Between Yum! Kitchen and Bakery on the east end and Thanh Do on the west, Minnetonka Boulevard in St. Louis Park hasn’t had much going for it culinary-wise for quite some time except for a few pizza joints. That changed four months ago when Nelson’s Meats, a Hopkins institution for nearly 50 years, relocated to a small strip mall at the corner of Minnetonka and Dakota Avenue South after eminent domain for the expansion of Shady Oak Road forced the deli and butcher shop to find a new home. Since then, nearby residents have welcomed the family-owned shop — now run by Rick Nelson, son of founder Leonard — into a neighborhood that could use an injection of local flavor.
A large meat case dominates the small, light-filled shop, but customers also can grab a sandwich or hot plate from the deli or a cookie from the bakery case. The hot food bar dishes up meaty, stick-to-your-ribs meals six days a week starting at 11am, and while the plates are spiced for the stereotypical Minnesota palate from 50 years ago, there’s comfort in digging into a generous pour of beef or turkey tips over mashed potatoes on a cold day.
Those beef tips ($7.50 with two sides) arrive in large chunks with a thick sauce that could use a little more seasoning to really sing, but paired with buttery, whipped mashed potatoes, they make a satisfying lunch. Although the accompanying green beans look like they come from a can, they retain enough firmness to succeed. The more flavorful choice is the goulash ($6), a tomatoey tumble of ground beef and macaroni that, based on appearance, could come straight from a high school cafeteria but tastes fresher and meatier.
The thick, almost-stew-like chicken wild rice soup ($4.75 / bowl) looks like a cross between the traditional soup and the filling from a chicken pot pie. Fortunately, it blends the soup’s salty, brothy flavor with the enormous pieces of chicken and vegetables you’d expect from a pot pie, making one bowl enough to fill a hungry belly.
The meat case offers beef, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey, and seafood at reasonable prices, especially considering you can order many cuts wrapped in store-made bacon. Trays of sausage and meat sticks tempt the carnivore, along with several varieties of jerky. Hot heads will gravitate toward the spicier Cajun and “Dare You” flavors, but the heat will overwhelm only the most sensitive palates. A small bakery case offers cookies and muffins (the double chocolate muffin definitely is worth the calories), while freezer displays several varieties of fruit pies.
Nelson’s Meats isn’t fancy or trendy. Its lunch selections won’t shake up your taste buds like Thanh Do’s pad thai or accommodate your diet like a salad from Yum. But a solid, old-school, family-run establishment is an anchor of any neighborhood, and Hopkins’ loss is SLP’s gain. Perhaps the extra seasoning will come with time.
Deli and butcher shop in St. Louis Park
6318 Minnetonka Blvd
St. Louis Park, MN 55416
OWNER: Rick Nelson
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Limited / No
ENTREE RANGE: $4-8