Imagine sitting down to the obligatory holiday gorge-fest at the in-laws when you’re passed a platter of leather soles from the shoe repair shop up the street. For a second you wonder if this is some kind of prank. But the platter is followed by a familiar boat of lumpy gravy and fingertip-blistering Pyrex container filled with some kind of fried onion encrusted hotdish, and you realize this is no prank. This pile of discarded shoe leather is your mother-in-law’s special roast beef. And you will be expected to eat it, mister.
If your mother-in-law, like mine, believes roast beef isn’t finished cooking until it’s brown and drier than a Bill Murray performance, Wally’s is a welcome reminder of how roast beef is meant to be prepared: perfectly seasoned and slow cooked until it’s tender and pink inside.
As stated on the sign, Wally’s specializes in the roast beef sandwich. You may be compelled to compare Wally’s to Arby’s, but to compare them would be blasphemy. First off, Wally’s serves actual roast beef, not some preformed, meat-shaped amalgamation. Second, Wally’s doesn’t have some creepy conjoined twin restaurant that serves pizza; there will never be a Wally’s / Sbarro. Third, you will never get five sandwiches for five bucks at Wally’s.
No, the only thing five bucks gets you at Wally’s is some of the best roast beef you’ll ever eat, thinly sliced on a lightly toasted kaiser roll, a side of au jus, and a pile of crispy fries, potato cakes, or real mashed potatoes.
The owner of Wally’s will tell you the meat he buys is exclusive to his restaurant. You won’t find roast beef like this anywhere else in Minnesota. As if to make his point, the meat cutter is front and center. As you stand at a counter to order, you get to watch juicy, pink hunks of meat fall off the blade. Just try ordering anything other than roast beef after seeing that. If you can, you’re some kind of soulless machine. Or worse, a vegetarian.
The space at Wally’s is clean and open. To say it’s nothing fancy would be to oversell it. The green and yellow color scheme is a holdover from the days when Wally’s was the hang out for the kids from the high school that used to be around the corner (go Lincoln Bears!). There’s a little counter with a few stools looking out on the strip-center parking lot from behind reversed type on the window that boasts “Wally’s Air Conditioned Luncheonette.” You’ll see the owner busing tables and chatting up customers. It’s not Wally anymore, but Wally’s name is still on the office door as if to reassure the regulars.
There’s a Blue Plate Special that comes with an open-faced roast beef sandwich and homemade, skin-on mashed potatoes smothered in gravy. The beef barley soup — an “everyday” daily special — is rich, hearty, and flavorful. It almost seems healthy. Almost.
But make no mistake, the roast beef sandwich is the hero here, and after your first wet, horseradishy kiss from a Wally’s, you may find yourself plotting ways to smuggle it in for the next family function. So far my best idea involves a Ziploc and a custom-tailored long-sleeve shirt. More ideas are welcome.
BEST BET: They don’t call it “Wally’s Famous Roast Beef Sandwiches” for nothing. Order a roast beef sandwich (or two) with au jus and a side of real mashed potatoes and gravy. And don’t forget to slather some horseradish sauce on your sandwich.
2113 W 90th St
Bloomington, MN 55431
OWNER: Jeff Sagal
HOURS: Mon-Sat 10:30am-3pm
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / No
ENTREE RANGE: $2-7