Bounce into The Breeze Inn, at 5168 Jean Duluth Road in Lakewood Township—and I say “bounce” because that may be the only reason you’re here, certainly not by design.
If you were to stumble across this unassuming joint, you would have your expectations on simmer as you hoped for anything other than Michelob Golden Light and any semblance of a kitchen.
But the food, service, and excellent selection of beers on tap belie The Breeze’s plain exterior, small parking area, and minimal signage.
The stranded-in-the-country interior, with its smattering of neon beer signs and outdated video games, can’t overpower the incredible smells wafting from a small, yet very adequate, kitchen—tempered with a fine coating of grease, to be sure, but carrying the promise of something more than merely edible.
As you are seated in a cozy booth surrounded by jocular groups, many of them families, you might even begin to suspect you have made a very good find.
Shaun and Kate Waggoner took ownership of this tony little bar just over three years ago and the results have been nothing short of amazing, thanks to their fierce work ethic and dedication to a welcoming environment, good service, and tasty victuals.
I’d been hearing their burgers were the best in town—better even than the storied Anchor Burger. In fact, The Breeze Inn beat Anchor Bar in the annual Battle of the Burgers last summer.
But I discounted such claims and kept myself busy with other places to review until the cacophony of voices overpowered my reticence. Damn good thing too, or I might never have given this charming roadside diner a chance.
First off, you are greeted by a friendly (and oft-times harried) server, or perhaps the Waggoners themselves. Once seated, the array of craft beers available by the glass or in the bottle (usually at least six local brews on tap) will assuage any fears you might still be harboring about having stopped here.
The Breeze features a full bar as well and, on Saturdays and “Sunday Funday,” Kate whips up her famous Bloody Mary mix for most of the day.
Food-wise, you’ve got a delicious take on small bar appetizers. Wings offered dry rub or with their own special Bitchin’ Breeze sauce? Check. Beer-battered Wisconsin Cheese Curds? Check. Eight dollar a plate crispy green beans? Just trust me and try them.
The heart of the menu is their burgers. A tantalizing array of Juicy Lucy options gives a nod to the burger’s South Minneapolis heritage—from the Classic, stuffed with American cheese; to the namesake Call Me the Breeze, stuffed with Bleu cheese, Boursin, and bacon. Both are offered with grilled onions on top.
I opted for the Juicy Hawaiian, because who wouldn’t want a third-pound of beef, stuffed with provolone and topped with smoked deli ham and sweet chili sauce? The lightly grilled Kaiser bun was a perfect match, and crisp fries sealed the deal. Your choice of sides includes sweet potato fries or house chips.
Also available are wraps, hoagie melts, and specialty sandwiches. Kate’s Reuben originally caught my attention, with Bitchin’ Breeze sauce replacing the traditional Thousand Island dressing.
My wife chose the Chicken Artichoke Sandwich with a side of chips. The grilled chicken served as a perfect foil for the creamy artichoke, and the chips provided a saltiness and crunch that balanced the rich spread. They also offer it Caribbean style, with the chicken getting a spicy dry rub before being introduced to the other players.
The Breeze offers an all-you-can-eat Friday Fish Fry for $10.95, and a fresh soup and sandwich combo Monday through Friday for $7.95. Not that price was an issue—our portions were generous and I noticed many a fat plate being delivered to neighboring tables.
Throughout the meal, we were kindly attended to and the drinks flew without interruption. Our server was knowledgeable and well liked by the many regulars passing through. The atmosphere felt like a family reunion (minus any dramatic outbursts).
A road trip just outside of town will take you to a well-run, authentically good, and pleasantly surprising feast with friends at The Breeze Inn.
Thomas Walchuk has worked in the restaurant industry for most of his long life. He is currently an event and social media consultant with Tippy Toe Tunes, a collaborative endeavor he founded to help small business entrepreneurs. Visit TippyToeTunes.com.