Tommy’s Malt Shop in Chaska

Jill Lewis / Heavy Table

Jill Lewis / Heavy Table

As every employee’s T-shirt will tell you when you step into Tommy’s Malt Shop in Chaska, the restaurant’s goal is “making classic food great again.” Unfortunately, the shop — with the exception of some tasty malts — fails to live up to this promise. A more accurate description would be “making bland versions of typical American fare.”

It’s easy to get behind a concept like Tommy’s — after all, who doesn’t love malts? — and the ice cream-based drinks ($4.35 for the full size, $3.35 for the half size) are smooth going down the gullet. Though you can pick among flavors ranging from blueberry and raspberry to marshmallow fluff, you can’t go wrong with the classic vanilla and chocolate. The richness of the former doesn’t make you feel like you’re missing out by ordering such a simple malt, and the flavor of the latter is reminiscent of the frozen malt cups served at the Metrodome all those years. The half size is one glass worth of creamy goodness and is plenty if you’re not sharing, but if you think your dining companions are going to be stealing sips, it’s best to order the full size.

The restaurant’s stumbling point, however, is its food. While the merits of area burger joints spark endless debate on this website and in other publications, it would be hard to imagine anyone staunchly defending Tommy’s burgers ($5 and up). The thin, unseasoned patties fail to impress, and the hefty but blah buns tend to drown out the beefy taste anyway. Only by piling my burger with pickles was I able to discern any flavor coming from between the bread. The barbecue sauce on the Cowboy Burger lacked a depth that would have brought that burger to life, and if there were onion rings as promised, they were hard to discern. The child’s grilled-cheese sandwich and classic fries were serviceable, but the waffle fries ($5.65 for a full order, $3.65 for a half order) were a major disappointment — limp, almost soggy, and completely unseasoned. The salt shaker got a heavy workout at our table.

So when should you go to Tommy’s Malt Shop, if at all? When you’re craving a icy drink on a hot day or don’t want to end your date night too early, stop by for a malt or a sundae. Otherwise, satisfy your burger needs elsewhere. The Lions Tap isn’t far away.

BEST BET: The chocolate malt — spring for the full size. You’ll kick yourself if you don’t.

Jill Lewis / Heavy Table

Tommy’s Malt Shop

Old-fashioned malt shop in Chaska
2 River Bend Pl
Chaska, MN 55318
952.227.0263
OWNERS: Brett and Emily Geselle
HOURS:
Tues-Thurs 11am-9pm
Fri-Sat 11am-10pm
Sun 12pm-8pm
Closed Mondays
BAR: No
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED: No / No
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / No
ENTREE RANGE: $5-8.25

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Jill Lewis

The great-granddaughter of an Eastern European Jewish baker, Jill Lewis cannot escape her genetic predisposition to carbs. Her love of baked goods, wine, cheese and chocolate may not come in handy for her day job as a Twin Cities PR professional, but it proves infinitely helpful for her gigs as a contributing writer for The Heavy Table and the co-author of the Cheese and Champagne blog. A former resident of Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin and suburban Washington, D.C., Jill now lives with her husband, two young sons and cat in St. Louis Park.

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9 Comments

  1. I always like a good malt. Thanks for letting me know about this one. But, really – Lion’s Tap for a good burger? Everyone seems to rave about their burgers, but my experience was a tiny, dry burger on a bland bun with some wilted iceberg lettuce and a slice of tomato. I was seriously disappointed and would never recommend them for a burger. I’m open for suggestions of other places to go for a good burger.

  2. Pretty harsh on the food, Jill. It’s a malt shop. Were you expecting linen tablecloths and cloth napkins? The burgers are cooked — unlike Lion’s Tap, where they come medium-bloody-rare -– the old fashion buns are a rare treat, and unlike a lot of burger joints, you don’t need four napkins to sop up grease when you eat it. The sweet potato fries are delish and waffle fries are crispy. And did you try the spicy, intoxicating tomato soup? It’s a welcome relief on a cold Minnesota evening. For the only remaining restaurant in downtown Chaska, I think we’re spoiled to have Tommy’s.

  3. Actually Greg, if a business chooses to advertise “making classic food great again”, then it is not aspiring to be ‘a malt shop’. And considering that they only serve burgers and sandwiches, I do not think that it is a stretch to expect such an extremely limited menu to be cooked with some modicum of skill.

  4. I’d agree with Greg. Our experience was fantastic. The burgers were flavorful and some people, like us, like thin classic type patties. We both thought the buns were terrific. We especially liked how fast the food came. I wouldn’t say it was the best burger I’ve ever eaten but I can say for sure that I’d go back. My expectations of the food lined up exactly with the type of restaurant Tommy’s is.

  5. We happened upon Tommy’s this afternoon after a hectic day and ending up on 41 going through Chaska. We were surprised to find a number of tables and booths busy at 3 in the afternoon. We stopped and found one of the best small-town eateries that we have encountered in 20 years.
    The sandwiches (Honey-Grilled Cheese), Tommy’s Tomato soup and the great shakes were the best we have had in a long time!
    Service was also EXCELLENT, fast and friendly
    We will DEFINITELY go back, even make a special trip from southern Minnesota

  6. I thought that a malt shop that opened in December would certainly fail. I live directly across the street from Tommy’s. The restaurant is ALWAYS busy, no matter what time of day. They are, without a doubt, flourishing in downtown Chaska, when other restaurants have failed in the same location. The food is delicious, especially the sweet potato fries. The atmosphere is awesome and the staff are extremely pleasant. The food critic is wrong in her review.

  7. Tommy’s Malt Shop fell short of my praise today. A family friendly place with a simple but diverse selection of food items just proved to me again how a small town family restaurant can go wrong. The main culprit was grease. I was shocked today to receive my favorite Grilled Gourmet laden with grease. What used to be a delicious combination of flavors now had become a lard fest. Regrettably on this sunny day, I had also ordered sweet potato fries, a delicacy in these parts, which were not so delicate in their calorie content. I paid the bill knowing what I had gotten myself into was my own fault, but vowed to not return. With a little patience, my home food seemed a little more appealing.

  8. Our family ate at Tommy’s last night (6/2) for only the 2nd time in six months, hoping to have a better experience than we did when the Malt Shop first opened. Even thought the restaurant was not busy, two families came in after us and were served their burgers before us. When we did receive our food, the kids food was nice and hot, but the burgers and waffle fries were cold. We mentioned it to the waitress when she finally came around after the food was served, and she offered to tell the manager, but we never heard from anyone again. So that will likely be our last visit to Tommy’s for quite a while. And honestly, I think the burgers and malts at Culvers are as good or better than Tommy’s.

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