What do you think of when you think of Minnesota eats? Wild rice? Panfish and walleye? Rhubarb pie?
It seems many folks think of downtown's Hell's Kitchen, and their special brand of, well, branding -- really, it's a totally wholesome place wearing naughty-girl makeup. It's constantly filled with families and all sorts of different kinds of people, but especially the kinds of people who want to get full in a non-intimidating, fun atmosphere with pretty good food and a menu that pleases all.
In fact, Hell's kitchen managed to draw 340,000 diners last year, and they say almost half were from outside of the Twin Cities area. Some come specifically to dine with them, but others are from the convention set, and many think of HK as a "must stop" in Minnesota. Who knew?
Well, seems like Hell's Kitchen did, and in response, they're transforming the back fireplace room into the "Minnesota Room," an homage to our great state, and yet another reason for out-of-towners (and townies too) to visit.
So what exactly is a Minnesota Room?
What it isn't:
"Nope, it won't look like a TGI Friday with boots and canoes hanging from the rafters...We've put our thinking caps on and collaborated with Shea Design to come up with something a little bit different and a lot more fun."
They've said that it will be "designed by Minnesotans, built by Minnesotans, to celebrate Minnesotans."
So, a cold room?
No -- but a photograph of a car buried in ice will be there, as will huge panels emblazoned with Minnesota "isms": Ole & Lena jokes, Minnesota trivia, local heroes, and all manner of minutiae -- even every single Minnesota city and town etched into the booth partitions. Grew up in Embarrass? Your town is repped.
Perhaps more importantly, owners Mitch Omer and Cynthia Gedes have tapped Minnesota craftspeople and artisans for all of the decor, including glassware, photos, even the chairs and booths.
Gedes says the two of them are personally re-tiling the fireplace with Minnesota rocks and minerals from local lakeshores, and that this central focal point will "feature a highly respectful display of Native American photos and artifacts highlighting our state's true original roots."
"Members of various tribes and Native-owned galleries have helped curate and contribute to this humble but important collection. It is our collective hope to increase public awareness of the diversity and individuality of Minnesota's Native tribal heritage and cultures."
The Minnesota Room will be open to the public on Friday, January 16, "come hell or high water," and they say they're investing over a quarter million dollars on the thing. Uffda.
Send your story tips to Hot Dish.