Thanks in some part to this publication, Il Foro chef Joe Rolle says he's forever attached to a cheeseburger. You see, in the year 2013, we voted the cheeseburger at Borough, which he was responsible for, the best bite to be had in all of the land. That's right, better than any pho or any foie, any haemul pajeon or any kouign a-mann. This little burger was our favorite thing to eat, all year. Get one, and it wasn't so surprising. Two beef patties, American cheese, white bun; simple perfection. Just everything you want in a burger, nothing you don't, and the things were flying out the door with such profusion that the chefs had to relegate them to the bar so they wouldn't be stuck flipping burgers all night in their otherwise progressive kitchen.
So as we know, Rolle has moved on to Il Foro, the biggest, baddest Italian restaurant in town just now, in the updated Forum Cafeteria space, and he's having a blast indulging his Italian roots with upscale yet approachable dishes like rabbit cacciatore, a super refined minestrone, and pastas to make Lydia Bastianich nervous. But you know, he's king of the best burger in town, so the burger had to follow him.
And just as it was at Borough, this is a restricted, limited time thing — you can only have it at lunch. And just as at Borough, we saw many, many of them sailing out of the kitchen. He's tweaked the grind on this burger 2.0, to equal parts brisket, chuck, and short ribs. If you're wondering what all that juice running down your arm might be, the answer in part is butter, a couple pounds for every 30 pounds of meat. This is a smashburger, meaning the loosely packed patties are smashed down on the flat top, creating char and seasoning, cooking them through — they're not quite as pink as the typical mid-rare burger you'd order elsewhere, and yet the result is perfection, rendering juice enough to justify the linen napkin.
Copious American cheese is the only accompaniment: It melts like that old favorite, but eats tangy and robust like cheddar. The chef has said it's out of Wisconsin but he's secretive about the other details. We'll leave him alone so long as he continues to let us eat the stuff. A heavily buttered white bun from Franklin Street Bakery provides the base, butter outside and in, with a little toasty sear on top that's a delight to gaze upon and more so to eat.
This magnum opus arrives next to a little bank of house-made pickles and another pile of twice-fried potatoes, stacked like golden coins, but I say, push all of this aside. I feel a little uncharitable saying so, because the kitchen has put so much work into both of these, but this burger is the sort of thing that you want to pull into a corner, close the door, and be alone with. Seriously. Don't even go with a dining companion if you can help it. Leave your cell phone in the purse. Enjoy five minutes (it won't last any longer) of pure, unadulterated, hedonistic joy. We can think of few things more corporeal than this, and for those you'll have to dial up another channel.
And really, we can't take credit for Rolle's eternal attachment to a cheeseburger. The credit is all his. And anyway, as the self-professed party boy said himself: "For everything I've done in my life, I guess being known for a cheeseburger isn't so bad."
Available during lunch only, $14 and worth every dime
11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday-Friday
40 S. Seventh St. (in City Center), Minneapolis