With its emphasis on locally sourced ingredients, seasonal menu items, and regionally influenced dishes, FireLake Grill House and Cocktail Bar in the downtown Minneapolis Radisson Blu (and now also at the Mall of America) has always risen above the bland, placeless stereotype of a corporate hotel restaurant. A recent hotelwide remodel, from Radisson to Radisson Blu, replaced Firelake’s warm colors and wood accents with a cooler palette and metal accents — changing the focus from the “Fire” to the “Lake,” as it were. Though the facade has changed, the restaurant’s heart remains essentially the same, and the kitchen’s quality is undiminished.
If, on your next world tour, you should find yourself at the Firelake, having forgotten in which town you sit, and you are too embarrassed to ask your friendly bartender, the menu offers numerous hints (Lena’s Meatballs, Blue Ox Burger). One of our favorite regionally influenced items is the Northern Fried Chicken. Marinated in buttermilk, like its good ol’ Southern cousin, Firelake’s version is dredged in wild rice flour, giving it a distinctly nutty flavor. A single golden brown chicken breast is served alongside a heap of white-cheddar-herb mashed potatoes, several long stalks of grilled broccolini, and a canoe of gravy. Before the chicken is prepared, the skin, sternum, and ribs are removed, leaving the first wing section attached. The result, somewhere between traditional fried chicken and a sandwich filet, is juicy, crisp and delectable. The broccolini has grazed the grill, leaving it crunchy and charred. While the mashed potatoes are a bit too salty for our palate, they have a nice cheesy flavor. And the bartender let us in on a little secret: the herbs are scallions.
FireLake Grill House and Cocktail Bar, 31 S 7th St, Minneapolis, MN 55402; 612.216.3473