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

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