The Quest for “Our Place” – Part 3: Convention Grill & Fountain

The title to this series has been a bit of a misnomer.  So far, it has been not so much a quest for “our place,” but rather a quest for a burger to replace Grandma’s as the best in the Twin Cities.  Grandma’s had two things going for it, it had wonderful burgers, and it was a great restaurant/bar to hang out.  As such, when it closed, the quest began and somehow became completely focused on the burger, with the “hang-out” portion being only incidental.  That will have to change.

It will particularly have to change because I do believe we’ve found a burger very nearly as good as Grandma’s.  This time, number ten in Citysearch’s Top Ten Burgers in the Twin Cities for 2008: The Convention Grill & Fountain at 3912 Sunnyside Rd., Edina, MN 55424.

The Convention Grill is of the malt shop variety rather than a bar and grill.  The menu is very limited, and consists entirely of burgers, a few sandwiches, and multiple ice cream options.  It’s a sit-down restaurant with a pay-as-you-leave policy.  Since it’s a malt shop, it’s inherently not what we’re looking for in “our place.”  However, it does have the other thing we were looking for, the exceptional burger.  Even better, it has two other items that are almost more worth a mention.

To reiterate yet again: “As I’ve said before, the best burger is not a pre-formed patty with ‘special’ toppings.  The best burger is juicy with just a decent kick of bite from the grill.”  And this is exactly what the Convention Grill offered.  I had a California Burger (lettuce (for me, sans lettuce), tomato, pickles, mayo) with swiss and grilled onions.  The burger was the closest thing to Grandma’s I think I could ever find.  The burger was very well cooked, with that bite from the grill (or, more correctly, griddle), I’ve been looking for.  The onions were flavorful without being overwhelming (although, I had to take half of them off since the burger was loaded with them), and the tomato was strong enough to add juice and flavor without taking over the flavor.  The pickles left a bit to be desired, as I prefer regular hamburger chips and these were more traditional fresh cucumber pickles, but did not detract.

I left the Convention Grill wondering exactly why the burger was extremely good, but didn’t quite reach Grandma’s level.  My wife and I have come to a consensus that while the burger wasn’t dry, it wasn’t as juicy as Grandma’s normally is either.  That said, however, the burger was still very good.

Almost more importantly, though, were the fantastic fries.  I’m generally not a french fry connoisseur, I leave that to my wife, but one bite into the crispy fries made me a believer.  The fries were exactly what I’ve been trying to make at home.  Freshly cut from real potatoes, fried to the point of crispiness, and not over-fried, these fries are what the State Fair fry places try to make.  The fries weren’t greasy or too salty, and did not have the harshness that “fresh” fries can sometimes have.  They were simply perfect.  A warning, though.  We ordered a half-order of fries, and that was far more than we ever could have eaten.  After our meal, we had failed to finish off enough fries to bring the fry level down to that of the lip of the basket they came in (on our second trip we ordered only a side order. As shown in the above picture, the side order of fries is still more than enough for two people).

I could already recommend the Convention Grill very highly after just these two items, but there’s one thing that makes it exception: the malt.  There’s a place in Bloomington I used to regularly visit when I was younger called The Shantytown Grill.  It was a bit of a dive, kind of like what I’m looking for now.  The menu was full of at least 24 different burger choices, and they had absolutely fabulous malts.  The malts were creamy even when melted, and didn’t have the generic vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup taste you get at most places.  The place was eventually purchased by new owners, who stripped half of the burgers off the menu (one of which was my favorite), and eliminated the one-of-a-kind malts off the menu.  The burgers that were left were the unspiced, pre-made patties, with odd toppings. 

Needless to say, with one exception, I haven’t been there since.  I no longer feel that loss.  I do not feel that this is an overstatement in any way, and any one who knows me will probably be very surprised by this, but these malts are as good, if not better, than the malts the Shantytown Grill used to have.  I had given up looking for a replacement, with Culver’s being the closest thing so far, but the Convention Grill malt is a more than suitable substitute.

As for the “our place” aspects, the place is a bit blah as far as that goes.  It’s rather close, and parking was fairly easy in their lot (although, when busy, I can see it being hard to get a parking spot).  Most of the booths are wood, which was nice, but as stated above, it’s just a malt-shop.  It cannot become the go-to place when it’s night and we’re looking for a place to have some good food, a drink or two, and hang-out for awhile.  On the other hand, the quest for “our place” can now officially begin sans the unnecessary burger requirement.

Cheers,
Charlie

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