The whole concept of a "concept" restaurant has always been a little strange to me—isn't every restaurant a concept restaurant? Perhaps the only exceptions are the soulless corporate giants microwaving their premanufactured food, though millions of people get behind that concept every day.
The Lodge Sasquatch Kitchen is a recent addition to a group of concept restaurants opened by chef Aaron May and his colleagues at Lettuce Turnip Beets Restaurants. The others include May's Counter Chicken & Waffles in Tucson and several restaurants in the Phoenix area. The idea behind Lodge Sasquatch is to conjure the hunting-fishing-ski lodge vibe, and it definitely works, though it feels more like a sports bar than a lodge at times, with a multitude of TVs at every turn.
On both of our visits, the restaurant was packed. The first night, it took only a moment to be seated but the second night came with a 20-minute wait, which wasn't terrible since we didn't have reservations. Just be prepared to wait a bit if you go on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday evening. However, the wait for the food on our second visit became a bit ridiculous—more on that later.
The restaurant is into lodge décor in a big way, with game trophies, antler chandeliers and log cabin-style walls—the servers even wear plaid lumberjack shirts. The service on both of our visits was attentive and friendly. Plates were cleared, glasses were never empty and we felt well taken care of. If only the food had been so consistent.
The menu at the Lodge is the perfect size—not too many choices so as to be overwhelming but not too few that picky eaters can't find something to satisfy their palate. The focus is on classic American comfort foods, so there are burgers, sandwiches, mac and cheese and meatloaf, and plenty of deep-fried goodies to choose from.
The prime rib of beef au jus ($18.99 for the 12-ounce cut; $24.99 for 18 ounces) and the barbecue chicken and ribs combo ($23.99) that Ted and I enjoyed on our first visit were good enough. But they were unremarkable, as were the white cheddar cheese curds that we started the meal with ($6.99). The sides were much the same—I picked the twice-baked potato and Ted went with the baked mac and cheese, and the vegetable of the day was carrots (on both of our visits). The prime rib was medium-rare, as requested, and was juicy, but lacked flavor and seasoning. The mac and cheese wasn't really cheesy, and although the twice-baked potato filling was fine, the potato shell was a bit undercooked. And it lacked proper seasoning. The barbecue ribs and chicken were the best part of the meal—both meats were moist and fall-off-the-bone tender and the barbecue sauce had a little kick.
The food was much more hit-and-miss on our second visit. Out of sheer curiosity, I was tempted by the monstrosity that must be the Sasquatch burger ($15.99), which is served between two grilled cheese sandwiches instead of a bun. But reason got the better of me and I went for the LSK burger with bacon, fried onion tidbits, LTO and your choice of cheese ($9.99; I went with cheddar). Ted ordered the fried walleye ($17.99). Thank goodness we decided to order the blue cheese fries ($6.99) to start, because it took more than 30 minutes for our entrées to get to the table.
The blue cheese fries were delicious and could easily feed a small army— they were covered in blue cheese and creamy sauce, topped with chopped green onions and served in a giant bowl. They're extremely filling, so order with a friend and save room for your entrées, which also come in large portions. When the entrées finally arrived, mine was mostly disappointing—the burger was well-done (I ordered it medium) and very dry despite the cheese, LTO and condiments I kept adding in a desperate attempt to make it edible. The sweet potato fries, however, were absolutely excellent and Ted's walleye was delicious (though his regular fries were limp and a bit chilly by the time they arrived at the table). The fish was flaky, moist and cooked through, and the batter was nice and crisp and had great flavor.
Lodge Sasquatch has an excellent drink selection (Moose Drool on tap, yummy), and a creative cocktail menu, though all of them tend toward the sweet side—even the Sasquatch ($6): gin, grapefruit juice, St. Germaine and soda. Desserts are also plentiful, and creative, and really, really tasty. We tried the half-baked chocolate chip cookie ($5), which was so insanely delicious that I would return solely on the basis of eating that again. And the Velveeta cheesecake ($7), which sounds downright bizarre, was actually quite tasty, though I couldn't get past the texture.
If the Lodge can put as much effort into making the quality of the food consistent as it has into the design and development of the restaurant concept, it will be a great addition to an area that desperately needs more restaurant choices.