While I usually hate having layovers in airports, for some reason I really enjoy spending some time at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. One of the reasons is the good food at Axel's Bonfire, a restaurant in the main terminal.
The main terminal at Minneapolis-St. Paul is sort of like the terminal at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport. There are a number of shops and restaurants throughout the building. It looks more like a shopping mall than an airport terminal. There's a trendy ladies clothing store called Radio Road, a Nevada Bob's golf pro shop, and a Harley-Davidson store. And throughout the airport, there are nearly 50 different restaurants, cafes, deli's, fast food and specialty food outlets.
It's been awhile since I'd been to Minneapolis-St. Paul International and I had a three-hour layover after coming back from France this summer. After a night of about two hours of sleep, a 4 a.m. wake up call, a 4:30 a.m. trip to the airport in Lyon, then about 10 hours of being on a plane (with a layover in Amsterdam), I was ready for some good old American food. The walk from customs thru the terminals to Axel's Bonfire is quite long, but it was worth it to me. Although it was 12:30 in the afternoon in Minneapolis, it was 7:30 p.m. body time. Food and beer is what I needed.
Axel's Bonfire at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport is actually part of a family of Axel's fine dining restaurants around the Twin Cities. There are five Axel's restaurants, while there are six Axel's Bonfire restaurants in the area, not counting the one at Minneapolis-St. Paul International. The Axel's Bonfire restaurants feature American-style cuisine with a touch of Southwestern flair. Many of Axel's Bonfire's selections are cooked over an open fire using Mesquite. They offer everything from steaks and seafood, to pizza and sandwiches. If you can't find something good to eat on an Axel's Bonfire menu, you're probably not too hungry.
The history of Axel's Bonfire and Axel's restaurants began in 1996 when Linda Young and Chuck Burrows opened the first Axel's restaurant in Mendota - Axel's River Grille - which formerly housed the old Parker House restaurant that both Linda and Chuck used to work at years before. Linda named the restaurant after her father Axel Young, who was a long-time maintenance man at the Parker House restaurant. Later, Young and Burrows opened their second restaurant - Axel's Steakhouse - in the former Riviera restaurant, a long-time prestigious restaurant in the Twin Cities.
Over the years, more Axel's restaurants opened and the Axel's Bonfire concept became a reality. Young and Burrows began to franchise the Axel's restaurants, but continued to give direct support to the franchisees. Earlier this year, Young and Burrows sold the Axel's restaurants and Axel's Bonfire locations, as well as as all franchise licensing, to the Twin Cities-based Nath Companies which is involved with restaurant, hotel and real estate holdings in the area.
The Axel's Bonfire at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport was typically busy that early Sunday afternoon. I found a place at the bar and the waitress got me a cold beer and a menu. As I said, the offerings at Axel's Bonfire are plentiful with soups, sandwiches, seafood, steaks, salads, pasta, pizza - about anything you want. I went with the old reliable - the Bonfire Burger - a 1/2 pound fresh ground burger topped with in-house smoked ham slices, roasted red peppers, mushrooms and swiss cheese. I got an order of fries on the side.
It wasn't much more than 15 minutes later when my burger showed up. It was cooked to a perfect medium and the roasted red pepper, smoked ham and mushrooms really added a great taste kick to the burger. After eating rich and very good food in France the previous few days, it was good to get some good ol' American food in my gut.
I've yet to eat at any of the other Axel or Axel's Bonfire restaurants in the area, but I'd really like to give them a try sometime down the line. If they're as good as the one at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, then the food has to be top notch.