I had to break my rule about going north of the Iowa/Minnesota border before April 1st on a recent trip up to the Twin Cities. One of the reasons for the trip was to meet with a potential new dealer I came in contact with at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year. He suggested we meet for lunch at a sports bar not far from his office - JJ's Clubhouse in suburban Golden Valley. It turned out I'd been past JJ's Clubhouse many times in the past, but had never been into the place.
JJ's Clubhouse has been around since 1992 serving up a menu that consists of your typical sports bar food - burgers, appetizers, sandwiches, salads, soups, and pizza. JJ's also serves breakfast on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Getting to JJ's Clubhouse is actually pretty tough if you don't know the area. Even though it has a Wayzata Blvd. address, it's actually on the north frontage road from Interstate 394 that used to be Wayzata Blvd. years ago. Coming from the east, you get off at Xenia Ave. and circle your way back through some office complexes to get to JJ's that fronts I-394. Coming from the west on 394, you take the Louisiana Ave. exit, head across 394 and take the first right. The road curves around to JJ's Clubhouse. (see map) I knew the area from calling on a pro sound account just down the road off Louisiana Ave.; and when Ultimate Electronics was in business, their training facility and warehouse was just a block away.
I was a little early for our meeting, so I took a seat at the bar just as you come in the door. JJ's Clubhouse immediately reminded me of another Twin Cities area sports bar that I've frequented many times over the past couple three years, Bunny's (click here to see my entry on Bunny's). The bar area was large with a square bar, and tables and booths lined up on either side of bar area. A number of flat panel televisions were interspersed throughout the dining and bar areas.
My guest for lunch finally showed up and he stood and talked with the hostess for a moment. It turned out that this was his "hangout". He knew everyone in the place. In fact, when the waitress came by to greet us, she gave him a little playful hard time and wanted to know if he wanted "the usual". You know you've been coming to a place a lot when they pretty much know what you want when you come in the door. I guess I don't eat at any one place enough for people to know what I want to eat before I sit down. He told the waitress, "I probably will, but I'm going to let him look through the menu."
He told me that his office wasn't far from JJ's and that he was in the place, "conservative estimate, probably 75 to 80 times a year."
We sort of started our business meeting at that time and I didn't get a real good chance to take a close look at the menu. They had a couple lunch specials that I wasn't interested in and I didn't really want to fill up too much on a burger or something heavy. They had a French dip, but I thought that might be too messy. I could just see spilling au jus on my sweater. A Cuban sandwich always piques my interest until I tell myself that I'm not in Miami. Tuna melt? Naw... Club sandwich? Maybe... They had something called the Gumby chicken sandwich that was touted as one of their clienteles favorite - a grilled chicken breast sandwich topped with Canadian bacon and Swiss cheese, finished with a smattering of shredded lettuce and pico de gallo.
I finally decided upon the Italian grinder - sliced turkey and pepperoni topped with melted Swiss cheese and Italian dressing served on a ciabatta bun. I got a choice of chips, fries, cole slaw or a cup of their homemade soup of the day. That day it was chicken tortilla soup. I signed up for that.
My guest's "usual" was a bowl of chili with a glass of iced tea. He told me, "The chili here is outstanding. Some of the best in the Twin Cities." I almost changed my mind for a cup of the chili instead.
But I was glad I didn't because I thought their chicken tortilla soup was just as outstanding. It had large chunks of tender chicken in a light tomato broth with crunchy taco strips on the top. It had a very good flavor and I wished I would have gotten a bowl of it rather than just a cup.
My sandwich was also pretty good. It featured a large amount of sliced turkey and spicy pepperoni on the grilled ciabatta bread. The Italian dressing helped zip up the taste of the sandwich and I honestly couldn't complain about anything concerning my meal. It as a very good lunch.
We talked business almost all the way through lunch - my guest was a talker, that's for sure. I didn't get a chance to take any pictures because - well, it would have been rude to take my phone out, interrupt my lunch guest while he was talking, and take pictures of my sandwich. Take my word - it was a good sandwich.
I don't know if I'm going to be doing much - if any - business with this guy. But one thing I do know is that JJ's Clubhouse has come into the mix of sports bars that I enjoy in the Twin Cities. It may not be as intense as Joe Senser's, but it had a homey, neighborhood feeling to the place - sort of like Bunny's. The serving staff was all friendly - at least the ones that came around to give my guest a hard time. I liked JJ's Clubhouse a lot and can see myself spending more time there in the future. (Photo courtesy Tripadvisor)