Tag Archives: The Nook

The Quest for “Our Place” – Part 6: Groveland Tap

I never intended the Comrus blog to be primarily about restaurant reviews.  Back in the Xanga days, it mostly contained humorous essays on random things about life.  But since I now have a job, and especially now that I’ve been working overtime for a few months, the desire to sit down and blog has been at a minimum.  The only thing that has interested me enough to finally sit down and write has been my interest in laid-back restaurants, under the heading of “Quest for Our Place,” and even then not so much.  In fact, I haven’t had the motivation so much so that I still have not yet written about my favorite discovery, first visited many months ago.

And so, yet again, instead of a humorous essay, I find myself with another restaurant to talk about (quite briefly, too be honest).  And also yet again, it’s not about the aforementioned favorite discovery.

So, first up in the lineup of places that are far better than The Nook (and believe me, that’s a really long list), the Groveland Tap, 1834 St. Clair Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55105.  Also in Highland Park, the Groveland Tap features wooden booths, a non-dive dive type atmosphere, and a very large beer selection.

As previously described, the purpose of our search is to find a laid back place, with good food, preferably with great hamburgers, where you can also enjoy sitting back and having a few beers.  The Nook failed on most of these counts, and the Groveland Tap quite succeeds.

The burger itself is nicely juicy, with fixings that have flavor but don’t overwhelm.  It does have a nice griddle/grease flavor, but could use a bit more bite and spice.  But otherwise, it’s everything I’m looking for.  It’s anything but dry, and the cheese is nicely melted.  The accompanying fries were nice and fresh.  They weren’t fabulous, but were good, salty, and satisfying.

And yes, for those Juicy Lucy nuttos, the Groveland Tap has those as well.

Perhaps the thing that stood out to me most, though, was the Groveland Tap’s large draught beer selection, including many various pale ales, amber ales, lagers, etc.  Better yet, seven days a week, from 11:00 AM to 5:30 PM, they have Summit pints for $2.25.  That’s the best Summit deal I’ve ever seen in the Twin Cities.

As such, I can certainly see myself grabbing a few pints on their front patio this summer.

One of the main failings of The Nook, not counting the mediocre burgers, is that it’s constantly jammed with people, so getting a table is a process.  We’ve only been to the Groveland Tap once, and it was quite empty when we went, but it was on a Sunday afternoon. Almost undoubtedly, the place gets very busy in the evenings, especially with their beer selection.  But because of the food and the atmosphere, I’d be far more willing to wait for a table there.

Overall, the Groveland Tap is very comfortable, with friendly wait-staff, and very good bar food.

Cheers,
Charlie

The Quest for “Our Place” – Part 5: The Nook

And finally, we get to The Nook.  I’ve been avoiding doing this for a long time, since it’s a big favorite here in St. Paul.  The Nook is perennially on “Best Burger” lists, and has periodically won awards for the best Juicy Lucy’s.  Located at a small site in Highland Park in St. Paul (492 Hamline Ave. South), The Nook is almost always spilling over with patrons.

There’s little about The Nook that I shouldn’t like.  It’s a nice smallish dive-y bar, with a focus on burgers.  In all honesty, the “dive” feel is more of a slightly yuppie idea of a dive, but since it’s not overly yuppie, unlike the St. Clair Broiler, it still can be a fun place to eat.  Unfortunately, though, because it’s always super busy I’ve never felt comfortable just sitting back and enjoying a few beers.  This place is definitely more for meals, so it fails on that note to be the “our place” for our quest.

The main menu items are burgers, of course.  This place has plenty of burger options, but the most popular is probably their version of the Juicy Lucy, The Juicy Nookie.  To be honest, I’ve learned that I really don’t enjoy Juicy Lucy’s anywhere.  They are way too over-rated.  Yes, gooey cheese inside a grilled burger sounds brilliant, but what you end up with is an over-cooked dry burger with cheese in the middle.  If you want gooey cheese, get the cheese on top, so that the burger can be cooked appropriately.

As such, I cannot fault The Nook for having an incredibly dry, tasteless Juicy Lucy.  I can fault them, on the other hand, for vaunting this burger.  It’s a sign about Nook fans that this is one of their favorite burgers.  It’s all style and little substance.  People think it’s good because people say it’s good.  Give me a juicy, spiced burger with cheese on the outside any day over a Juicy Lucy.

Unfortunately for The Nook, the other burgers aren’t all that good either.  Each burger I’ve had has been fairly tasteless.  There’s no bite from the griddle, there’s no juiciness, there’s little flavor.  Worse yet, every time I got cheddar on my burger, the cheddar was only slightly melted, so that it was a burger with a hunk of cheddar on top.  Maybe you do need to get a Juicy Lucy after all.

I’ve given The Nook a lot of chances and every time I’ve been disappointed.  The closest they came to being good was on my last trip when I ordered The Lodge Burger.  This burger is a “spiced” burger (chosen because it was specifically listed as “spiced”) with bacon, cheddar, tomato, and chipotle mayo.  I admit that it was decent, and even had a bit more flavor, but was still dry with an unmelted hunk of cheddar on top.

Luckily for that trip, we did take out.  If I can avoid going to actually eat at The Nook, I do.  I normally don’t like to complain about the service at restaurants, and once seated, the service at The Nook isn’t all that bad.  However, since it’s nearly impossible to get a table, getting the attention of the staff at the crowded bar in order to get put on a waiting list can be immensely irritating.  Every time I try it seems like the bartenders and waitresses have been trained to look away from anyone attempting to get their attention.

It’s a good thing the The Nook has a separate, larger location nearby with the same menu: Shamrock’s, at 995 7th St W.  Shamrock’s has a generic sports bar interior, but it at least allows for far more seating.  It’s a tad unfortunate that it is exactly the same menu, though, since the burgers aren’t good, and they have little else to offer.

And so, with that I wrap up my terribly written pan of a revered St. Paul landmark.  Overrated is an understatement for this place, but I’m certainly not going to be able change anyone’s mind on this (c’mon people, just try to defend the unmelted hunk of cheddar. I dare you).  But seriously, if you’re looking for good burgers in the Twin Cities, there are plenty of better options (e.g. The Convention Grill).

Cheers,
Charlie

The Quest for “Our Place” – Part 5 (or maybe not): The Nook

Wait, maybe I shouldn’t do this.  Everyone seems to love The Nook, even though their burgers extremely mediocre at best.  I might be lynched.

Okay, okay.  I’ll give them one more shot, even though I’ve had them more than five times.  I’ve heard good things about the Alumni Burger.  That’ll be their final chance. 

Cheers,
Charlie