Burger Jones, Five Guys, Smashburger

The Twin Cities can has cheezburger?

Accolades from various publications cover the walls, and I was a little surprised they didn't have the Obamas' endorsement, as the couple has been known to stop in for a cheeseburger. One of the signs touted the fact that Five Guys has swept the Washingtonian's Best Burger category every year since 1999. I suppose this was intended to impress me, but my reaction was the opposite: I pitied D.C.-dwellers for not having something better.

AMERICAN BURGER BAR
354 Wabasha St., Saint Paul
651.222.2123
www.americanburgerbar.com

On the opposite end of the spectrum, American Burger Bar feels almost too classy a place in which to eat with your hands. Located in the longtime home of Gallivan's in downtown St. Paul, which was most recently Matty B's, American Burger Bar is decked out with wood paneling, fireplaces, wide retro couches, and black-and-white photos. It's a more upscale sibling of the owners' American Burger Emporium in Woodbury, and its Rat Pack vibe is marred only by all the televisions on the dining room walls.

American Burger Bar
Nick Vlcek
American Burger Bar
Burger Jones
Nick Vlcek
Burger Jones

Location Info

Map

Sonic

1960 Suburban Ave.
Maplewood, MN 55119

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Maplewood

Five Guys Burgers and Fries

3871 Gallagher Drive
Edina, MN 55435

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Edina

American Burger Bar

354 N. Wabasha St.
St. Paul, MN 55101

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: St. Paul (Downtown)

Burger Jones

3200 W. Lake St.
Minneapolis, MN 55416

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Golden Valley

Smashburger

3900 Silver Lake Road NE
Columbia Heights, MN 55421

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Columbia Heights

Vincent - A Restaurant

1100 Nicollet Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55403

Category: Restaurant > French

Region: Minneapolis (Downtown)

Chef Shack

Mill City Farmers Market, 704 S. Second St.
Minneapolis, MN 55401

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Minneapolis (Downtown)

The Blue Door Pub

1811 Selby Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55104

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Macalester/Groveland

Matt's Bar

3500 Cedar Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55407

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Powderhorn

Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant

1010 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN 55403

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Minneapolis (Downtown)

Convention Grill & Fountain

3912 Sunnyside Road
Edina, MN 55424

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Edina

Bulldog NE

401 E. Hennepin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55414

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: University

Cafe and Bar Lurcat

1624 Harmon Pl.
Minneapolis, MN 55403

Category: Restaurant > Seafood

Region: Minneapolis (Downtown)

Town Talk Diner

2707 1/2 E. Lake St.
Minneapolis, MN 55406

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Seward/ Longfellow/ Minnehaha

Barbette

1600 W. Lake St.
Minneapolis, MN 55408

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Uptown/ Eat Street

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American Burger Bar takes a chef-driven approach, and Rino Baglio, the former head of Pazzaluna's kitchen, turns out burgers that sound as luxurious as their surrounds. One called the Experience, for example, consists of Kobe beef layered with foie gras and black truffle. The Surf and Turf is topped with grilled crab claws. But some of the ideas work better in theory than in practice. Surf and Turf is an awkward affair—the behemoth burger is crisscrossed with asparagus spears and stabbed with two crab pincers. (The burger also arrived topped with shrimp, which the menu didn't mention, and without the baby corn it had promised.) The ingredients were interesting, but their flavors didn't create as much synergy with the meat as I might have hoped. The Kobe burger matched better with its companions—Parmesan cheese, braised short-rib meat, fried onions, and a red-wine sauce. I couldn't pick out individual foie gras or truffle flavors, as both seemed to have melded right into the patty, but its overall taste was rich and bold.

For the budget-conscious, American Burger Bar has burger-fry combos for less than $10, but a few of the gourmet selections cost nearly $20—a price approaching that of a fine-dining entrée. Honestly, it seemed a little too much for a place where our meal was interrupted by a staff member who started vacuuming and shutting off the lights at around 8:30 p.m., while we were still finishing up. But perhaps my opinion will improve once I get the chance to try Baglio's brand-new coffee-crusted lamb burger.

BURGER JONES
3200 W. Lake St., Minneapolis
612.746.0800
www.burgerjones.com

The new burger concept from Parasole—the restaurateurs behind Manny's, Salut, and Chino Latino, among others—has been generating the most buzz of the bunch, luring curious diners to endure two-hour waits, as the place doesn't take reservations. Burger Jones anchors the east end of the Calhoun Commons shopping mall and has made the former Applebee's space more modern and appealing, with its black-and-orange color scheme and sleek-looking bar. Parasole has a reputation for brash, cheeky humor and bold decor, but except for a Chuck Close-style image of a burger-eating man on the wall—depicting a rather unappetizing thicket of arm hair—the restaurateur's signature kitsch seems somewhat toned down.

The Burger Jones team visited the country's best burger joints before deciding on their meat's signature mix—a blend of chuck, brisket, and hanger steak that comes out a little chewy, with a robust, beefy flavor. The buns resemble a dense, eggy challah, sprinkled with sesame seeds on top. And while the menu lists all the usual suspects, such as bacon-cheddar and mushroom-Swiss, someone in your group will inevitably order the White Trash Burger. One of my friends insisted on requesting it without the lettuce and tomato, and I wondered aloud, "What kind of person asks the kitchen to hold the lettuce and tomato?" before realizing the obvious answer. The fried cheese-curd topping is a great idea (it's also smothered with Velveeta, natch), but the cornmeal crust on the chicken-fried bacon masked the pork's flavor and made it taste more like oily popcorn.

Burger Jones also offers a juicy bison burger, a turkey burger, and puck-shaped hot dogs that do a marginally better job of carrying their toppings than tube-shaped ones. (The kitchen won't disclose where the burger dogs come from or how they got that way, which I find somewhat mysterious.) Jones's veggie burger is first-rate: a house-made mixture of beans, carrots, cheese, and cashews with a nicely griddled crust. The skinny fries are good, but the poutine I still can't rally behind—we loved the creamy cheese curds and bacon bits, but the beef gravy was intolerably salty.

While Chino's singles crowd and Manny's business types certainly cross over with the Burger Jones clientele, the new restaurant is Parasole's first serious foray into the family-dining market. I realized this as I heard a noise that sounded like a clap of thunder followed by the churning of a rock-filled washing machine—turns out it was created by a neighboring toddler kicking his plastic booster chair. Compared even to Parasole's easygoing Good Earth and Muffuletta restaurants, the Burger Jones concept seems tailor-made for parents still hip enough to follow trends but too budget-crunched to hire a sitter or blow a lot of cash on dinner.

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