There's nothing humble about the hamburger in the Twin Cities. Our Midwestern pride comes out with this seemingly simple dish, crafting innovative variations while never missing the essential equation: patty + bun + toppings = tasty glory.
Finding the top 10 in the Twin Cities took careful consideration to materials used--burger patty, bun, and toppings--and then how they were prepared. For such a staple dish, the burger is easy to ruin.
And there are intangibles. One of the pleasures of going out to eat is the location. The restaurants below range from some of the classiest in town to classic neighborhood bars where the meals are served wrapped in paper, without any plates at all. Both extremes work perfectly for our towns' best burgers.
10. Vincent Restaurant
How big is the Vincent Burger, the classy downtown restaurant's version of the Jucy Lucy? During the baseball season, you can chow down on one at Target Field, amid all the other ballpark delicacies. All burgers start with the meat, and chef and owner Vincent Francoual has that covered, using a mix of traditional ground beef and braised short ribs. Then, in place of American cheese, the interior is stuffed with smoked Gouda, making a dish that even the most committed Francophobe will love. If you stop by the restaurant during happy hour, the lounge offers a specially priced version of the burger that lets you experience the singular item without paying as much for a full meal at many restaurants.
Oh, the Jucy Lucy. Love it or be confounded by it, there's no doubt this creation is as Minnesotan as Mary Tyler Moore and talking endlessly about the weather. Matt's Bar is one of the places to claim the creation of the dish (and the originator of the unusual spelling. So what is it? Take a pair of hamburger patties, smash them around a hunk of cheese, and cook until the insides are molten. Let it cool a bit, and you have a dish in which the cheese and meat flavors merge into a greasy-spoon masterpiece. Matt's Bar brings the ambience as well, and you'll feel like you've walked right into a joint from the past, right down to the menu board with the various dishes, with--of course--the Jucy Lucy at the top in a place of pride.
For the past five years, this eatery has been racking up accolades from not just the local press and customers, but from publications across the country. It seems that everyone is in love with its extensive offerings and friendly atmosphere, where good old-fashioned trimmings (sports on TV) are merged with fresh takes on old favorites like hot dogs or unexpected delights, like a steak tartare on the appetizer menu. The half-pound patties start with domestic Kobe beef that is ground in-house daily. From there, you can go with the basic or jump to one of the special offerings, like the truffle, the Good Morning (ham, eggs, and American cheese on an English muffin) or the Ninja (fresh jalapenos with pepper jack cheese, I think you can see where the name comes from). Burgers are served with fries, or for an additional charge, you can move up to the Bulldog's famous, perfectly deep-fried tater tots
Victory 44's ever-changing chalkboard menu features some constants, including the aptly named Perfect Burger. It's as much a work of art as a serving of America's favorite dish. It starts with the patty, made from ground beef blended with flecks of frozen butter, then coated with salt and spices and cured for a day. The patty is tucked into an also-griddled, flour-dusted bun that's tender and squishy yet doesn't fall apart under the weight of the toppings: bacon, melted sharp cheddar, plus thin-sliced raw onions, sweet pickles, and a swipe of dijon.
While juiciness is one of this burger's best attributes, the only thing that keeps it from achieving pure perfection is its lack of a built-in bib. You'll have to use the skin-on French fries to sop up the savory liquid that drips.
The 112 Eatery doesn't dress up its signature cheeseburger in lots of fancy condiments and additions. Instead, chef Isaac Becker makes it all about the basics: patty, cheese, and bun.
The meat is lightly seasoned with a mixture of spices that provide a terrific roster of flavors. Instead of your usual offerings--American, cheddar, or Swiss if the restaurant is adventurous--the burger is topped with gooey, decadent brie that adds a flavorful explosion to perfectly complement the high-quality beef. Finally, in place of a soft, sesame-seed-laden bun, we get an English muffin. This soft, but dense bread offers a firm grip that also absorbs all the wonderful juices produced by the burger and cheese. It's one of the dishes that has made the 112 a popular after-hours destination for folks across the Twin Cities, offering an item that can be ordered as an appetizer, entrée or late-night snack.
Customers flock to northeast Minneapolis for the Anchor's signature and oh-so-very-good fish and chips, but they also hit a home run (or a six, to use an appropriate British sports analogy) with their burgers, which start with high-quality, grass-fed beef from Thousand Hills in Cannon Falls (for non-meat eaters, the veggie-burger patty is made by the Mill City Café). There are several varieties from here, starting with the basic item, which can be topped off with Irish cheddar cheese. You can upgrade from here to the famed Helicopter, where the lean meat is topped with all manner of cardiac threats: a creamy, robust Irish cheddar, a salty slab of Fischer Farms ham, and, as if that weren't enough, a sizzling fried egg. After you've had a burger paired with a greasy ol' sunny-side-up, you'll never want to eat one without it. And all the burgers come with a side of the Anchor's epic, hand-cut "chips" (fries for us American types) the perfectly complement.
The popular eatery near the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul maintains its special place in the hearts of many diners through its near-perfect burgers: meaty, juicy, cooked and seasoned just right, served on a fresh, fluffy white bakery bun. The menu offers all kinds of burger-enhancement options: Worcestershire, various cheeses, bacon, and much more (plus a version of that venerable local creation, the Jucy Lucy, here called a "Nookie"). But the simple, basic cheeseburger is perhaps the best way to experience this beefy goodness. The Nook has earned plenty of accolades over the years, from being featured on the Food Network to earning a top burger in the United States nod from USA Today, and the restaurant continues to prove why it is such a local favorite. Even a fire in late 2010 couldn't stop the Nook, which reopened with increased capacity, meaning even more folks could enjoy the burger goodness inside.
Busters on 28th offers south Minneapolis a nice, traditional watering hole, featuring plenty of beer and bar food options. The choice of burgers has helped to make it a popular destination. These are build-your-own creations, all starting with a half-pound of Angus beef, bison meat, or ground turkey. The buns are baked daily by the next-door A Baker's Wife, giving customers a great foundation on which to build their creation. For a dollar apiece, there are several options for cheese, onions, mushrooms, thick-cut bacon, and even pickled beets. As far as sides go, the menu features options for Magic Hat Beer-battered onion rings, hand-cut fries (both of the Idaho and sweet varieties) and sea salt and vinegar chips.
If you put "Burger" in your name, you had better be ready to deliver the goods. Burger Jones does that, and much, much more. The popular eatery, with locations in Burnsville and near Lake Calhoun, offers an almost dizzying array of options, not just in toppings but also with the basic ingredients, offering up bison, chicken, turkey, and vegetarian options. On the hamburger front, one of the most popular during the daytime is the Nooner, which offers a cheeseburger and fries for a single low price. The massive dish--served either "pink" (medium rare) or not pink--is a veritable mountain that is easier to eat with a fork than the hands, especially if you add some of the toppings. The same can be said for their signature burgers, such as the White Trash burger (topped with chicken-fried bacon, fried cheese curds, and Velveeta, oh my) and the Hangover, which adds a fried egg to the usual bacon cheeseburger experience.
These days, the closest most people will get to eating in a train diner car is going to Mickey's Diner in the heart of downtown St. Paul. It's a perfect environment for a meal to take you back in time. The grill is mere feet away from the seats at the counter, so you can watch the always-busy cooks making your meal as you watch. The burgers themselves are classic Americana, fresh patties served plain, or with cheese, bacon, and/or California style (lettuce, tomato, and mayo). To really get the full Mickey's experience, try the Patty Melt, which finds the cheeseburger served with fried onions on whole wheat bread, creating a delightful merger of the grilled-cheese sandwich and the burger. The sides are also an attraction here, as you have your choice of baked beans, cole slaw, fries, or Mickey's famous hash browns, with just enough grease to add flavor and a perfect mix of crispy outsides and tender middles. And it's almost impossible to resist Mickey's famous mulligan stew, made from the same pre-WWII recipe as always.