Last week I was skimming the local food news and came across Stephanie March’s writeup of a dock-side restaurant on Lake Minnetonka. Looking for something different and fun to do outside for the holiday weekend, I decided we should check out what March calls, “one of the best burgers on the lake.”
We arrived at around 12:30 on Sunday. We were lucky, during the week they don’t open for business until 5 PM but on the weekends they start at noon. The sky was blue; the water clear; and the gently rocking boats, separated by only a few half-rotting wooden planks for walking between the slips, were gorgeous and especially interesting to The Rooster who kept telling us we were on vacation. While definitely not a vacation in the traditional sense, we were definitely sitting on a lake, watching the sailboats drift by, something we cannot do in Apple Valley without a TV.
The deck that serves as The Caribbean’s dining room is large and filled with plastic tables and chairs. A few umbrellas dot the tables closest to the water. We took a seat closest to the kitchen, in the shade of the building, and watched as people much better off than us boarded their boats with children, friends, and dogs. Several people joined us on the deck for lunch, some with dogs, many just looking for what we were, a burger and time to stare quietly out at the waterfront.
The Caribbean’s menu is overly simple but a bit pricey for burgers and french fries. We ordered a cheeseburger ($8.75) which came with several cheese options (The Wife chose cheddar), the famous Caribbean Burger ($11.75) which comes with Swiss, American, bacon, tomato, and homemade BBQ sauce. When I ordered I was asked if I wanted raw, fried or no onions at all and I went with fried. All of their burgers are said to be 1/2lb but come with no sides. We placed an order for fries ($3.75) and a corndog for The Rooster ($4.00) for him to eat with the pile of other snacks and fruit we brought along with us.
While we waited for our food to arrive, The Rooster and I made our way through the boats as The Rooster yelled at the top of his lungs with excitement. When we made our way back to the restaurant, our server handed us a piece of stale bread and provided some specific instruction on where to throw torn pieces to attract schools of blue gills and sunnies into a feeding frenzy. This delighted The Rooster who got to try his hand at throwing leftover pieces of corndog and fries later.
The meal arrived as we were soaking up the bright sunshine and sailboats. The Wife’s burger was nothing special but was big, surprisingly large even for a 1/2lb and I would guess they were borderline 3/4lb on this day. The teenagers working the grill and fryer spent a lot of time smashing the burgers on the grill, something which would normally dry out any normal burger, but somehow these retained their juiciness and size.
The Caribbean burger, ordered medium-rare, came out closer to medium well and topped with two strips of bacon which were a bit overdone for my liking but, like the burgers themselves, were larger than life. The tomato was red, the pickles tasty, and the bacon crispy and flavorful. While this was no Nook, it was definitely a beast and required two hands and a lot of napkins to eat.
The meat was juicy and the cheese abundant and tasty but it really could have used a few shakes of salt and pepper. If the teenagers had a few more years under their belt perhaps they would know how to properly cook a burger to medium-rare and if that were the case, this might give any other local restaurant a run for their money. However, what the burger was lacking in flavor, the restaurant itself made up in history and location. I was really able to forget all about the fact that we were in Minnesota and concentrate on the boats and the water and pretend we were 1000 miles away on saltwater shores instead.
This isn’t going to be a regular stop for us but I definitely would love to go back and sit out and dream of warmer locales, wishing I could own one of those beautiful sailboats, and eat one of the heaviest and dreamiest burgers I’ve had in a long time. If you’re looking for something different to do on a summer or early fall weekend, I suggest you check out The Caribbean in Tonka Bay. While it’s not a transcendental experience by any means, it is a worthwhile trip for a burger and a day of sun and water.
Have you eaten at The Caribbean in Tonka Bay? If so what did you think? What are your favorite waterfront restaurants in the metro or beyond? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your thoughts.
The Caribbean Restaurant
110 Sunrise Ave
Tonka Bay, MN 55331
Monday – Friday: opens at 5 PM
Saturday – Sunday: opens at 12 PM
See all the pictures from The Caribbean in Tonka Bay on Flickr here.