Flavor // Fire away!

The firehouse is smokin’ again. That 1914 Linden Hills landmark, most recently tenanted by Café 28, now hosts the culinary brigade of Harriet Brasserie, and it’s clearly a four-alarm success.

Nothing chi-chi here. As a brasserie’s blue-collar DNA decrees, the food is robust and husky, meant for lip-smacking rather than effete analysis, and isn’t that a welcome way to eat?

Harriet’s menu is dominated by shareable small plates ($8­–$13) backed by a quintet of entrees ($14–$22) that we never got around to; scanning the cluster of crowded tables, nobody else did, either. Thus, four apps, a salad and a sweet comprised our satisfying dinner, backed by a glass or two of vino (many under $10, bless ’em) plucked from an intriguing, Eurocentric list.

In order of success, then: loved-loved-loved the braised pork belly, dripping with ultra-luscious fat from its perch on summer-tasting corn grits, sided with a cushion of braised greens whose sharp, appealing bite acted as a palate-cleanser. Way too tasty to be legal.

The coxinha proved a strong contender. Street food from South America, the pair of plump and giving potato dumplings yielded an unctuous lode of pulled chicken smoothed with rich and creamy cheese. A brazenly spicy tomato sauce nipped at the lush concoction, the perfect foil.

Oh, and the bison tartare. Two words: Don’t miss. The silky meat, topped with a raw pheasant egg to stir in with your fork, sneaks a hit of jalapeños, cooled by a satiny remoulade sauce, all of which to load on fingers of crispy toast.

Then, the sardines, which work better in theory than on the plate. The little fish proved pretty dry and solid, their pungent flavor dialed up with garlic, tomatoes and olives, then paired with Parmesan-enriched polenta that had been fried into solid shingles, a sad mistake.

Between plates, we split a lusty salad of arugula tossed with pickled green beans, pearls of summer’s sweet peas, green onions and crunchy shards of bacon as a salty wake-up call, balanced by a breeze of mint, the enduring flavor. Glancing around, however, we spied the kitchen’s signature burger ($13) on many a table, abetted by a mountain of fries.

Also spied the key lime “pie” (wrapped in phyllo), which drew smiles. We opted instead for the yogurt panna cotta — too rubbery by far, topped with crystals of granola and sided with a heavenly pear-riesling sorbet — like licking the very essence of the fruit. 

Not much rehab of the place had been required, except the welcome addition of a bar counter at which to dine. The only whinge is the din, which means shouting theatrically at your table partner the whole night long. Bottom line: well worth it.