Recently I met up with MSPD for lunch at a place I have been passing but not stopping, much like the recently reviewed Windmill Cafe, Wally’s Roast Beef. Open since 1969, this is a Bloomington lunch-time institution and one that I had been repeatedly told to visit.
MSPD suggested earlier in the week that we arrive at 11:15 so as, “to beat the rush,” and so we did. I had The Rooster along with me as The Wife was out of town and so we sat down at one of the many empty tables and waited. As the two of us waited the line started forming from the counter and led out the door. The clientele was nearly 100% blue collar and service industry people. National Guardsmen, nurses, a lone City of Bloomington employee dressed in a reflective orange vest, etc.
Wally’s menu is extensive but includes a variety of simple items such as their three colored plate specials (red, blue, and green) offered every day, their insanely inexpensive daily specials such as pork tenderloin or BBQ beef sandwiches, and a variety of sides including potato salad and french fries. But even with all of that, their trademark are the roast beef sandwiches they have been slinging for just over 40 years.
Being that I was hanging out with The Rooster I asked MSPD to order for me. I wanted a half order of their blue plate special (hot roast beef sandwich with gravy, mashed potatoes, and vegetable for $5.69), potato salad side, and a meat loaf sandwich. Unfortunately MSPD ordered me instead a red plate special (meatloaf sandwich) only. MSPD also ordered their red plate special but grabbed an order of potato cakes along with it. In addition to their excellent sandwiches they have a large variety of canned and bottled beverages including several diet and caffeine free versions which was quite pleasing.
My meatloaf sandwich with gravy, mashed, and veggie was exactly that. Nothing special here including the meatloaf or the bread. If you’re looking for some modern twist on a home-cooked diner favorite, well, you’re in the wrong place. The meatloaf was tasty but the gravy definitely drowned it out. The bread was tasteless but the mashed potatoes were definitely good and obviously were as ‘real’ as they claimed on the menu. The corn was served in a plastic cup with a heavy dose of liquid in the bottom and after eating a few bites I poured it over my remaining mashed potatoes and cleaned the plate. After I finished, with MSPD commenting on how fast I ate it, I sat staring at the partial menu posted on the wall of the dining room and decided I couldn’t leave without tasting a signature roast beef sandwich.
I placed the order for two sandwiches (MSPD didn’t take much convincing to order one for him too) with au jus and a root beer for me. I was quite surprised, even after staring at the prices on the menu, that the bill for the two sandwiches, au jus and drink came out to be just under $9. The order was up quickly and I headed over to pick up BBQ sauce and horseradish sauce for the sandwiches and then went back to the table. MSPD had mentioned the horseradish sauce felt as if there were chunks of the root in there and a quick finger test confirmed his claims.
The roast beef on the sandwiches were not evenly distributed between the two. MSPD had about twice as much on his as I did but the meat was rare and looked good. The bun was nothing special at all but did well to soak up the copious amounts of BBQ and horseradish sauce I put on top. The sandwiches reminded me of what Arby’s commercials make their sandwiches look like–nice firm buns and roast beef and not the smashed final product you usually receive. While the sandwich was fine but definitely in no way worth the $3.50 price tag but if I were in the mood for Arby’s at lunch time I’d much rather go there instead as at least I know I’d be supporting a local business. While the sandwich was nothing wonderful, the horseradish sauce carried enough kick to clear out my nostrils even though I am a hardcore addict for the stuff (quite similar to my obsession with chilies). While you can get “horsey sauce” at Arby’s, it has been dumbed down to fit the tastes of the majority of Americans and Wally’s has kept the standard where it belongs.
Overall I was pleased with almost everything about Wally’s Roast Beef in Bloomington and I will definitely be back again and again for lunches when time and schedules permit. While their signature item didn’t really do it for me, they have plenty of other options which are good and with such a steady flow of business at lunch, they have to be doing something right. I suggest that if you can find the time in your day that you head over to Wally’s Roast Beef to check it out. 40+ years proves you won’t be disappointed.
Wally’s Roast Beef
Southtown Office Park
8120 Penn Ave S
Bloomington, MN 55431
Monday – Saturday: 11 AM – 3 PM
See all the pictures from Wally’s Roast Beef on Flickr here.