Up in the Minneapolis recently, I was staying out toward Eden Prairie on the city's southwest side. I was looking for a place to get something to eat so I did a quick search for a brew pub or a beer bar - something that had a good beer selection along with food. I came upon something that caught my attention - the Prairie Tap House located in the Eden Prairie Center shopping and entertainment complex. I took off to go check out the Prairie Tap House.
Gene Suh grew up in the Twin Cities and ended up in New York City working as the director of a Wall Street financial firm for a number of years. The money market was a grind for him and he ended up moving back to Minneapolis - just before the market took a deep dive in 2008. Wanting to do something completely different than working with investments, he got to talking with his longtime friend, Ryan Burnet, who was in the process of opening the first Barrio restaurant in Minneapolis with business partner Tim Rooney. (Click here to see the Road Tips entry on Barrio.) Suh decided to look into opening his own restaurant.
The jP American Bistro had closed its doors in 2008 and Suh set his sights on opening a new restaurant in that space on Lyndale Ave. in Minneapolis' bustling Lyn-Lake neighborhood. In September of 2009, he opened the Lyndale Tap House, a different type of burger and beer joint than others that were opening in the Twin Cities. Suh had a full kitchen staff - headed by chef Phil Dvorak whose previous stops were at Axel's Bonfire (now known as Bonfire Wood Fire Cooking) and at restaurants within the Blue Plate Restaurant Group (whose restaurants include The Lowry, Groveland Tap, and Edina Grill) - and featured an open charcoal pit grill and a more upscale menu. It was similar to the gastropubs that Suh had enjoyed when he lived in New York.
The Tap House concept worked so well that he opened a second location in far south suburban Apple Valley in the fall of 2011. Situated in a former sports bar, the Valley Tap House featured many of the same menu items and broad beer selections as the Lyndale Tap House.
In the summer of 2013, Suh took over what was a former T.G.I. Friday's in the Eden Prairie Center and he opened the Prairie Tap House in September of 2013. In addition to the Tap House restaurants, Suh was also involved with Whisky Park, a cowboy bar he started in downtown Minneapolis in the fall of 2010, until he sold his interest three years later. (Whisky Park closed about a year later.) And Suh also owns the very popular Hammer & Sickle vodka bar that opened in the fall of 2013, as well as The Fremont, a sports bar/dance club that he opened a little less than a year ago in Minneapolis' Uptown neighborhood.
I pulled into the Eden Prairie Center off Flying Cloud Drive and took a right to go around the perimeter drive to find the Prairie Tap House. I should have taken a left as I went all the way around the shopping complex before finding the place on the north side. (see map) I went in and was greeted by a hostess who wanted to know if I wanted a seat in the dining room or to sit in the bar area. The dining area was laid back and rather quiet with a few diners seated in booths or at tables. The bar area was much more vibrant, so I opted to sit in there.
I ended up sitting at the large rectangular bar so I could watch both baseball and hockey that they had on the flat screen televisions above the bar. One of the reasons the bar was so vibrant was that I soon found that they were playing Blingo - a local Twin Cities-produced game that combines trivia and bingo. I was greeted by one of the bartenders, Shane - a muscular guy who had a friendly demeanor. They just happened to have Kona Big Wave Golden Ale available on their beer list and I took one of those. Just because they had my favorite beer available, I already liked the place.
The menu at the Prairie Tap House consisted of upscale burgers and sandwiches including Baltimore-style pit beef sandwiches. They also have a number of soups, salads and appetizers, as well as a handful of specialty entrees including Phil Dvorak's take on mac and cheese - called Shells and Cheese on the menu - that features pasta shells baked with a combination of Wisconsin cheddar cheese and smoked mozzarella, along with scallions, smoked bacon, peas and bread crumbs. They also had an interesting pomodoro dish with chunks of walleye, shrimp, tomato and basil, topped with mozzarella and shaved parmesan in a red sauce.
Shane was very busy at the bar and I was ready to order dinner at one point. Trying to get his attention to place my order was another thing. I finally waved a menu in front of him when he was walking past and was able to get him to take my order. The bar was too large and too busy for just two bartenders that evening.
I ended up getting the Tap House Meatloaf - 10 total ounces of meatloaf slices made out of ground pork and ground beef cooked with a glaze made from sweet peppers, then topped with onion straws and fresh chopped parsley, and served on a bed of mashed potatoes with a sirloin gravy. The meatloaf had sort of a sweet and savory taste quality to it. It was a bit dried out, but the sirloin gravy helped liven it up a bit. The onion straws - always a favorite of mine - were a nice touch to go along with the meatloaf and mashed potatoes.
The only problem with the meal was that I was out of beer and I wanted another one. Shane was busy and he saw out of the corner of his eye when he was hurriedly mixing drinks that I needed another one. He sort of nodded toward me and about a minute later he swooped into the cooler to grab another Big Wave Golden Ale. "This one is on me," he said. "Sorry to keep you waiting for another one." I was satisfied with that.
For kind of not really knowing what I was getting into with my visit to the Prairie Tap House, I have to say that I was more than happy with the food I got that evening. The meatloaf was a hearty meal - good comfort food for a guy like me who needs comfort food from time to time. The service I received from Shane was acceptable - he was very busy at the bar and while I wasn't in any large hurry, it did take him some time to get my order taken. As I said, the bar was too big and too busy for just two guys to man. But my experience at the Prairie Tap House was enjoyable enough that I'd visit any one of the Tap House locations in the Twin Cities again with no reservations about doing so.