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Hell's Kitchen (Duluth) - A Total Downer [Moved from Minneapolis-St. Paul Board]

t
tvdxer May 17, 2010 08:37 AM

I don't know about the Minneapolis HK, but the Duluth Hell's Kitchen has went from an innovative, worthy new restaurant the first time I went there (around October 2008) to a burgers-and-wings dump the second time (yesterday, May 16th).

The last time I was at Hell's Kitchen in Duluth (never been to the one in Minneapolis) - I don't know whether I wrote a review on it here - it was great. The hot chocolate I took before eating was the best I ever had, and the French Dip entree came with two or three sauces to the side that were tasty and creative.

Well, I go again after my commencement ceremony, expecting the restaurant to be more or less the same. I planned on trying their huevos rancheros, which I remember seeing in past reviews, and having the same hot chocolate as last time. Wrong. Gravely wrong. Huevos rancheros: off their menu. Couldn't find it. Hot chocolate: Off their menu. I asked our waiter if they still made it. He said no. I asked him if it wasn't very popular. He said no, that's not the reason, the production costs were too high. Come on, I'd be very willing to shell out an extra dollar for it, considering it was like $3 last time. I'm sure the "production costs" didn't increase beyond an additional dollar.

The first thing my mom noticed is that they changed the look of the restaurant, removing some cool chandeliers. She asked the waiter about that, and he said that they had had too many complaints about it being "too dark". Well, let's see...you go to a restaurant named "Hell's Kitchen", and you expect it to be light in there? Come on.

We first ordered the Chili Cheese Fries. They were middling, the visibly over-salted fries being the primary detractor, but they came in a big basket, sufficient for three people.

So I order the North Carolina Pulled Pork. He comes back 15 minutes later with a sandwich that no civilized person could eat without a fork and knife (which were provided). The worst thing? It had raw lettuce and a slice of tomato on the top. I wasn't informed of that. He said all their specials* came with lettuce and tomato. I told him I was allergic to lettuce and tomato (as in taste-allergic, but I didn't inform him of that specificity), and he took it back and brought out another one. It was decent.

My mom, on the other hand, ordered chicken wings for herself. They came lukewarm, almost cold. She had them take them back.

The only real positive of the evening was the live music. Although once they played you couldn't hear the person sitting next to you without them shouting, and I didn't really feel either way about their music, they were pretty good and entertaining, as in they looked funny.

Again, I don't know whether Hell's Kitchen in Minneapolis has suffered the same fate, but the Duluth one - which I believe is now called "Hell's Burgers" - has went from a respectable restaurant when they first opened back in the Summer of 2008 to what is essentially a large bar with wings, hot-dogs, and burgers now.

* By the way, the menu has gotten a lot smaller since I last visited; essentially a two-sided glossy sheet of paper with one side dedicated to drinks!

(Notice: The address below is for the Minneapolis restaurant, which I have never been too, not the Duluth one. The Duluth one is on Lake St. in Canal Park).

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Hell's Kitchen
80 South 9th Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402

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  1. b
    BigE RE: tvdxer May 17, 2010 08:56 AM

    I am a UMD graduate and still spend 5-10 weekends a year in Duluth. This change has not been a welcome one, for me. They obviously wanted to go kid and family friendly, but they have completely bombed with the food. My one experience there was nothing short of depressing. I have no intentions of returning and I'll be amazed if that place survives for more than a year or so.

    1. The Dairy Queen RE: tvdxer May 17, 2010 09:11 AM

      Ugh. Sorry to hear it. I always loved going to Hell's Kitchen for breakfast when I was in Duluth. I think only the Duluth menu was changed.

      ~TDQ

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      Hell's Burgers
      Duluth, Duluth, MN

      1. k
        kevin47 RE: tvdxer May 17, 2010 10:47 AM

        It is indeed called Hell Burgers. The website is weird and annoying.

        http://www.hellburgers.com/

        The Minneapolis version has the same menu as always, and I was pleased with a recent visit.

        1 Reply
        1. re: kevin47
          Davydd RE: kevin47 May 17, 2010 04:38 PM

          Same ownership but no longer a Hells Kitchen restaurant. It is indeed Hell Burgers and is basically a burger and sandwich sports bar with a huge TV screen. I was there a little over a week ago. They don't even serve breakfast as it doesn't open until 11 AM.

        2. b
          blogkitten RE: tvdxer May 18, 2010 07:24 AM

          Ate there with a group of women on our way up to Silver Bay for a weekend of hiking. The only good thing we all collectively had was the appetizer order of the sweet potato fries. Everything else was uninspired and not worthy of the "Hell's" name.

          1. t
            tvdxer RE: tvdxer May 22, 2010 06:33 PM

            So everybody who has posted here reacted the same way I did - interesting. Now the question is: Whatever entered the mind of management to change the restaurant so much, from a place serving inspired, creative yet traditional fare to what is essentially a sports bar serving burgers and wings (and bad ones at that)? Are the tastes of the general public really that different than ours?

            1. r
              RMC RE: tvdxer Jun 30, 2010 07:26 PM

              I just saw this post and had to say something. My wife and I travel to Duluth twice a year from Ohio. We read about Hell's Kitchen on Chow Hound a couple years ago. When decided to try HK for dinner. We were thrilled with the recommendatons we had received from others who had eaten there. We went back this May and we were shocked at how much this restaurant had changed, both in the quality of the food and the service. After we left we talked about how this place must have been sold . The tip off should have been that at a time when most reataurants are usually packed, HK was empty. There are several other good restaurants in the Duluth / Superior area to compete with this place, so I will not be surprised to see that this place has closed.

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              Hell's Kitchen
              310 S Lake Ave, Duluth, MN 55802

              2 Replies
              1. re: RMC
                The Dairy Queen RE: RMC Jul 1, 2010 12:10 AM

                So sad, isn't it? Hell's Burgers in Duluth is still owned by the same people; it just went through a major re-vamping of the concept and menu, thus the change of the name from Hell's Kitchen to Hell's Burgers. Thankfully, the HK in Minneapolis is the same (name, menu and concept) as always.

                ~TDQ

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                Hell's Kitchen
                310 S Lake Ave, Duluth, MN 55802

                Hell's Burgers
                Duluth, Duluth, MN

                1. re: The Dairy Queen
                  rp1760 RE: The Dairy Queen Jul 18, 2010 09:30 AM

                  Very sad. I was in Duluth end of April, and asked a couple of people if Hell's was still there. Common response: "Yes, and it's much better than before. It was really weird before." It seems the tastes of the general public in Duluth is somewhat different. Having lived in Duluth for four years back in the day, this does not surprise me.

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