Just because you can take a twirl around the rink without doing a face plant doesn’t mean you’re ready to play right wing for the Wild.
Likewise, just because you’re a revered U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer, former Gopher and Minnesota North Stars player, coach, and general manager doesn’t make you a restaurateur -- even if you partner with McDermott Restaurants (the folks who own three Rojo restaurants and Ling & Louie’s). That’s the life lesson learned from dinner at Lou Nanne’s in Edina.
The restaurant sits adrift in the Centennial Lakes office park, a location that springs to life during the weekdays when all the worker bees are in their cubicles. But at night and on weekends, the location seems eerily deserted, with the sprawling parking lot bereft of cars.
Step inside the former Romano’s Macaroni Grill and you’re greeted by the host – and a poster-size picture of Nanne in his player heyday. The decor is quintessential steakhouse, with dark wood, upholstered booths, and dim lighting. While the hockey motif isn’t as in-your-face as it would be in a sports bar, there are reminders sprinkled throughout, including a framed jersey and more photos paying tribute to the restaurant’s namesake.
While the environment and the prices put you in the fancy steakhouse state of mind, the food brings you right back to reality: You are eating an over-priced dinner in a former chain restaurant in an office park.
Granted, the restaurant doesn’t call itself a steakhouse, but rather an American grill. The menu looks a lot like one at a steakhouse though, with a focus on large pieces of meat, like a 14-ounce Hawaiian Ribeye steak and a 22-ounce bone-in ribeye, priced at $33 and $53 respectively.
There are also burgers, sandwiches, and flatbreads, ranging in price from $11 to $19, as well as some outliers, like a guacamole appetizer and a chicken enchilada.
When the restaurant debuted in March, it garnered generally good buzz, largely due to the efforts of opening chef Josh Hill, who ran the kitchen at Manny’s Steakhouse for seven years. Hill has since departed to become part of the team at Madison Hospitality (the group behind Handsome Hog), and his absence shows.
My dining companion joked that the theme of the review should be “mushy.” And that is, sadly, an apt description of our dining experience.
We started with the fried calamari. The mealy coating had refused to adhere to the rings of cephalopod, which could have benefitted from a bit more time in the fryer. Even worse was the texture of the calamari itself. It was almost gelatinous, reminiscent of lutefisk without the lye. It was so bland that the only redeeming part of the dish were the two dipping sauces, a spicy mayo and a sweet, vaguely Asian option.
Our server was polished and personable, steering us to the house specialties section of the menu for our entrees. We opted for the pecan-crusted walleye and the prime rib, a recent addition.
The coating on the walleye was soggy and flavorless, and it was drowned in a jarringly sweet maple buerre blanc – with more on the side. Unexpectedly, the kale salad that accompanied the fish was the best thing on the plate.
The garlic- and herb-crusted prime rib lacked any trace of garlic or herbs. The meat sported more than an average amount of fat, and had a strange (dare we say mushy) texture. At $27 for a 10-ounce cut, you want that beef to be mouthwateringly tender, juicy, and flavorful. This was not. The side of sour cream mash was a gummy mass of bland spuds that had been cooked too long and whipped past the point of light and fluffy right into paste territory.
For dessert, we went with the house special, Key Lime pie. It looked great, with the whipped cream piled sky high, but lacked any discernable citrus tang. The pistachio crust was the winning component of this dish.
Our meal unfolded at a breakneck pace, food arriving at the table with a speed normally associated with a burger order at McDonald's. Entrees were served disturbingly quickly, making us wonder if they had been sitting under heat lamps waiting for someone to order them.
The whole experience was one you associate with a packed restaurant that wants to turn a table, except there were plenty of empty seats available on our Saturday night visit.
Seldom am I angry that I spent my time and money on a meal. My dinner at Lou Nanne’s was one of those times. With a dinner tab for two coming in at close to $100 without booze and before tip, there is a certain expectation, if not of originality, at least of competent execution. Neither was on display.
Lou Nanne’s American Grill
7651 France Ave. S., Edina
Monday through Thursday 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Friday 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Saturday 4 p.m.-11 p.m.
Sunday 4 p.m.- 9 p.m.