products are readily available. As you’ll notice upon dining at Prairie, the menu is organized by cooking style — starting with simmered, moving to baked and grilled and ending with roasted — like their incredibly juicy cardamom-spiced roasted chicken.
“As we get into the fall and winter, you’ll see the grilled section changing to a braised section — we’ll do some heartier food there,” he said.
There’s also a sweetened (dessert) section, where diners can indulge in a strawberry rhubarb tart or their popular sweet vanilla pancakes, with an aquavit-infused glaze and a side of cinnamon ice cream. You may be thinking, “Really? Pancakes for dessert?” But after one bite, you’ll certainly be sold.
Hagerdorn said their main objective is just to give residents in the area a taste of something familiar, with a new twist — and those visiting from out of town, a broad experience of the food from the area.
“We hope they get a true taste of what the area has to offer,” he said. “This is a great food town and we have a lot to showcase and offer here, so we hope they can get that all in one stop here at our restaurant.”
Even the name plays into the restaurant’s theme of local and true Midwest. Thompson said Prairie is a nod to our many prairie grasses in Minnesota, while giving customers a notion of the rustic side of the menu and its agenda of showcasing natural flavors.
Prairie serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. For more information and complete menu listings, check out their website.