Shantytown is the secret of the suburbs everyone knows

Posted on Jun 3, 2020

There is a secret in the city of Bloomington, Minnesota. It’s not well-kept, but it’s still a secret, and requires you to go out of your way to discover its truth. On a side road, nestled between a tire shop and a roofing business, is the Shantytown Grill. Inside you’ll find delicious hamburgers and cheap beer, hidden away from the rest of the world, known only to people who were willing to poke their head down this little road. 

Well, it’s not that secret - it’s been voted as one of the best bars in Bloomington by multiple publications, some going as far to declare it the best in the state. I feel like that’s a vote we can trust. This is Minnesota, after all; only Wisconsin could rival our love of a decent beer in a nice bar where you can get a hot burger to go with it. And there’s little doubt in our mind that Shantytown is one of the best places to do exactly that, even if we here at Eggware.XYZ don’t really drink beer.

So come with us as we initiate you into the dark secret of the suburb of Minneapolis. Once you’re over the glamour of the Mall of America, and you’ve escaped through the trial of the bunches of frickin’ hotels, you’re ready to see the real side of Bloomington. Which is mostly indistinguishable from the other suburbs of Minneapolis. And the roads aren’t as good as Richfield’s. So just hit the jump, and enter the hidden sanctum…

brilokuloj: Hi, it’s me from the future! The photos in this article were taken long before Covid. I was writing this article because I was running out of things to write about and I was under the perspective that quarantine would be lifted soon. Ha ha!

As mentioned already, Shantytown is a little off the beaten path, but getting there is no problem. The real problem is parking there. The parking lot for Shantytown is very small, and it can only hold eight cars total. This means you’ll find a lot of people parking on the street out in front, or even in front of people’s houses! Obviously this is uncouth in the extreme and we highly advise against it.

A neon sign declaring the soup of the day to be Pizza

The interior of Shantytown is extremely homey. Tile floors, simple wood tables and chairs, and plenty of wooden booths with straight(!) backs. Like any good pub, there’s plenty of bar seating available, if you’re there by your lonesome or just there for a drink. Plenty of bar-standard decorations dot the walls; beer brand neon lights, beer brand mirrors, and Christmas lights. There is a street sign for “Corona St.” hanging over the bar, which, uh, I bet they’ve taken that one down by now.

They also, some nights, would do karaoke. We haven’t been lucky enough to show up for it.

Getting to the menu, you know what you’re here for: burgers. And burgers they have, with plenty of variations, some a little more experimental than others. If you’re in the mood to keep it plain, they serve plain burgers, cheeseburgers, and bacon cheeseburgers; if you want to mix it up, they have a wide variety of house burgers to try. These range from the basic, such as a breakfast burger with egg and ham, to the more experimental. You can try a “Cool Ranch” burger with ranch dressing and fresh mushrooms, or the “Outback” burger which has green salsa, pepper jack cheese, and cactus. The most popular burger is the “Shanty” Burger, featuring cheddar, swiss, guacamole, and bacon.  

Hot wings

But you don’t have to stop at just burgers. Shantytown offers a variety of other sandwiches as well such as turkey, chicken, and roast beef. They even serve seafood, offering a fish and chips platter as well as a fried shrimp combo. If you’re in the mood for something lighter, a variety of wraps, soups and salads await you. And of course, classic appetizers like chicken wings or cheese curds are always available.

Our go-to orders at the Shantytown are the Shanty ($8.50) and the Breakfast Burger ($8.75), both of which have the right level of balance in composition to be something truly great. The concept of the “hamburger restaurant” has reached critical mass in America, with almost every “American-style” place to eat loading their menus up with a massive variety of the sandwich, but Shantytown is exactly what a real hamburger restaurant is supposed to be. It’s down-home, simple, and unpretentious. They are not serving hamburgers because they believe it is the next best thing in cuisine. They are serving hamburgers because they’re simple, fast, and they taste good with a beer. 

A breakfast burger

And the burgers are very good. They’re juicy, they’re salty, they’re big, and will leave you wanting another each time. The burgs come with chips by default, but you can upgrade to fries, tater tots, or onion rings for an extra price. Don’t think that you’re getting ripped off with just chips, though! These are definitely Old Dutch Rip-L chips, some of the greatest potato chips out there in the market. We’d recommend shelling out the extra dollar-fifty for the fries, though. 

Shantytown has been one of our favorite quick stops for a good meal at a great price. This is a local local place, I mean really local. This is the kind of place you can become a Regular at. This is the kind of restaurant where the servers will not only remember your face and your preferred order, but will ask you how your family’s doing and wish you a happy birthday.  What’s better than that? You can spend the same amount of money at Five Guys and not even get a hello.

Small, intimate restaurants are the kind of place that need your business during the pandemic. People not being able to go out, drink a beer, and hang out with their friends is detrimental to their mental health. It’s in everybody’s best interest to keep sit-down restaurants afloat, until we can all get together again.

Categories: food

Tagged: hamburgers