If you spent a day being a tourist in your own city, where would you go? From history to art, theater to outdoor spaces — some serious criteria would be required to narrow down the immense pool of options. And while landmarks abound, perhaps more difficult would be choosing where to eat and drink.
For many out-of-towners, Hell’s Kitchen makes the list. From legendary house-made peanut butter to holographic bathroom art, the subterranean lair boasts captivating appeal without becoming tacky.
While their flagship burger, the Juicy Lucifer, may be underwhelming, even locals know that world-class breakfast and a steal of a happy hour are right in their own backyard. As of January, there is another draw: the Minnesota Room, which is a locally dreamed and fabricated space wherein all 804 Minnesota cities are represented.
The space avoids the nauseating pitfalls of kitschy decor and instead opts for genuine local pride, elevated to a level that is inviting rather than distracting: a fireplace inlaid with stones submitted from all over the state, a bison head veneered in chrome. While the Minnesota room can be rented for private events, it is still congruent with the restaurant as a whole, and is used for ordinary seating throughout the week.
For a non-traditional twist on a classic bar snack, try the BBQ Pork Nachos ($9 / $6 happy hour). The menu description doesn’t do this dish justice. Hot barbecue pork and crisp tortilla chips harmonize with creamy coleslaw and pickles, the slaw cooling the pork and adding texture. The ideal amount of cheese acts as a supporting ingredient, rather than a star. Additional spice or a bit of acid would kick the plate into the “must-try” category, but it’s still worth the trip downtown for locals and tourists alike.
A house-infused grapefruit vodka is a great way to add the bitterness and brightness missing in the dish. Try it with tonic or on the rocks.
Hell’s Kitchen, 80 South 9th St., Minneapolis, MN, 55402, 612.332.4700