Prairie Ale House introduces better class of pub grub

Eden Prairie restaurant merges sports and great eats

Pass on the Soy Ginger Tempeh, as it suggests a vegetarian banh mi gone wrong with its too-dense bread and too-sweet ribbons of pickled carrot. Better to go with the heaping portion of pot roast or one of the many burgers. The Loaded Burger—bacon, red onion marmalade, pickled jalapeño, cheese curds, fried egg, and Thousand Island dressing on a beef patty—is a gas, though its crumbly bun can't provide the structural support for all those toppings. The Butter Burger—peanut butter that is—would be better if it replaced its pickles in favor of hot peppers like the standard-bearer, the Blue Door Pub's Jiffy Burger. The burger's pork alternative is a tasty, puck-shaped, house-made bratwurst topped with spicy sauerkraut, bacon, and Gruyere cheese. The accompanying French fries can be ordered plain; seasoned with parsley, garlic, and Parmesan; or loaded with gravy and cheese curds, poutine-style. The last is oversalted, but not inedibly so, as it often is.

If you're looking for an excuse to order an alcoholic beverage, the tap water tastes terrible, as if it's been spiked with chlorine and metal. Prairie offers a nice beer selection, most of it bottled, and among the dozen taps, Budweiser has recently been bumped off by local beer maker Lift Bridge. But why not try one of the retro cocktails or alcoholic malts that got the town talking about Town Talk?

The Sidecar is perfectly balanced, garnished with a lemon twist, and priced a reasonable $7. The Jack O'Lantern "adult" malt runs $11, but its mix of pumpkin pie filling, vanilla ice cream, and brandy tastes like you just made a snow angel and warmed up by the fire. Harness admits that he's struggled a bit to sell Brazilian Caipirinhas to a Purple Hooter-shooting clientele. "It's a mid-'90s bar mentality," he says of the locals' taste for the sweet and syrupy. But with his list of pre-Prohibition cocktails and experiments with, say, jalapeño-infused whiskeys, he's making Prairie the kind of place where it pays to tell the bartender, "Just make me something."

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Location Info

Map

Prairie Ale House

16396 Wagner Way
Eden Prairie, MN 55344

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Eden Prairie

Details

Prairie Ale House
16396 Wagner Way, Eden Prairie
952.949.9700; www.prairiealehouse.com
appetizers $4-$9; entrées $7-$21

The gregarious Johnson recognizes the importance of hospitality and has always pulled it off better than most restaurateurs in town. When he and Tim Niver first opened Town Talk, Johnson stationed himself behind the bar, shouting greetings to guests the moment they walked in the door, and Niver himself often waited tables. When the two launched the Strip Club, Niver worked the door as if it opened onto his own home—practically offering to add your coat to the pile in the bedroom—as Johnson cultivated regulars while he poured beverages. "A restaurant is four walls and a bunch of equipment," he says. "Everything else is the people and what they bring to it."

It's too bad that Prairie doesn't have quite the same warmth and intimacy of Town Talk or Strip club: The staff's chummy conviviality gets disbursed over the prodigious space, weakening its effect. But still, if you compare Prairie to its competitors in the sports-bar market, the pub stakes significant claim on a category typically known for unremarkable food. "Why can't someone sit down and watch the Vikings game and eat a really kickass meal?" Johnson asks. Say, perhaps, a special of duck confit with beet syrup? "Sounds like a good game-day meal to me," he says.

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