After Manny’s and Oceanaire moved out of the Hyatt, the hotel’s dining cachet slumped. So as part of a recent $25 million renovation, the Hyatt replaced its dated Taxxi bistro—memorable mostly for its unusual spelling—with Prairie Kitchen and Bar.
It’s a good time to be dining at local hotel restaurants: they’ve made big strides in the last decade. As new boutique accommodations incorporated ever-hipper eateries—Cosmos and Porter & Frye among them—the mid-range chains upgraded, too. The Hyatt’s vast, high-ceilinged fire-and-wood-decorated lobby now looks modern and sleek, and presents the same neat, unfussy approach of the adjacent restaurant.
Like other large corporations, Hyatt has been putting more emphasis on connecting individual businesses to their surrounding communities: ergo Prairie showcases Midwestern cuisine with a menu that’s heavy on the meats and fish, and incorporates a few Scandinavian elements. The kitchen sources many of its ingredients from sustainable providers in the region—Nueske bacon, Ames Farm honey, cage-free eggs, hormone-free beef. In a nod to healthful eating, the kids’ menu offers free refills on milk, like the Minnesota State Fair.
Prairie leaves a favorable, albeit hearty, impression: smoked trout cakes are served with sharp mustard, delicate radishes, and microgreens; pillowy veal meatballs (a riff on the Swedish staple) arrive slathered in gooey chardonnay-gruyere gravy studded with morel mushrooms. If you blanch at the bratwurst dinner’s $20 price tag—I did—get the $12 sandwich version instead. The sausage is speckled with wild rice, garnished with peppers and onions and accompanied by a side of textbook French fries.
Desserts can be ordered in miniature trios and I made a nice pairing of the berry pudding with basil-infused crème anglaise, a deconstructed bananas Foster (there’s aquavit in the caramel), and the tangy goat cheese ice cream with blackberry compote, served in a miniature Red Wing crock. The cocktail list focuses mostly on the Aviations and Corpse Revivers of yesteryear, but it does include a contemporary blend featuring local favorites Prairie organic vodka, Crispin hard apple cider, and a splash of cranberry juice.
Prairie treads similar ground as Fire Lake, in the Radisson, but in a more remote location, with a smaller menu, and less of a chophouse emphasis. In downtown’s competitive dining scene, that means Prairie won’t likely lure locals away from some of the more established eateries. Still, I think the restaurant will be a good option for its high-rise-dwelling neighbors and an upgrade for Orchestra Hall patrons who formerly made do with Staccato. Visiting Hyatt guests will benefit most, with a taste what makes Midwestern cuisine special.