Zimmy’s in Hibbing

Eric Faust / Heavy Table

Eric Faust / Heavy Table

Editor’s Note: Zimmy’s is now closed.

On Sunday, the weathered Iron Range town of Hibbing concluded its Dylan Days festival with a celebration of Robert Zimmerman’s 68th birthday. The four-day jamboree in the boyhood town of Bob Dylan had a literary showcase, bus tour, singer / songwriter contest, and birthday party. And as Dylan fans showed up from around the world, Zimmy’s — the Bob Dylan-themed restaurant in the heart of downtown — was the center of activity.

Concert announcements, photographs, signed guitars, and T-shirts adorn the walls. A couple blocks down from Bob Dylan Drive, Zimmy’s is destination restaurant for music fans who want to munch away in a shrine-like environment. The question that Linda Stroback-Hocking, one of the owners of Zimmy’s, is always asked is: “Has Dylan been to the restaurant?”

“He was in town for a funeral one time,” she says. “He and his family parked the truck down the street and were on their way over, but as soon as he saw the cameras he was out of there.” Dylan has never set foot in the restaurant, but Linda has been fortunate enough to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with him at a funeral and meet his son Jakob, of the Wallflowers, while in California.

Linda is a Dylan fan through-and-through, and notes: “Bob was destined to go off and write music like I was destined to stay here and run Zimmy’s.” Her passion for Dylan is seen on the walls of the restaurant and in the catchy names on the menu like Time out of Mind Combo ($8.99), Forever Young Veggie Burger ($6.99), North Country B.L.T. ($6.59), and Simple Twist of Steak ($11.99).

The concept is quaint, but what about the food? The overall quality of the salads, pizzas, burgers, and sandwiches offered at Zimmy’s is poor at best. The Margarita Chicken Salad ($8.99), has white wilted romaine blended with a symbolic amount of flavorless chicken breast, mandarin oranges, pecans, and a sweet strawberry / raspberry vinaigrette. In the middle of winter in a small northern Minnesota town wilted lettuce can be expected, but on Bob Dylan’s birthday with visitors from around the world?

Eric Faust / Heavy Table

Eric Faust / Heavy Table

The Highway 61 Pizza ($8.29) was no better. Four slices of pizza served with a side of dried-out cantaloupe and pineapple was far from the beauty of driving up Highway 61 on the northern shore of Lake Superior. The pizza had a flavorless crust that was dry and tasted of uncooked flour. Topped with dried-out meat and unripe tomatoes, it was better than the salad, but far from satisfying. Shiitake and portabella mushrooms were supposedly on the pizza, but were void of taste. It makes more sense to eat at Sammy’s Pizza down the street, and visit Zimmy’s just to sit at the bar for a beer.

Eric Faust / Heavy Table

Eric Faust / Heavy Table

Here’s the problem with that plan: If you want to hear a Dylan song you might have to feed the jukebox. The restaurant is founded upon the legacy of Dylan’s music, but in the middle of the afternoon on his 68th birthday the music changed between Carrie Underwood and bass-thumping club music. The servers didn’t even mention that it was his birthday. The food might taste better with Blonde on Blonde or Blood on the Tracks playing in the background, but having to drop a few bucks just to listen to a Dylan song in a Dylan-themed restaurant makes the meal that much less enjoyable.

Eric Faust / Heavy Table

Eric Faust / Heavy Table

Fans from Brazil, Norway, England, Ireland, and Japan have come to Zimmy’s and not for the food. They come to eat a Reuben Hurricane Carter or Love and Theft Coconut Chicken, wishing that Dylan would walk in the door while they are sitting at the bar. It has not happened yet and there is a good chance it won’t happen ever. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Dylan said, “That town where I grew up hasn’t changed that much, so whatever was in the air before is probably still there. I go through once in awhile coming down from Canada. I’ll stop there and wander around.” Something has changed — the air might be the same, but he can’t set foot in the town without a camera flashing and he can’t make it to the door of a restaurant based on his legacy without getting his picture taken.

Zimmy’s has perpetuated the change as it has been built on Dylan’s legacy, operating on the fame of a boy who moved away and changed his name. For the hardcore Dylan fan, Hibbing is still worth the trip and Zimmy’s is a necessary stop to sign the guest book and to look at the memorabilia, but for a good meal after a walk down Bob Dylan Drive, you are better off stopping at Sammy’s.

Zimmy’s Restaurant and Bar

Rating: ½☆☆☆ (Flawed)

531 E Howard St
Hibbing, MN 55746
218.262.6145
OWNER:
Linda Stroback-Hocking
HOURS:
Mon-Sun 11am-1am
BAR:
Full
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN:
Limited options
ENTREE RANGE:
$6.99-$11.99

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7 Comments

  1. Not-so-fast in SW 05/27/2009 Reply

    I really hate it when restaurants use turn-of-the-phrase names, which they think are clever, to “add excitement” to poor food offerings. “Reuben Hurricane Carter” ??? What the hell does a corned beef sandwich have to do with a jailed prizefighter? What’s so “North Country” about the BLT–is it made with taconite? That photo of the salad, with crappy looking lettuce and gloppy strawberry dressing, also spoke volumes. Thanks for the review; had I ever thought about “dining” at Zimmy’s I have been disabused of the notion. A beer, maybe.

  2. I cannot say that I am a follower of Bob Dylan and his music, however, I’m not surprised that Zimmy’s is not what it’s cracked up to be. The picture of that salad alone has dispelled any remaining desire of mine to ever visit this restaurant. I don’t think I have ever seen a salad dressing quite as fluorescent as that.

    Great review Eric!

  3. U of M 05/27/2009 Reply

    If you went to the Iron Range looking for gourmet food, I’m sorry you were disappointed. About the only chance you’re going to have up there to experience anything remotely high end is in Duluth.

    Being born and rasied on “the range” I can appreciate that the population up there is just not in the market for gourmet food. It’s an older crowd up there that’s looking for a cheap, cookie cutter Bar and Grill Food. Zimmy’s has had the same menu for 20 years now – and as you can see, it’s kept them in business.

    Stick to good old north woods eats while on the range including Sammy’s Pizza, Tuffy’s on First Avenue in Hibbing, and Rudi’s Pizza on Howard Street.

  4. I ate there about 15 years ago on a road trip with a friend from England who is a major Dylan fan. I see the food has not improved one bit. Oh well, what’re you going to do. Kudos to them for staying in business.

  5. harley 06/04/2009 Reply

    I truly enjoyed the review. I read it twice while I ate a Sammy’s pizza. It is good to see others recognition of the shameless exploitation of anything ‘Dylan” to make a quick buck.I find the whole Dylan Days thing to have evolved into a cheesy circus, run by self serving bar owners with seriously overinflated egos. Some individuals in town who have great credibility, and have tried to offer some real input( such as Rupar Music, formerly Cripa Music when Bob Zimmerman hung out here), have been pushed out of the picture. I could go on, but won’t. Suffice it to say the quality of the food at Zimmy’s sadly surpasses the integrity found there. People are always asked what they have to say about Dylan. I wonder what Dylan would have to say about these people.?. Thanks. Think I’ll have a beer at The Brickyard here in Hibbing.

  6. I find the comments made on this site about
    Zimmy’s is rude and totally uncalled for. I have enjoyed Zimmy’s food and staff on many occasions and have been very happy. You can not judge a restaurant or any business on one visit. I go there everytime I visit my parents. As for you Harley,sour grapes because they finally got you out of there before you drove the business into ruin! Shame on you. It is better that you do stay at the Brick Yard. Get over it, it’s been long enough!

  7. harley 06/16/2009 Reply

    ‘Susan’, I am glad you have enjoyed your visits to Zimmy’s.There truly are some wonderful things about the place.However, I believe your comments to me sound like they may have been scripted and cooked up right there in the kitchen, missing one important ingredient- honest facts.Seems you have your data about 180 degrees from true north. I am sure life is easier when one is unencumbered by the truth. I don’t wish to waste any more space on this fine site. Hey, Let’s do lunch on your next trip up, my treat! Perhaps Eric can join us, as he has good taste, and can pick a spot. I can share any truths that may have eluded you.

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