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Jfood's Nook (MSP) Experience - Huh?

Jfood is getting close to drawing to conclusion to his JL search. Tonight he decided to take some more advice and drove to SP and arrived at the Nook. He was very fortunate as he was giving his name to the bartender a few seats at the bar opened up and he immediately grabbed one.

Jfood ordered a 1919 root beer and a juicy nookie with fried onions and onion rings. Then he settled in to read his book and watch the Yankees give up three runs.

The root beer was excellent, very creamy a nice flavor and Jfood thought this was going to be a great burger night.

The bartendress brought the burger and rings over and left, no ketchup, napkins or S&P so Jfood helped himself to them a few seats down the bar. Jfood first tasted a ring. No salt at all so Jfood grabbed the salt and sprinkled some all over the rings. Next bite and Jfood was not that impressed, they were fairly flavorless. The train had started its descent.

But Jfood moved onto the main event, the burger. He performed the same ritual as he did the week before at Matts. Slowly he bit through the bun, then the onions (no pickle since he later found them under the rings) and then carefully into the meat with its molten center. After the chew and swallow, Jfood was not impressed. So Jfood decided to take a deep breath and keep plowing away. Alternating between burgers and rings, Jfood just kept going and it just never tickled his fancy. The meat was harder than a rock, without any flavor and the cheese inside was bland as well. The rings were also bland and some were not cooked all the way through. The best part of the meal was the fried onions. All Jfood could think of was that the chef was just having a bad night.

Now last week, halfway through his Matt JL he ordered another. Halfway through this one he almost stopped eating. Jfood is not trying to pick a battle or sides or anything other than reporting back what he found. Did he just get a bad batch?

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  1. Hmmm, sounds like just a bad night to me. Maybe Mondays aren't the best nights to go, as I think they throw some sort of deal that could perhaps have some negative effect on the food. I've not had the onion rings, but their french fries are normally great, and the burgers I've had there have never been overcooked or hard. Give it another try in a month or two, maybe.

    15 Replies
    1. re: salvage7

      I believe I asked at the Shamrock (the sister restaurant) whether the kitchen makes its own rings and was told they did not. So I decided not to bother with them. Why eat frozen rings made somewhere else. That does not detract from the fries which are house made.

      (I do have that right, don't I? They don't make their own rings. I don't want to slander the place!)

      1. re: salvage7

        I'm tired of the early week excuse. Is there an Overcooked Mondays theme?

        As a customer, I exist in reality, if not in aggregate. If I am spending my money on a Monday, I expect the same dish I would receive on a Saturday, especially when that dish is a burger.

        1. re: kevin47

          But if you know that Mondays are off days....why spend the money then? It ought not be that way, but it often is...that's reality.

          But the Monday thing doesn't really apply to burger joints. It's more for high end restaurants. It's sort of why some high end places were closed on Monday - they needed a day off, and the purveyors have crap offerings. Not the case for a place that makes stuff in house or sells frozen food.

          1. re: pgokey

            Oh, I think the Monday thing can apply to small places, too. Surely your key guy should get a day off and in order to do that, you have to run the joint with your "B" team SOME time. Monday night's a good night for that, even for a burger place, as long as there isn't a big game of some sort on TV. It seems like with the bungling of the service (onion rings instead of fries, no condiments) jfood got the B team.


            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              Well it's Tuesday and you gave jfood some good ideas for tonight and tomorrow.

              1. re: jfood

                Excellent! I'm sorry you had a bad Monday. I know that kitchens can have off-nights, but it still stinks that you had a bad experience, at full-price and the full amount of time waiting. At least if you'd had the dollar burger you may have felt like, well, you got what you paid for. Obviously, you didn't.

                I hope you like Ngon Bistro!


            2. re: pgokey

              I don't spend the money. I expect to be compensated. Half-price wine is a popular option, or I'll try to get the hang of a place during their happy hour. But the most popular dishes should still be top notch, and the offerings generally should still be competent.

              And, as others have mentioned, it's a burger joint. I am willing to concede that a juicy lucy is as difficult to prepare as many other main courses, but can't the B-team (provided there is one... I recall my parents working a lot of Monday nights when I was growing up) handle the basics?

              1. re: kevin47

                Kevin, of course your point is completely valid. If you pays your price you should gets your burger. Really, it should be perfect each and every time, in the ideal universe. But, this isn't the ideal universe and we're talking about $7 burger cooked on a a grill that measures about six square feet at the neighborhood watering hole.

                The Nook is open 7 days a week, nearly every day of the year. Alex Roberts gets Mondays off, and go ahead and hold Alex to higher standards--that's the sort of thing that earns him James Beard awards and garners national attention. The Nook isn't Alma. The Nook is really a place that serves people in the neighborhood. If you live in the neighborhood, you probably do understand the ebbs and flows.

                Dollar burger night is code for, we're tired, we had a long weekend, and no one here has the energy to babysit a jucy lucy. Maybe you came for a jucy lucy, and go ahead and order one if you must. But, if it doesn't work out for you, accept our apology and a burger for which you pay only a dollar. If you read the code, you know to order the dollar burger, or go somewhere else. It's hard to feel ripped off for a $1.

                To be honest, I don't think a jucy lucy is really a basic. If it were, there wouldn't be countless posts about them being either over or underdone, with "perfect" being the elusive experience everyone seeks.

                I have had consistently good experiences with the Molitor at the Nook. But, I also read the code pretty well. If they look like they are slammed, and not just normal slammed, but really out of control slammed, or are running one of their nutty specials, I go somewhere else. If I see one of the owners floating around, I usually stay.


                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                  I know your point as more rhetorical/illustrative in nature than factual, but Alex Roberts was working (hard) at Brasa when i saw him there a few weeks back. (perhaps you meant that alma is only open 6 days a week, in which case i would venture that most of the staff gets mondays off, but Alex is busy trying to open another restaurant at well, and thats just not conducive to taking time off).

                  Im not sure your rationale for dollar burger night is 100% correct, but it is fair to say that its not as if the Nook is in need of promotions to get people in the door - they seem to succeed at that regardless of what they are charging for a burger. that said, i've already pointed out in this thread that your approach to dollar burger night is spot-on: if thats not what brought you in, why are you doing here?

                  1. re: tex.s.toast

                    You're right--I probably should have mentioned someone other than Alex Roberts.

                    I'm tired, so, I'm editing out everything that I just wrote.

                    But, it's okay if we disagree. :). In fact, I'm glad we do, because it makes us all think a little bit more about why we like what we like, and wonder if our tastes need to evolve.

                    I do think the Nook is really a neighborhood place and should be patronized on that basis. The main reason to visit, if you're not from the neighborhood, is to experience St. Paul.


                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      You're right TDQ, but I had to expand my neighborhood 30 miles. :) I've always said the Nook is the neighborhood bar/grill every neighborhood wished they had. As for the burger, it's bar food! There is nothing exceptional about the Nook or Matt's for that matter other than the Jucy Lucy concept. You're not getting Kobe beef, special hand ground stuff of pure sirloin or grass fed organic. Your'e not getting flame grilled. You're getting supply house smashed burgers on a flat grill. Again, It's bar food. I love to go to the Nook primarily because of the ambiance and atmosphere and just generally having a good feeling. Maybe it makes the food taste better. Maybe jfood missed that like not seeing the forest for the trees, or maybe it just isn't jfood's thing. We are all different. If the restroom didn't have a faulty lock and opened directly on the dining area I would be less impressed, but I hope they fixed the lock by now. :)

                  2. re: The Dairy Queen

                    I didn't know it was dollar burger night. That makes more sense.

            3. re: salvage7

              I don't think the Monday night thing is it, honestly. Although it is certainly possible for the chef (hahhahah, sorry, it's just hard to think of the guy at the griddle at the Nook as a chef) to have a bad night, the Nook is incredibly consistent and has been for a long time. It would be really freakish for them to have an off-night.

              A) I think jfood made some unfortunate choices (the fried onions is the only choice I would have endorsed) and B) I personally didn't think jfood was going to like jucy lucys in the first place because he hadn't liked any burgers in the Twin Cities until he'd tried Bulldogs, then Matt's JL. Frankly, I was stunned that he liked Matt's.

              The only part of jfood's experience that surprised me is the part about they forgot to give him the condiments/napkin basket. Normally, they plop it right in front of you.


              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                Oh, DQ! You're not a Matt's fan either? I love their Jucy's. Maybe it's the cute elderly next door Swedish couple that had us pick them up for them circa 1987. They are long gone from this world and we no longer live in the Corcoran neighborhood, I have lots of great memories sitting down with them with a bag of Matt's JL's and hearing about the Minneapolis Moline tractor factory where East Lake Target now stands. I've stated before that Matt's well-aged grill is magic. I'd chalk it up to longing for times past, but if Jfood liked it, it can't be half bad.

                1. re: justalex

                  juastalex, I'm afraid I am not a fan of Matt's burger, alas. I just found it burned tasting, on a lousy bun with bloated, soggy fries. I know one person's "burned" is another person's "char". And, while I do appreciate yours and jfood's taste, I never allow myself into being conned into something I don't like, just because someone else likes it. (jfood and I disagree on a couple of things.)

                  However, I do think you're right about the well-aged (and thorough knowledge of) their grill and, in fact, I think that's what the Nook has going for it, too (and why "Shamrock's" can't hold a candle to the Nook, even though everything else about the approach and recipe might be the same).

                  However, your story is so sweet that maybe I'll have to go back and give it another try! That sounds like a wonderful memory!


            4. Yeah, you have to get the hand-cut fries, not the onion rings. I always get the Molitor or the Lodge burger. Unfortunately, you ordered things I never order or recommend. What a bummer to have a bad meal when there are so many good ones to be had in St. Paul. At least Izzy's didn't let you down!


              23 Replies
              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                jfood looked for the Molitor but he is not a fan of pepper cheese. He also thought by reading the threads that there were a bunch of "stuffed" burgers and when he saw only 2-3 it threw him a little. As he looked around he saw others with big fat burgers and was excited and the kid he spoke with in line told him to get the double something. Wrt the fries he ordered both rings and fries and only the rings arrived and did not want to throw the server under the bus so he just moved on.

                Yes it has been a long road to a burger but he did like 3 of 4 at 112 as well as BB and Matts.

                Guess it is one of those personal things as we all see from the dedication that many have for burgers (dogs too) in so many areas. Probably time to give the burger search a rest and go to Corner Table or Heidis tonight.

                Thanks DQ.

                1. re: jfood

                  Wow, that does sound like a bad night at the Nook, if the server brought the wrong order AND forgot your condiments.

                  I forgot that you liked 112's burger 3 times. What are you referring to as BB? I can't believe, in my own town, you've out acronym'd me! HA!

                  Anyway, I wish you'd branch out from burgers and try some of the authentic Southeast Asian cuisine here.


                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    Jfood first choice last night was going to be Pak Zam Zam (he know Pakistan is not really SEA) but saw the post about the owner not present and he called and no answer. And he is pretty burgered out at this point.

                    If you have some good recommendations for SEA cuisine jfood is all ears. He tried Manana last week and he loved it so any good spots are appreciated.

                    BTW - BB is Burger Bar

                    1. re: jfood

                      Which one is burger bar? American Burger Bar or Salut or ???

                      My favorite Vietnamese is Ngon Bistro in St. Paul for local sourcing or for French-leaning food. On the very end of the scale for a more "just like in Vietnam" kind of experience is Pho Tau Bay on Eat Street in Minneapolis. Very divey. Here's a link to a couple of discussions. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6243...


                        1. re: The Dairy Queen


                          Does the following sound good at Ngon - Rabbit dumplings, Beef Pho and Short Rib or Duck Entree?

                          1. re: jfood

                            I've never had the rabbit dumplings at Ngon Bistro! I've had the beef pho and enjoyed it very much, but be forewarned that it's controversial on this board. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6243...

                            Usually, I go for the several of the appetizers --lettuce wraps or the confit--and then something light'ish, either a salad or bun or something with tofu--so I have room for dessert.

                            Their ginger creme brulee is to tie for, and I like their cheesecakes a lot.

                            Usually, Ngon is a great place to go for more French-leaning Vietnamese dishes, so, except for the pho, your choices would probably serve you well. Soupkitten suggests here: i'd definitely get the coconut confit and probably some game, or pork belly, or short ribs


                            Have fun!


                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                              tagging along-- i have had the rabbit dumpling at ngon-- it was deep fried, and i liked it, but i prefer the confit both on the taste front, and for the unique nature of this excellent menu item. i second the adzuki bean cheesecakes TDQ recommends, either chocolate or vanilla. . . but i haven't ever tried that ginger creme brulee (scribbling mental note to do this asap)

                              1. re: soupkitten

                                Thanks ladies...notes scribbled on the printed menu to take with.

                                1. re: jfood

                                  Just fyi, the menu online is often a little out of sync with what's actually available at the restaurant. So, make sure you give yourself options!


                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                    gotcha, jfood ran into that exact issue when he ordered from Al Vento a few weeks ago. You can teach an old dog new tricks.

                                2. re: soupkitten

                                  I think those cheesecakes are a little more unique, though, than the ginger creme brulee...


                                3. re: The Dairy Queen

                                  I can vouch for both the rabbit dumplings and the pork belly--delish! The night I dined I also had a scallops entree, which was fantastic. When I go back though, I'll probably try one of the local dishes, like the duck breast or the short rib.

                                4. re: jfood

                                  I've had the rabbit dumplings and really enjoyed them. My review of a dinner at Ngon Bistro can be found here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/512871

                          2. re: jfood

                            If jfood chooses Corner Table, he should stop by Liberty Custard at 54th and Nicollet to try one more delicious contender for best ice cream in the twin cities. I don't know if I'd compare it to Izzy's--it's frozen custard after all--but it's pretty awesome!

                            1. re: drew13000

                              thanks drew, jfood loves real custard and CT has provided some great meals in his wonderings. He will definitely hit CT this or next weeek.

                              My try Ngon tonight, that looks like a great menu...thanks TDQ

                              1. re: drew13000

                                Mmmmm, a Liberty malt with peanut butter is my favorite.

                              2. re: jfood

                                If you ever return to The Nook, forgo the "stuffed burgers" (disclaimer: I hate jucy lucy's) and get the Nookie Supreme or whatever it's called (it is essentially a giant Big Macish affair). From your posts, you appear to be able to consume large quantities of food...this burger is large...but outstanding. The last time I had it was at lunch on a Tuesday.

                                I've never had their onion rings, but their fries are always good.

                                1. re: Foureyes137

                                  thanks 4-i's...the upper lip agrees with the no-stuffed burgers going forward...ouch last night.

                                  1. re: Foureyes137

                                    Second. The first time I went to the Nook, I had the JL because I felt obligated. I enjoyed it, but it didn't completely hook me. The second time, I had the Nookie Supreme and since that day, I've never had anything else.

                                    In fact, I just had one yesterday. Outstanding, as always.

                                  2. re: jfood

                                    Blue Door Pub is the place with a bunch of stuffed burgers.

                                    every place has off nights. I have had recent burger experiences at BDP that were much better than ones at Nook. Matt's never did much for me.

                                    If you want to try the Jucy to end all Lucy's, head to Vincent. stuffed with braised short ribs and smoked guada.

                                    1. re: getgot211

                                      Vincent...there is a place jfood needs to visit (if he hasn't already been).

                                      If you can make it for happy hour, the burger is a great deal. Otherwise, they run a weekly $30 3-course dinner that is excellent.

                                2. Yes, their rings are quite unfortunate. If you ever decide to go back, do order fries instead. As others have already posted, they are reliably excellent.

                                  I am no fan of the juicy lucy/nookie/what have you - I think a regular burger "works" better. Overall I've been happy with Nook and Shamrocks Nook burgers, but on rare occasions I've encountered an overcooked, rock hard specimen. I'm so sorry you had bad luck!

                                  Sorry you were disappointed!

                                  1. Sounds like a bad night to me. They usually cook their JL to medium (says so on the menu). Every place I've been to screws up a burger occasionally, though.

                                    1. Actually, it sounds like you found the prototypical Jucy Lucy. If you get one that ISN'T like that, you've lucked out. (When I was reading your account of Matt's, I was thinking..'man...he lucked out').

                                      The "double something" you were told about is the Nookie Supreme. I second that recommendation.

                                      I totally agree with the comments on the fries vs. onion rings suggestions. I also concur with Kevin re: the day of the week excuse. I can understand it a little bit if you are at a top-end place where the executive chef still does most of the cooking. When you are turning out 500 burgers in a row day after day after day, that excuse is bunk. There is no such thing as a chef having a bad night at the Nook, I'm afraid. He just simply screwed up a burger that isn't that interesting in the first place.

                                      6 Replies
                                      1. re: MSPD

                                        I agree that there is no excuse for having regularly scheduled "bad days" regardless of whether you are a high end chef-driven place or a dive bar. That said, monday nights at the nook are dollar burger nights, and i dont think any kitchen performs at its best when firmly entrenched in the middle of an insane rush brough on by a silly promotion. Clearly they bring the pain on themselves by having such a deal, but there is only so much that can be done short of expanding the kitchen (or dining room for that matter) to prepare for the onslaught that is monday dollar-burger night. As a stated policy i do not go to the nook on mondays, mainly because its even more crowded than usual but mostly because i dont go for a burger i go for a lucy (or molitor) and i know that with a grill full of dollar burgers theres no way it will get as much attention as on another night.

                                        1. re: tex.s.toast

                                          I totally get what you're saying tex and I can't rule out that it has some effect. The only minor flaw in that, in my mind, is that the Nook is generally packed to the gills no matter what time or day you go there. They are practically working the griddle to capacity at all times unless you get there right when they open at lunchtime on a weekday (which happens to be when I'm there more often than not). The guys at the Nook operate in "slammed" mode almost all the time.

                                          Who knows. Mostly, I feel bad that jfood had a meal wasted by an off experience for whatever reason it happened.

                                          1. re: MSPD

                                            A very good point. Until you've been there for dollar burger night (god forbid dollar burger night when there is a game on and its nice outside) you could easily confuse regular-slammed for monday-slammed, but there is a difference.

                                            1. re: MSPD

                                              What about going at say 3:00 pm on a weekday (but not a Monday.) Would you be served then? And would you get the A team?

                                              1. re: karykat

                                                You'd be served. Just be aware that for the next week or two, you might run into an after-school rush from Cretin-Derham Hall (across the street).

                                                I've run into the spacy waitstaff at the Nook before. Two counter staff chatting with their off-duty pals over onion rings for 15 minutes while everyone else at the bar waits to order, get a refill, ask for a setup.

                                          2. re: MSPD

                                            This is why I advised early on that given jfood's standards for burgers, he avoid the jucy lucy. I didn't think we could guarantee him a good experience. I also think he lucked out at Matt's. I also think he got a raw deal (so to speak) at the Nook, because I find them very consistent, but, yeah, dollar burger night may not be the best time to order something other than dollar burgers.


                                          3. I've been following the JL quest with interest, wondering if jfood would find the perfect JL and, if he did, if we should follow him to its source when we visit Minneapolis in July. So tonight I was at our local "pub" in Connecticut and I realized they had a menu offering that sounded a lot like what you've all been describing as a JL (I don't dare spell it out for fear of restarting the jucy versus juicy fight!).

                                            Here (Lumberyard Pub in Georgetown - in case jfood reads this) it was called a "stuffed burger" and was described as a burger with (my choice of) cheese inside. What arrived looked more like two thin burgers stacked together with cheese in the middle and more cheese on top. (And it wasn't better than what jfood describes at Matt's and maybe worse: I ordered it cooked medium and I'm not kidding when I say it was RAW inside. I sent it back once and it returned charred to a crisp on the outside and only barely medium rare on the inside. I couldn't eat it.)

                                            So....is that REALLY what a JL is all about - in which case I'm not sure we'll make it one of our target stops for our MSP visit. Or is there something more? Please enlighten me!

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: hungrykids

                                              Two thin burgers with cheese melted in the middle. That's correct. No extra cheese on top. More likely to be overcooked than undercooked, but hopefully cooked properly. That's basically all there is to a JL. It's not really worth a special trip.

                                              1. re: hungrykids


                                                Yeah that's about it, two thin patties with some cheese stuffed inside, none outsied. jfood has done similar with some caramelized onions instead of cheese at home.

                                                And with plenty of great finds in MSP, no need to use one of your meals on a JL. Go to Burgers Shakes and Fries in Greenwich, a much better choice.

                                              2. From my perspective, you had a typical Nook experience. Not a fan, which is a shame since it's walking distance.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: Brad Ballinger

                                                  Doesn't that make you mad? When a place you can walk to is occupied by a business you don't like? There are a couple of lousy restaurants that I can walk to and, while I don't wish ill on anyone, especially in this economy, I really wish these places would kick it up a couple of notches so I can have some place to eat in the neighborhood.

                                                  The think with the Nook, if it's in your neighborhood, is because it's always so crowded, you can't even go there and order, say, a simple grilled cheese sandwich and fries, or something, because the wait just wouldn't justify it.

                                                  Well, if the Nook is walkable for you, at least you can also walk to Kopplin's, then. I like to buy the Rogue Chocolate bars there.


                                                  1. re: Brad Ballinger

                                                    Wow...I would kill for a good burger joint within walking distance of my house. That is a telling statement. I like the Nook just as much as Matt's but for different reason's but would rather go to Matt's as the longest wait I have had there was 5 minutes. the Nook is a zoo on the weekends. Vincent's burger was good but not the experience of a JL IMO. Get there for happy hour and it's only $8. My favorite burger in town is still the truffle burger at Bulldog NE but I haven't been in awhile...I need to see if it still holds up.

                                                    1. re: dave43

                                                      Jfood went to Bulldog a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it.


                                                  2. I've been reading all of these posts with much interest regarding the best and worse burgers and jucy lucy's in the cites. It's time I weigh in. I've tried most of the burgers mentioned and have to say it's unfair to compare a Jucy Lucy from Matt's to say the burger at Vincent. They are both good, but for entirely different reasons. Apples to Oranges. Anyway, my overall favorite burger in the Twin Cites is the Triple B Burger from the Nook. I salivate just thinking about it. I've not seen it mentioned in any of these treads, but I recommend giving it a try. I know it's hard to stray from your Nook favorites, but honestly I love that burger. I've brought others to feel the same.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Bobannon

                                                      What's the Triple B? I'm guessing there's bacon in there somewhere.

                                                    2. jfood returned this evening to the Nook (a far cry from Alma last night) at the advice of many of you CHers to try this place on a night other than Monday. There was a seat at the bar so jfood carried his book over and grabbed the stool. After reading the threads he decided on a side-by-side between the Lucy and the Lodger. A nice mug of cold 1919 and he was all set.

                                                      They both arrived (although the bartender kept looking for a companion for burger number 2) and the bartender explained the hot cheese filling.

                                                      Jfood added some ketchup to the Lodger and took his first bit. He was not that impressed with the flavor, a little bland, but the bacon was just right, and the chipotle added a nice twist to the burger. He ate a few fries and enjoyed them quite bit, great selection over the onion rings. Now he decided to try bite number two. It was much better, more seasoning, bite three was more enjoyable all the way to the end of the burger. The color was pink inside and cooked nicely outside. In hindsight it was a very good burger.

                                                      Now jfood moved on to the Lucy. The first bite brought the memory of last week, the texture outside was hard. As jfood moved to the center bites he did notice the meat was still pink, very confusing, hard on the outside yet pink inside. The meat also had the same bland flavor as jfood's first bite of the lodger. So it was not a Monday event as the culprit, the Nook Lucy was not really jfood's cup of tea.

                                                      The more interesting item was the elderly couple next to jfood. As they finished 2 burgers, fries and a beer, the wife removed the book "Diners, Dives and Drive-Ins" from her purse. She opened to the Appendix and jfood saw numerous signatures on many entries. OMG, this couple was eating across America. The female bartender came over and they asked her to sign the book. She showed a great big smile. Jfood could not resist and asked if how they were using the book. "This is how we choose where to eat every night." OMG - How cute is that, an elderly couple in an RV pulling a pick-up and collecting autographs from Triple-D. This brought the biggest smile to jfood. Jfood told them to go to Izzy's for dessert.

                                                      So jfood has the following conclusion. He is not a JL lover from Nook's but the Lodger is a very good burger for a bar burger.

                                                      13 Replies
                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                        I think you are a champ for trying the Nook again. I'm not sure I would have if I were you. Anyway, I'm glad you had a better experience this time. This experience sounds like a much more typical of a visit during non-crazy (but probably still jam-packed, I'm guessing) time of day.

                                                        I personally don't think of the exterior of the Molitor patty as hard, but as "crusty". I accept that as a matter of interpretation, though. But, I do think the pondering the "how did they get it crispy on the outside but pink on the inside" question is part of the experience. Seriously, I like puzzling over it!

                                                        The Molitor is still my favorite burger at the Nook (with the Lodge as a second runner up) and I do think the pepper-jack, which is more delicate, adds something important in terms of texture and flavor to the experience, but I understand that you don't eat pepper-jack cheese, and therefore can't try it. I think you've had the best lucy at the Nook you're going to have, given your options and I completely respect that it's not your cup of tea.

                                                        BUT, I STILL think your Monday experience was more of a problem compared to this time--if I recall, your burger wasn't pink at all the first time, which is not workable for a juicy lucy (or for any kind of burger, ever, really!), and this time it was pink on the inside. And even though fries are the best choice for sides at the Nook, if I recall properly your visit last Monday, you ordered the fries and got the onion rings, which weren't properly cooked or seasoned: a double whammy of bad service and bad execution. So, I do think there was something amiss with your first, Monday, visit, which yielded a very different experience all around.

                                                        At the end of the day, though, all the Nook jucy lucy (or Molitor, my fav: I'm not even sure I've ever even had the plain old lucy there) is, is a thin, cheese-stuffed burger (a little pink on the inside; a little bit of a crust on the outside), with fried onions, on a soft bakery bun, with good fries, in a bar setting, at bar prices, with bar sourcing. It's not ever more than that, though, it is enough for me. (Actually, in my dream world, the Nook would switch to grass-fed beef and cheese and humanely-raised pork for the bacon, but I don't think that will ever happen, alas. My husband will have a stern word with me after he reads that. HA!).

                                                        But, to be honest, only towards the end of your meal at the Nook did you finally latch on the what really makes the Nook special, and that's the essential St. Paul-ness of it. And, ironically, you yourself, by taking an interest in, then chatting up, the elderly couple , provided the "St. Paul" in your experience this time around. To me, rubbing elbows with your fellow St. Paulites (of all ages, often including a pack of kids from the school across the street) is part of the experience. I like chatting with the other folks, looking at the photos and clippings on the walls, watching the kids in their baseball uniforms, watching the staff hustle, catching a glimpse of whatever fishing/lumberjacking/hockey/baseball/football flashes on the overhead TVs. To me, that combined with the good bar food, is what makes the Nook a great neighborhood bar. And, I think towards of the end of your experience, you felt some of the Nook's charm.

                                                        Now that you've taken to engaging complete strangers in bars and have a thoroughly informed and firm opinion on which bar serves the best jucy lucy, you can pretty much consider yourself an honorary Twin Citean.


                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                          >>Now that you've taken to engaging complete strangers in bars and have a thoroughly informed and firm opinion on which bar serves the best jucy lucy, you can pretty much consider yourself an honorary Twin Citean.

                                                          He still needs to pass the push a perfect stranger's car out of a snowdrift test, but seeing how adventurous jfood is in taking the local advice on where to eat perhaps he earns a pass.

                                                          And for going back to The Nook after his first go 'round jfood receives the golden sticktoitiveness award.

                                                          1. re: MplsM ary

                                                            HA! Good one. Yes, that is the advanced test.

                                                            I completely agree that I can't believe he want back to the Nook AGAIN. That's dedication.

                                                            JFood has a car? For another St. Paul experience, how about a hot dago sandwich, with spaghetti on the side, at the Dari-ette, eaten in the car, of course. (He might also see the DDD old couple there...)


                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                              A great recommendation. Just a clarification, though, at the Dari-ette, the sandwich called by that awful name elsewhere is called the Italiano. It's what allows me to order it without shame, and why Dari-ette is the only place I've ever had one!

                                                              1. re: mtullius

                                                                Too bad, the hot dago at DeGidio's on West 7th is good, too (though pretty different from the Dari-ette's). And, you're right, the Dari-ette now calls it the Italiano.


                                                            2. re: MplsM ary

                                                              jfood lived in Chicago 1978-80 and it was the year of the Blizzards. Jfood has pulled more strangers' cars out of drifts than he cares to remember.

                                                              Hopefully that is transferrable.

                                                              not back in MSP until after fourth of july, so have agreat BBQ and look forward to some more fun and food upon return.

                                                          2. re: jfood

                                                            That could have been me! ;) No not really that night but I might fit the description only we do not carry a book around. However, I am not bashful with my camera or engaging other total strangers. I've had waitresses stand on a chair for me to get the right shot, started oyster shooter rounds, and convinced more than one restaurant owner to concoct a special menu item. I do travel to try road food in a small RV with over 6,500 miles of mostly back roads under my belt already this year.

                                                            The Nook is my favorite bar/grill bar none because it epitomizes what neighborhoodness is all about albeit I live 30 miles away dangit. The Jucy Lucy is a regional specialty most importantly to be experienced and not argued about whether it is good, better or worse. However, you should appreciate the fact they can grill a crisp on the outside and pink on the inside burger. To many burger experts they consider that the gold standard.

                                                            1. re: Davydd

                                                              This couple was mid-60's from the south, y'all and were adorable.

                                                              But jfood will never get the award for striking up a conversation at a bar. He is engaged in conversations most of the day and by dinner, he just wants some down time with his books and some good food.

                                                              1. re: Davydd

                                                                Sooo....re: jucy lucy being crisp on outside, pink on inside...wouldn't that be the result of a too-hot grill? Or, if you like the lucy's, simply a very hot grill?

                                                              2. re: jfood

                                                                jfood, what is a 1919? I've read that you don't drink, so I'm guessing it's a fountain drink or a soda?

                                                                1. re: air

                                                                  1919 is a (very fine) root beer.

                                                                  1. re: tex.s.toast

                                                                    jfood sat just to the left of the beer pulls and it brought a great smile to him when he saw the 1919 root beer pull nestled amongst the real beers.

                                                                2. re: jfood

                                                                  I'm sorry jfood, but I still think you're doing it wrong. The Nookie Supreme.

                                                                3. Pardon the interruption. A post about making JL's at home has been split to the Home Cooking board. Please follow that discussion here http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6311...

                                                                  Thank you.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: The Chowhound Team

                                                                    That would be jfood's continued efforts to enjoy this MSP invention.

                                                                  2. Just went for lunch. Place packed at 11:30a on a Tuesday. Yikes. Ordered the Molitor, with fries. I can see where jfood is coming from. The meat was a bit overcooked (I certainly didn't see any pink), and the cheese wasn't exploding throughout the burger the way I usually like. The fried onions were cold. I'm not sure mine got thrown on the grill before they were put on the burger.

                                                                    I thought the meat itself has a nice flavor to it, and the bun was up to the challenge. The fries were great and the ambience is delightful.

                                                                    Personally, I would put the Nook in a tier behind Blue Door, Vincent and Victory 44, but in league with Sandy's and Matt's.

                                                                    I would have no problem returning.

                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                    1. re: kevin47

                                                                      I think it's unfair to compare The Vincent Burger with The Juicy Nookie. That said I personally prefer both The Molitor and Nookie to BDP and Matt's. But that is just me.

                                                                      1. re: Fudist

                                                                        it's unfair to compare a burger to another burger?

                                                                        1. re: Fudist


                                                                          Could you give a description of the difference between the Vincent and the JLs. Jfood almost went to Vincents a couple of weeks ago (meetings sorta interupted the plan) and was hoping to understand what the Vincent burger brings to the table. :-))


                                                                      2. Re: Vincent's "Jucy Lucy" the burger meat contains braised short rib meat and gruyere cheese, its valid to compare it to other burgers/JL's in that it is a burger in the same sense that discussing corvettes and station wagons because they are both "cars". sure, you could do it, but it wouldnt really be the most even comparison.

                                                                        I hit the nook a few days ago, and we ordered two nookie supremes, a jucy nookie, and a "burger of the month" which this month was a 2 layer(three pieces of bread) BLT with two kids patties on it - it was good. As for cooking temp one nookie supreme was ordered med-rare and it came that way, the other one was unspecified (though the orderer would have preferred med-rare) and it came out solid medium. The jucy nookie had a decidedly pink tinged ring outside the cheese, despite the menu's note that they only come medium. overall it was a very tasty round of burgers.

                                                                        30 Replies
                                                                        1. re: tex.s.toast

                                                                          I had a bite of a friend's Vincent burger and remember a distinctly smoky taste too, not sure how that got there. But I agree with the Corvette/station wagon analogy...at some level it is apple/orange time. But people will do what they will...if it makes them happy.

                                                                          1. re: faith

                                                                            thought the V burger was with smoked gouda, as opposed to gruyere? or perhaps just sometimes with smoked gouda? that would explain the smoky taste, if so.

                                                                            1. re: soupkitten

                                                                              no, i was mistaken. smoked gouda sounds more right.

                                                                            2. re: faith

                                                                              ground beef, bun, typical condiments.

                                                                              apples to oranges indeed.

                                                                              at what point can you not compare the same type of dish? and why?

                                                                              1. re: getgot211

                                                                                getgot, I have to agree with you. When discussing burgers, I think all burgers are fair game. The key here is understanding what kind of experience the person is after.

                                                                                If you want a neighborhood bar kind of experience, the Nook is great. There are other burgers and burger places that fall into that category of experience, like BDP or Matt's or 5-8 club, some, of course, being better than others, depending on your preferences.

                                                                                However, if you want the most loaded, exotic burger ever, well, then you have to open the discussion up to all of the burgers at the high end, like Vincent's or 112 Eatery's or whatever.

                                                                                I think it's fair to open a burger discussion up to the entire spectrum unless a person is seeking a very narrow type of experience.

                                                                                Same for pizza or anything else.


                                                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                  Jfood, I have been going to Matt's for years. They overcook their JLs big time. They also don't use the same quality meat that the Nook does. If you get one of the Nook JLs cooked medium, there is no comparison. The Nook is far superior.

                                                                                  1. re: Latinpig


                                                                                    Jfood has been to Matts once and Nook twice. Jfood liked the JL at Matts better than the JL at the Nook, but the burger (think he had the Lodger) at Nook was the best of the bunch.

                                                                                    1. re: Latinpig

                                                                                      Just curious--I assumed places like the Nook, Matt's, BDP are all using Sysco beef. Sad, but true. Is the Nook getting some specially-sourced local beef or something?


                                                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                        I wouldn't want "specially-sourced local beef in a burger" any more than I'd buy into the sham of "kobe beef burgers". It's cooking and texture that matters in a burger, as well as the bun and cheese. Beyond that, just because something comes off a Sysco truck doesn't make it automatically bad. They offer more than one grade of beef.

                                                                                        1. re: MSPD

                                                                                          I guess my point was, I assumed that, at the "pub" level, all place places were using the same source of beef and therefore, the beef itself wasn't the source of any differences we were noting in the final result.

                                                                                          Clearly, my love for the Molitor burger has nothing with where I thought the beef was coming from. But, if they (at the Nook) are getting beef from somewhere special/different or using beef that is of higher quality as Latin Pig suggests, I think that would be interesting to know. Maybe the beef itself is partly why I prefer the Nook's burgers, and I didn't even know it. He made the point that the beef at the Nook was a higher quality, not me. I just asked him to expand on that point.

                                                                                          As far as your point that "just because something comes off a Sysco truck doesn't make it automatically bad", well, that's a matter of opinion, taste, values, and so on, I suppose, like everything else. Unless you're telling me that among the grades of beef offered by Sysco is non-feedlot beef, then I would have to say, yes, it is automatically bad, at least in my set of values. I do feel a little guilty, or more accurately, hypocritical, every time I eat a burger (or any other meat or dairy), that comes from feedlot because I go to great lengths to avoid it otherwise. Furthermore, the more non factory-farmed meat I eat, the more accustomed to it I become and the more I genuinely prefer it. You may feel differently, and that's the beauty of having multiple voices on chowhound, but the day non-feedlot beef doesn't have to be specially-sourced would certainly be a day I would rejoice.


                                                                                        2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                          I find the "Sysco" namecalling to be both silly and misleading. Unless you happen to have seen the invoices in the kitchens of the Nook and your other favorite restaurants, you don't know where they are buying their products. It would be unsurprising to me if many of the fan favorite restaurants on this board regularly produce great food using ingredients from large, commercial suppliers like Sysco.

                                                                                          Let's focus on what is actually known, please.

                                                                                          1. re: Jordan

                                                                                            I didn't claim to know where the Nook sources their beef. Latinpig says the Nook uses a higher quality than the beef at Matt's; I asked him to clarify. In fact, is this is "known" I would like to know it, which is why I asked. Maybe he's seen the invoices in their kitchens, the beef being loaded off the trucks, read an interview with the owners, or done what I've often done which is simply call the restaurant and asked. You focus on what you care about, I'll focus on what I care about. It's a big big internets.


                                                                                    2. re: getgot211

                                                                                      certainly all burgers can be compared to each other, however i believe the original comment that started this was kevin's comment that he would put the nook behind the blue door, vincent and victory 44.

                                                                                      vincent may have a great burger, but i dont think this comment would be particularly instructive to anyone contemplating their dinner choices. lets see, should i go to the nook or vincent? well kevin says vincent is better. [if anyone follows that line of reasoning, good on them, it just defies most decision making and logical processing tools i would use when making dinner choices].

                                                                                      i had a really delicious country style rib at 112 last weekend, but would it make sense if i were to say id put 112 way above market bbq and famous daves? both have pork products cooked with tomato based sauces, so its fair, right?

                                                                                      1. re: tex.s.toast

                                                                                        Tex, I have to say, I disagree with you. If you're saying, hey, I want a burger tonight and I want to consider all of my options where should I go, I think you absolutely want to consider Vincent and 112 Eatery and Meritage and Craftsman and so on. Why not? If a burger is what you want, why not consider all of the burger options? I've seen people in their Vikings fan gear eating burgers and fries at 112 Eatery as if it were a just a neighborhood burger joint. I think it's a little far fetched to think of some of these high end places as just burger joints, but they put the burger on their menu, how can they fault someone for going there just for the burger?

                                                                                        I say, lay all the options out, then choose.


                                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                          jfood has done this EXACT analysis numerous times over the last few months. And yes he went to 112, bulldog, matts, nook, some place south of the mall in eden prairie and some crappy place on 50th in Edina. And Craftsman on tap for this week. Wanted to try Strip Club's burger three weeks ago but closed on a monday night.

                                                                                        2. re: tex.s.toast

                                                                                          I see where you are coming from, but the Vincent Burger is discounted for happy hour, and available at the bar.

                                                                                          In my view, the inclusion of the Vincent burger is a testament to it's stand alone quality. There are any number of high-end restaurants featuring mediocre burgers as a paean to the myriad unwashed. The V deserves credit for transcending the genre.

                                                                                          Further, The Vincent is cheaper than the Molitor, as are the accompanying drinks. Frankly, price often determines my meal decisions. If that's not the case for you, that's cool, but I think it is for many of those who post here. I can't afford Heartland (or Vincent's main room) every night.

                                                                                          There is an inherent dichotomy between a great burger offering and a great main room. As it happens, Vincent offers both. As such, I think the comparison is apt.

                                                                                          1. re: tex.s.toast

                                                                                            eh. i guess i see where you're coming from when it comes to all places that serve burgers being fair game to answer a question like "where should we go for burgers tonight?". ill stand by my original point that kevin's comment that the nook falls behind vincent (or even the blue door) is seemingly meaningless when abstracted from this question - perhaps i took it to incorrectly imply he was ranking them on some sort of general list.

                                                                                            i will, further, say that I think where we may have to agree to disagree is in regard to the validity of burgers on non-burger high end places menus. i've always assumed that unless a place was really a burger concept, the burger was there as a default option for unadventurous eaters. this doesnt mean they arent good, made of high quality meats and with interesting toppings, but simply that they are not the best food the kitchen is interested in or qualified to make*. i didnt get the burger at 112 when i ate there recently for the first time because about a dozen things sounded more inventive and interesting (in retrospect a good burger probably would have been preferable, but in not ordering a burger i got to try a number of different offerings off the rest of the menu). kevin's point about prices is directly linked to my line of thinking here - i dont get to go out to bank breaking places all the time, and when i do i just do see the point in ordering a burger.

                                                                                            * i realize that this is kevin's exact point regarding Vincent's burger, and that he effectively addresses this concern for me. i dont work in downtown minneapolis so the vincent happy hour is rather inaccessible to me, and ive never eaten his burger at full or discounted prices.

                                                                                            a final caveat - i absolutely agree that if ones goal is to try as many burgers as possible, none should be off the table, and i salute you, jfood, for your near exhaustive search for a good burger in the twinies, high and low brow alike.

                                                                                            1. re: tex.s.toast

                                                                                              It is a cross to beat mr t.

                                                                                              And it was salut in Edina (thanks for the memory jogger) that could not serve a burger correctly.

                                                                                              Craftsman, heidis and barrio this week with one on the bubble since jfood is going to the Yanks at the Dome.

                                                                                              1. re: tex.s.toast

                                                                                                While it might sometimes be true, I don't know if it's always the case that the burger is there to appeal to the unadventurous eater. For instance, in the case of 112 Eatery, I think it's there deliberately to appeal to the late-night, after-work crowd, and probably was meant to be eaten at the bar, which was more prominent back in the days before they added the second floor.

                                                                                                And, of course there are more interesting things to order at places like 112 Eatery. I've never ordered just the burger. We always order several small plates to share and the burger is often among those items.

                                                                                                But, again, I don't see why you couldn't just go to 112 Eatery for the burger, if that's what you wanted to do, just like the Vikings crowd I mentioned did. (Although, 112 Eatery's burger isn't the bargain it used to be. It's now $9, and that's without fries. It's starting to get a little pricey. It used to be only $7, I think). And while it might night be the best dish the kitchen can produce, it might be the best burger, so, why not order it?

                                                                                                I'm sorry to say I think I missed your post about your disappointing visit to 112 Eatery. Did you post about that?


                                                                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                  i wrote it up and it got eaten by the site, i think i will venture to post it again now - disappointing in that i had high expectations and had never been, i can explain in a fuller post.

                                                                                                  as for 112's fries, we didnt order them because 6.50 sure seems like a lot to pay for fries. with the 9 dollar burger thats 15.50 for a burger and fries.

                                                                                                  TDQ, you absolutely could just go to 112 for the burger, and im sure your vikings fans and any number of late-night after work types do. i guess when im in the mood for inventive or chef-driven food i dont tend to simultaneously happen to want a burger. just personal preference though.

                                                                                                  1. re: tex.s.toast

                                                                                                    Argh! I hate that when I draft up a post and it inexplicably disappears because my browser poops out or whatever. Well, I'm sorry you were disappointed by 112 Eatery. I will have to await your post. It's been about a year since I've been. I hope it hasn't gone downhill.

                                                                                                    In its early days (I can't remember if you were here then or not), 112 Eatery positioned itself to be the place where restaurant industry folks ate after their late shifts. That focus seems to have faded in recent years, especially since the addition of the second floor.

                                                                                                    I never thought the fries were stellar at 112 Eatery, alas, but I would think if you wanted a burger and fries you'd share the fries with your buddies. I think those fries serve at least two. Still pricey, but it seemed less crazy in the old days when you could get their burger for $7 and then split a $6.50 order of fries between two people. Then a burger and fries creeps just over $10 "per serving." Perhaps they nudged the price of the burger up just to discourage that kind of thinking (in support of your argument).

                                                                                                    Anyway, although I argue one COULD go to 112 Eatery just for the burger, I have to say, I've never done so. I just can't pass up the lamb sugo+ strigozzi there! This is all very academic.


                                                                                                    1. re: tex.s.toast

                                                                                                      Jfood's last two 112 burger experiences were not stellar. Good news was that he ate the pasta and foie gras meatballs on one occassion (over the top great) as an appetizer to the burger and fries. After three great burgers here is a quick report on burgers #4 and #5.

                                                                                                      #4 - sat at his normal Norm at the bar seat. Had the pasta...happy, happy. The waited 30 minutes for the burger, nothing. Asked the bartender when he might expect the burger. he shuffled to the back and told jfood, "it will be out momentarily." Twenty minutes later jfood asked for the check. "But it's being plated!!" When jfood mentioned "out momentarily" comment to the female hostess, she could not care less, the visual could only be described as "dead eyes."

                                                                                                      #5 - Two weeks later on a Monday night. Once again Norm at the bar. This time the sweetbreads for the app. (should have ordered the pasta). Burger arrives after a reasonable 20 minute interlude. Fries were outstanding. Burger was over the top onion-y and the brie was a mess. Love the muffin. Jfood ate half, or should he say struggled through half. He asked the bartender if the chef was on duty that night. Nope. Boy was that obvious.

                                                                                                      Now jfood will absolutely return, but not on a Monday.

                                                                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                                                                        So disappointing. I hate to say it, but Becker (and I don't know who else from 112 Eatery), is opening a new restaurant. I wonder if they're too distracted. What a shame.


                                                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                          Hey everyone has a bad day. First day kitchen was slammed by a party upstairs, but do not lie to the customer, explain the situation properly, customers are not mushrooms. Second time was just a bad batch.

                                                                                                          Should jfood get the burgher at craftsmans this week or try something else?

                                                                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                                                                            jfood, I haven't ever had the burger at the Craftsman. Personally, I always order what looks super seasonal and fresh there, often the trout. This time of year, that shouldn't be a problem. I also like their whole wheat pasta. Here's an old post by churchka on their burgers. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3752...

                                                                                                            EDIT: P.S. Be forewarned, service isn't the Craftsman's strong point.


                                                                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                              Ok - im sure this discussion will continue on that thread, since it seems like were all up and posting, but heres the link to my 112 report, for posterity:


                                                                                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                Yeah, the Craftsman probably isn't going to restore your faith in Minnesota servers.

                                                                                                2. re: getgot211

                                                                                                  I just said it was unfair to compare the two. Juicy Nookie is a burger with american cheese in the middle served at a dive. Vincent burger is a gourmet braised short rib and smoked gouda stuffed burger served at a fancy restaurant. Compare away.

                                                                                                  1. re: Fudist

                                                                                                    I agree,as previously indicated, with Fudist. I detect a migration into at least 2 camps here on the burger analysis---perhaps we should have names for the camps, like 'separatists' for fudist and others who want to have separate competitions for different classes of burgers, and...'one world /one state governmentists' for the all-inclusive, anything goes people. I have had the burger at 112 by the way, and wasn't super happy with it. Seemed too... 'beige' since ground beef is not super intense in flavor and neither is brie cheese, and somehow an english muffin also falls into the 'creamy soft' category. A perfect burger to me has complementary /contrasting textures and flavors, like some acidity from tomato, the crunch and burn of raw onion, sourness from pickle.....and if there is cheese it should be something more assertive like cheddar. I'm remembering my foodie family upbringing where we got these great onion rolls from a local bakery that we had with our burgers- wish they would have those rolls around here! By the way, I just had a fantastic bison burger today at Chef Shack in the Mill City Market- they have over 10 different homemade pickles and ketchup to put on, a good roll with some crispiness to it, and 1000 Hills bison, not overcooked and not oversalted...heaven for $7!

                                                                                                    1. re: faith

                                                                                                      Seems to me it might help to determine what exactly these various places are using for their burger meat. Prime, Choice or Select meat (am sure they don't use Standard or Commercial) and of what type mixture: Ground Beef, Ground Chuck, Ground Sirloin, Ground Round or what combination mixture thereof.

                                                                                                      Edit: recent NY Times on the burger and meat mixtures:

                                                                                            2. If you are going to get a burger at The Craftsman, I'd go for the the venison burger, it is the best. Also really good is their daily pasta special, whatever it is, and the pork rilletes.