In St. Cloud on a recent visit, I did some training for one of my dealers in the area and I offered to take them out for some food and beer. The owner suggested we go to a place in which they put in the sound and video system - Boulder Tap House. I'd gone past Boulder Tap House a few times on my previous visits to St. Cloud and always wondered about the place. I was more than happy to take them there to try the place out.
The Boulder Tap House is under the corporate umbrella of the Letnes Restaurant Group located in St. Cloud. Brothers Steve and Curt Letnes opened the first Grizzly's restaurant in St. Cloud in 1995 and expanded their restaurants to a total of 14 locations in Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin. The Letnes Brothers, along with Rich Proctor, also own Poncho and Lefty's Tex-Mex Grill in Baxter, MN. In 2007, Kent Letnes - a son of Curt Letnes - opened his own restaurant venture under the Letnex Restaurant Group banner, Milwaukee Burger Company. They now operate three locations of that restaurant in Wisconsin.
Most of the Grizzly's locations were in strip malls around the upper Midwest, but the group decided to abandon those locations for free standing buildings. The Grizzly's at Crossroads Center shopping mall in St. Cloud was shut down and the liquor license was transferred to their new venture, the Boulder Tap House that had taken over a what was the old Timber Lodge Steakhouse location on the south side of St. Cloud. (see map) The Boulder Tap House opened in 2011 and a second location opened in Mankato later that year. A third Boulder Tap House opened in the Brainerd/Baxter area in 2012 and I was told by my dealer that they were working on a fourth Boulder Tap House location in Superior, WI that is scheduled to open sometime later this year.
Managing partner Ray Herrington had a table ready for us when we walked into the Boulder Tap House around 7:30 p.m. The place was sort of packed because they were debuting a new beer from a local Twin Cities brewery that I wasn't familiar with, Fulton. It's a small brewery that was started five years ago by four college buddies in a one-car garage. I had their IPA and it was pretty good.
The Boulder Tap House is primarily a sports bar. A number of flat screen televisions as well as large projection television were throughout the place. My dealer was telling me that they did the audio and video switching system, taking me into a back area by the kitchen to show me the myriad of satellite receivers, switching devices and video boxes that controlled the video at Boulder Tap House. It was a pretty impressive system, I have to say.
The Boulder Tap House concept closely follows the Milwaukee Burger House concept - over 40 beers on tap (including Kona Longboard Lager and Capital Supper Club, two of my favorite beers), over-the-top burgers, and a number of higher end appetizers. Looking through the menu, I saw that they had 15 specialty burgers including the aptly named Defibrillator - it was a double cheeseburger topped with cheese curds and smokehouse bacon, then topped with lettuce, tomato, pickles, relish, jalapeño peppers, banana peppers, sautéed mushrooms, fried onions, and something they call Burger Co. sauce, which I think is sort of a spicy ranch-style dressing. You could also make your own Tap House burgers that consisted of a choice nine different cheeses (including house-made cheese curds), four different types of bacon (including a pepper bacon and jalapeño bacon), eight toppings as diverse as Pabst Blue Ribbon-sautéed onions, fried egg, onion straws, banana peppers and fresh avocado, and a half-dozen different sauces.
My dealer decided to start out with a number of appetizers which included spicy chicken quesadillas, spicy chicken lettuce wraps and two different types of wings - one batch with a habanero and mango sauce, and the other that were blackened. He really likes the lettuce wraps and I tried one and it was good. It had enough of a zippy spice on the chicken to get your attention. I did try a couple of the habanero and mango chicken wings, as well as a couple of the blackened chicken wings. I thought the sweet and spicy taste of the habanero/mango wings was a nice combination. While the habanero sauce didn't burn your face off, the fruity mango taste on the backside made sure of that. Actually, I thought the blackened chicken wings were more hot in terms of spiciness than the habanero/mango wings.
The guys decided that they wanted to get some burgers after the appetizers were finished. I had no problem with that. I went with one of the specialty burgers - a muenster cheese, bacon and mushroom burger. One of the guys went with a stuffed jalapeno burger with jalapeno fries. My dealer went with the Swiss/mushroom burger with Burger Co. sauce. And one of the guys - a hulking kid by the name of Mike - went with something he called the "Big Assed Burger". It was basically two different specialty burgers put together - the Defibrillator (which I described earlier) and a stuffed jalapeno and peanut butter burger. This one I had to see to believe.
Our food came out and here is what the Big Assed Burger looked like. It was three burger patties - half pound each topped with melted cheese and peanut butter. Warm peanut butter is pretty disgusting to me, but this was an interesting burger. I was more intrigued if he could eat the whole thing. "Don't worry," my dealer told me. "He'll kill it."
Here's the stuffed jalapeno burger one of the guys had. It came with onion straws on top of the burger patty and a mess of sliced jalapenos with the burger. I like a good jalapeno burger from time to time, but that may have been a little too much for me to handle.
One of the guys got a burger with both Swiss and cheddar cheese on top of it. I asked him how if one cheese overpowered the other. "Beats me," he said. "I just like the taste of the combination on these burgers."
And my burger was topped with sliced sauteed mushrooms, then topped with a thick slab of muenster cheese, then topped with pepper bacon. The burger was very good. Cooked to the way I like it - medium with a hint of pink in the middle. The bun was good, too. It held together well as I got through the burger. It was a very good burger.
I couldn't decide on getting fries or onion rings on the side, but I ended up getting the onion rings on the advice of my dealer. And they were just all right. I don't think they were made in house, but I wish I would have seen that I could have gotten onion straws instead.
Let's check back with Mike on the Big-Assed Burger. Here he is making a significant dent in the burger. He is a big kid, but not fat in any way.
And he ate the whole thing - along with the sweet potato fries he had AND some of the extra onion rings that we had ordered for the table. Oh my GOD!!! I was impressed. The kid could definitely eat. I asked him why he didn't use any of the Burger Co. sauce and he said, "It just gets in the way of the taste of the peanut butter and jalapenos." I had to laugh at that.
After dinner, one of the guys wanted to get one of the milkshakes they feature at the Boulder Tap House. They use premium ice cream and feature vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, caramel and banana shakes or malts. And you can have any combination of those flavors in one. They also have other shakes that feature additives such as Oreo cookies, Butterfinger, caramel mocha and peanut butter. They also feature adult milkshakes with choices of Kahlua, creme de cacao, creme de menthe and vanilla vodka as part of the shakes. He just got the basic vanilla shake with a large cherry on top. And they brought out the remaining shake in the metal mixing can. He finished the shake in the tall malt glass and then finished what was left in the mixing can - which was about a third full. There was some impressive eating going on that evening.
I have to say that my first visit to the Boulder Tap House was enjoyable enough that I'd have no problem going back if my dealer's guys wanted to go back there at some time in the future. My burger was very good, the beer selection was top notch, if there was a sporting event on at the time they had it on one of their televisions. And the service was very good, as well. I was very impressed with the Boulder Tap House. And very impressed with the eating display that went on there, as well.