- 1. Long-time readers may take what I say with a little salt knowing my propensity to be particularly nitpicky about quality. Please note that in this case I purposefully lowered my standards in hope that it would improve the overall experience for everyone involved. Let’s call it “The Grand Experiment!”
2. There were four adults, we all ordered burgers with fries (either standard or sweet potato) and thus we did not get a very good cross section of the menu. For this I apologize in advance.
Last night Joey and his family accompanied mine for a reunion visit at Ernie’s Pub & Grille, the location which previously housed the now defunct Chateau Lamothe. Being that we had a lackluster experience at the Chateau, we were looking forward to seeing what Burnsville’s newest restaurant had to offer.
Open less than a week, ernie’s is attacking Burnsville’s restaurant market full force and offers breakfast, lunch and dinner menus seven days a week. According to their website, Ernie’s Pub is meant to provide you comfort foods for a “fair” price. Well, looking over the menu and the options provided for dinner, it appears they live up to that mantra with dinner prices ranging from a low of $6.95 for a basic burger (with fries) up through $22.95 for a large cut of prime rib (Fridays and Saturdays only).
We arrived at 5:30 to a mostly full bar and a very empty restaurant. We were seated in the restaurant section and the staff was extremely helpful in getting us the necessary seating arrangements setup for four adults and three toddlers. We were waiting for Joey’s family and our drink orders were taken while we looked over the menu. While I already knew what I was going to have, The Wife gave the menu another once over and made her choice as well. Eventually the entire gang arrived and we all placed our orders.
Joey and The Wife went with the Hickory Burger which is described as a 1/2lb “signature beef patty” served on a Kaiser roll for $6.95 with the option for bacon (+$1.50) and cheese (+.75). Joey went for the regular burger and The Wife added cheddar to her’s. Joey’s wife and I went with what Ernie’s Pub notes is becoming their most popular burger, “Ernie’s Specialty” Oscar Burger. This $10.95 burger has a lengthy and ridiculous description which is too good not to share word for word:
Steak Oscar took a left turn at 35W and ended up as this unique burger featuring our classic burger patty topped with crab and béarnaise sauce on a Kaiser Roll.
In addition to the burger I also placed an order for “Hot” wings and bleu cheese for an additional $6.95.
My wings came out and were numerous but looked anemic and sad. The bleu cheese dressing was runny and tasteless. I picked a couple off my plate and gave them to The Wife to try along with me. I bit into one, then two, three and four before I was able to get one wing’s worth of meat. The overcooked and dry wings were more hard skin and bone than meat. The wing sauce was the usual Frank’s with not enough butter. I passed the plate to Joey, and I never give up wings without a fight, and let him try one just to find out what others thought. The Wife told me they were pretty awful and Joey noted they were simply “FDA approved” something he says when it’s not very good. Overall the wings were absolutely miserable to eat and I would feel bad feeding them to a starved wild boar. In fact, they were so bad I would have rather received microwaved and previously frozen, day-old wings from Pizza Hut than these. Yeah, I didn’t know that was possible either. Seriously, factory-farmed chickens living in their own filth and grime, growing until their large bodies cannot be supported by their tiny legs, and dying by the thousands in unthinkable and likely inhumane ways should not have to give up their lives and have their remains treated in this way–I really think they were better off alive than in my mouth.
Eventually our burgers came out. When they first brought them to us (remember I set my expectations low) I was quite impressed. The 1/2lb burger patties looked big, fat, and hand formed. While I forgot to ask for mine to be cooked properly (medium rare) the char on the outside was nice and The Wife’s appeared to be covered in a thick slab of nicely melted cheese. There were healthy servings of fries to accompany all the burgers and I must admit, even if my expectations had not been reset to the level of say Burger King, I would have still been nodding my head in excitement.
Now, I have had a couple of Steak Oscars in my day and while I wasn’t expecting a revelation in burger eating with a slab of ground beef underneath instead of a nice cut of steak, I figured the crab and bearnaise would really kick it up a notch. Unfortunately my burger missed the mark in each and every single possible way–even at Burger King standards.
The burger was overdone, even for medium. It was medium-well on the verge of well-done. Most of the juices which were lucky to survive the overcooking leaked out of the patty and onto the plate where the bottom bun soaked it up leaving a soggy mess. The meat itself had zero flavor. And when I mean zero, I mean if I had closed my eyes and been asked to blindly tell someone what I was eating I would have told them that I didn’t have the faintest idea. While Ernie’s gets points for a big patty that was hand-formed, they lose about 1914 for serving THAT.
Well, being that I was in a forgiving frame of mind I thought to myself, “Maybe they’re trying to give diners an opportunity to taste the crab and the béarnaise sauce!” So I took the bun off the top, grabbed 1/4 of the tiny bit of lump crab on top and popped it in my mouth. Chomp, chomp, chomp. Weird. Now, bernaise is a cousin of Hollandaise and doesn’t use lemon juice. However, this bernaise tasted only of lemon. So either Ernie’s loads the lump crab on top of a burger with lemon juice or they don’t have any idea what a bernaise sauce is supposed to be. Either way, this burger wasn’t offensive aside from the $11 I paid to eat what may as well have been grilled sawdust with some onions and tomatoes.
I wasn’t the only one to order a burger but everyone at the table tonight had the exact same complaint. There just wasn’t any flavor to the burgers. They weren’t seasoned and even the toppings just didn’t taste like anything. In fact The Wife’s cheddar topped burger, which isn’t at all possible not to add at least some flavor, was similarly tasteless. Known for being particularly forgiving of restaurants, I was honestly a little surprised when she openly admitted that it just wasn’t very good.
Now, as I stated in my happy little disclaimer above, it’s probably not really all that fair to judge a restaurant serving a pretty varied menu by only eating their burgers. And while I felt really bad about it when we placed our orders, I am currently thanking our lucky stars that we did not blow our very limited restaurant budget on something like a $22 bacon-wrapped filet or a rack of “in-house” smoked ribs (I didn’t smell anything of the sort inside or out FWIW). If a restaurant can’t make a decent tasting burger of all things, I really have some seriously doubts about their ability to cook just about anything else.
Now, the saving grace was the service. Our server was pleasant, attentive (in a busy restaurant of four tables), and kind to us even after running away to the kitchen when I replied with my standard, “I’ve had better,” when asked how my meal was. However nice as she was, the manager or owner (I assume) who later stopped by the table to ask what we thought and followed up with a “well is there anything else I could get for you which you may enjoy instead?” to which I replied, “I doubt it.” After that I thought the proper followup would be, “well what could we have done better?” Instead he too ran to the kitchen and did not come back or even apologize for food which I wouldn’t feed to my worst enemy.
Overall, even with the lowest expectations of the low, I found Ernie’s Pub and Grille to have some of the most tasteless food I’ve ever eaten. In fact, I’m not even going to tell you not to eat there. Instead I am going to go so far as to recommend that you do rush out there right now because there is absolutely no way that you could ever have a worse experience than what we ate last night and I beg you to try.
Ernie’s Pub & Grille
14351 Nicollet Ct
Burnsville, MN 55306
Monday – Sunday: 7 AM to Close
See all the pictures from Ernie’s Pub & Grille on Flickr here.