Traveling along Highway 52 between Rochester, MN and the Twin Cities, I've seen a small roadside place near the small town of Coates by the name of House of Coates. A large sign near the establishment along a four-lane stretch of the road touts their burgers. On a trip to the Twin Cities recently, I decided to stop in and try one of their burgers. (Picture courtesy Bill Roehl.)
House of Coates is a little roadside bar/restaurant on a frontage road outside of Coates, which is an small town just south and east of Rosemount. (see map) There are a couple ways to get to the place when you're heading north on Highway 52. You can get off on the highway at the Minnesota Highway 46 exit and take the east side frontage road to the place. Or if you pass it, there's an entrance to the frontage road that you can take about a quarter mile north of the place that allows you to double back. (If you're heading south on Highway 52, take the Highway 46 exit, take a left to go across the bridge to a left turn on the east frontage road and there you are.)
The House of Coates started in 1962 when Ed Bohn bought a little roadside gas station and opened a bar/restaurant next door. His kids, Mike, Kathy and Patty, all helped out running the place. When Ed decided to slow down about 25 years ago, he ended up selling the place to Mike and his wife, Kim. Kathy and Patty, along with their husbands, as well as a slew of other Bohn relatives and descendants work in the place.
Pictured right - Mike and Kim Bohn. (Picture courtesy apple valley-rosemount patch.com)
House of Coates has been on my radar since first reading about the place in Minnesota Monthly magazine about four years ago when they were named one of the top burger places in the state. Their Swanee Burger - a half-pound hand-pattied burger topped with grilled onions, American cheese and bacon with an option of blue cheese dressing - is House of Coates signature burger. But they also offer noon-time specials, grilled chicken and pork tenderloin sandwiches and a series of appetizers including their homemade onion rings.
From the outside, House of Coates doesn't look like much. The weathered boards on the top of the place give it a rustic, yet somewhat rundown look to the exterior. However, walking in the door reveals a clean and cozy, pine-wood paneled dining room with subdued lighting. The dining area features two levels with booths on top and a series of larger tables on the lower part.
The bar is to the left as you walk in. I decided to take a seat at the bar and I was greeted by Kim Bohn who gave me a menu and told me of the lunch special that day. Suddenly, someone called out from the kitchen area behind the bar to let her know that the lunch special was gone for that day, which I believe was a pork loin dinner. Kim was sort of surprised when she heard that, then shrugged her shoulders and said, "OK, well, disregard what I just said. The special went pretty quickly today!"
That's alright, I was there for the burger. I almost went for their mushroom-Swiss cheese burger, but I decided to try the signature Swanee burger. When Kim came back to take my order, that's exactly what I told her I wanted. She asked me if I wanted blue cheese dressing on the burger and I asked if I could get it on the side. No problem with that. She tried to tempt me into a half-order of their French fries, but I declined. The burger would be enough.
The burger took about 15 to 20 minutes to come out to me. It came on a small plate with a dill pickle spear. The bun was thick, but it was very light and airy, almost spongy to the touch. The burger had an ample amount of grilled onions on it underneath a couple slices of American cheese and three small pieces of crispy bacon.
It was slightly overcooked from the medium I had ordered. I think of medium as having some pink in the middle, but there was just a small bit of pink in the beef. But it was still juicy and flavorful. The bun was a nice compliment to the burger, once again furthering my belief that a good bun is the key to a good burger.
I tried a little bit of the blue cheese dressing on a couple bites of the burger. The chunks of blue cheese in the creamy dressing were large and zesty in taste. While I wouldn't have wanted blue cheese in every bite of the Swanee burger, it was a nice compliment to the taste.
Kim Bohn came back and asked me how the burger was and I gave her a thumbs up. Overall, the burger was good, but not one of the best I've ever had. It would have probably gotten an honorable mention in my recent Best Burger List, but probably wouldn't have gotten a higher ranking. Maybe I would have liked the Swiss/mushroom burger better.
The Swanee Burger was certainly a good value, though. It was $6.99 for the burger and it was filling. I'm glad I didn't get the fries, but the onion rings that a guy a couple seats over had ordered looked pretty good. I usually don't go to the Twin Cities along Highway 52 all that often, as in - maybe - three or four times in the past 10 years. But I would like to stop back into House of Coates and try the Swiss/mushroom burger at some point. I may have to take that way home from the Twin Cities sometime in the future. It was a pretty cool place to visit.