Living in the suburbs means accepting a constant state of flux. Roads change, landscapes change, buildings change.
Thank goodness one thing stays the same — Lions Tap.
Once located on a sleepy Eden Prairie outpost, tucked into the Minnesota River Bluffs, this mother of all burger joints has witnessed the world change around it.
And appreciative customers continue to flow in. “They keep coming back because of the quality, the service and, of course, the price,” said Bert Notermann, who owns the restaurant with wife, Bonnie, and son, Matt.
The Notermann family have served up the same tasty burgers and fries at the site since 1977.
In Southwest News Media’s Best of the Best contest, Lions Tap won the Best Burger, Best French Fries and Best Lunch Spot categories.
The Notermanns can throw these prizes on a stack of other “Best” awards that they haven’t had a chance to hang in an entryway of accolades.
“The secret is the quality of the meat. You can take a good piece of meat and make it bad. You can’t take a bad piece of meat and make it good. We take a good piece of meat, and we keep it good,” Bert said, of the hamburgers, which are hand-pattied every day.
Seasoning is another secret of success. It originated when the Notermanns owned the renowned Tri-Y Drive-In, just down the road. A few new spices were added, and a new burger legend was born.
The crinkle-cut fries are sourced from potatoes in the Pacific Northwest. “We’ve tried potatoes from other places, but they just don’t taste the same,” said Dave Wanek, Lions Tap general manager. Even minerals in the earth affect a potato’s taste, Wanek explained.
Change doesn't come quickly at Lions Tap. The last thing added to its menu was the mushroom Swiss burger — a decade ago.
Bert said he’s frequently asked why Lions Tap doesn’t serve salads or soup or coffee. “Because we don't. We just don’t. We want to do what we do to the best. The more things you have, the less you concentrate on making everything good,” he said.
The Notermanns give accolades to their staff. “The staff is the best,” said Bonnie, who noted that their longest-tenured employee has been with the business for 37 years.
“It’s like a second family. You appreciate it. You have fun at work. You work hard, but it’s a fun environment,” Wanek said.
Besides friendly staff, the building lends a lot of character to Lions Tap. The cozy restaurant has its roots as a vegetable stand in the 1930s. The Notermanns have expanded the original building twice, and soon a new parking lot will add 42 additional spaces.
However, the restaurant's folksy allure remains intact:
- Mounted fish on the wall? Check.
- Pac-Man arcade game? Check.
- Wall mural of a flock of mallards? Check.
- Wood paneling? Check.
“It’s a landmark, no doubt about it,” Bonnie said.
But Lions Tap hasn’t forgotten the most important ingredient to longevity — its customers.
The Notermanns reminisce about how Lions Tap is often the first stop from the hospital for new parents and a baby. Customers reminisce about their senior prom dinner at Lions Tap.
Generation after generation of customers keep coming through the door. "Being in it this long gives you the opportunity to watch the progression of customers," Bonnie said.
Recently a large group came to Lions Tap following the funeral of their mother. Lions Tap always served up her favorite hamburger.
“We thank our customers for their support though our 41 years,” Wanek said. “They are truly the best of the best.”