Drive Highway 61 just southeast of the Twin Cities, and the landscape naturally falls into farm country. Fields are peppered with tiny white churches, and graveyards where tractors go to die.
On that short but hunger-inducing drive between the cities and Red Wing, it's imperative that you stop by King's Place for a classic King's burger. Not doing so is like breezing past the Dairy Queen on the way to the cabin. Sacrilege.
Not that you have to be heading to Red Wing to stop in. The 30-or-so-minute drive is worth it in its own right.
The King's Place facade looks like a roadhouse out of the movies. It was once a saloon building, dating back to the 1870s, and is now a popular spot for bikers, so expect to spy dozens of choppers lined up on any given afternoon. The interior is simple and genteel, with a somewhat disappointing amount of sunlight filling the room (you sort of want it to be divey). Recently, the space was expanded to accommodate its many legions of fans. It's so clean you could eat off the floor and service is so friendly you'll become an instant regular.
In a world where so many people are afraid to be specialists for fear of alienating anyone, King's Place is boldly and unapologetically a burger joint. While you can get a few other items like chicken and fish sandwiches, getting anything but a burger here is lunacy. The dozens of burgers, from basic (California) to goofy (the Concession Stand with a hot dog piled on top) are the only way to go.
More than 60 varieties make up the list, and many are redundant— the Double Play has Swiss, onion, and green pepper; while the Triple Play has all those things plus bacon, cheddar, and sour cream. If they've got it in house, they'll happily pile it upon your burger, from corned beef to cottage cheese to pineapple.
But as with any righteous burger, it ain't about what's on them but what's in them. Freshly ground chuck provides the only necessary beef, along with good doses of salt and pepper. They're smashed on the grill and cooked through to medium. If you can, post up at the bar to get a look at the action.
The kitchen is hardly larger than a postage stamp, and the two-woman chef duo have their systems down to a fine science. Rows of plates get set up in the window ledge, and just the faintest wrong move could send them toppling over like rows of dominoes. But there are no wrong moves.