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?
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.
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.
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.
531 E Howard St
Hibbing, MN 55746
OWNER: Linda Stroback-Hocking
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Limited options
ENTREE RANGE: $6.99-$11.99