Matt’s Bar (MSP) – Best Jucy Lucy in MSP

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Whenever I want to introduce a colleague to one of the quintessential culinary icons in the Twin Cities, I bring them to Matt’s to savor, what I believe is the best version of the Jucy Lucy. After work, we ventured up 77, grabbed a spot on the street, entered Matt’s and waited for our table. On a Thursday night it was not a long wait, maybe 20 minutes and while we waited we watched as burger after burger was placed on the small flat-top and grilled to perfection.

Once seated, Matt’s is a pretty easy place to order. The only question is how many burgers, with or without onions, and how large an order of fries. We both ordered two JL’s and a half order of fries.

The wait for the burgers was longer than the table and once delivered, individually wrapped in paper, the server recited the ritual of being careful about exploding cheese. I advised waiting for a few more minutes, enjoy a few fries and a few more sips of soda. When the time was upon us, I slowly raised the JL to my lips and slow, very slowly bit into the cheese-lava filled burger.

Not too sure if it was too soon, I held my breath as the cheese oozed out and came in contact with the inside of my mouth and my lips. I timed it perfectly, not too hot for scalding but still hot enough to appreciate the madness of the construction. I exhaled and enjoyed the meat, the less than scalding American cheese, the fried onions, pickle and bun. Nothing on this burger was gourmet, nothing qualified as farm to table, but this was a down and dirty inverted cheeseburger with great flavors, great textures, and a heritage that pre-dates this burger lover.

As I finished #1 and moved to #2, I asked my colleague what he thought. He smiled, continued eating…eventually finishing both burgers, the entire order of fries and two diet cokes. Yet another colleague was officially indoctrinated into the Jucy Lucy Club.

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Blue Door Pub (St. Paul) – Still Not a Fan

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It has been several years since I visited the Blue Door Pub, so on a beautiful summer night I made the ride to St. Paul to see if the burger was better than my previous visit. People in the office keep telling me to return, so tonight was the perfect opportunity.

I was fortunate when I arrived that a table was open outside. The hostess did forewarn me that no alcohol was allowed at the outside tables but since I do not drink this was not an issue. A quick perusal of the menu and I was set. The “Blucy” ($7) was not my favorite the last time so I decided on a “Breakfast Blucy” ($9), which tops a basic Blucy with more cheese, a couple of slices of thick bacon and a fried egg. I also substituted onion rings for the fries for an additional $3.

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The burger arrived in its plastic basket along with four onion rings. Fortunately they have a pile of napkins on the table, since lifting and taking the first bite of this burger is a messy feat. The initial impression was not favorable. The meat was basic, lacking any flavor and without seasoning. The bacon was strange. It looked crispy but the fatty part was soft, the same texture when it is raw, the cheese was good and the pickles added flavor to the burger. The egg contributed a little creaminess and crispy texture. There were so many toppings that the bleu cheese on the interior was lost. Together this was an OK burger, nothing special. The onion rings were not good. They were crispy on the exterior but barely cooked on the inside, still maintaining the onion’s raw pungency.

Overall the visit was no better than last time. Others may love the Blue Door, but I am still not a fan.

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Vincent A Restaurant (MSP) – Outstanding Burger

At my last visit to Vincent’s over four years ago I was not impressed with the Vincent Burger. But four years later I am glad I returned because the burger I recently ate was one of the best burgers I have eaten in the Twin Cities.

To start my lunch I ordered a Caesar salad. It was a standard salad with lettuce, croutons, a single anchovy filet on top plus an interesting addition, diced tomato, all topped with a sprinkling of grated cheese. It was lightly dressed and good, not great nor memorable.

But I was interested to either confirm my previous impression of the hamburger or enjoy what others have told me is one of the best. I was both excited and cautiously optimistic when it was placed in front of me. The Vincent burger is a unique combination…a double-patty of ground beef is wrapped around braised short rib and smoked Gouda cheese; served on a brioche bun; it is a haut cuisine version of a Jucy Lucy. It arrives open faced with French fries. The burger patty was on one side of the bun that contained a thin layer of “special sauce” and the other half is topped with lettuce, tomato and raw onion. The ground beef was perfectly seasoned with just a touch of salt. The Gouda was melted and delivered a creaminess to the burger and then the short rib textures and flavors kicked in. This elevated the Vincent Burger from excellent to incredible. The brioche added a little butteriness to the presentation and the sauce gave a few sour background notes. The burger was incredibly delicious. The fries were not in the same league. They were tasteless, cool and bland, more than likely came from a big frozen bag, deep fried and added to the lunch plates.

Overall, the Vincent Burger is an outstanding combination of flavors and textures and ranks as one of the best in Minneapolis.

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Matt’s Bar (Minneapolis) – Jucy Lucy in Paradise

Matts Bar is the quintessential local watering hole, everyone from the neighbor wanders over and you almost expect to see Archie Bunker discussing football with Norm. Founded in 1954, it is not the beer or the mixed drinks that brings non-locals to Matt’s, it is the allure of one of the great culinary creations of the last fifty years, the Jucy Lucy. While others may spell Jucy differently, Matt’s contends that the misspelling is symbolic of the misguided attempts to serve with inferior products. After enjoying numerous Jucy Lucies at Matt’s and other location in the Twin Cities Matt’s is definitely one of the best. As you look around the dining area, there is not a person who is not enjoying a Jucy Lucy, a traditional burger, plus a huge mound of fries.

Prepare to wait on line most nights, but when you enter the bar, you have the option of a table, booth, or grab a seat at the bar that extends the entire length of the right wall.  Located at the front of the bar is a small griddle fully loaded with a maximum 12 sizzling burgers, plus a small deep fryer.  The menu includes the Jucy Lucy, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, single or double, ham and cheese and grilled chicken, plus fries in two sizes, full and half.

For those who have never experienced the pleasures, and potential pains, of a Jucy Lucy, it is comprised of two patties, sealed along the edges to encase a wonderfully delicious molten cheese. They are grilled to an exterior char and placed on a basic bun. I normally choose a sing JL plus fired onions and these are no ordinary onion that are slapped on the griddle and fried, these have a secret, added ingredient, a little jolt of the grease from the deep frier, heh why not?  And when ordering the fries, a half order is more than enough, I once sat next a person who asked if he could order a quarter order.

The burgers are placed on the griddle and allowed to crisp on one side before flipping. The same occurs for side two and then a small hole is cut into the top to see if the interior cheese is fully melted and allow for a little steam to escape. When finished, it is placed in a simple roll, fried onions are added and a mound of fries join paper-lined plastic “plate.”

When the burger and fries arrive, the fun begins. Do not, I repeat, do not, bite into the burger for several minutes. Those who do not head this warning with suffer the JL Burn, half on the roof of your mouth, the other half on the lips. Bide you time, enjoy a few of the delicious fries and be patient. When the time is right, take a small bite, carefully releasing the gooey cheese. There is nothing earth-shattering about the flavors, but this is a great cheeseburger with fried onions on a simple bun, and somehow it all tastes better as a stuffed creation. And one is usually not enough…on every occasion, when our group is finished with the first Jucy Lucy a second round is ordered.

Matt’s Jucy Lucy is one of my favorite renditions in MSP. It is consistently delicious, the fries are always freshly prepared, crispy and perfectly salted and the atmosphere is a relaxing neighborhood haunt.

You can’t go wrong with friends and a few Jucy Lucies at Matt’s.

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Lion’s Tap (Eden Prairie) – Excellent Burgers in Relaxed Setting

The Lion’s Tap is a straight forward concept, choose a couple of menu items, do it well and people will enjoy and return. It is a perfect place to grab a burger at the spur of the moment, or bring the family for an inexpensive dinner. It is a very relaxed, family-style atmosphere mixed with a bar and maintains the history of the location, that began as vegetable stand turned bar turned hamburger and beer joint.

Since 1958 when Ma Schaefer sold the bar to her niece Irene Lyons and husband Sears Lyons the restaurant has been selling hamburgers. Originally the hamburgers were made in an electric frying pan (four at a time) and sold for $.25 each. The business was sold to Lloyd Berg in 1974 and began serving French fries. Ownership was sold to his brother, Vern Berg, shortly thereafter, the kitchen was expanded and sold again three years later to Don and June Gilbert. A few months later the restaurant was again sold to Bert and Bonnie Notermann in 1977, and the name was changed to Lions Tap.

The Notermanns added their own brought in their own “secret seasoning” to the daily made individual patties plus the buns were slightly toasted on the grill. Toppings then included fresh produce, cheese, bacon and onions. With so many owners over the years, Lion’s Tap still maintains its singular focus of great burgers, fries and beer.

The menu includes basic hamburgers, fries, sodas and a full selection of craft beers. Toppings appeal to the traditional burger lover with both American and Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, bacon, fried onions and sautéed mushrooms. Both single and double patties are available. On my visits I normally order a single bacon cheeseburger with fried onions and a side of fries. The meat has always arrived to my requested medium-rare, the strips of bacon crispy without being overcooked and the fried onions, well fried onion, and not burnt. And Lion’s Tap does deserve a special call-out for the slightly toasted bun that opens the flavor. This special seasoning adds just a tang of spice to the meat and the other ingredients are also very good. This is a simply made, delicious bacon cheeseburger. The best way to describe the crinkle cut fries is they are perfectly cooked and it is rare, if ever, that any remain on my plate.

Whether you are looking for a quick lunch with a friend or colleague or a family burger night, Lion’s Tap is my go-to burger haven in Eden Prairie.

16180 Flying Cloud Drive – Eden Prairie – MN – 952.934.5299

Open seven days per week – 11:00 am – 10:00 pm

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The Juicy Lucy @ 5-8 Bar (MSP) is a Big 0-0 for Me

photo (28)-001OK, maybe it’s me, but I just don’t get it. After several discussions and disagreements in the office on where to enjoy the best Juicy Lucy, I ventured back to 5-8 Club to see if I could be convinced that their burger was a great choice. This may be heresy to some, but this was not a meal that would make me rush back, in fact, it is more a DNR.

Let’s get to the positives. I think the joint is an incredibly friendly neighborhood watering hole. It is separated into two rooms, one with a bar and the other entirely tables, with the walls teeming with relics of the 40s 50s and 60s. I sat as a solo diner amongst single dads taking their young kids out for a bite, elderly couples splitting French fries and soccer moms racing to that open table. I was now firmly ensconced in pure Americana…a smile came to my face.

photo (29)-001The waitress arrived, an energetic and incredibly hard-working high school / college teenager working for car money, college money or just entertainment money. She was great. The menu stated that the JL was 8-ounces, a pretty good sized patty, so my order was a JL with bacon and American, some fried onion straws, which I adore, a hot dog and an Arnold Palmer.

The fried onion straws were excellent. A huge mound of thinly sliced, deep-fried onions (enough for multiple guests) was crispy and perfectly salted. They were so good that there was no need to dip in any ketchup.

Good news over…

photo (30)-001Now let me be honest about my view on the JL…the patty was just horrible. There is absolutely nothing positive I can say about the meat. First the size…the menu says “8 ounces” and I would be hard pressed to believe it was more than five ounces. Then the kitchen cooks the doneness to greater than super well done, bordering on incinerated, losing all chance that it will retain any juiciness. And the flavor was tasteless. So the burger meat receives the trifecta, three zeros on taste, preparation and size. And the bacon was a perfect complement to the burger, two meager slices of overcooked bacon. On a slightly positive note, I did like the American cheese, really well melted and with just a touch of pungency. The pickles slices were also a positive; the roll was a pretty basic, what was to be expected in a bar.

photo (32)-001Now onto the hot dog. For full disclosure, I am a fan of a Kosher, natural casing dog so this was definitely not in my comfort zone. The hot dog was in the same category as the burger; an oversized, badly prepared  “Ball Park” imitation; it was barely warm, and also served on a basic package roll. One bite and I was finished.

With so many other choices for great burgers in MSP, I would be hard pressed to place this on a top-25 places to have a burger.

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