Dakota Grill

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~METROMIX Rochester    Dakota Grill is located just outside the town of Hilton and is an unexpected destination for some of the best Chicken French in town. The grill serves as a neighborhood bar by day and restaurant by night, featuring a laid-back atmosphere. The dining room fills to the brim on Friday nights especially! The bar features live entertainment on the deck Friday nights from 5 to 9 p.m. and a DJ is onsite Friday and Saturday nights after 9 p.m. Saturday is karaoke night.

Karen Deyle
Restaurant critic

THE PLACE  There's an eclectic diamond-in-the-rough quality at the Dakota Grill. You'll find it in the décor. The walls are a crazy quilt of artifacts and ephemera ranging from fine wines and French bistro signs to canoe paddles and horse saddles.  It's quirky, and by golly, it's really pretty good!

THE FOOD To start, my dining companion ordered the artichokes French. The half-dozen hearts were given their crisp egg-and-flour to the coating, and then tossed in a lemony sauce. A sprinkle of parmesan and a quick pass under the broiler gave it an extra layer of flavor and crunch that we really enjoyed.

My cup of lobster bisque was rosy and rich and contained spoon-sized chunks of lobster. It was incredibly thick, almost too much so. Crackers rested, rather than floated on the cup, which was filled to a surface-tension defying level.

The companion's entrée, steak au poivre was worthy of exclamation. Two slices of fillet were patted with coarse cracked peppercorns and grilled until tender and pink in the center. They were then tossed in a wonderfully rich brandy and cream sauce that drew out the punch of the pepper.

My crab cakes were splendidly spiced with a near perfect texture. They were moist, but not soggy inside and crisp but not dry outside. Did I mention generous? Each was easily a quarter pound or more. Accompanying them was a tangy remoulade sauce, a mound of cooling coleslaw, and a heap of french-fries.

Alas, by dessert, we could not manage another bite and we opted for a post-prandial coffee instead.
The Mexican coffee
 included a shot of Tia Maria and came topped with whipped cream. No hoity-toity pedestal glasses here. In Dakota's down-home fashion, these coffees came in a colorful, casual mug.

THE DRINKS There is a full bar with several beers on tap for those who still enjoy the roadhouse feel of the bar side. Diners can choose from a wine list with great selections.

THE ATMOSPHERE Entering the dining room is a little like entering one of those curious roadside museums. There are all sorts of objects perched on beams and soffits and room dividers. From the elegant (wooden box ends from wine crates, including the upper echelon Chateau Lynch-Bages) to the earthy (a box of fishing lures), most patrons will find something amusing to catch their attention as they dine. On the other side of the restaurant, the updated and paneled bar is casual and comfortable for drop-in patrons and gatherings of race fans. Outside the back door is a deck that fills up on summer weekends.

THE SERVICE Our waitress was attentive and informed with just the right touch of "what can I get for you, honey?" charm. Her recommendations were good.