Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill

25 Jan

Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill
Visited Friday, January 14th, 2011

Lauren

I’ve only been to Vegas once as an adult, but Ryan has gone a number of times for work and when we were there two years ago, he said we really had to go to Toby Keith’s bar because they had these huge drinks and it was fun and random and a break from all the Las Vegas-y glitz and glamor. I’m not sure if he knew there were multiple locations or if it was just me thinking that it was a Vegas-only thing. I just want to emphasize at the start that I’ve been to the Vegas location and had a lot of fun there.

Ryan was really excited when he found out there would be a location opening up in the Twin Cities, and me less so. Places like that, to me, are only fun when you’re on vacation and you’re not as freaked out over a $10 drink…you’re on vacation! Time to cut loose and enjoy yourself, fer chrissake! But when you’re just a few miles from home your tolerance for price gouging is a lot lower…as is your tolerance for self-important a-hole bouncers and the bros’n’hos cohort.

I was really kind of pissy about going to TK’s in the first place, as I’ve been to the St Louis Park location twice and haven’t had all that much fun…the environment, the crowd, I don’t find any of it enjoyable. But our friend Patrick was having his birthday there so I reluctantly accompanied Ryan there in the snow. We were both starving so we sat with the gang and ordered food, crammed into a tiny booth. To be honest, they should give up the idea of even having a “dining area” as it’s a joke, just a handful of tables crammed into a section that is still SO LOUD from the music, as they didn’t bother building an actual wall. In my opinion they would be better off just having a bunch of big picnic tables to accommodate big groups. They are clearly trying to be more about music than anything else anyway, why not just go with it?

On the advice of one of Patrick’s friends I ordered the pulled chicken sandwich, which was a HUGE DISGUSTING MISTAKE. It wasn’t “pulled” it was “chunks of nasty” chicken, like the icky bits you trim off of a chicken breast or thigh. It was supposed to be a sandwich yet the bun was absolutely soaked, but there wasn’t any discernible flavor from any sauce so I’m not sure what soaked the bun. So I ate what wasn’t disgusting with a knife and fork and the whole night I felt sick to my stomach that I even ate that horrible sandwich. Why didn’t I complain? Despite the fact that I doubt anyone working at TK’s gives a rat’s a** about what food they are churning out, I should have told them how disgusting it was, just to have made my voice heard. The upside, if there could be one, was that the pickle and the fries were decent.

image

Our server was well-meaning but pretty much incompetent. There were a ton of us crammed into a little booth so maybe that was confusing, but one of the guys ordered just drinks and his tab, and sat there for a long time after getting his drinks, waiting to pay. When she didn’t come back, he left the money with the group and went over to the bar area where some other people were. Some time later after we had all finished eating, she put his drinks on Ryan’s and my tab, because “you guys were the last ones to ask for your bill”. So…? The person who ordered those drinks had asked for his check long before that! Not sure what her logic was. We got it straightened out quickly but we were definitely annoyed.

In the final analysis, if I never return to Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill, it will still be too soon.

Ryan
When I visit Las Vegas, one of my favorite places to hang out is Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill in Harrah’s. They have these giant super strong mixers for $15 that are actually worth $15. The bartenders pour shots in your mouth whenever “I Love This Bar” plays. And there is a great country cover band every night that doesn’t completely drown out the place. So I was super pumped when we got our own Toby Keith’s in St. Louis Park in 2010.

Unfortunately, in my three visits there, I have been vastly let down. Maybe I had unrealistic expectations. The one in Vegas is so much more fun and infinitely more welcoming, but the one in our neighborhood is wildly trendy and whenever I’ve been there, I am made to feel like I’m in the staff’s way. I just constantly get this negative vibe from the staff. I have been scolded every time I’ve been there or conversed with them; from a manager telling me he is not interested in sponsoring my softball team and to stop wasting his time, to a waitress telling me I can’t sit in a certain booth, to a security guard angrily and forcibly moving me so there was ample walking room near the bathrooms. There is always a line to get in to Toby’s, and I think they plan it that way. Even when there is enough room inside, they still like to keep people waiting to create this aura of a trendy venue. This whole place is just one big joke; it could so easily be a fun country bar but they are trying too hard to make it the next big nightclub in the Twin Cities.

The drink hook at Toby’s is beer served in mason jars. Yes it is bigger than a typical beer, but the prices are kinda crazy. I paid $8 for a Coors Light and $9 for a Summit. I am fairly certain they don’t cost that much in Vegas. The food is a slight positive, in my opinion. Though nothing special taste-wise, the dishes are lightheartedly named after Toby Keith songs and are pretty sizable. I ordered the country fried steak and was pleased to receive a giant steak sitting on top of a bed of mashed potatoes. I also was allowed to choose two additional sides and received a big helping of sweet potato fries and broccoli. Again, I was plenty satisfied with my food and left full, but it was not very memorable.

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I had such high hopes for Toby’s, but it has failed on many levels for me. I don’t plan to go there again unless it’s for a concert, a friend’s birthday party or some other special event held by a friend. If I was ever thinking of eating there again, I’d go in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday when maybe there is no line to get in, and maybe one of their very few tables is open. Toby’s serves food but it is definitely not pushing the restaurant part of the business; it seems like an afterthought after creating its elitist vibe. If I was still ranking all of the restaurants we’ve visited for this blog, I am sure Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill would be in last place by a wide margin. I’m just seriously disappointed with this establishment.

(Lauren)
Ambience –
Terribly loud and unpleasant. Would perhaps be fun if you were extremely drunk or at a bachelor/bachelorette party. It’s the size of an airport hangar and every corner of it is blasting with music from the stage or speakers, making it impossible to hear people you’re standing right next to, the drinks are expensive, and the only thing the staff seems concerned with is making themselves feel important.
Service – The service we’ve received has ranged from incompetent but nice to intentionally rude.
Food – Seriously, sincerely, not even worth eating. If you must, stick to anything deep fried or impossible to screw up – like I said, my fries and pickle were decent.
Overall experience – We love Patrick and hope he had a great birthday (we were texted a pretty funny photo the next morning that tells us that indeed, he did have a great birthday). If I, Lauren, have any say in the matter, we won’t be returning.

The Necessities
Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill
1623 Park Place, St Louis Park, MN 55416
763.450.9999

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2 Responses to “Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill”

  1. Tracy January 26, 2011 at 3:07 am #

    Where else can you go and get a deep fried bologna sandwich and a deep fried Twinkie? Lot’s of variety on the menu. Can get a burger and steak anywhere. You have to think southern food here. I have actually had the pulled chicken sandwich and can’t disagree with you more. Is it the best sandwich in town? No, but you won’t find too many others complaining. You also can’t go wrong with the food portion size at Toby’s. Since we are talking about portion sizes, how can you complain about the $9 mason jars? Still thinking 3 beers for $9 is not a bad deal around town.

    How can you judge the environment if the band was playing? I would only assume you knew the band would still be playing after you orderd your food. Can’t really knock anyone other than ones self for ordering food during a concert. Live band’s draw in big crowds on the weekend at Toby Keiths. So yes, it gets a little crowded. But that’s no different from any other restraunt. Try going to Stinky Pete’s downtown and ordering a burger with fries at 10pm. Why do you think they have the band start at 9pm? So people can eat prior! I can honestly say who ever reads this, give it a try! It’s some good eats

    • LPG January 26, 2011 at 3:49 am #

      Hi “Tracy”,

      You may have had different experiences at TK’s, but my experiences have not been pleasant so that’s what I wrote about and I maintain my assertion that the chicken sandwich served to me was beyond horrifying.

      $3 for a beer would be a great deal – unfortunately the mason jars are at best 32 oz, which is 2 beers.

      Regarding the time we were at Toby Keith’s, we got there around 6:30pm, which I suppose we didn’t mention in the review. The music over the stereo was insanely loud and then the band came on around 7:30 to do the first of several sound checks (which I suppose is necessary, but very distracting and loud). We were eating during normal dinner hours, before the band came on.

      In any event – since you seem to like the joint, you should be happy that we plan to stay away — that will mean two less people in front of you in line to get a drink. 😉

      Thanks for reading!

      (To any who might be reading and wondering why I put “Tracy” in quotes – Ryan [and now I] has/have gotten quite a few comments from this person’s IP address over the years under many names, so I assume that “Tracy” is a pseudonym.)

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