Battle of the Burgers
The cheese-stuffed Ju(i)cy Lucy hamburger is a south Minneapolis icon, a native-born food with murky 20th-century origins and a penchant for provoking arguments. In the spirit of "news you can use," we present a fact-driven evaluation of three classic and two new versions of an old favorite.
THE 5-8 CLUB
5800 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.823.5858
As one of the dueling "original" Jucy Lucy restaurants (5-8 uses the "i" in its Juicy), you'd expect the 5-8 Club to offer a classic rendition. And so it does, serving up a large, competent patty stuffed with plentiful (if not terribly flavorful) American cheese. The onions are a stringy, caramelized mess, but otherwise the bun and toppings are of solid quality. The club is surprisingly antiseptic and chain-restaurantesque, but that cuts both ways; it's easy to get seated, and there's plenty of room.
Cost: $4.95 Grade: B
3500 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.722.7072
A phoned-in effort. The burger is relatively small, lacks flavor, and is packed with ample but essentially taste-free cheese. Other than the cheese filling, the whole experience is standard bar fare, right down to the fries, which appear to have been poured straight out of a 20-pound Sysco bag. To the credit of Matt's: Its central south Minneapolis location and authentic dive-bar atmosphere certainly make it feel like the place that should have the best Jucy.
Cost: $4.50 Grade: C-
492 Hamline Ave. S., St Paul; 651.698.4347
Online scuttlebutt suggests that Casper & Runyon's Nook offers the best Jucy (here it's called the Jucy Nookie) around. A taste test confirms this. The burger is done to a perfect medium, still juicy, flavorful, and savory. The cheese is of surprisingly high quality and heated to a molten temperature. It packs real flavor and makes for extremely convincing cheese fries when it leaks out the back of your patty. And the fries themselves are some of the best in the Twin Cities, served with a bit of peel and a great exterior spice rub.
Cost: $7.25 Grade: A
COMMON ROOTS CAFE
2558 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.871.2360
The spitefully anti-traditional and baseball-shaped Jucy Rootsy served at Common Roots is a great physical metaphor for why people hate left-wing food. Instead of a bun, the burger is served on caraway foccacia, which is too crunchy, too fragile, and too strongly flavored to play well with its contents. If there was cheese in this thing, it was invisible (or completely absorbed) when I tried it. It certainly didn't ooze out, which made the plate of accompanying corn chips seem doubly ridiculous. To compound the horror, this despoiled version is the most expensive "Jucy" on the market. Common Roots should consider sticking to bagels, which they execute with classic grace.
Cost: $9.50 Grade: F
THE BLUE DOOR PUB
1811 Selby Ave., St. Paul; 651.493.1865
The newly opened Blue Door Pub in St. Paul offers a wide selection of Jucys on its menu, but we'll stick to the Classic. Its cheese is ample but not particularly flavorful, and the high-quality burger boasts a nice char, a toasted bun, and a generally harmonious balance of toppings. The fries were unfortunately soggy but honest—they seemed to have been made in-house by someone who meant well.
Cost: $6 Grade: B+
For an interview with Jucy Lucy expert Ed Kohler, visit City Pages' Twin Cities Eater online: blogs.citypages.com/food.
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