Monday, November 15, 2010

Five Guys Burgers and Fries

You may have heard of Five Guys Burgers and Fries. I had heard that they were a similar concept to my beloved In-N-Out burger -- fast-food burgers made from fresh, never-frozen beef and freshly-cut french fries. Unlike In-N-Out, however, Five Guys has locations all over the country.

Now, I had been to Five Guys before the genesis of this blog -- they have a location in Edina to which I made a trip a while back. And, frankly, I was disappointed. entire experience was tainted by shattered expectations: I was looking forward to a cheeseburger and a shake...but Five Guys doesn't offer shakes. Having to settle for a soda ruined the whole experience for me on that day. So when a new Five Guys location opened up in Dinkytown, I decided to return with a more open mind and attempt to give an unbiased review.

So, I made a lunch date with a friend and we headed to the Five Guys. I ordered my burger: a cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, grilled onions, mayo, and ketchup. Now, at Five Guys, a regular burger is actually a double, with two meat patties (along with two slices of cheese for the cheeseburger) -- if you want a single burger, you'd order the so-called "little burger". With a side of fries and a soft drink, the total was about $10 -- the cheeseburger alone was $5. As an aside, a regular order of fries is a LOT of fries -- most normal people could split an order with no issues.

The burger arrived looking quite nice -- the two slices of American cheese, melted well, were between the two patties, the lettuce and tomato were placed on top with the nicely grilled onions below. The sesame bun was toasted nicely too. Cutting through showed the well-done meat, as expected and as clearly stated on the menu.

And you know what? This is actually a pretty good burger. The meat was seasoned decently, though perhaps a little unevenly, and having the cheese in between the two patties helped make sure that each bite had nice flavor. Certainly better than I had remembered. On the other hand, the tomato was bland, the lettuce was iceberg (meh), and the bun, though fresh, was not particularly flavorful. Still, overall, a really good fast-food burger, and I'm glad there's a location within easy walking distance of my office!

Does it best In-N-Out? The burgers are comparable in taste, and a Five Guys cheeseburger is a little bigger than an In-N-Out Double Double. Then again, Five Guys is a bit more expensive ($5 vs. $3). I'm personally still partial to In-N-Out (possibly due to nostalgia and pre-existing bias), but if you prefer Five Guys I won't look down on you.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries
1413 Fourth St. SE
Minneapolis, MN 55414

P.S. I know this isn't a french fry blog, but Five Guys' fries are hands-down better than In-N-Out's.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Convention Grill

I had been meaning to go to Convention Grill for a while, based on a good friend's recommendation, but I never seem to find myself out that way (I mean seriously, who goes to Edina?). But this past weekend I was hungry and craving a cheeseburger (as is often the case) and decided to make the trek out to the 'burbs and see if it truly lived up to the hype.

The decor in the place is distinctively retro, if not actually old -- fine dining this is not. But hey, it doesn't need to be, as cheeseburgers know no socioeconomic boundaries. The basic burger at Convention Grill is described as "lean ground beef cooked medium-well on a hearty bun" for $4.95. To this you can add cheese of one of a few varieties ($0.95), get it "California style", with lettuce, tomato, and mayo ($0.95), or with both as a "California cheeseburger" -- for $1.95. Indulge me for a brief moment while I complain: They're charging me MORE for getting two things together? It's only 5 cents, but...that's not how it's supposed to work. Ok. Breathe. Ok I'm good. On to the burger. I ordered the California cheeseburger with "smokey cheddar" and grilled onions.

When it arrived, I took note of the following: Two nice looking tomato slices, a big romaine leaf, and not-fully-melted cheese. As at Smashburger, the nicely grilled onions were placed underneath the cheese. I had thought I had escaped the dreaded pickles, but it turns out they were hiding underneath the lettuce leaf. For those who do like pickles, the three miniscule pickle chips provided would barely cover a third of the nicely-seared patty. The bun was sadly untoasted. Cutting it in half, I saw the patty was cooked to what appeared to my eye to be well-done rather than medium-well -- nary a hint of pink to be found. Not surprisingly, given the "lean" description of the meat used, it was not particularly abundant in juice.

On the flavor front, it was actually pretty good. The meat was seasoned quite nicely, and smoked cheddar really should be mandatory for any cheeseburger. On the downside, it was on the dry end of acceptable. The bun was soft and fresh but otherwise nothing special. And the lack of toasting in my mind really hurts -- why wouldn't you take the opportunity to add another layer of texture, flavor, and, ideally, butter?

Still, I enjoyed the burger. Not great, but the good seasoning and smoked cheddar was enough to elevate it from "meh" to "pretty good" in spite of its shortcomings. While I probably wouldn't make the trip just for it, especially given that I have what I consider to be a better option right in my neighborhood, if I were out there anyway I'd definitely consider it if I was in the mood for a cheeseburger -- as is often the case.

Convention Grill & Fountain
3912 Sunnyside Rd, Edina, MN

(952) 920-6881 ()

Monday, October 4, 2010

Stub and Herb's

Stub and Herb's is a sports bar on the East Bank (Stadium Village) part of the U of M campus. Besides a fairly extensive beer list, they also have pretty solid food. Their burgers are 1/3-lb of Angus beef, pattied when ordered, and cooked to medium-well. They offer a wide selection of burgers, from plain burger to ones with salsa, fried egg, bleu cheese, or BBQ sauce and onion rings. On this occasion, I decided on a simple cheeseburger with cheddar cheese. With fries, the cheeseburger basket was a mere $6.

When the burger arrived, I was surprised that there were none of the standard toppings with the burger, such as lettuce, tomato, or onions. Still, the cheese was melted nicely, the bun perfectly toasted, and the burger nicely seared. Cutting it in half revealed a medium-well cooked patty, as promised. The pickle chips, which were erroneously delivered with the burger in spite of my request, were removed with a quickness.

As far as flavor, this is a really good burger. Even though the meat was cooked medium-well, it was still fairly juicy, and seasoned perfectly. But the real star of this burger is the bun: It's a pretzel roll of some sort, sweet, slightly dense, chewy, and delicious. It might lack a little physical robustness, in that it starts to fall apart a little by the end of the burger, but the flavor more than makes up for it. A definite winner.

The only downside to this particular burger is that, for some reason, I found two little hard bits of something in my burger patty -- perhaps little bone fragments? I've had burgers at Stub and Herb's multiple times, and this was the first time I had experienced anything of that sort. I'm going to chalk it up to an outlier for now...

In the end, though, Stub and Herb's is still my go-to cheeseburger when I have a lunch craving at work. Recommended.

Stub and Herb's
(612) 379-0555

Monday, September 13, 2010

Ike's Food and Cocktails

Today's cheeseburger (ok, I actually ate this burger over two months ago...) is from Ike's Food and Cocktails, in downtown Minneapolis. The place has a dark, old-boys-club sort of feel (they don't even have a website, as far as I can tell) and a great selection of burgers. My choice on this particular evening was their patty melt: it's advertised as ground Angus beef with aged cheddar cheese and caramelized onions, all served on, interestingly, a Parmesan bread rather than the standard rye. I ordered mine medium, as usual, and with a side of fries it was about $13 if I remember correctly (it was a while ago, after all).

The patty melt arrived already cut in half, showcasing the nice and even medium cooking level. The meat was clearly juicy (more on that later), the cheese was melted well, and the bread had a nice golden-brown grilled exterior.

The first bite showed that this was a great patty melt. The beef had great flavor, its seasoning was dead on, and the bread provided a great crunch. The parmesan bread was also a great choice, adding another layer of flavor on top of the standard patty melt flavor profile. The only downside was the juice -- because the melt had been cut in half, this allowed much of juice in the second half of the burger to drain out and soak into the bottom piece of bread while I was eating the first half. This typically doesn't happen with the burgers I cut myself (as in most reviews) since the time I spend inspecting and taking pictures allows the burger to rest for a bit and results in meat that holds on to its juice once cut. Sure, this is a minor nitpick, but when part of the appeal of a burger is the great texture resulting from grilled bread, I think it's a valid complaint.

Soaked bread aside, this is an excellent burger and I wouldn't hesitate to head back to Ike's if I'm in downtown and craving a good burger.

Ike's Food and Cocktails
(612) 746-4537

(Reposted due to funny date stamping issues)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Buster's on 28th

Whew, it's been a while, hasn't it? Between work, music, and completing a triathlon, I have been pretty busy the past month or so. I have a couple burgers already eaten that I'm just now getting around to writing up, and this is the first.

Buster's on 28th is a neighborhood bar (not in my neighborhood, but in the Lake Hiawatha area) that claims to focus on "tasty and interesting food" to go along with their extensive beer list (if you're into that sort of thing).

Their burger is a pretty classic affair: a half pound of ground Angus chuck and standard fixings atop a fresh bun from A Baker's Wife, just around the corner. Typically the burger comes with a pickle aioli, which I nixed. I ordered mine cooked medium with a slice of Widmer cheddar cheese and a side of fries for a total of $10.

It looked good when it arrived -- the meat was seared properly, the cheese was fully melted, the bun was lightly toasted, and the fixings included thinly sliced red onion, a tomato slice, and a piece of romaine lettuce rather than the more common iceberg (blegh). I wouldn't object to another piece of lettuce and another slice of tomato, but I'll take it as-is. The section cut revealed meat cooked medium (perhaps edging towards medium-well) evenly throughout -- a good sign.

With the first bite, I could tell this would be a good burger. The bun was fresh and slightly sweet, and the meat was moist and clearly of high quality. My only beef (hah!) with it was that the seasoning wasn't even -- some bites were seasoned perfectly while others were a little bland. Whether they mix the salt in with the meat or apply it only to the surface after forming the patty, it could use some more consistency. Otherwise -- no complaints. This is a really good burger, and I wouldn't hesitate to stop in and grab one if I'm in the neighborhood -- or even to make the short trip just for it.

Buster's on 28th
4204 28th Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55406-3123
(612) 729-0911

Addendum 6/6/2013: Last time I had this burger, the bun was dry and/or stale. Just FYI.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Lyndale Tap House

I'm going to say it at the beginning: This is a great burger, and one that I can unreservedly recommend. See addendum at end of review!

Lyndale Tap House
is a relatively new establishment on the 2900 block of South Lyndale (duh) Avenue, near Lake St, occupying the former space of jP American Bistro. Their focus, in terms of food, is on so-called "pit beef", which is basically a hand-rubbed, long-marinated, and slow-roasted hunk of beef which is then sliced thin and piled onto sandwiches. I've had their pit beef sandwich before and it's pretty good, but on this particular occasion I decided to try their burger.

They have a few different variations around a basic theme, but I decided to go with their basic cheeseburger (cooked medium) which comes equipped with lettuce, tomato, and battered-and-deep-fried onions on a kaiser roll. To this I added white cheddar cheese and asked them to hold the pickles. Total cost, with the included side of fries: $9.50.

The burger arrived a short while later with a steak knife impaling the whole affair rather than something wimpy like a toothpick. The first impression was great: the burger was clearly hand-pattied, with an irregular shape that couldn't be replicated by mass production. The meat had a nice sear on it and the cheese was fully melted. Cutting it in half revealed a burger cooked perfectly medium all the way throughout. Impressive.

But the really impressive part was that this burger just plain tasted good. The seasoning was spot-on. I mean, perfect, and regular readers (all two of them) will know how fussy I am about that. And the fried onions: some places put onion rings in burgers, which is certainly delicious, but often causes problems with actually eating the thing. The thin fried onions avoid the logistical issues often inherent in onion rings on a burger (such as the whole onion pulling out from inside a deep-fried 'sleeve', uneven burger coverage, and construction-related instability due to the extra height, not to mention that it makes it harder to get in your mouth). In this case, the fried onions added a nice crunch and flavor without any of the drawbacks of full-on onion rings. The bun (actually a kaiser roll) was nicely toasted and had pretty decent flavor and texture, but it wasn't as remarkable as, say, the Common Roots sourdough bun. Still, that doesn't detract much, if at all, from an otherwise excellent performance all-around.

I'd say this is the best burger I've had so far. Go get one, you won't be disappointed.

Lyndale Tap House
2937 South Lyndale AvenueMinneapolis, MN 55408
(612) 825-6150

Addendum 6/6/2013: Last time I had this burger, it wasn't as good as previous times. It was overcooked and dry, and not nearly as well seasoned. Sad.

Friday, June 4, 2010


It looks like my conjecture in my previous post about Smashburger is in fact correct: The burger is mashed down onto the flat-top right at the beginning of the cooking process, which means all the juices aren't squeezed out. Hooray for deductive reasoning!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Something a little different...

Today's post isn't a local burger joint. Or, to put it another way, it's the most local burger joint possible: your kitchen!

I've written a guest post over on my friend Z's blog about my own adventure in making a cheeseburger.


Monday, May 3, 2010


Ok, I know. Rudolph's, at the corner of Lyndale and Franklin, is a BBQ joint. But they've got a cheeseburger on the menu! How was I to resist? I chose to build my own burger with cheddar cheese, no "special sauce" (supposedly something like a Russian dressing) on their regular burger bun with fries. Total: $7:50.

When the sandwich arrived, I was dismayed to find a small pickle (a cornichon, perhaps) speared right on top of the bun -- you'd think that, with a food item as polarizing as pickles, restaurants would be smart enough not to force them onto unsuspecting patrons, or at the very least inform us that pickles were in the cards. Anyway, the burger looked good aside from the pickle. I was pleasantly surprised to see the use of red onion as opposed to the typical white onion. The menu didn't specify how big the patty was, but it seemed to be somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 lb.

Cutting it in half revealed the burger was overcooked -- probably towards the well-done side of medium-well. This manifested itself in a slightly dry patty, but the big surprise here was that the meat was actually seasoned! After so many bland burgers in a row, I had almost forgotten what seasoned meat tasted like (ok, not really). Sure, the seasoning level wasn't dead-on perfect, but it was close. The cheese was melted nicely, and the bun, toasted perfectly, had a pleasant, slightly chewy texture.

Overall, this is a pretty good burger. I'll be going back.

1933 South Lyndale Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55403-3104
(612) 871-8969

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Herkimer

Today's cheeseburger is from The Herkimer, a brewpub/restaurant on Lyndale near Lake St. The Herkimer, besides brewing their own seasonal beers, has the distinction of being where I first met up with my future bandmates in Orange Tour and where we have often met up before, or occasionally in lieu of, band practice.

Their menu is pretty typical bar food, with the usual assortment of sandwiches and sides. On this particular day, I ordered a mushroom and Swiss burger, cooked medium as usual, with a side of fries for a total of $8.95.

The burger arrived (with a pickle spear strewn haphazardly across the veggies) with the cheese nicely melted onto the mushrooms, some green leaf lettuce, red onion, and two small slices of tomato. The bun was grilled with butter and all in all was a quite appetizing looking burger. The section cut showed a burger more medium-well than medium, but not bad.

Unfortunately, this burger suffered from the typical affliction: underseasoned meat. That and the meat was on the dry side. The bun tasted good but was actually a little over-grilled, with an unpleasant slightly burnt taste. The mushrooms also seemed like they might have come from a can. Overall, average.

The Herkimer
Minneapolis, MN 55408-2110
(612) 821-0101

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

TTCCBB Travels: In-N-Out Burger

Ah, In-N-Out Burger. The mere mention of the name elicits hushed reverence from those who have experienced it and utter confusion from those who have not. Part of the problem is that it isn't available in much of the country. In-N-Out Burger locations are limited to a few western states (California, Arizona, Nevada, and one location in the southwest corner of Utah). Why? The rumor I have heard is that they insist that all locations (which are owned by the company rather than being franchises) be within a day's drive of their home location in Southern California in order to be able to ensure the freshness of the food at all locations. A reasonable limitation, to be sure, but it's unfortunate for the rest of us who live anywhere but those states.

Luckily for me, I grew up in California and was able to experience In-N-Out on a regular basis once they came up to the northern (i.e. better) half of the state. On a recent trip back, I decided to take a detailed look for TTCCBB and report back to you whether or not In-N-Out lives up to the hype.
In-N-Out is a fast-food joint that prides itself on quality and freshness (the aforementioned location restriction being one example). They don't use microwaves, they cook the meat when you order it, they cut and fry their fries when you order them, and they make their milkshakes with real ice cream. This means that it's not necessarily "fast" compared to a regular fast-food burger, but it's worth the wait (at most about 10 minutes when it's busy, closer to 5 minutes if it's not).

My standard order is a Double-Double, which is code for a double cheeseburger with two 100% beef patties and two slices of American cheese. I get mine with grilled onions, lettuce, tomato, and ketchup instead of their pickle-containing spread. Total cost: somewhere around $3, I think -- I forget exactly.

The burger arrived as I had remembered it -- gloriously messy-looking. I cut into it and was a little surprised to see one patty cooked medium-well, as they claim to do on their website, and one cooked well-done. Not a big deal, but I found it interesting as I would have expected them to be cooked simultaneously. Perhaps a hot spot on their flattop griddle?

And the taste? Let me get this out of the way first: In-N-Out is not the best burger you have ever had. It is, however, the best $3 fast food burger you have ever (or never) had. This is what all fast food burgers should taste like -- the bun was fresh and not limp, the beef, though not seasoned, tasted like real meat, the cheese was properly melted and gooey, and the vegetation was clean and crisp. Having the meat and cheese interleaved meant that perfect seasoning of the meat wasn't necessary -- the cheese provided the needed salt so that every bite was well-seasoned overall. Sure, it was a little messy to eat: because I had to cut it in half to get a cross-sectional view -- normally I'd leave it in its paper sleeve until I was about halfway done, then remove to finish the burger -- I ended up getting some cheese on my tie, possibly ruining it forever. The sacrifices I make so that you can read about cheeseburgers!

If only the Twin Cities had In-N-Out, I'd never leave.

In-N-Out Burger
2270 San Ramon Valley Blvd.
San Ramon, CA 94583-1210
(800) 786-1000

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

TTCCBB Travels: Bongo Burger in Berkeley

Ok, ok, I know: This is The Twin Cities CheeseBurger Blog. Alas, I'm not always in the Twin Cities -- but I always eat cheeseburgers. So I've decided to expand the blog's horizons to encompass burgers in places I visit. Not to worry, dear readers; I'll still be focusing on the Twin Cities cheeseburger scene (does such a thing as a "cheeseburger scene" actually exist?), but with occasional interludes from burgers farther afield.

One such burger is the so-called "Persian Burger" from Bongo Burger in Berkeley, California. I went to college in Berkeley and Bongo Burger was one of my college staple foods. The Persian Burger is a little different than the typical cheeseburger. For starters, it's made of ground lamb. Second, it's served on a french roll rather than a traditional round bun. Third...there is no third, those are the main differences.

Normally, I would order a full Persian Burger combo with fries and a soda. On this particular day, though, Bongo Burger was one of many "mini-lunches" I was going to have (grand total: 6), so a little moderation was in order. I ordered a half Persian Burger with Swiss cheese (an extra $0.75) and its standard accoutrements of lettuce, tomato, onion, and mayo for a grand total of $4.70

The burger arrived, and, as I remembered, the patty was a long, flat rectangular affair that didn't quite cover the surface area of the roll. It was cooked well-done, as expected, with a little too much shredded iceberg lettuce (easily fixed). The star of this burger is the meat. Let's face it, lamb is delicious, and a seasoned lamb patty on a french roll is just a winning recipe. This burger is delicious. If I want to be nitpicky, the meat was a little on the dry side, but with such a thin patty, the juiciness of the tomato made up for it. The lightly toasted french roll bun complements the burger well, with enough crunch to provide an interesting textural contrast if not a whole lot of flavor (though it is, on its own, tastier than a regular white burger bun). Bottom line here is this: If you love lamb, you'll love this burger.

Bongo Burger
2505 Dwight Way,
Berkeley, CA
(510) 548-4100

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Bulldog

The Bulldog is a local bar that happens to have great bar food. The location nearest me, in Uptown, is the original location, while the one in Northeast is supposed to be in more of the 'gastropub' vein (I don't know anything about the St. Paul Lowertown incarnation). Whatever. The Lyndale location is within walking distance so that's where I went.

I went in on a Wednesday night and found it surprisingly full. I ordered a patty melt, since I hadn't had one in a while and I happen to love patty melts. For those that aren't familiar with the concept, allow me to explain: Start with a burger patty. Cook. Add cheese and caramelized onions. Throw the resulting assemblage between slices of rye bread and grill until crispy and melty, then eat. The variant at the Bulldog is an excellent example on paper (both figuratively and literally, as it's served in a paper-lined basket), with a half pound of Angus beef, both swiss and cheddar cheese slices, and marble rye. I ordered mine medium with a side of tater tots (a 50 cent upcharge over the standard fries) which put the total at $9.00 even.

Or, at least I thought I had ordered it. After sitting and watching numerous other tables get their food, it turned out that my server had forgotten to put my order in with the kitchen. She was very apologetic and confirmed my order before sending it to the kitchen, and she comped my beverage as a way of apology.

When the patty melt came out, I was first disappointed by the pickle spear resting across my tater tots, contaminating their pillowy, golden, crunchy deliciousness with vile pickle juice. I removed the pickle posthaste and quarantined the contaminated tots before inspecting the patty melt. The slices of rye were thick and unseeded and the cheese was melted and gooey -- a promising start.

The melt arrived already cut in half and initially looked like the meat had been overcooked, but I think this was just some sort of edge effect: the interior of the patty was cooked to a perfect pink medium, while the cut edges were a little more cooked due to whatever residual heat was casting about. Sadly, the interior of the meat was not seasoned to a perfect level of seasoning. In fact, I doubt any salt was added at all (I think I'm starting to sound like a broken record with my constant harping on the excess or lack of salt in the various burgers I eat,'s important!). On the other hand, the rye had great flavor and the caramelized onions really tie the whole burger together. Also, I didn't have meat juice napalm squeezing out onto my hands or basket, so that was nice.

Besides the lack of seasoning, I think they could have given a little more flavor just by searing the meat a little more. The patty had only a minor level of browning (possibly due to the lack of salt to draw moisture out of the meat) and could easily have used more Maillard reaction to create delicious flavors and texture at the surface of the meat. Similarly, the bread, which is supposed to be grilled to give a crispy, toasted surface, felt like it only had a perfunctory look at the griddle. It's possible that my server had put my melt in as a rush order, though, so it would take some more data to see if this was just a one-off fluke. And I'll definitely be back.

The Bulldog
2549 S. Lyndale Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55405

(612) 872-8893

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Sorry I haven't posted a cheeseburger this week. I haven't had a burger this week. I'm going to Chicago for a couple of days; maybe I'll have one there and review it as part of my T(Non-TC)CBB series. Stay tuned!

EDIT: Had a burger earlier tonight (in Minneapolis); look for the review in the next few days.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


This week's burger is from Smashburger. Smashburger is a smallish national franchise with locations in 12 states and plans for locations in 5 more. They claim to focus on high-quality ingredients and have different menus for different regions (which, as far as I can tell, amounts to one region-specific burger and perhaps a different hot dog and/or salad variety). There are a few locations in the Twin Cities; the one closest to me is in Golden Valley. Their big claim to fame is what also gives them their name -- they smash the meat down onto the griddle while it's cooking. Normally I'm not a huge fan of this because it squeezes out the juices. However, I can see that if it's done at the very beginning of the cooking process, you'll have minimum fluid loss (because the fat is still solid), you'll have a little extra seared surface area, and the meat will cook more quickly since it's flatter. That's the theory, as far as I can tell anyway. Does it work?

Smashburger offers burgers in both 1/3- and 1/2-lb varieties, both made with 100% Angus beef. I've previously noted that I think 1/3-lb is the ideal burger size for me, so that's what I went with. I opted to build my own rather than go with one of their pre-optioned burgers, and ordered mine adorned with Swiss cheese, grilled onions, tomato, leaf lettuce, ketchup, and mayo on their standard egg bun for $4.99. I also ordered a side of their rosemary, garlic, and olive-oil-seasoned Smashfries and a fountain soda for a total of $8.47 (plus tax). They told me the burger would be delivered to my table in 6 minutes -- precise. I like that.
I didn't actually time it, but it definitely didn't take longer than 6 minutes. When the burger came out, I noticed that they had accidentally substituted red onion for my tomato slice. No biggie, since the tomato probably wouldn't have been that flavorful anyway at this time of year. I noticed that they put the grilled onions underneath the melted cheese slice -- this way, the cheese serves to hold the notoriously slippery grilled onions in place.

The cross-section view revealed a flat (as expected) patty that was cooked well-done (also as expected). Not particulary abundant in juice. I was a little concerned that the smashing process would result in a burger that was going to fall apart on me but that didn't turn out to be the case. The bun was thick and matched the diameter of the meat perfectly.

On the flavor front, this burger is actually pretty good. The seasoning they use in the meat adds nice flavor, although I would say it's probably a little oversalted for my taste. The meat was a little on the dry side but not incredibly so, and the acoutrements and condiments kept the burger from being dry overall. The bun was light and toasted with butter, and it had a nice sweetness that balanced well with the meat. The biggest issue with this burger is the thickness of the patty, or, rather, the lack thereof. Basically, the thin patty screws up the meat-to-everything-else ratio in each bite, especially given that the bun was so thick. It's possible that the 1/2-lb version has a better ratio here, if they keep the diameter constant so only the thickness increases.

Overall, though, this is a pretty good cheeseburger. If I'm in the mood for a $5 cheeseburger and don't mind driving 10 minutes, or if I'm out on 394 anyway, I'll definitely keep this burger under consideration.

(763) 252-1491
(plus other metro locations)

Until next time...happy cheeseburger.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Common Roots

The cheeseburger of the week is from Common Roots Cafe at Lyndale and 26th. Common Roots opened a few years ago and has become very popular for both the quality of and their commitment to using as much environmentally-friendly and/or locally-produced food as possible.

On paper, this is a quality burger; the specs listed on the menu are Thousand Hills grass-fed beef, cheddar cheese, and a sourdough bun. When I ordered, they asked me how I wanted it cooked -- always a good sign that a place has confidence in their meat. I ordered mine medium and sat down at a table to read The New Yorker while I waited.

(Apologies for the low-quality was fairly dark and I had to turn the ISO setting on my camera up to avoid having to use the flash.)

When it arrived, the first thing I was struck by was the smell -- it was this glorious, rich, beefy smell that other burgers just don't have -- I'm assuming this is a result of the grass-fed beef. I actually spent a while just appreciating the aroma. It looked to be about 1/3-lb, which to me is the perfect size for a burger. The burger was served with a slice of tomato, some mixed greens, and what I at first thought was mayo but turned out to be a powerful garlic aioli. And, hallelujah, no pickle!

Cutting it in half revealed that it was indeed cooked to medium as requested. A few areas were done a little more than others, but that's ok by me. It was plenty juicy without having the plate pooled with delicious beef nectar. Then I took a bite and was assaulted by a nearly overpowering amount of salt in the meat. Now, don't get me wrong. I love salt. I am a salt fiend. And this burger was overseasoned to my taste -- I actually had to force myself to finish it. It's so sad because everything else about this burger was so promising. The real standout here, besides the intoxicating smell, was the bun. It had a distinct-but-not-overpowering sourdough taste and a pleasant amount of chewiness without being so tough as to make eating the burger difficult (imagine trying to eat a burger on a baguette or the like -- it just isn't a good idea). The garlic aioli was a nice surprise as, besides loving salt, I love garlic too. The tomato was low on flavor, but it is the dead of winter in Minnesota so accommodations can be made.

In the end, I wanted to love this cheeseburger. It had all the elements for success but was brought down by the overseasoned meat. Sad.

Common Roots Cafe
2558 South Lyndale Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55405
(612) 871-2360

Until the next post...happy cheeseburgers.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Why cheeseburgers?

Some may ask, "Why devote a blog to solely cheeseburgers?" Why leave other food options on the table, as it were? If you're one of those people, here's why:

First and foremost, cheeseburgers are delicious. It's hard to go wrong with grilled beef and cheese, and having a convenient bun for utensil-free eating is always appreciated.

Second, cheeseburgers are standardized. Order a cheeseburger and you're basically going to get things that are, in broad strokes, quite similar in terms of ingredients and construction. The scientist in me (that's...uh, all of me) looks at this and notices that they would be ideal for comparing between different establishments and still have a somewhat level playing field (obviously though, it may not makes sense to compare a $5 burger to a $15 burger).

Third, cheeseburgers are ubiquitous. Almost every non-ethnic restaurant has a cheeseburger on the menu, and quite often even the ethnic ones do. There are lots of cheeseburgers to choose from, meaning this blog will have fodder for a good long time.

Fourth, I view the combinations of 1-3 to imply that cheeseburgers are a proxy. If a place can't do a cheeseburger well, do you really trust them to make other things well? This correlation is probably imperfect, but I think there's more than a morsel of truth in there.

Last, cheeseburgers are focused. Let's face it, there are plenty of other food blogs, from regional reviews to cooking to whatever else you can think of. But I think I've found a niche.

So, until next time...happy cheeseburgers.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Tony's Diner

This is a terrible cheeseburger. I'm a little embarrassed that I've actually had them multiple times.

Tony's Diner is at the corner of 4th St. SE and 15th Ave SE in Dinkytown, near the University of Minnesota's East Bank campus. They used to be called The Steakknife and would occasionally have live music at night, but I think that's gone by the wayside with the name change.

Bottom line: avoid this cheeseburger at all costs. Sure, it only costs $5.95 for a ~1/3lb cheeseburger with a side of fries, but that doesn't make up for the acrid, bitter, charred exterior and dry interior. The cheese is a forlorn-looking slice of american cheese food, and the burger comes served with tomato, onion, pickle slices (shudder) and a few small scraps of lettuce rather than a large piece that covers the entire burger. Seriously, who does that? And serving it with the pickle slices on top of all the other fixings just contaminates the rest of the vegetation with vile pickle juice. If I remember correctly, the bun wasn't very good either, but the last time I went was a few weeks ago, and after multiple bad burgers I decided I was never going back -- not even to take pictures or get more up-to-date impressions for the blog.

You can get a better-tasting burger at a fast-food joint. DO NOT WANT.

Until next post...happy cheeseburgers.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Uptown Diner

Welcome to the first post of the Twin Cities Cheeseburger blog. Besides being a cheeseburger review, this post will also lay out the structure of the posts and what will or will not be included in reviews so as to give a taste (hah!) of posts to come (yes, as a general rule, bad puns are included in 'things to come').

To wit: I will only be reviewing cheeseburgers. Patty melts are included, and hamburgers without cheese will be grudgingly included if at the particular establishment no burger-with-cheese variety is available. I will not review steak sandwiches, nor will I review any other sort of sandwich. I will not review side dishes such as french fries or tater tots or chips (those would be different blogs, naturally). I will not review beverages. I will not make a note of service unless it's somehow notable, either exceptionally good or excruciatingly bad. Also, I hate pickles. This blog is about cheeseburgers: Let's stay focused, people!

My first cheeseburger review is from an old standby: the Uptown Diner, on Hennepin Ave. and 26th St. Now, I typically go to the Uptown Diner for breakfast-type things (in particular, their crab cakes benedict is my kryptonite), but I decided to use their cheeseburger as my reference point -- not because it's a standout but because it's fairly average.

First, the stats: It starts with a half pound patty. I ordered mine as a "California burger", meaning it comes with lettuce, tomato, (red) onion, and mayo as well as a heaping pile of waffle fries or hash browns (I opted for fries), cole slaw, and a pickle spear (shudder). Adding cheddar cheese put the total at $8.95.

When the burger was set down in front of me, the first thing I noticed was the cheese: They had thrown a pile of shredded cheddar on top instead of a slice. This wasn't particularly a bad thing, but it did mean the cheese layer wasn't evenly distributed. After I cut into it, I noticed that the cheese wasn't fully melted either. The section cut also revealed that the burger was, as expected, cooked well-done (they say "grilled to perfection" in the menu, and in this case I'd imagine "to perfection" means "to kill any trace of e. coli that might exist").

Taste-wise, the burger was as I had remembered it: underseasoned but overall a solid burger. I'm not sure if they make their patties on site or have them delivered frozen by some giant food services conglomerate like Aramark or Sysco (I'd bet its the latter). The burger itself tasted like...well, ground beef. I like to see the meat seasoned with some salt and pepper before the patty is formed, because putting salt and pepper on the patty after the fact doesn't have the same effect. Because it was cooked well-done and I think the meat started out fairly lean, there wasn't much juice dripping out (though it wasn't noticeably dry either), meaning the structural integrity of the bun wasn't compromised by dripping blood and molten fat. Speaking of the bun, it's a decent sesame affair that is hearty enough to withstand handling but not so dense that it gets in the way of biting into the burger. It had been grilled lightly on the flattop as well.

Overall, this is a solid burger. It's not going to make you redefine what a burger should be; it's just pretty much what you'd expect from a diner burger.

Uptown Diner
2548 Hennepin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55405

Until the next post...happy cheeseburger.

Friday, February 12, 2010

New Blog -- all about cheeseburgers!

Well, hello there. Are you in the Minnesota Twin Cities metro area? I am. Do you like cheeseburgers? I do. Do you like reading about cheeseburgers? I do. I also think I can write something interesting about them. Granted, it's not as good as eating them, but maybe I can save you some grief by helping you find the best ones in area and help you avoid the duds.

My goal is to review about one cheeseburger a week. We'll see how that works out.

Until the next post...happy cheeseburger!