Thursday, June 6, 2013

Back! Revisits! New burgers!

So, yeah. I'm back.

For those looking at past posts in search of a good cheeseburger, I've gone back to a few of the ones I'd been to previously and need to revise.

First, the Lyndale Tap House. In my previous review (from 3 years ago!), I found this to be a fantastic burger (and actually had it multiple times and it was always good). However, I recently went back and the burger I got was overcooked and underseasoned. Perhaps it was a fluke, perhaps they have a new chef, whatever -- something was different, and not in a good way, so be aware.

Next, Buster's on 28th. Last time I was quite impressed with this burger despite the somewhat uneven seasoning. On my most recent visit, though, not only was the seasoning uneven, but the bun was also dry, perhaps stale.

Both reviews will be updated to reflect this new information.

Also, I have some burgers that have been eaten and I just haven't had the time to write up. Soon.

Monday, November 12, 2012


Now, I know I don't post very much. Hey, I'm busy! But I do have good intentions, and I like to think that every burger I eat is a potential blog post. But I do know that I won't be able to post any reviews at all until probably around February, 2013 due to upcoming work travel. In fact, the past couple of posts you saw (Mosaic and Northbound) were scheduled postings after I had already left! But sit tight. There are always cheeseburgers to eat.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Northbound Smokehouse & Brewpub

The Northbound Smokehouse & Brewpub is a new brewpub in the Longfellow neighborhood of South Minneapolis. They made news before their doors even opened when they offered free beer for life to early investors. Now that they're open, they're serving their house-made brews along with a full bar menu, with nearly everything, including the beer, touched by smoke.

Their burger is billed as a 7oz black angus patty served on an egg bun. Standard acoutrements are mayo, lettuce, and tomato for the $7.25 base price. I added fried onion ($0.50) and 2 slices of smoked cheddar ($1.50) to bring the grand total to $9.25. I ordered mine medium.

I had mixed impressions when it arrived. On the plus side, the thick coating of melted cheese permeated the small pile of fried onions atop the bun, and the lettuce provided was a few leaves of Bibb lettuce -- not something you normally see on a brewpub (or anywhere) burger. On the other hand, the patty itself had a distinctly 'prefab' appearance, with those squared edges that, at best, betray a burger patty made in a burger press but at worst imply something out of a Sysco truck. The cross section showed the meat was cooked very nearly to well-done -- nowhere near the medium requested.

Still, it's the taste that matters. And again, a mixed bag. The beef was decently seasoned, for the most part, but a bit on the dry side and not particularly distinctive on its own. The cheese, when tasted alone, had a nice smokiness to it, but it was hard to detect that flavor in the whole ensemble. The fried onions, though, were great -- they were slightly undercooked so they still had a little bit of that raw onion bite, in both flavor and texture, along with the sweetness of grilled onion. And the bun was fan-frickin'-tastic. Definitely the best bun I've had in a long while here in the Twin Cities -- extremely fresh, a little sweet, tough enough not to fall apart in your hands but soft enough to not interfere with the burger eating experience (I'm looking at you, Rye Deli onion bialy bun), and moist without being soggy.

In the end, though, the bun's perfection wasn't enough to overcome the more fundamental issue with the burger -- the meat's just average flavor and it's overcooked-ness. If you're here getting a beer, the burger is an ok choice, but I'd probably choose something else next time -- like maybe the waffle-batter-dipped fried chicken sandwich, which my friend said was quite good, and is served on the same awesome egg bun.

Northbound Smokehouse & Brewpub

(612) 328-1450

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Mosaic Cafe

Mosaic Cafe is a relative newcomer to the Twin Cities restaurant scene, taking over the former Glaciers Cafe spot in an oddly-shaped lot near Minnehaha Ave and Lake Street in the Longfellow neighborhood of South Minneapolis. They have a pretty standard cafe menu, with coffee drinks, sandwiches, frozen desserts, beer and wine, and, of course, burgers to please any dietary needs in beef, turkey, and vegan varieties.

They advertise their burgers as using the well-regarded 1000 Hills Cattle Company's local, grass-fed beef. Their standard burgers use a 1/3-lb patty, with 1/2 lb available at a nominal extra charge, and a multigrain bun served with a side of kettle chips. I decided to get their 1/3-lb Farmhouse burger ($9.50), served with lettuce, tomato, red onion, and aioli, to which I added a slice of cheddar cheese ($0.50) and a side of their oven-baked rosemary garlic fries in place of the chips ($3.00) for a total of $12.00. As usual, I requested it cooked medium.

It arrived looking like a solid burger construction -- the meat was well and properly seared and the cheese fully melted. The tomato was sliced generously, and a decent amount of green leaf lettuce and red onions finished out the toppings. The aioli was generously slathered on the bottom bun and both buns were lightly toasted. Upon slicing through, the meat was shown to be cooked to a perfect medium, though it was a bit asymmetric as if it had been left to cook too long on one side.

As for flavor -- it was solid. The meat was, as expected, of good quality, and properly seasoned. The aioli flavor was mild but still contributed a nice pungence to the burger. And the bun -- I'll tell you, I'm always a little leery of multigrain buns on cheeseburgers -- with all the seeds and whole grain flours, the texture tends to be a bit distracting from the burger itself. But this bun was probably the best multigrain burger bun I've ever had, with a subtle earthy flavor and no distracting bits. It was, however, a little on the dry side.

All in all, a good performance from a neighborhood newcomer. I'd definitely get another burger from here if I was looking for a good quality burger within walking distance from my house!

Mosaic Cafe 
3019 Minnehaha Avenue

(612) 746-1504

NB: The oven baked fries are advertised as cooked "in a special oven so they get that crispy goodness we all love without unhealthy frying." But the fries were as greasy or greasier than any deep-fried fries I've ever had. Ah, marketing!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Vincent A Restaurant

Vincent A Restaurant is a French-inspired restaurant in downtown Minneapolis that has routinely won accolades for its burger. Dig this: a ground beef and braised short rib patty combined with smoked gouda, Jucy Lucy-style. Are you hungry yet?

The burger is only available in the bar area of the restaurant, which is fine -- a Jucy Lucy, even a fancy one, doesn't really fit the white-tablecloth aesthetic of the main dining room. Normally, the burger is $14, but if you go during one of Vincent's two nightly happy hours, the price drops to only $8! I ordered mine with a side salad, but if the fries are the same as the ones that come with the poutine we ordered as an appetizer, they're also a good choice. The burger is only cooked one way: a little past medium to ensure the cheese inside is fully-melted.

The first thing I noticed when the burger arrived was that the patty was quite a bit smaller than the bun. I didn't take a cross-section cut before eating it because that would have allowed the delicious cheese to leak out. Unlike at Matt's Bar(and I'm aware that it's a little ridiculous to compare Matt's Bar to Vincent), Vincent's take on the Jucy Lucy is immediately edible without scalding the inside of your mouth with napalm-like melted cheese, which to me belies the attention paid to the cooking process. And those bites are truly glorious. I am a big fan of smoked foods, and the smoked gouda in this burger is fantastic. The meat itself was perfectly seasoned in the first half of the burger that I ate, but veered towards too salty as I got to the end. One unexpected surprise was the nice crust on the outside of the patty that made the whole experience a textural pleasure. On the other hand, the bun was soft and fresh but nothing exceptional, and the tomato was also, sadly, a bit mealy and lacking in flavor.

Despite the partially-errant seasoning, overall the flavor of this burger is great -- there's a reason it wins all those awards. It's worth a trip to downtown.

Vincent A Restaurant
1100 Nicollet Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55403
(612) 630-1189

Monday, July 2, 2012

Red Stag Supperclub

I am a fan of Red Stag Supperclub. Located in the Central/University (St. Anthony East) area of Northeast Minneapolis, I have consistently had great food and a great experience -- so much so that my wife and I decided to have a pre-wedding family dinner there. Despite having been there numerous times, I had yet to have their cheeseburger. So, I decided to change that.

On paper, the burger looks great. Heirloom Limousin beef, pickled red onions, and garlic aioli? Hell yes. I ordered mine medium. With the included fries and the addition of a slice of white medium cheddar, the total was $13.50.

Upon arrival, I was dismayed -- why would you list everything that comes on the burger except the pickles? Luckily, the pickles were sweet pickles and not dill pickles, so the inevitable pickle juice contamination was not too severe. The burger looked to be about a half pound, fit the nicely griddled bun well, and had a good amount of nicely melted cheese. When cut in half, the meat was cooked to a perfect medium-to-medium-rare in the middle, transitioning to medium-well at the edges.

On the flavor front, this burger was darn near perfect. The beef itself was delicious and perfectly seasoned, and the garlic aioli and pickled onions added a kick that really went well with the rest of the burger. The bun was just hearty enough to make it a perfect complement to density of the meat without being overly tough or chewy. My only complaint is the unevenness of the meat's done-ness -- towards the edges where it was cooked more, the meat tended towards dryness and that particular well-done beef flavor. Still, overall -- an excellent performance. I would definitely get this burger again.

Red Stag Supperclub
509 1st Avenue Northeast
Minneapolis, MN 55413
(612) 767-7766

Monday, June 4, 2012

Town Hall Brewery

Town Hall Brewery in the Seven Corners area of the West Bank (across the street from Republic) is, I believe, one of Minneapolis' best-loved brewpubs. In addition to their wide variety of house-brewed beers (and a small selection from other breweries), they have a fairly extensive menu of standard pub fare such as wings, steaks, a variety of salads and sandwiches, and, of course, burgers.

Their standard burger is a 1/2-lb of meat cooked medium well served with lettuce, tomato, and pickles (which I requested be omitted). To this I added cheddar cheese and fried onions (not sure if I was going to get pan-fried/caramelized onions or deep-fried onions -- either would have been fine!), and I requested my burger be cooked medium instead of medium well. Served with a side of fries, the addition of cheese and onions pushed the total up to an entirely reasonable $8.50.

The burger arrived looking pretty good -- a nice big hunk of meat with a piece of cheddar draped and melted nicely on top. Sitting on top of the cheese was a small pile of caramelized onions. The top bun was very lightly toasted, and I assume that it was the same for the lower bun (its state was harder to determine due to the confounding factor of having had a piece of cooked meat sitting atop it). The toppings were sparse -- a single small leaf of green-leaf lettuce and two small-but-thick tomato slices, barely big enough to cover half the area of the generous patty. And, sadly, two pickle slices which I promptly discarded. The meat appeared to be cooked somewhere on the border of medium and medium-well, to my eye.

The bad: The meat was way underseasoned. Good flavor, but seemingly no salt at all added to the whole affair. And while it wasn't dry, it seemed...inconsistently juicy -- some bites were better than others. On the other hand, the fried onions actually weren't completely cooked until limp, giving the burger a little textural bite. And the bun was excellent -- fresh but not too soft, a little sweet, and with maybe a hint of whole grain taste to it. A far cry from the low-rent bun at Merlin's Rest.

This burger would benefit greatly from the addition of bacon and...barbecue sauce -- which is conveniently available as their Seven Corners Burger, using Town Hall's own oatmeal stout barbecue sauce! I'd probably choose this one over competitor Republic's offerings.

Town Hall Brewery
1430 South Washington Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55454
(612) 339-8696Link

Monday, May 28, 2012

Merlin's Rest

Merlin's Rest is a neighborhood pub in the Longfellow area of Minneapolis, located on East Lake Street at 36th Avenue (right across from the White Castle). While it is known for being a 'family friendly' establishment brimming with British Isles charm and a massive single-malt scotch selection, their food menu is pretty decent. Sure, they have fish and chips and bangers and mash, but I want to find out how well the British can put together that quintessentially American concoction, the cheeseburger.

The burgers at Merlin's Rest feature a 1/3-lb Thousand Hills beef patty seasoned and cooked to medium rare -- already sounds promising. They offer a choice of a variety of cheeses, but this time I went with good ol' American cheese -- perhaps in defiance of the establishment's geographical theme, but mostly because it melts really well. Some even go so far as to claim it's the best cheese for cheeseburgers. The burger is served atop a St. Agnes bun, which I later learned is a local bakery in St. Paul. They are served with lettuce, tomato, and a side of 'pub crisps' (potato chips to us Yanks). I ordered mine with 'chips' (french fries) instead, putting the total at $11.50.

The burger looked good when it first arrived. I was surprised to see that the bun, which apparently had been so special as to warrant a mention on the menu, was, in fact, a completely ordinary-looking white flour burger bun. The cheese was melted but good -- no surprise, given that it was American cheese -- and the lettuce was surprisingly a fairly big pile of boston or bibb leaves. The burger was cooked perfectly medium rare -- nice job, Redcoats.

The burger itself tasted great, because the meat was seasoned properly -- salt, black pepper, and maybe even some other stuff too. The big problem with this burger was the bun. Not only did it look like an ordinary white flour burger bun, it tasted and felt like one too. It actually was strongly reminiscent of a bun one might get with a fast food burger -- not really at the level of a $10+ burger. This bun had exactly the opposite problem of the bialy bun at Rye Deli -- it was just too soft and unsubstantial. I suspect that this bun was actually not from the St. Agnes bakery, because the products on their website look to be of much higher quality than what I received with my burger. The American cheese was good, but its combination with the low-rent bun made for a distinctly fast-food-burger-esque experience. It didn't help that overall the burger was a bit mushy, with the extremely soft bun, medium rare meat, and gooey cheese. The outer sear on the patty and a few leaves of lettuce can only do so much for texture contrast.

In the end, this burger was let down by its bun. If they can raise their game on this one point, they'll have a real winner.

Merlin's Rest Pub
3601 East Lake Street
Minneapolis, MN 55406
(612) 216-2419

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Rye Delicatessen

Today's cheeseburger is from another relative newcomer to the Minneapolis restaurant scene, Rye Delicatessen. Housed in the former Auriga location on Hennepin near Franklin in the Lowry Hill neighborhood, Rye's specialty is Montreal-style smoked meat. However, continuing my tradition of going to places with specialty items and then ignoring said items for cheeseburgers (see: Anchor, Lyndale Tap House), I decided to see if their burger was up to snuff.

The description for the burger was mostly promising: the beef they use is a blend of chuck and brisket, both flavorful, fatty cuts (and we all know that fat = delicious). Their "Well Built Burger" adds Widmer aged cheddar, caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato, and homemade ketchup to the 1/2-lb patty, all set on a toasted bialy bun. The bun gave me pause -- a bialy is a fine piece of carbohydrate, but I was worried that the dense chewiness of that sort of bread product wouldn't work well in a burger. When I ordered the burger, I was given a choice of "rare, pink, or no pink" -- I chose pink, figuring that would be closest to my preferred medium doneness level. The burger is served with a side of their cole slaw (with a vinegar- rather than mayo-based dressing) and a pickle spear, which I declined, for $9.50. I also ordered a side of fries ($2 during their happy hour, $3.50 normally) because...french fries.
When the burger arrived, it made quite a dramatic entrance, speared through the top with a large steak knife. The patty was large and irregularly-shaped, clearly hand-pattied, with a good sear and a nicely melted cheese atop. The caramelized onions were piled on generously, along with a decently thick slice of tomato and some leaves of, sadly, iceberg lettuce. The bialy bun was covered on top with onion bits and poppy seeds, and was a fair bit smaller than the meat. Cutting it in half showed that the patty was overcooked, with barely a trace of pink to be seen.

With the first bite I knew my fears about the bun were completely valid. It was, in fact, too dense, requiring a lot of pressure to bite through and squeezing the contents of the burger out the back end. This combined with the relative sizes of the bun to meat resulted in a very messy eating experience. I wouldn't complain so much about this if the rest of the burger made it worthwhile -- but, frankly, it didn't wow me. The meat was slightly underseasoned and somewhat on the dry side (no surprise given the doneness level), and was so loosely pattied that chunks of burger fell off as I was eating. On the positive side, the caramelized onion really came through, and the toasted onion topping on the bialy added a nice bit of crunch And Rye's house-made plum tomato ketchup was also quite good -- a far sight better than the swill they called ketchup at Republic.

I think the choice of bun really brought this burger down a notch. If I do come back (and again decide not to order one of their 'signature' items), I would probably try the patty melt instead of the burger -- as it's served on grilled rye rather than a bialy.

Rye Delicatessen
1930 Hennepin Avenue

(612) 871-1200