A few years ago, I drove by this place by accident on my way home from a holiday outing up north (they were closed...it was Christmas Day or Easter Sunday or something). I've been meaning to get there ever since as, from the looks of the place, it's the quintessential chow discovery.
Fast forward -- my brother-in-law and sister-in-law just got relocated to St. Cloud which, hopefully, will afford me the opportunity to become the preeminent St. Cloud chow expert of which there are somewhere around...(9 minus 3....carry the one)....zero on this board.
On Saturday, I was able to satisfy my curiousity about Val's Rapid Serv (I think the official name) and am happy to report that it's officially a...hilarious place. For background, it has the appearance of one of those 500 square foot 1950's box homes and sits just off the main drag of Highway 10 and County 23 in St. Cloud. In other words...it's tiny and hidden...a hole in the wall. Nothing too funny there.
When you open the door and go into what you think is going to be the vestibule, you immediately realize that you're pretty much standing right in the middle of the kitchen. "Welcome!"
I had heard about the ordering system -- three different touch-screen units where you punch in your worldly desires and five minutes later are handed greasy sacks bulging with food. It's as laughable as people have made it sound -- again...the whole place is 6 feet x 20 feet, and the irony of a super high-tech ordering system is hilarious.
It was slow at the time so one of the Ridiculously Cute Counter Girls offered to punch my order in for me (oh the disappointment). A triple with bacon, two single cheeseburgers and two fries. No...not for me...for a family of four. I don't know if you've ever seen "Meet the Parents" but remember the airport ticket counter woman? Similar to that, the Ridiculously Cute Counter Girl started keying in my order as though she were playing Mozart Etude No. 11 on a baby grand. Dazzled (and mystified), all I could mumble was "Holy shit."
I had also been forewarned about the generousity of the french fries. "Some will spill into the bag," I was told. Great. I love that when you eat fast food in the car and think you're done, but find a tiny treasure trove of three or four fries at the bottom of the bag.
When I got my food back to the minivan and opened it up it looked like the Ore-Ida factory had blown up in my bag. There had to be a half-million french fries in there. I thought I would have to call in a bobcat and crew of union guys to extract my burger (which was on the bottom).
I've been studying a bit of french language lately. One tip I learned is regarding food and eating and the nuance of talking about it. How do you know when to say "je mange des frites" instead of "je mange les frites" I wonder? Well, I'm told "des" means you're eating fries, but "les" means you're eating all the fries in the world. I think on Saturday, I manged les frites.
All in all, the food is good. The burgers are in the style of McDonald's frankly. Not thin crispy frisbees like Culvers and not thick, juicy hand-formed patties like the Nook etc. They're sort of in between but have more juice and flavor in the beef than a fast food joint. The bun is better than McDonald's as well. The fries are also nearly identical in size and composition to McDonald's -- thin cut, cooked to crispiness. They had a good dusting of bright orange Lowry's-type seasoning. Again...a bit better than McDonald's.
Oh, I almost forgot about the other unintended joke. After a good, solid 45 minutes of eating fries, I had worked my way down towards my burger. All of a sudden I notice that there is actually a french fry bag in there. What the hell is the point of that? I can only surmise this is the restaurant's way of saying, "Here...this is where we really earn our style points."
Obviously, the whole experience is them poking fun at themselves and it works. The four people crammed into the little kitchen were all super-nice. Although the food doesn't blow you away, it's the kind of place you want to go back every time you're nearby.
Val's Rapid Serv
628 E St Germain
St. Cloud, MN
Open M-Sat 11-7 (I think)
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