I don’t much like exercising. I like eating, not burning off what I eat. So the idea of going to the gym to eat is a bit of a mental workout for me.
Still, the newest good restaurant in the southwestern Twin Cities is the Herb Box, inside the Eden Prairie Lifetime Fitness. (No membership required, although members do get a 10-percent discount). Lifetime’s corporate president has a home in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he visited the two original Herb Boxes, and he talked the owners into coming to Minnesota. I don’t know what it’s like in Scottsdale, but here there’s something weird about paying high prices (dinner entrees are in the low $20s) at a restaurant that doesn’t have its own entrance—and is in a gym.
That said, the butternut-squash enchiladas were incredible. Fresh red pepper and cotija cheese danced with the butternut squash inside a corn tortilla, the flavors melding together perfectly.
Actually, I liked nearly everything I ate here. I especially enjoyed the sweet-and-spicy Thai barbecue baby-back ribs, eaten as I gazed through translucent curtains at the action on the indoor tennis courts below. And I’m still thinking about that side of creamy smoked-gouda mac-n-cheese. The fried edamame was another treat. The crispy shell had a really nice flavor, and my 5-year-old downed half the giant bowl of beans. Also good were the wild-mushroom risotto cakes, which struck the right balance between smoky-mushroom flavor and the creamy risotto.
The service was pleasant, if not exquisite. (We had to ask for plates for our appetizers.) However, sometimes a restaurant’s ambiance is just tough to get past. For example: there’s no sign identifying the Herb Box outside of Lifetime, so I ended up driving all around the parking lot looking for the entrance to the restaurant.
And although you don’t hear any of the workout action, when we ordered the sweet-potato chips, our server told us they were coming off the menu because the gym’s humidity made the chips soggy. Not appetizing.
All in all, the restaurant itself is beautiful and the food is quite good, but when it comes to the ambience and vibe, like my own fitness regimen, parts of the Herb Box need to be whipped into shape.
The Herb Box, 755 Prairie Center Dr., Eden Prairie; 952-829-8484; theherbbox.com
Jason Derusha is a reporter for WCCO-TV.