3801 Grand Way, St. Louis Park, 952-224-9494
Review published December 2004
CERTAIN THINGS IMPROVE WITH AGE: good wine, Stradivarius violins, Sean Connery. They take on character and grow comfortably into themselves. The authentic neighborhood tavern, or public house, falls into this category, calling to mind a boisterous room with a roaring fireplace, hearty food, and flowing taps—a place where everybody seems to know each other. So the idea of a new public house in the squeaky-clean complex at St. Louis Park’s Excelsior & Grand, inhabited by the sort of women who never leave the house without lipstick, is something of a mental disconnect.
McCoy’s location—inner suburban, just an onion ring’s toss from Uptown—may explain its feel. It’s up a notch from Chili’s or T.G.I. Friday’s, but it’s certainly no Café Barbette. To its credit, McCoy’s has eschewed the chain ambiance that’s hell-bent on color and chachkas and flair. There are blaring televisions at the bar, but the other rooms feel unobtrusively sedate: deep booths, olive walls, mahogany wood, a gas fireplace, and, oddly, an enormous mug shot of a heavyset skater punk chomping on a cigar. McCoy’s attracts a mix of ages, though perhaps not of all class and status, as the website suggests. Young adults sit on barstools drinking house-brewed beers, while the restaurant fills with couples, families, and retirees knocking back vodka gimlets in lieu of mingling with others to discuss the issues of the day.
The kitchen offers far more than Buffalo wings and free popcorn, featuring home-style American foods and a few items that certainly aren’t utilizing old family recipes and childhood memories, unless you grew up noshing on lobster spring rolls. The more ambitious dishes actually work better than many of the basics. The changing seafood specials are a good bet, such as the firecracker shrimp appetizer: creamy cheddar jalapeño grits served with a tangy Asian-style barbecue sauce and four meaty prawns.
As for the comfort food, British mothers apparently don’t own the bragging rights on mac ’n’ cheese; the texture was not as creamy and butter-soft as the homemade version is meant to be, and it had a rather artificial twang. The chicken tenders were generous hunks of moist meat covered with crunchy breading, but they were served with gummy gravy that tasted as if it had been flavored by the World’s Oldest Ham. The BLT salad was similarly anemic: skimpy on bacon and dressing and in violation of the cardinal rule of BLTs—don’t bother serving one with a so-so tomato. The bright red and yellow slices tasted mealy and bland. McCoy’s tomato soup was much better, as was the barbecue sandwich, filled with sweet sauce and salty meat fused with onions and cheese. Hopelessly sloppy, but good.
The staff is friendly and energetic, but you can tell McCoy’s recruits personnel in the Minnesota Daily classifieds. With time, the servers may improve—and they should if they’re carrying $10 appetizers. For now, this is a decent bar with inconsistent food. And hopefully the video ads in the restrooms will go the way of Connery’s toupee.