The Twin Cities are a long-time incubator of innovative burgers. So it's no surprise that the home of the Jucy Lucy is well on board with an even less conventional trend: the peanut butter burger. To the uninitiated, the thought of slathering a burger with rich, creamy peanut butter is "weird" or a sign of the decadence of a declining empire. Those who have tried the topping know the truth: Peanut butter is just odd enough to be interesting, and the burgers taste damn good. Here are our six favorite spots in the cities that have their own take on this nutty formula.
6. Sporty's Pub and Grill: The Nutty Buddy, $9.50 Sporty's is a friendly dive bar and grill in the Como neighborhood, boasting an impressive roster of inventive burger options, including a house-made vegan black bean patty and a burger topped with cheese curds and potato chips, all served until 1:30 a.m. The Nutty Buddy comes on strong -- two thick strips of bacon, pepper-jack cheese, and lots of creamy peanut butter and mayo, with pickles served on the side. The base is solid: The flattop cooked burger is classic American diner, and the bacon is meaty and high-quality. Add to that a huge slab of basic creamy PB for an incredibly messy burger made with peanut-lovers in mind.
5. Crooked Pint Ale House: The PB & Bacon Lucy, $11 The huge downtown space that holds the Crooked Pint in Minneapolis has two levels of seating and is marked by a movie marquee. Their PB Lucy takes a different spin than the other contenders on this list by putting creamy PB -- you guessed it -- on the inside of the patty. This leaves the spread hot and almost saucy, a good move that helps distribute the flavor throughout.
4. Grumpy's Bar & Grill: Southern Style "The Elvis," $9.75 At their downtown location, Grumpy's keeps its spin on things very simple: a half-pound Angus patty, creamy peanut butter with nuts on top, and crispy bacon. The charbroiled summer cookout taste of the burger along with the crunch of the bacon and nuts are balanced out nicely by the smoothness of the PB. This burger makes it easy to see how the trend first caught on: peanut butter, burger, and bacon just go together, with a subtle sweetness and unifying richness.
3. Bulldog Northeast: The Peanut Butter Bacon, $13 This NE bar is an institution when it comes to burgers, and it does not disappoint with this one. The patty -- a freshly ground blend of brisket, sirloin, and chuck -- is the best of the bunch, cooked to order and exceptionally juicy and flavorful. The house-made Surly Furious chunky peanut butter is a revelation. The intense nuttiness with a note of slightly bitter beer flavor pairs excellently with the burger. A fried egg and meaty bacon on a croissant bun tops everything off with a breakfast twist. One would think that eggs and peanut butter would blend horribly, but the buttery smoothness of the egg actually complements PB very well.
2. Red Cow: The Breakfast Burger, $11 Red Cow, which opened its first location in southwest Minneapolis last year and a second very recently on Selby in St. Paul, is a newcomer on the Twin Cities burger scene and is already looking to open a third location in the North Loop. It's easy to see why after trying their Breakfast Burger. The burger includes cheddar cheese, a fried egg, bacon, and crunchy PB, all on sourdough bread. Even with all these rich ingredients, the burger is so well put together that nothing clashes or seems out of place. The beef tastes fresh; the bacon is hearty, not too salty, and cooked perfectly, as is the fried egg. Sourdough adds a little bit of needed tang to a burger that could have otherwise been a little flat. Red Cow uses PB a little differently than others on this list -- rather than putting it front and center, the crunchy stuff is spread thinly on both pieces of bread and serves as more of accent, providing a hint of sweetness and an interesting twist. Overall, the Breakfast Burger is remarkably cohesive, unified by an almost light buttery flavor throughout, somehow making a burger with greasy spoon ingredients fit for a bistro.
1. The Blue Door Pub: The Jiffy Burger, $9 If Vegas was giving odds on this contest, the Jiffy Burger would definitely have been the favorite. It's been an icon at the St. Paul Blue Door Pub for several years now, and was prominently mentioned back when they won best burger in 2009. Believe the hype. The burger is satisfyingly char-broiled, tender, and seasoned well. Thick-cut smoky bacon, bringing to mind a farmhouse bed-and-breakfast, and spicy pepper-jack cheese top it off well. The real star is, of course, the peanut butter, a chunky spread on both sides of the patty. There's nothing subtle about this burger, except maybe the tang of the pickles and slight hint of mayo. And yet somehow the flavors fit together so naturally that nothing overpowers anything else, leaving an excellent nutty, spicy, and smoky combination.