Thursday, March 22, 2012

Tracy's Saloon and Eatery

Tracy's Saloon and Eatery is a neighborhood bar in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis. Despite being a bar, it has a pretty wide-ranging food menu, including, of course, burgers.

I bellied up to the bar and ordered myself a "California Cheeseburger", which is to say it had mayo along with the usual lettuce and tomato and was topped with Wisconsin cheddar cheese. With a side of tater tots, it was $10 even (regular french fries are $0.50 less). I wasn't given a choice of doneness level (insert ominous music here).

The burger was delivered and, wonder of wonders, not a pickle in sight! The cheese was nicely melted, the meat was well-seared, and the toppings (the lettuce and a single large-diameter slice of tomato)neatly covered everything. The patty looked to be something like 1/3 lb. Cutting it in half revealed what I had surmised would be the case -- well done.

With the first bite I knew it was a decent but not exceptional burger. The good: The meat was seasoned perfectly, the cheese was great, and the bun (from the Franklin St. Bakery a mile or so down the road) was soft and fresh. On the other hand, the outside of the patty was seared so much it had a hint of that acrid burnt taste -- no bueno! And the patty was pretty thin, which gave the burger a pretty low meat-to-bun ratio. And, of course, being so well-done, it was pretty dry. Try as it might, the tomato could not make up for the meat's near-complete lack of molten fat. The above-average acoutrements aren't enough to make up for the sub-par beef (though I should note that it's not necessarily sub-par in terms of quality, just cooking).

In the end, I wouldn't come here specifically for a burger. BUT...if I happened to be here anyway on a Monday night, when some (most?) of the burgers are half price, it would take some convincing to get me to order something else.

Tracy's Saloon and Eatery

2207 East Franklin Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55404
(612) 332-1865

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Pat's Tap

Pat's Tap is a relative newcomer to the Minneapolis scene, opening late last year on Eat Street at 35th and Nicollet Ave. It joins the Twin Cities' growing ranks of so-called 'gastropubs', offering something beyond the standard bar fare as well as a moderate but nicely curated selection of local and non-local beers. But...can they make a good cheeseburger?

As per my usual, I ordered their "Big Cheese Burger", which is advertised as having "Cheddar, tomato, garlic dill pickles". Given the option of doneness, I chose medium, as is my standard. The pickles were ordered on the side (and subsequently bequeathed to my wife upon their arrival with the burger). Total cost, with the chips upgraded to their Belgian-style pommes frites, was $14.

The burger arrived a little different than I had envisioned -- but not in a bad way. The "tomato" turned out to be a thick slice of a green tomato (possibly an heirloom variety that covered the entire top bun. And the cheese was not only laid on thickly, but also uniformly browned on top as if the whole thing had been held briefly under a broiler after assembly. The meat had a nice sear to it, and the bun was also lightly toasted. Cutting into it showed that the meat was a little on the rare side of medium in the very center but with most of the meat showing a perfect medium doneness.

Biting into it, I knew I had found a winner. While the patty isn't as intensely beefy as The Anchor's grass-fed affair, everything in this burger just works. The beef just straddled the border between being undersalted and perfect, but with the large slab of melted cheese on top no additional seasoning was necessary. The patty was deliciously juicy, and the cheese -- let me tell you, whoever decided to brown the cheese deserves a raise, because it's goddamn brilliant. The tomato provided a nice textural contrast to the meat and cheese but not a lot of flavor (hey, it's March in Minnesota, we can't expect miracles), and the bun, while fresh, was content to just stay out of the way of the more flavorful elements of the burger.

All in all, this is a burger worth making a trip for. It's not my all-time favorite (that honor still belongs to The Lyndale Tap House), but it's definitely up there.

Pat's Tap
3510 Nicollet Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55408

(612) 822-8216

p.s. The ambiance was a bit raucous when we were there, with lively conversation, relatively loud music playing on the stereo, and the sounds of billiards and skee-ball (!) caroming off the hard, sound-reflecting walls, so be aware. And, the fried cheese curds are fan-frickin-tastic -- I don't know how they did it, but they somehow made battered and deep-fried cheese into a concoction that was light and almost delicately fluffy. Alchemy, I say.