Uniquely Minnesotan Thrills

Before Gordon Ramsey’s TV show was even imagined, Hell’s Kitchen has haunted Minneapolis’ taste buds from underground.

Taralei Griffin
Oct 2, 2019 · 3 min read
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Sitting underneath the city of Minneapolis in a dimly lit space, sipping a mimosa while a live band played an eerie song accented by the haunting wavers of a musical saw, was one of the strangest feelings ever. Despite the spooky decor and music, the atmosphere was one of joy and light.

Everyone was clearly happy to be in Hell’s Kitchen that Sunday morning, and the mood quickly turned into a party atmosphere when one of the band members climbed onto a table to dance an Irish jig.

As Lara and I laughed and clapped, our food was laid out on the table, and we exclaimed in awe. Laughing as we rearranged things several times so I could set up my camera to record, we finally got things right and dug in.

If you were concerned about the food being spooky as well, there’s no need. The food is extremely unique, but only because it is one of the only places with truly Minnesotan food.

The Mahnomin Porridge, made from wild rice, was thick, hearty, and rich, with just the perfect undertone of sweetness. Lemon-Ricotta Hotcakes were served in a stack of three, topped with fresh strawberries and blackberries, with the lightest dusting of powdered sugar. They were so light and airy, but packed with flavor, and I didn’t use the syrup at all. Battered walleye cooked so perfectly that after the initial crisp bite, it just melted in my mouth, was a delightfully unexpected yet perfect pairing with potatoes and eggs, and the Walleye Hash & Eggs disappeared rapidly from my plate.

Beginning to slow down, I realized I hadn’t tasted the Toasted Sausage Bread. This was the one thing we ordered that I was unsure of. It came highly recommended, but the menu description — “ dense bread made with sausage, toasted walnuts, black currants, spices, and black coffee” — had me feeling wary. Coffee? I tend to avoid coffee-flavored things, and coffee-flavored bread sounded terrible.

But I had to try it.

As I took a bite, I was surprised to find it didn’t taste like coffee at all. I struggled to even find words to describe the taste. Sweet, and surprisingly light for such a dense bread. As I chewed slowly, trying to figure out what I was eating, I must have looked confused. Lara studied my face and held out a small cup with butter, but I waved it away and smiled.

Perfectly moist and strangely delicious, in the manner of a siren singing sweetly through a light fog… I’m not sure if that makes any sense, but that’s the best I can come up with. That bread still has me speechless — even months later as I write this, it haunts my dreams.

But to really understand, you’ll have to brave the world beneath Minneapolis to visit Hell’s Kitchen yourself.

I promise it’s worth it — no tricks, only treats.

For more about my brunch at Hell’s Kitchen, stories about how the restaurant was started, and what their future holds — plus an interview with Nathan Gerdes, son of Cyn Gerdes, one of the restaurant’s founders — be sure to snag a copy of my book, THE GREAT MEANDER, on January 1st, 2020!

For more stories from my road trip of the Great River Road,
click the “The Great Meander” tab on the
Meridian Creators page for more excerpts from my upcoming travel memoir,
THE GREAT MEANDER, available January 1st, 2020!
As of this post, the countdown to the release of my debut book has only 3 months left to go. We’ve got two more sneak peeks coming your way, so stay tuned!

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