Eat like a Minnesotan at Hotel Radisson’s FireLake

FireLake Grill House
FireLake Grill House dish

How to eat like a Minnesotan? The answer’s been hiding in plain sight. Head — ideally with out-of-town guests in tow — to the downtown Hotel Radisson’s FireLake. Its “hundred-mile” rule for sourcing food keeps it micro-local, and purveyors are gratefully saluted on the menu. The kitchen’s new chef makes inventive use of their provender from start to finish (although, like a true native, he knows bragging would be so un-Minnesotan).

Glance, if you will, at the for-sharing app list ($9-$17): cheese curds (Eichten’s), walleye (Red Lake Nation), local charcuterie, housemade pickles. Autumn flatbread laden with sweet potatoes, roasted pears and apples, spinach, goat cheese, pumpkin seeds. Get the idea?

We began our dinner with those walleye fritters — five petite morsels of the mild white fish, subtly jazzed with scallions in a light, almost ethereal batter and attended by a creamy tartar sauce goosed with hints (true Minnesotans prefer hints to full-frontal attacks) of roasted jalapenos. Trust me: These are the champs of their genre.

The app list continues with a smartened version of wild rice soup and an equally innovative tomato soup/grilled cheese combo. Instead, we devoured the Gathered Greens salad, composed of newborn micro-leaflets outfitted in blueberries, walnuts, squares of roasted squash and suave-sharp crumbles of blue cheese, all sprinkled with a light apple vinaigrette: Talk about Minnesota on a salad plate.

Now comes the hardest part of the evening — choosing entrees. Walleye stars, to be sure, sided with wild rice, winter veggies and a tarragon remoulade. So does Wild Acres’ duck, joined by kale braised in the bird’s own rich fat, accompanied by mashed sweet potatoes and a cherry redeye gravy. Another highlight: sausages and pierogis straight from Kramarczuk’s (most entrees $17-$32).

I held out for Lena’s meatballs — a tasty meld of pork, beef and duck mounded over mashed potatoes and a river of porcini gravy, plated aside just what you’d expect from Lena: sweet red cabbage, a sweeter mound of lingonberry sauce and — from her canning jar, I’m sure — a couple of pickles. It tastes just like it reads, which is straight-up and pretty darn good.

My friend opted for the applewood-smoked pork chop (like ordering a slice of pork prime rib) straight off the kitchen’s rotisserie, accompanied by a wintry medley of roasted beets, baby carrots, husky hunks of sweet potatoes and — ahem — a bacon sauce. The generous cut proved sweet indeed but a bit overcooked and dense.

The menu also sports a trio of burgers ($17-$19), served with chips, fries or (how’s this?) kohlrabi slaw. And I’m spending this morning cursing myself that I forgot to order the miraculous popovers I’ve enjoyed there before. Don’t make the same mistake.

Pan fried walleye with asparagus side beet salad

Not that we’d have then found room for even a glance at the dessert quartet ($9): chocolate mousse, cheesecake, dessert cheeses or, our choice, maple bread pudding. Served in a lineup of manageable squares, it’s infused with Knob Creek Bourbon and accompanied by lingonberry coulis (unnecessary but OK) and candied walnuts. 

Our server (thanks, Kevin) was super professional: friendly but not your new BFF, with advice only when asked (which we then wisely followed), appearing when needed but never hovering. Clone him. Well, don’t bother: I’ve had the same good service from everyone I‘ve had the good fortune to encounter here on previous visits.

FireLake Grill House

31 S. 7th St. | 612-216-3473