When Upton 43 first opened, it was the dead of winter and the barren landscape was a mix of gray hues that would send Bob Ross into a steep depression. However, when a guest would walk through the front doors, a waft of charred wood instantly set a homey atmosphere.
Chef and owner Erick Harcey not only utilizes the cords of wood stacked in the restaurant to create such gorgeous dishes as the charred salmon with burnt bechamel or a crusty pork chop roasted nestled in a stack of hay, but he's also keenly aware of the Minnesotan importance of a roaring fire.
His restaurant draws inspiration from his Swedish-Minnesotan roots and the traditions he learned from his grandfather. Amongst these traditions, also includes the value of a warm hearth around which to gather with friends and family. Even now that the temperatures have recovered, and color has returned to our landscape, the roaring fire still feels vital and welcoming.
As Gavin Kaysen landed to the glare of a thousand hungry eyeballs, straight from New York City to Minneapolis, he was also focused on the familial aspects of a great restaurant. As he set to work transforming an old horse stable in a quiet section of Minneapolis' North Loop neighborhood, he thought of his grandmother Dorothy and diners can still find her homey touches woven into the pristine plates delivered from the kitchen.
When building that kitchen, Kaysen included a fiery grill station that is in full view of all the guests. The wood is stoked for service and the grill top can be lowered or raised as the temperature and meat needs vary.
At The Third Bird, Kim Bartmann's restaurant at the edge of Loring Park, chef Brian Hauke takes use of the fire one step further. The chef creates elegant dishes with the occasional powerful punch of flavor that are as fun to cook as they are to devour.
He doesn't just grill the steak, he flings that sucker directly onto the coals to seal in the juices and pick up that campfire perfume. Served with a blackened lemon that spills out its tart juices, that's a dish that honors and glorifies the beauty of direct-flame cooking.