Big Buck Roadhouse (Minnetonka, MN)
By Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
Big Buck is a family restaurant with an upscale feel. The service is friendly but unpolished. There's a reasonably-priced wine list, and some fun cocktail specials. The menu has options for both conservative and adventurous diners, as well as more casual burgers and pizzas.
Chef Eric Scherwinski, late of Lord Fletcher's and the California Café, offers a number of dishes that will entice even the most widely-traveled diners. We expected to find something other than the usual beef-chicken-fish trifecta here, and we haven't been disappointed. From leg of lamb to Cornish game hen to venison and buffalo, we're delighted with the depth of this menu.
The buffalo tri-tip is tender and tasty. It comes with sautéed mushrooms, green beans, and an absolutely delicious sweet corn pudding. Actually, no matter what you order, ask for the corn pudding on the side.
We also liked the barbecued beef short rib, a large bone that was slow roasted and coated with a nice sauce. The cole slaw was okay, and the French fries were fine. If we came back, we'd ask for some corn pudding instead.
The seared yellowfin tuna came seasoned with chili and cumin. It's an absolutely standard flavor mix; if you've ever had anything blackened during the great craze for that, you'll recognize the spice mix. This came with a scallion risotto cake, which was good but also spiced which didn't help cut the plate's hotness at all.
We didn't care for the walleye. The almond coating strongly overpowered the fish. And the shrimp and scallop risotto, served with grape tomatoes, asparagus, and arugula, was surprisingly salty, more so since we found ourselves salting several other dishes. We'd always rather salt to taste in those restaurants that offer salt at all.
To start, we recommend their venison chili. It's made with plenty of ground venison, and comes topped with cheese and scallions sprinkled on top. Another good starter is the smoked flatbread with grilled salmon. The salmon was fresh, and was accompanied by hard-boiled egg, mayonnaise, and capers. Think classic caviar garnish with salmon instead of fish eggs, and you have the general idea. It's huge, and good for sharing.
You can share a basket of onion rings, too, but you might want to eat them all yourself. Not pre-made and frozen; they're cut and cooked by hand in the kitchen. The house special sourdough batter gave them a distinct taste, and if you like sourdough, they're good.
With the onion rings -- or anything else, for that matter -- ask for the home-made ketchup. We know and love Heinz (which is also available) but the house ketchup is exceptional.
The desserts are uniformly tasty; our favorite was the deep-dish apple pie.
Despite a few misgivings, we enjoyed our meals at Big Buck's Roadhouse. It can be pricey if you have an appetizer, entree, dessert, and drink, but also can be cheap if you order a sandwich or pizza. The ability to do both at the same table makes it a nice destination restaurant for couples, families, and friends.
Atmosphere: nice family restaurant
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