I can't quite remember how I found out about Sandy's Tavern, an old time neighborhood tavern in the south Twin Cities suburb of Richfield. But I've had it on my list of "Restaurants to Visit" that I have bookmarked on my computer for quite sometime. I had to go to the Twin Cities for a trade show and some dealer visits. It turned out that Sandy's was about a five minute drive from the hotel I was staying at in nearby Bloomington. I decided to head there as soon as I pulled into the Twin Cities that particular evening.
Sandy's has been around since 1933. There was a guy by the name of Sandy who did run it (I couldn't find Sandy's last name), and he opened the business in a self-built farm house outside of Minneapolis. Actually, during Prohibition, Sandy had planned to open a speakeasy disguised as an old farm house. But Prohibition was repealed not long after he opened and he turned the former illegal watering hole into a legitimate business. As the Twin Cities grew, more of the rural land surrounding Sandy's was gobbled up and it is now located just south of the intersection of W. 66th St. and Penn Ave in Richfield (see map).
In 1980, Eric and Deb Ericson bought Sandy's, installed a flat grill and a fryer and began to make burgers, appetizers and other sandwiches. Sandy's signature burger is their Olive Burger - a burger topped with green olives and sour cream. They also have the "Sizzler" with jalapeno slices, chipotle mayo and pepper jack cheese. But their regular burger is what they're known for. Sandy's has won numerous "Best of" awards over the years for their basic burger.
I pulled into the parking lot on the south side of Sandy's just after 8 p.m. It's a small building that does look like it probably was an old farm house that had been added on to at some point. They had a large Grain Belt Premium sign over the back door to the restaurant. I immediately liked the place.
I went in and first sat in one of the booths along the south wall of the place which looked like it hadn't been renovated since the 60's. Then I discovered that they had a flat screen television on a wall near the bar that had a ball game on. As Kevin, the long-time bartender at Sandy's, came over to check on me, I got up and asked if I could move over to the bar. "Sure," he exclaimed. "It will save me from walking all the way over here to take care of you." Kevin turned out to be quite a character.
After I got situated at the bar, Kevin asked me what I wanted to drink. I asked if he had any Summit or Surly products available. "Nope," he said curtly. "Nothin' like that." Sandy's is truly a tavern - Blue Moon and Killian's are about as exotic as they get when it comes to beer selection. But since both are owned and brewed by Coors, they aren't all that exotic. I looked over at the tapper and saw that they did, indeed, have Grain Belt Premium available. I had one of those. I used to drink a lot of Grain Belt Premium years and years ago. It's not bad beer, but there are many others that I've grown to like more over the years.
I took a look through the menu after I sat at the bar. In addition to their Olive Burger and the Sizzler, Sandy's Tavern also has an Egg and Bacon burger, but they scramble the egg rather than fry it (I guess I could have asked if they could fry the egg instead of scramble it). They also have a Mushroom Swiss burger. For those with a hearty appetite, you can order any burger as a double.
I decided on getting the Mushroom Swiss cheese burger and asked Kevin if I could get bacon with that. He asked if I wanted any fries with the burger - Sandy's is evidently known for their French fries - but I passed and said that the burger alone would do me fine. He put the order in with Cassie who was cooking that evening. Cassie could be described as being nerd/chic with a tall body and thick-rimmed glasses. Since it wasn't busy in there that evening, it was about 15 minutes between the time I ordered and when Cassie brought out the burger in a basket.
Sandy's Tavern gets their ground beef from Swanson Meats, the largest beef family-owned beef processor in Minnesota. They use a good mixture of beef and fat to give their burgers a signature juicy taste. They used canned mushrooms instead of fresh ones - a minor quibble in my book, but certainly not a deal breaker. Two pieces of bacon were criss-crossed on top of the burger which had a thick slice of melted Swiss cheese covering it. A couple three hamburger dill pickle slices were beside the burger in the basket when it was presented to me.
The burger did have a good taste to it. I'm not certain it was award winning in my book, but very good, nonetheless. The bun was very good on its own and helped with the overall taste of the burger. Sandy's has no food utensils - you use your fingers for everything - so napkins are readily available within an arms reach anywhere in the bar. Between the gooey cheese, the mushrooms falling off the burger, and the juicy nature of the burger, it was easily a five napkin burger for me.
I soon found out that Sandy's doesn't take credit cards, but that was fine with me. The beers were cheap and the burger with the bacon added came to $6.50. I handed Kevin a $20 and asked for a receipt. He sort of laughed and said, "I can give you a receipt on a napkin!" I told him not to worry. He was a good guy.
Sandy's Tavern is one of those old time places that isn't pretentious, they're pretty straight-forward for what they are, and have good bar food at a good price. The burger was good, not great, but good. Definitely above average, that's for sure. But the atmosphere of Sandy's is a nod to a simpler time when people gathered for beer and burgers, things that people continue to do today. Sandy's is close to where I like to stay in the Twin Cities and I know I'll be back at some point to get another burger and to relax with a glass or two (or three!) of Grain Belt Premium.