It is time that we in the Twin Cities acknowledge that we are living in a burgertopia. There are so many unbelievable burgers here that those of us that are passionate about burgers constantly argue about which are better than others. The truth is there are countless burgers and burger joints that deserve that top spot. It is just a matter of what you are looking for.
As a person who loves burgers (and when I say love I mean I would eat a burger for all three meals in a day), I have plenty of suggestions. Want a serious smashie? Go to Chips Clubhouse or hit up the Angry Line Cook’s food truck. Need a big thick patty? Come see me at 328 Grill. Shameless plug, I know, but to be honest, I clearly love burgers and love feeding people with the same passion for burgers that I have.
Want a basic cheeseburger? Go to Lion’s Tap. Want our iconic juicy lucy? Get to the Nook for a Juicy Nookie or to Boomin BBQ for their new smoked juicy lucy. Want something upscale? Check out Parlour or Baldamar. If you are like me, you might want a bunch of options where you can eat your way through an entire burger menu. If that is the case, I suggest King’s Place in Miesville or one of the Northern Tap Houses (Lakeville or Plymouth).
The point here is that you can find the burger you crave anytime you want it, you just have to know where to look. Social media can be a wonderful tool — there are some pretty fantastic local burger-indulgent Facebook groups that you should go find (MSP Burgers, for instance, has almost 14,000 members).
There are so many good burgers in the Twin Cities that I could try a new burger every day for a month and not run out of exceptional options and that is truly the point of this all.
For me, there are five things that every good burger needs, and this applies to restaurant- or home-cooked burgers.
1. By far the most important, and my biggest complaint when I go out for a burger: Season your meat! If all you want to use is salt and pepper that is OK, but it had better not be regular, old table salt. Kosher is my go-to but any coarse salt will get the job done. Season your burger then season it a little more, trust me it needs more than you are using. Also, there are a lot of locally made seasoning companies out there that could enhance your burger game at home. Ask your butcher what they use.
2. Use good quality beef. No frozen patties, honestly not even pre-pattied burgers (unless from a local butcher shop who makes them in-house) if you want to be taken seriously. At the minimum, use an 80/20 grind but I prefer 75/25, because fat is flavor, people! Again, buy local. Tim and Tom’s Speedy Market in St. Paul is my go-to butcher shop — their gourmet burger blend is exceptional.
3. Every burger needs a proper vessel. Find a local bakery (do you see a theme here?) — you will smell the fresh bread before you are even through the door. I have long been a fan of Grandma’s Bakery in White Bear Lake — their brioche bun is delightful.
4. Cheese! Cheese is what really brings a burger together for me. For burgers, straight-up American cheese is where it is at. It melts so well, it is gooey, it is what I want on a burger. If you decide on a different cheese make sure that it is serving a purpose. Please do not put gouda on a burger just because you like it, or worse because it sounds like a cool cheese for a burger. If you do not understand what I am talking about, go to the El Norte Kitchen food truck when they have burgers on the menu and check out their house-made
pepper jack. That stuff is what dreams are made of.
5. Finally, you need balance. Chefs talk about balance in food all the time. Unfortunately, sometimes we forget balance when it comes to our burgers. Salt, fat, acid, and heat make for a great burger. Some examples of acid? Pickles, of course, but also adding vinegar or citrus to a sauce.
Do these things at home, and you will kill the burger game. Otherwise, find locally-owned restaurants and food trucks that follow these guidelines — there are plenty!