The Best Barbecue & Grill Options Around Lake Minnetonka

Nine places to enjoy the grilled, flamed and fired.
Sink your teeth into the Texas BBQ burger at Maynard's.

From insurance sales to the Paleo diet, cavemen are hip these days, and their appeal makes sense: Who doesn’t crave a return to simple pleasures in these harried times? When summer rolls around, we are even more keen for the human ritual of cooking over an open flame. Our satisfaction derives from both taste and process: Turning out a perfectly-cooked piece of meat—or vegetable—takes time, care and close attention. If you feel the need to scratch that primal itch but you’re not up for wrangling with the Weber at home, never fear. There are a slew of local grill and barbecue options that will handily satisfy your inner caveperson in no time.



The kebab is a quintessential grilled treat, and we know Christos’ ke babs to be among the best of their ilk. We adore Christo’s lamb “shish” with its crispy edges and rosy center, and the chicken shish is just as toothsome, steeped in their signature oregano, garlic and lemon concoction. Each skewer is threaded with cubes of meat alternated with meltingly charred vegetables, such as mushroom, onion, and red and green bell pepper chunks, and served over country pilaf. Every entree comes with a salad for a countering cooling crunch. $15.45–16.95. 15600 Hwy. 7, Minnetonka; 952.912.1000


Gold Nugget Tavern & Grille

You may discover the tempting BBQ Rib Sampler under the “Starters” section of the menu, but it is much more than a mere sample. We were delighted with the four meaty bones of house-smoked baby back ribs, grilled and basted with a tangy BBQ sauce. They are delectable and intriguingly complex: smoky, peppery and aromatic with a touch of clove. The accompanying coleslaw is remarkably fresh and zingy with raw onion. This is sample enough for a meal! $8.95. 14401 Excelsior Blvd., Minnetonka; 952.935.3600


Tonka Grill & Bar-B-Que

Tonka Grill is a veritable barbecue Mecca, and if you haven’t eaten there yet, drop what you’re doing and skedaddle on over. Co-owner Mike Lindahl is passionate about the craft of slow-and-low cookery, and it shows. The in-house process starts with an overnight dry-rub marinade, half a day in the hickory wood smoker, ending with a quick finish on THE grill and a minimal swipe of Tonka Grill’s BBQ sauce. Having a party? Tonka Grill will outfit your BBQ extravaganza with the awe-inspiring Dingy. This delirious repast includes two full baby back rib slabs, one half smoked chicken, one half smoked Texas beef slab, two pints of house-made sides and six pieces of oversized, fluffy Texas toast. We always say yes to their crunchy coleslaw, and the potato salad is another wise way to answer smoke and char with creamy and cooling. Better yet? There is dock access, so pull up your own dingy and let the feast begin! $89.95. 4016 Shoreline Dr., Spring Park; 952.471.7447



Red Rooster

Can’t decide what kind of charred flesh you’re in the mood for? Get a chicken and rib combo at the Red Rooster. You’ll be ecstatic with a quarter rack of slow-roasted ribs slathered in homemade BBQ sauce, with a grilled and BBQ-glazed chicken breast on the side. The behemoth rib rack is as bold as can be, all rustic smokiness and brawny chew. Lovers of the sauce, rejoice! Both chicken and ribs are slathered with a thick coat of the sweet, tomato-rich sauce. Settle into the down-home atmosphere and get messy; wet wipes thoughtfully provided. $13.95. 1832 Wayzata Blvd., Long Lake; 952.473.4089


SLP Woodfire Grill

Worshippers of the flame will adore the SLP Woodfire Grill, where just about everything is grilled, fired, smoked or flamed, evinced in the heavenly aroma that assaults you the moment you step out of your car. The flaming grill greets you when you enter, with a row of chickens spinning lazily on the rotisserie. Who could resist that? Not us. The chicken is marinated first, cooked low and slow, then finished with a lashing of high heat for a delectable crunch. Flecked with herbs, this chickie needs nothing more, though the accompanying roasted fingerling potatoes and vegetables pair perfectly. You can also grill your own dessert here: tableside s’mores consist of chocolate soufflé, graham crackers and marshmallows to toast yourself. $11. 6501 Wayzata Blvd., St. Louis Park; 952.345.0505



Famous Dave’s

Smoked for up to 12 hours and chopped to order, Famous Dave’s chopped pork claims to be “juicier than a Georgia peach.” Well, it really is meltingly tender, so we won’t belabor the point. This joint rocks the sauce with no fewer than five different choices: don’t stress over a tough decision—just try them all! The Devil’s Spit is as scary-hot as it sounds; Georgia Mustard should be required education for the palate; our favorite is the Texas Pit, laced with cumin and an extra dose of smoke. All kinds of sides are up for grabs. We slurped up some sweet baked beans studded with pork chunks, sausage and jalapeno peppers, devoured a few buttery corn muffins, and added some creamy mac ‘n’ cheese along with a pile of coleslaw for good measure. What? We were hungry! $8.59. 14601 Hwy. 7, Minnetonka; 952.933.9600




Nothing screams “lazy summer afternoon” like a fat grilled meat patty on a fluffy bun, and Maynard’s knocks out one stellar example. We chose the no-holds-barred Texas BBQ burger. It came draped with two slices of smoked bacon, a slice of melted cheddar and a slathering of BBQ sauce for good measure. Their version of coleslaw is chock full of green onion, both red and green cabbage, and a thrillingly unexpected pop of cilantro. Grab a seat on the wharf patio and pretend that you grilled this delicious burger yourself—and ignore the fact that they did it better than we ever could. $9.75. 685 Excelsior Blvd., Excelsior; 952.470.1800


Jimmy’s Food and Cocktails

BBQ does not have to be a down and dirty affair—not that we don’t appreciate the down and dirty! One of the most delicious BBQ meals we tasted was at this esteemed white-tablecloth establishment. This half BBQ chicken is beautifully varnished with Jimmy’s understated BBQ sauce with tender, lightly smoked and slightly sweet meat. The skinny parsley flecked salt and vinegar fries and lemony coleslaw were the perfect accoutrements. This is about as elegant as BBQ gets, but no less finger-licking: full-fired flavor cannot be subdued! $14.95. 11000 Red Circle Dr., Minnetonka; 952.224.5858



Origami West

Fish is frustratingly tricky on the grill. It’s too easy to overcook, and it’s always in danger of slipping through the slats. Luckily, Origami West offers a panoply of perfectly grilled fish. The Hamachi Kama blew us out of the water, so to speak: grilled yellowtail cheek, simply garnished with a mound of ground daikon radish and single pickled red ginger root. It’s tender and flavorful, abounding with prized crispy edges. “Cheek” might sound delicate, but this one belongs to a one-hundred pound fish—far from dainty. A dish of citrusy soy ponzu floats with scallion slices is a subtle enhancement, but this beauty needs nothing more than a squirt of lemon and a direct line from plate to mouth. $11.75. 12305 Wayzata Blvd., Minnetonka; 952.746.3398