Tavern Surfing: The Lion's Tap

The first in what may become an ongoing series of bar eats reviews.

The Lion's Tap is located about 15 miles west of Minneapolis, which, in our gas-conscious times, makes it a dubious choice for supper and a beer. But at the advice of (and accompanied by) local tavern scholar and historian-in-training Brian Tochterman, my wife and I made the trek out to the wilds of Eden Prairie.

The landscape is unexpectedly dramatic once you travel far enough along Flying Cloud Drive. Steep greens hills overgrown with tall grass rise to the right; steep drops and a panoramic view of Grass Lake greet you from the left.

The semi-rural setting is appropriate for what is, in essence, a country watering hole, albeit a large and long-established one; the in-house motto

lionstap.jpg

is both a testament both to its longevity and the juicy nature of its burgers.

Tap burgers boast relatively thin, extremely fresh, and juicy patties — these burgers are old school in the best possible sense of the expression. They range in price from $2.90 (a single hamburger) to $8.05 for a double mushroom Swiss. If you're an average eater, some sort of double ($5.55 and up) will do you right, although light eaters can easily get a single and leave happily fed.

The napkin thing is no bluff, either — if you're able to finish a burger without reaching for additional paper product support, you're either extremely crafty or you ordered your burger well done.

A meaningful burger ordering protocol is another point in the Lion Tap's favor — if you order the burger medium rare, it comes out medium rare. On that front, it's shocking how well-organized the waitstaff is; when we arrived on a Tuesday night, the bar was swamped and yet the seating / ordering / food delivery / check delivery process was seamless and almost instant.

It probably helps that the menu is so tight: it's limited to burgers, fries, draft root beer and a limited variety of largely domestic beers, served in chilled 7 oz. glasses that are far more charming in practice than they might seem in theory. In theory, 7 oz. is a tiny amount of beer. In practice, the beer stays nice and chilled, and finishing your beer is a treat, not a project.

Is it worth the drive? That depends, in part, on whether gas breaks the $5 a gallon barrier. I will admit that it only takes about an hour before you're thinking about how good another fresh, hot, juicy burger might taste.

And is it worth looking up next time you're in Eden Prairie? Most definitely.


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