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Lakes Area Dining: Madden Lodge: A flashback worth taking

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EAST GULL LAKE — I have this idyllic itch to start every story concerning Madden’s Resort with the phrase “once upon a time.”

It starts with the drive onto the East Gull Lake resort property. It’s as though you’re entering an older, slower-paced time. The green golf courses on both sides of the road, then the lake and then the grand buildings take you on a 15 mph flashback.

As far as dining is concerned, Madden’s offers: The Classic Grill, the Restaurant at Madden Inn, Lobby Cafe and Parfecto Pizza, but on this night, my reservation was placed at the Madden Lodge Dining Room. I had a reservation because you need a reservation to this unique location where executive chef Matias Latorre takes his dining public on a culinary adventure.

It’s unique for a couple different reasons. First, the decor is dated, but on purpose. I halfheartedly expected “Dirty Dancing” star Jennifer Grey to come out of the corner, but then I remembered Patrick Swayze saying “Nobody puts Baby in the corner.” The decor works because nobody is looking at what’s inside the restaurant anyway thanks to the panoramic view of Gull Lake. Eyes are quickly diverted back when the dishes start arriving from the kitchen.

The second unique thing about the Madden Lodge is its rotating menu. On this day, I was able to select from menu one, but there are three other menus so resort guests can get a different dining experience on each visit.

Some of the items are similar on each menu. For instance all four have a soup, which on this day was a creamy chicken wild rice that had more chicken than rice. They each offer a starter salad as well.

The lighter fare options are consistent and range from a Mediterranean bean salad, Israeli Cous Cous salad, the Madden Lodge burger and braised chicken tacos. Those can be enjoyed for $11 to $14.

Where dishes change is on the entree menu. For menu No. 1, guests can choose between a New York steak, veal scaloppini, grilled orange barbecue chicken, walleye, braised brisket bucatini or a vegetarian entree. There’s also the sweet mango shrimp, which was the choice for this night. Pan-seared and mango-chutney glazed shrimp tossed with fire-roasted peppers and onions served with Chilean salsa verde. Carrots, broccoli and cauliflower gave the plate body.

There was nothing dated about the execution of the food. The dish was visually stimulating with the red of the peppers, green of the broccoli and yellow of the mango paired with the artistic display of the sauce. The shrimp was cooked to perfection and the vegetables, mango and sauce worked in harmony.

The entrees range from $16-$24. On other menus swordfish, coconut chicken, Southwest top sirloin, Asian barbecued ribs, triple meat stuffed cannelloni, creamy artichoke chicken, Philly brochettes, spicy penne pasta, Caribbean style red snapper, smoked beef brisket, pork tenderloin and rigatoni pasta meatballs are just some of the entrees that Latorre and his two sous chefs execute.

Latorre said it’s difficult to change from one menu to the next, but the execution was not hampered by it. The menu change, I believe, is one reason reservations are needed.

A lemon raspberry tart topped the night off perfectly and would have most foodies singing a rendition of Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes’ “(I’ve had) The Time of My Life.”

JEREMY MILLSOP, sports writer, may be reached at 855-5856 or Follow on Twitter at

Jeremy Millsop
My career at the Brainerd Dispatch began May 11, 1999 after graduating from North Dakota State University. My areas of emphasis includes local high school sports, Central Lakes College, the lakes area golf mecca and once a year I dabble in the NHRA when the Lucas Oil Nationals come to Brainerd International Raceway.
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