Woody's (Rockford, MN)
There's no rule that says a summer getaway must involve hours of travel. There's lots to do right here in Hennepin County. Make a day of it at Lake Rebecca, or camp at Baker Park. Borrow a canoe and run the Crow River. And while you're out that way, drop by Woody's on Main just off Hwy 55 in Rockford. This is one of the better small-town taverns we've found in quite some time.
Grab a booth and order a round. They've got several beers on tap -- Labatt's Blue, Summit Pale Ale, Leinie's Honey Weiss -- plus the usual mass market bottles and cans. Best of all, they've got 1919 Root Beer on tap. Order onion rings while you look the menu over. These are thick rings, perfectly done, tender, and not overcooked to the point where they turn into strings that pull out of the batter. There's nothing more discouraging than an empty ring with no onion in it.
The dinners all come with soup, choice of potato, bread, and a surprisingly nice salad. We appreciated the homemade croutons, the sweet peppers, and the fresh mushrooms, though we would have liked some fresher looking lettuce.
The fries are a bit of a disappointment, being some sort of batter-dipped idea. Please, bring on plain potatoes, and serve 'em hot. Perfect french fries aren't that hard to do.
The walleye filet was delicious inside its almost industrial-strength crunchy coating. We'd order this again.
The Southwestern chicken sandwich, a basic chicken breast topped with pepper jack cheese and red peppers, was quite a bit better than we expect from such a menu staple. The sauce is terrific. It's a homemade mayo concoction with jalapenos, peppercorns, a dash of tequila, and some lime. Marvelous.
The steak sandwich was an oddity. We always want onions and mushrooms with our steak, and it's served that way, which is great. But unfortunately it was overcooked, and that made it a little tough. The presentation was several smaller chunks of steak piled on toast, which made it one of those "sandwiches" one eats with a knife and fork.
The soups are all homemade, and change daily. The chicken vegetable soup we had was good, filled with corn, mushrooms, peppers, carrot, and celery, with big fresh-tasting pieces of chicken.
If the weather's fine, take a table on the patio out back. But if it rains, you'll be all set: they've got pool, electronic darts, and foosball -- all the sorts of things that'll amuse your cranky family whose picnic just got rained out.
Play the MP3 jukebox, which has amazing variety, enough to please everyone. Your kids may notice the less-radio-friendly rap choices are sanitized for a family audience, but we think that's part of what makes Woody's a great drop-in spot.
Tuesday nights, the special is all the fresh-baked homemade pizza you can eat, and all the domestic beer you can drink, for $6.95 a person. That's a great deal.
One caveat: It can be a little smoky.
6030 Main St
Rockford, MN 55375
10 am -- 10 pm every day
Atmosphere: Small town bar, families included
Service: Friendly and fast
Sound level: Can be loud when they're crowded
Recommended dishes: Southwest chicken sandwich, onion rings
Prices: $6–$10 for sandwiches and dinners
Smoking: Allowed everywhere, because it's all technically a bar
Wheelchair accessibility: Yes
Children: No special menu, but they're kid friendly