Top 10 wildest game dishes in the Twin Cities

Wild Acres pheasant with curried spaghetti squash and cranberry-hibiscus sauce.
Wild Acres pheasant with curried spaghetti squash and cranberry-hibiscus sauce.
Courtesy of the W.A. Frost Facebook page

Who got game? We do, apparently.

It used to be that bison was about the wildest thing you'd find on a menu in the Twin Cities, but as leaner alternative proteins gain popularity, our local chefs have learned to perfectly prepare everything from pig to pigeon. So now that hunting season is underway, we're taking a walk on the wild side and counting down some of our favorite Twin Cities dishes that feature game.

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Bayou Brat with spicy kraut
Bayou Brat with spicy kraut
E. Katie Holm

10. Alligator Bayou Brat at New Bohemia

Gator isn't exactly on the radar for our local hunters, but it does make a wet and wild base for the Bayou-inspired brat at New Bohemia Bier and Wurst Haus in Northeast. The mild meat has a soft texture, a little garlicky flavor added in, and really does taste like chicken. Well, it tastes like a chicken that can swim. Nestled into a soft Saint Agnes Bakery bun, you'll want to get this one with the spicy red kraut for a totally non-Creole kick. 

Top 10 wildest game dishes in the Twin Cities
Alma Guzman
9. Bison Chili Cheese Fries at the Lowbrow
The leanness of bison meat kind of goes out the window when you eat it in the form of spicy, smothered chili cheese fries. But buffalo needn't always have the halo of health surrounding it, especially when it tastes this good. If you are crazy prefer your chili sans frites, you can get it that way too, in a bowl garnished with the Lowbrow's homemade tortilla chips.

Top 10 wildest game dishes in the Twin Cities
E. Katie Holm

8. Rabbit Cottage Pie at Pig & Fiddle 
Over the years American home cooks have adapted shepherd's or cottage pie to include good ol' ground beef, a more palatable and readily available alternative to the traditional lamb. But Pig & Fiddle's chef (and recent participant in our Iron Fork competition) Stephanie Kochlin knows that real homey comfort comes from slow-cooked game. She coaxes out the richest flavor by braising tender rabbit meat and adding it to a gravy-like pan sauce with celery, carrots, and onion. The rustic mini-casserole is covered with buttery shortcrust pastry and baked until flaky and golden. It's a perfect dish to have all to yourself on a cold night, especially when washed down with one of the many Belgian beers Pig & Fiddle has on tap.

Top 10 wildest game dishes in the Twin Cities
Courtesy Hell's Kitchen

7. Kangaroo Steaks at Hell's Kitchen
Some may shudder at the idea of consuming something as cute as a kangaroo, especially since the hunting or farming of the marsupials for meat is still a somewhat controversial practice. But ever the envelope-pushers, downtown Minneapolis restaurant Hell's Kitchen added kangaroo to its menu in the form of steaks earlier this year. The high protein, low fat meat is served with a light pickled vegetable salad, smoky cheddar-laced soft polenta, a maple bacon chutney, and a schmear of sweet blackberry barbecue sauce. Does that make you want to hop to it?

Top 10 wildest game dishes in the Twin Cities
Courtesy W.A. Frost Facebook
6. Duck Pate at W.A. Frost
The charcuterie options change up at this St. Paul classic spot fairly regularly, but there's almost always something wild on the platter. Recently they made this incredibly rich duck pate marbled with porcini mushroom powder for added depth and woodiness. You can practically hear the leaves crunching underneath your boots as you spread this business on a crostini.

Top 10 wildest game dishes in the Twin Cities
Courtesy Craftsman Facebook page


5. Grilled Venison Leg at the Craftsman
This cut is like a juicy, blushing beef tenderloin, only better. The Craftsman changes the preparation of this hunting-season dish by occasionally subbing in potatoes for polenta or Brussels for bok choy, but it is routinely sublime. This particular plate has the venison sitting on a plate of maple-pumpkin puree with sautéed winter greens and mushrooms.
Top 10 wildest game dishes in the Twin Cities
Crystal Grobe

4. Camel Burger at Safari Express
Of all the alterna-proteins on our list, this is the one that seems to scare people the most. It's a shame because camel makes for a really fabulous burger. It's lean by virtue of the animal itself and flavorful thanks to the addition of fresh basil, garlic, and some other more exotic spices in the hand-ground meat. Safari first introduced Minnesota to camel meat at the State Fair, but gradually won people over by serving it in this familiar format. They pair the patty with lettuce, tomato, and a grilled ring of pineapple on a soft bun with daub of cilantro-spiked mayo. 

Top 10 wildest game dishes in the Twin Cities
Courtesy Happy Gnome

3. Bacon-Wrapped Elk Loin at the Happy Gnome
Wrapping something in bacon is like the adult version of putting peanut butter on something to get a kid to eat it. It does something magical, infusing the meat or seafood or disc of water chestnut and transforming it into a salty, smoky surprise. At the Happy Gnome gastropub in St. Paul, the gamey, steak-like medallions of medium-rare elk get that wonderful bacon packaging along with some creamy cauliflower puree, jalapeño, and a simple salad of watercress.

Top 10 wildest game dishes in the Twin Cities
Courtesy Butcher & the Boar

2. Venison Summer Sausage at Butcher & the Boar
Summer sausage is irresistible pretty much all year round, but when it's made with a grassy, woodsy meat like venison and prepared at the hands of an expert like Butcher & the Boar's Peter Botcher, it transcends the realm of hiking-trail lunch meat and becomes suitable as the start to a refined meal. The house-made cheez whiz, while not particularly classy, definitely doesn't hurt either.
Top 10 wildest game dishes in the Twin Cities
Aaron Landry

1. Buffalo Quail at Strip Club Meat & Fish
A fantastically modern, gamey take on a game day favorite, Strip Club's starter plate of quail is made up of a crispy-skinned wing, leg, and breast of delicate, almost tangy fried quail, dressed with a pungent vinaigrette of Hook's bleu cheese and a crunchy celery salad. Refined yet still fun, this is wild game at its best.

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