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Lakes Area Dining: Communal culinary connection at Prairie Bay

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BAXTER — There are few ways the crew at Prairie Bay Grill and Catering haven’t tried to connect with its neighbors.

From the use of locally grown products, to hosting fundraisers, to the Joe Plut Reading Room, Prairie Bay has done its part to assimilate itself into the lakes area.

Prairie Bay’s biggest foray into being neighborly is its food.

Quality, locally grown ingredients (during the season) and a bit of whimsical adventure and you get the Prairie Bay menu. There is also a fearlessness to it. An almost challenge to its customers: “Trust us. It’s good. Honest.”

For instance, Sushi in the Brainerd lakes area? It’s on the starters menu and even has its own day at Prairie Bay — Sushi Tuesdays.

There is certainly more to get your taste buds primed. The crispity, crunchity, tempura root veggie plater that features parsnips, rutabaga, carrots and onion rings with a sweet and spicy sesame dipping sauce. That will run you $11. Or you can build your own bruschetta for two. That’s a shared plate for $16.50.

Suppli is a cheese stuffed risotto fritter with saffron aioli. There’s smoked chicken strudel, a beet salad, stuffed peppers tempura and Mexi sliders.

Then there are the salmon cakes, which called my name like a mermaid. Made like crab cakes and paired with the accompanying fruit relish, the combination of salt and sweet was perfection.

For a dinner entree, Prairie Bay offers bacon wrapped filet mignon ($27), New York strip ($31), beef medallions ($24.50) and a cherry glazed pork tenderloin ($18) off its grill. The wood oven fired pizzas seem to be a playground of creative greatness. The green eggs and ham, which features spinach, a fried egg and pit ham, is a tasty example. There’s the blue cheese roasted grape and fig, the German Uber-za and the twice baked potato. You’ll just have to trust them.

There’s a two-for-one happy hour pizza special, otherwise, the pizzas are $15.99.

The big plates run the gamut as well from the tuna noodle hot dish with coconut shrimp, the cherywood smoked market wild salmon, the southern shrimp and chicken gumbo and the southwestern chicken manicotti.

I told my server to pick one and I was delighted with the cioppino. A shellfish stew that tantalized the taste buds with shrimp, mussels, a scallop and a fish fillet in a tomato broth. I will admit I have had better, but I had to travel to Las Vegas to get it and I spent a little more than the $23. The big plates range from $25 for the hazelnut crusted Minnesota walleye to $18 for the roasted sausage and chicken penne and the slow braised beef short ribs.

Gourmet sandwiches are on the menu from an open faced oven roasted turkey philly to a perfect duck confit on focaccia and a chef’s specialty entree that offers roasted vegetable lasagna and tarragon mushroom fusilli, which is foraged mushrooms, goat cheese, Parmesan and spinach. There’s also a rigatoni bolognese.

Vegetarians and gluten-free eaters are welcome and so are dessert lovers. Kimmy’s cake pops, Jeff’s blood orange creme brule, deep-fried cheesecake and flourless chocolate torte are a few of the choices.

A custard trio of pot de creme, the creme brule and a panna cotta for $5.50 sealed this dinner excursion off in grand fashion.

Prairie Bay would seem to be a great place to try new things. A restaurant to be a little adventurous and have fun. Price wise it’s on the high end of the lakes area spectrum, but quality products come at a price.

And if you can’t make it to Baxter, wait for Prairie Bay to come to you. That’s right, Prairie Bay debuted its traveling kitchen last weekend called the Side Dish in Crosslake. Check out the Prairie Bay Facebook page to see where it will stop next.

It’s Prairie Bay’s latest ingenious way to get to know its neighbors.

■ JEREMY MILLSOP, food 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.
(218) 855-5856