All we know about this place is that it was 1-1/2 miles east of Excelsior Village on Excelsior Blvd.
VINE HILL CAFE
The name suggests that this was at the intersection of Excelsior Blvd. and Vine Hill Road. This was in the 1920s, before Highway 7 was built.
In about May 1926, William L. Millington of Minneapolis bought the Vine Hill Cafe. Bill had previously been in real estate. In October 1926 he added a Benzo gas station.
May 21, 1926
This was possibly a “chicken shack” so prevalent during Prohibition; an excuse for a set-up place? Local resident Lee Blaske sheds a little light:
I live just a little west of the Vine Hill Road/Excelsior Blvd. intersection. Our house was built in 1986. Interestingly, there were remnants of a big chicken house in the woods of our backyard. Could have been just privately owned for the old house that used to be on the property, but maybe they were providing chickens for chicken dinners at Bill’s Inn. Also, there was a big hole on the back of our property that had an awful lot of old liquor bottles in it. Not sure what era, but I don’t think it was prohibition era.
Lee also provides these clues:
Vine Hill was a stop for the streetcar, so people getting off the streetcar would have been conveniently deposited close to “Bill’s Inn.”
There used to be a couple of other buildings on the south side of Hwy. 7, that were probably there before Hwy. 7 was built. In particular, there was a restaurant called “The Smack,” that had a pair of big lips on a sign. That was torn down long ago (sixties?) to make room for a Burger King, which has since been torn down. Maybe that used to be “Bill’s Inn.” But, I’m not certain how Excelsior Blvd., now north of 7, linked up to the part of Excelsior Blvd. south of 7. I don’t think the old “Smack” would have officially been on Hwy. 7, but I’m not sure.
I had the feeling that this is the building at 19215 Highway 7 in Shorewood. Hennepin County dates it at 1966, but it has tin ceilings and old wood floors. Lee Blaske set me straight on that:
I think I can confirm that [Bill’s Inn] wasn’t in the building at 19125 Highway 7. That building, which is now “Tino’s” restaurant, was for many years a small grocery/convenience store, which later added an arcade room for the high school students going to Minnetonka H.S. I didn’t live here in the sixties, but I’d completely believe that 1966 would be when that building was built. Back when it was still a grocery store, everything inside looked like it was a bit tacky, from the sixties. The cool tin ceiling and old wood floor was added when it was converted to Tino’s, so that’s not original to the building.