Shortstop Bar and Grill (Coon Rapids, MN)
Shortstop doesn't come across as a family restaurant, because, at its heart, it's not. It's a place for a guy to drop by on his way home from work, have a brew, and maybe get something to eat. But in pursuit of good things to eat, we'll go pretty much anywhere.
We came in search of chicken wings.
Some time ago, we asked North readers where to find excellent chicken wings, and someone pointed us to the Shortstop Bar & Grill in Coon Rapids.
Wings are bar food, plain and simple. The classic Buffalo wing was invented in 1964 by Teressa Bellissimo at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY. Despite the searingly hot versions you can find almost everywhere, the original wing wasn't all that hot. Louisiana hot sauce gave it a little kick, but it wasn't devastating.
Shortstop's wings are in this traditional style. They have a bit of hot, but it's just enough to remind you that they're Buffalo wings. And yeah, they're good. They're plump and juicy, fresh out of the fryer.
We didn't like the packet of blue cheese dressing on the side, it being Kraft institutional fare. And we missed the celery.
Shortstop also serves really good burgers. Grilled right behind the bar where you can watch the action, these are hand-formed half-pound patties, and the meat is fresh and good. You can get them with cheese, sautéed mushrooms, lettuce and tomato, and bacon. You also have your choice of fried or raw onions -- we like both. The buns are sturdy, and big enough to stand up to these big burgers without falling apart or leaving you with no bun at all for the last bite.
Sandwiches are more hit-or-miss. The steak sandwich was nicely tender, and great with fried onions, but we wish they had cooked it rare like we asked.
All burgers and sandwiches come with decent French fries. You can upgrade to tater tots for $1, but the tater tots weren't nearly as tasty as the fries.
Get a side of onion rings, though. There's almost nothing better than a glass of beer and an order of beer-battered onion rings, hot from the fryer. If the portion were larger, we'd be in heaven.
We are hard on restaurants that cut corners by serving off-brand ketchup. Here we found Monarch Tomato Ketchup, which was almost as tasty as Heinz, which is the only decent ketchup.
The Upper Midwest is the world's capital of frozen pizza. We are the founding home of Jeno's, Tombstone, and the current popular favorite: Heggie's Pizzas. This Minnesota original is perfectly okay frozen pizza, we even liked the nicely spiced sausage. But at the end of the day, it's just frozen pizza.
The "fish and chips" are just the fish sticks you either learned to dislike as a kid or remember as comfort food. And the pre-packaged sauces they come with are not worth bothering with, either.
A little "homemade" would go a long way at the Shortstop. Tartar sauce and blue cheese dressing are simple to make. But we liked the burgers, and we'll be back for the wings.
421 Northdale Blvd
Coon Rapids, MN 55448
Service: Fast and friendly
Sound level: Not too loud
Recommended dishes: Chicken wings, burgers
Prices: Burgers and sandwiches $6–$7
Children: No special children's menu