One friend of mine referred to Edina as “the bougiest.” It’s home to round-the-clock highway congestion, the area’s only Cheesecake Factory, and much of Target’s and Best Buy’s mid-to-upper management. It’s Agrestic in the first season of Weeds. It’s an easy definition, yes, but it’s easy because Edina has no other definition.
So, let’s try to make one.
Let’s use a sock-hoppy malt shop off some loony main street, where the wait staff is done up like Grease extras and everything’s checkered inside. The plates are the opposite of small, the consumption’s the opposite of conspicuous, and the money’s the opposite of new. Less for more? You’re getting the opposite in this diner.
Let’s use the Convention Grill. It opened in 1934 and keeps the old-time spirit alive in “Spraytanistan” 80 years later with all-white unis and throwback flavor. Start your city tour here, and tell the Joneses to kiss your ass.
The Basics: The website captures their interior perfectly and gives you information without the fluff. Websites like TripAdvisor and CitySearch refer to it as “Convention Grill and Fountain.” Don’t fall for it.
When I told co-workers I was coming here, one man said “One order of fries will be enough” and nothing more.
During our drive to Edina, Minnesota was preparing. It was Saturday night. The meek readied for the coming storm the way most would for an air raid; the strong just skipped shaving. Somewhere, it was decided that calling this a “polar vortex” would draw the masses’ attention and create a sense of hysteria. All I knew: One order of fries will be enough.
The Convention Grill is at the top end of a weird France Ave. stretch, a straight shot up between a pair of brick-and-mortar circus trains trapped in place. Maybe it was the persisting Christmas lights, or maybe we just saw its Edina-nity first. There was a royal compound for sale (or was it a queerly-shaped apartment complex with spaces for sale? Who could tell?), then a row of painfully average houses (What is this, Coon Rapids?!), then a business block or two, then the Convention Grill.
From the outside, it looks like a movie theater; from the front entrance, it looks like Mickey’s Dining Car plowed into the side of the restaurant and just stayed there. My wife and I were led to the seating area, an oddly-shaped room made into a riddle by its glass adornments. Reflections bounced off mirrors and windows like superballs; on various attempts, I counted anywhere between two and eight waitresses on duty.
There were 1-4 young ladies working and 1-4 elderly women, one of which took our first round of orders – a full-sized Oreo milkshake for the missus, a full-sized Reese’s milkshake for me. She took her notes to the kitchen while we discussed our generational gap. I slid under the door into Generation X just before it snapped shut; my wife is well into Gen Y. Neither of us would have married a millennial. They’re the worst kind of anything. Lion’s Mane Jennyfish are more bearable than most millennials.
The shakes are humongous.
They don’t say “full serving” sarcastically here. The shakes come in large glasses, filled over capacity, with a large tin cup on the side. The extras therein would be most restaurant’s “full servings.” Neither shake was crunchy or chewy to the point of hassle, but my wife was overwhelmed by the peanut butter flavor of mine. The man who will sit and spoon P.B. out of a jar into his mouth had no complaints, but be warned: If you order this with a peanut allergy, there ain’t an epipen on Earth big enough to save you.
Our California cheeseburgers and order of fries arrived shortly after. The man was right, and he didn’t need to say anymore.
The California burger at the Convention Grill wasn’t much different than that of Kings Place in quality, but they were nearly opposite experiences between the pick-up and first bite. Whereas Kings Place serves you a volatile stack of dynamite, and biting into it may require a stunt double, the Convention Grill slides you a neatly-piled cheeseburger. I’m talking a Mad Men two-piece of a Cali burger. All you need is a pack of Lucky Strikes (it’s toasted!) and you’re there.
The bite is equally clean. The veggies weren’t soggy, the burger was moist and ground well, and the bun didn’t get leprosy halfway through. There’s danger in these dishes, though. Portion control is not to be overlooked – our suggestion is to split a shake and fries. Even then, the clean-plate club here is a membership dearly paid.
Of course, caution-free gluttony might be the only way you can feel more American than you will eating that big, fat cheeseburger in that little, doo-woppy room. It’s a classic, the type of model Edina doesn’t typically keep in stock. It’s diners like this that make it possible for you to experience a different Edina than the one with a Lululemon obsession and reusable Byerly’s bags. Try it out, sometime – if you haven’t yet, you might just enjoy the city with the lit-up malt shop.