By Mpls.St.Paul Magazine / Inspired by Steve Zahn's My North
With 20-plus years of co-starring roles in Hollywood blockbusters ranging from "Sahara" to "Dallas Buyers Club" to "War of the Planet of the Apes", Steve Zahn is kind of a big deal. But the Marshall, Minn.-born actor didn’t get his start on the big screen; he got it on the stage of the Old Log Theatre in Excelsior, a Minnesota staple almost as famous for its prime rib as its theatrical productions. So in honor of Steve Zahn and the dinner theater where he got his start, here are four great Minnesota stages where the food is almost as much of a star as the show itself.
Chanhassen Dinner Theatres isn’t just the gold standard of local dinner theater, it’s the pinnacle of Twin Cities musical theater, period. Located just 20 minutes west of downtown Minneapolis in Chanhassen, the theater’s massive 1,600 person capacity makes it the largest professional dinner theater in the country. Since opening night in 1968, the theater has brought a dazzling array of Broadway-quality musicals to Carver County, has served as the jumping off point for actors like Ron Perlman, Laura Osnes, and Amy Adams, and even made a cameo in Joel and Ethan Coen’s 1996 blockbuster Fargo!
The Excelsior stage where Steve Zahn officially became a professional actor was also the jumping off point for Nick Nolte and Loni Anderson. One of the oldest professional theaters in the state, the original Old Log opened as a 270-seat theatre in 1940 in Greenwood, but reloctated to its current 650-plus seat theater in 1965. In 2014, under new ownership, Old Log Theatre underwent a major renovation that included the rebrand and refresh of its in-house restaurant, Cast & Cru, a contemporary American bistro with options ranging from barbacoa short rib tacos to wild boar tenderloin.
Step back in time to experience the "authentic" dramas (and dinners) of the Old West! Presented by Elmer's Texas Barbeque and the Funtastics Theatre Troupe, Old West Melodrama Dinner Theatre serves up a show that's heavy on laughs and on BBQ. Choose your entree from a smorgasbord of delicious smoked meats, from pork ribs, to beef brisket and pulled pork, but try to save some room: all guests receive a special, surprise dessert during the show's intermission. Like all good melodramas, crowd interaction is paramount, so be sure to cheer, boo and hiss along with the action. The season runs all summer long, with a different dinner show premiering every month.
Since 1991, Acme Comedy Club has been a vital component of the local and national comedy circuit, not only as a launch-pad for local talents like Nick Swardson and the late Mitch Hedberg, but also for its role hosting upstart national acts like Louis CK. But despite the comedy club’s reputation for jokes, Acme’s in-house restaurant, Sticks, is no laughing matter. Featuring contemporary American fare and cocktails, the nightly Dinner Show Package is perfect for your next date. No kidding.