The annual U.S. Pond Hockey Championships at Lake Nokomis have been drawing hockey players from across the U.S. and Canada for almost 20 years. And sure, the players come for the hockey. But the camaraderie that’s built off the ice among and across teams is almost as important.

And Frenchman’s Pub in Richfield has become a big part of that.

It’s partly because of the restaurant’s proximity to Lake Nokomis, where the Pond Hockey Championships are held (this year, the tournament will be held Jan. 18-28), but also because of Frenchman’s growing reputation as a down-to-earth, no-frills restaurant serving some of the best burgers and pub food in town.

“It’s all pond hockey folks in here during the tournament,” says Trish Reid, manager at Frenchman’s. “We started out as an overflow spot for people to hang out at during the tournament. Then word started to get out. Then it got out a little more. Now, it’s pretty crazy in here during the tournament.”

And folks, they’re coming for the burgers.

Each month, Trish asks a Frenchman’s employee to create their own burger, which then becomes the “Burger of the Month.” In January, that burger will, appropriately, be “The Pond Hockey Poutine Burger.”

“Trisha created this one. We get a lot of Canadians in here during the tournament, as you might expect, so we’re hoping it’s a big success,” says Trish.

And Frenchman’s has a new tie to the tournament this year:  For the first time ever, the restaurant is sponsoring a team! The players are primarily from Minnesota, and the captain of the team just bought a house in the Richfield neighborhood.

The tournament might be a big deal to Frenchman’s in January, but it’s those neighborhood folks that remain important to Frenchman’s year-round, according to Trish.

“We’re a neighborhood pub,” says Trish. “So many people walk to our pub. A lot of people from the nearby Richfield Ice Arena stop by. The Holy Angels girls’ hockey parents have a standing reservation, for example, before each game.”

Trish estimates that at least 80% of Frenchman’s customers are from Richfield. But they also draw from all over.

“We get a lot of people from the airport who have layovers. They would rather eat a burger and enjoy some time here than sit at the airport and wait,” says Trish.

Humble beginnings

Frenchman’s got its start way back in 1929 as a grocery store that sold liquor out of the back. In 1933 it became a pub and was aptly named after the French gentleman who owned it first.

In 1992, Trish’s mother-in-law bought the restaurant and has owned it ever since. Over the years, the family has made a few updates. For example, in 2020 they added a vintage pull tab booth they found at an estate sale.

But mostly, the restaurant is known for its atmosphere and its food—namely, those burgers.

It’s not surprising given the burgers are fresh-pressed every morning. The Burger of the Month is always very popular. Last year, the “LeMac” (a French-themed take on a Big Mac) was the biggest hit.

The wings are also popular at Frenchman’s—Trish says the mango habanero is ordered the most. And fish & chips are a big hit during Lent in the spring.

Trish also likes to keep ingredients local when she can. “We use buns from Denny’s Bakery. We like that local feel.”

Yep, the food and drink usually takes center stage at Frenchman’s. But during most of the winter, the environment inside the restaurant is adorned by holiday lights.

“We’ve done it as long as I can remember,” says Trish. “It’s our attempt to get everyone in the holiday spirit—and it’s easier than decorating a tree!”

You could even say Frenchman’s is the original holiday pop-up restaurant! They keep the lights up until February 15—and customers absolutely love it.

And that’s not surprising. Because for Trish, it’s that focus on the people that matters most. “I’ve lived in Richfield since 1987. Everyone is so close-knit and we all care about each other. And our staff is amazing—I can’t say enough great things about them.”

Don’t wait until the pond hockey tournament fills Frenchman’s up in late January.  Get in there and get your poutine burger now.  And thanks, Frenchman’s, for keeping your place in the hearts of Richfielders!