The first thought on seeing the Convention Grill in Edina is “50s diner.” In fact (or perhaps fiction, as there is some debate on the matter), the Convention Grill opened 1934. When you walk in the door of the small art deco building at 3912 Sunnyside Road in Edina, it looks more like a Depression-era lunch counter. There is no rock-n-roll and no car culture. Just short-order cooks in starched white shirts and white aprons manning the grill behind a counter lined with chrome stools. Servers in starched white skirts hustle malts, burgers, and fries out to the diners. This isn’t manufactured nostalgia; this is the way the Convention Grill has been for the better part of a century.
If you order a malted milkshake ($5 half, $6 full), it will arrive well before your meal, as if to challenge your willpower. A chunky malt, poured out of a stainless steel cup into a soda fountain glass – just try to make it last until your burger comes. Our Oreo malt was absolutely decadent. And when else can you eat two pints of ice cream before dinner, but when dinner is a burger and fries?
Possibly the most unconventional item on the menu is the Plazaburger ($6.90), famous to anyone who has spent time in Madison, WI as the namesake burger of the Plaza Bar, a campus drinking institution off State Street. Convention Grill’s homage arrives with the dark bun open, the burger unabashedly naked, and the top of the bun covered with a thick schmear of sour cream and an abundance of chopped onion.
You may feel twinges of jealousy at the burgers going by, topped with glistening, melted cheese and strips of bacon, but forget about that. The Plazaburger is a unique experience and you won’t miss the fanfare. Convention Grill’s burgers are cooked medium well and seared to a dark brown. The sour cream adds a smooth texture and a mild dairy tang that lets the burger take the lead, while the onions add a welcome crunch. It’s an unexpectedly light tasting burger, and once assembled, it doesn’t leave a drip or a crumb on the plate.
Not surprisingly, the Convention Grill’s fries are outstanding ($6 full, $4 half). They use russets, sliced with the skin on, fried to a crispy bronze, and served in a plastic basket. A half order is enough for two to stuff themselves and still not finish the crunchy bits on the bottom of the basket.
Don’t overlook the Convention Grill’s excellent chicken noodle soup ($6). The broth is aromatic, rich, and golden. The fat egg noodles, hearty chunks of chicken, celery, and onion are nothing fancy, but it’s exactly the soup you want delivered to you when you’re sick.
In an era of chef-driven burgers and curated Belgian beer lists, reclaimed wood paneling and open ductwork, the Convention Grill is an anachronism. It’s easy to imagine that the menu hasn’t changed a bit in 80 years. No Gruyere, no Spanish ham, no aioli, and not a drop of alcohol to be found. And everyone seems to be having a blast.