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Patty Wagon rounds up tasty burgers in South Minneapolis

Ignore the decor's identity crisis — a good burger knows how to be its best self.

Ignore the decor's identity crisis — a good burger knows how to be its best self.

Burgers are hot right now. Chefs all over town are trying to outdo one another with proprietary mixes of beef and styles ranging from stripped-down classics to over-the-top mountains of meat. So, perhaps it’s no surprise that when restaurateur Bahman Razmpour contemplated a new concept for the space that was home to Cintia’s of Mexico for nearly three decades, he went with a family-friendly burger joint.

The place, rechristened as Patty Wagon, opened in April of this year. Its burgers aren't necessarily gourmet, but they're satisfactory, at least as far as neighborhood joints go, and the options abound. The burgers all start with a one-third-pound charbroiled patties topped as you like, plain or fancy. Larger appetites can double up on the patties. The classic cheeseburger is just that: a minimally adorned burger draped with your choice of cheese. If you like it spicy, try the Hellion, a fiery concoction of a Cajun-seasoned beef topped with pepper jack cheese and sliced jalapenos. There are also a handful of Jucy Lucy-inspired burgers. For maximum meat, try the Porky Wagon, a burger stuffed with cheddar cheese and topped with pulled pork and Jack Daniel's barbecue sauce. 

If you’re not feeling the call of the beef, there’s a turkey burger, fish and chips, and various chicken sandwiches. The fish and chips is more breading than cod, but the accompanying fries are nice and crispy. The coleslaw and tartar sauce tasted like they were straight from food service central, or serviceable, but bland. Salad options are on the menu, but really, that’s not why you go to a burger joint.

In that vein (or artery, as it were), this is not the place for those watching their cholesterol. The deep-fryer gets quite a workout here. The menu includes just about every fried appetizer you can name, such as chicken wings, chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, and cheese curds, many that are served with its “signature sauces,” including seasoned sour cream, ranch and honey mustard dressing, all of which taste very familiar.

The draft beer list isn’t large, but does include Surly and Summit in addition to Miller Lite and Coors Light. For more variety, look to the longer list of bottled beers. For those leaning more towards wine, the choices are extremely limited, with a house cabernet, merlot, chardonnay, white zinfandel, pinot noir, and pinot grigio. But it’s burgers, not porterhouse, so I'd say to stick with the suds, or a cocktail. Or you can go a different way altogether and relive your childhood with another classic: the homemade milkshake.

Transforming the space from Cintia’s to Patty Wagon seems mainly cosmetic — a few pictures of Keystone Cops-era paddy wagons have been slapped up on the wall, but not much else has changed. The results are relatively generic, akin to a Perkins or Bakers Square franchise location.

A new drinking game? How many celebrities can you name from their mug shots?

A new drinking game? How many celebrities can you name from their mug shots?

You have your choice between two dining rooms, including one that's bright and inviting and another, with a bar, which is darker and less inspiring, especially if practically empty. The only truly interesting decor is hidden down the bathroom hallway, where celebrity mug shots line the walls. The rest of the space could use more personality, or at least a clearer identity. It seems like the place can’t decide whether to be a modern, updated take on the classic diner or a throwback to the ‘50s. Luckily, a good burger is timeless.

Patty Wagon

6042 Nicollet, Minneapolis

612-861-5500

11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun.-Thurs.

11 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri.-Sat. 

Weekday happy hour from 1-4 p.m. (all apps except for wings, $5, and rotating drink specials)