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USA Today got it right

Latinpig Oct 1, 2010 10:35 AM

They went throught the best burger in each state. For Minnesota they say that the quintessential Minnesota burger is the juicy lucy. They acknowledge that although Matts and the 5-8 may have started it, the Nook does the best job. I couldn't agree more.

  1. John E. Oct 17, 2010 08:30 PM

    I disagree with the premise that "...the quintessential Minnesota burger is the juicy lucy". Maybe a half dozen bars in the Twin Cities specialize in it and talk about it a lot. It's not like Philadelphia that has hundreds of cheesesteak places or Chicago with hotdog places all over the place.

    1. John E. Oct 11, 2010 05:04 PM

      I get a little annoyed (just a little, it isn't that important to me) about the whole Juicy Lucy thing. I don't believe it is ubiquitous to Minnesota at all. A few bars make them and talk about them all the time. By the time the cheese is melted the beef is overcooked, in my opinion.

      26 Replies
      1. re: John E.
        faith Oct 11, 2010 10:49 PM

        I tend to agree with John E., seems like the Jucy is more about the cheese. With some good beef, in my opinion you don't need cheese, it kind of masks the beefy flavor. I'd rather have mine Calif. style...and med. rare.

        1. re: faith
          John E. Oct 12, 2010 07:52 AM

          I definitely want the cheese, I just don't want it in the middle wtih overcooked beef. I remember my mother making hamburger patties like these and my father grilling them many years ago when I was very young.

          I wonder how long the respective establishments have been making Juicy Lucys?

          1. re: John E.
            LiaM Oct 12, 2010 08:13 AM

            When I've had the Jucy Nookie, it has been cooked to about medium, with a bit of pink at the middle. I haven't found it to be overcooked. That and their fries make the Nook my preferred JL spot. I like the Blue Door but not as much as the Nook.

            1. re: LiaM
              Seige Oct 12, 2010 10:13 AM

              Exactly, LiaM. I don't get all this "the beef is always overcooked" business when talking about a JL. My Nookies at the Nook are always medium. In fact, I think their menu even says the JL will be served medium. If you've been getting overcooked burgers, I think you've just been really unlucky.

              1. re: Seige
                John E. Oct 12, 2010 11:28 AM

                The last time I had the Juicy Lucy at the 5-8, the beef was overcooked.

                I actually prefer a thicker beef patty than two thin patties with cheese in the middle.

                1. re: Seige
                  MSPD Oct 12, 2010 11:50 AM

                  Argh...I swore I wouldn't post to this thread.

                  If someone holds a gun to my head and tells me I have to eat a JL, the Nook is my choice. You touched on the reason LiaM and Siege: That's the only place that can execute it on any semblance of a regular basis without cooking the beef medium-well and beyond. The only time I've ever had any pink inside a JL was at the Nook. That includes visits to Blue Door Pub, half of which resulted in burgers without any cheese inside at all. They sometimes manage to leave little escape routes for the cheese it seems.

                  Since I'm in here typing, I concur with the Nookie Supreme comments. It's an indulgence.

                  1. re: Seige
                    Foureyes137 Oct 12, 2010 01:56 PM

                    Here is why I dislike JLs (I figure I sorta have to now that MSPD kicked-in); provided someone does manage to get the cheese to melt and leave the burger medium, there is a strange alchemy at the center of the burger that makes the beef...like, smooth. When my tongue touches it, it reminds me of something other that eating a burger. I will spare you the comparison, suffice it to say biting is not involved...usually. That and the similar experience of having them frequently overcooked is why I do not like them.

                    To answer DQ below: The Nookie Supreme is a double burger with gooey cheese on the outside and special sauce and is sorta like a big mac in construction but infinitely better than a big mac.

                    1. re: Foureyes137
                      The Dairy Queen Oct 12, 2010 02:06 PM

                      Yeah, that's probably more than I can/should eat in a sitting, especially if I want fries (and I do.) Do they have a single version of the Nookie Supreme, ie., one patty plus the same sauce you're referring to?


                      1. re: The Dairy Queen
                        Foureyes137 Oct 12, 2010 02:12 PM

                        Not a clue.

                        It comes with a steak knife. Bring a friend. Problem solved.

                      2. re: Foureyes137
                        foreverhungry Oct 12, 2010 06:16 PM

                        Huh. OK. I gotta admit, Foureyes's description of a perfect JL got my ... uh ... interest ... uh ... piqued. Perhaps I just haven't had a very good, uh, Juicy Lucy?

                        But I echo Foureyes's sentiments in that most JLs I've had have simply been overcooked. And not to go off on a tangent, but usually in the TC, my burgers are overcooked by about 5F - If I ask for rare, I get medium rare (on occasion medium). If I ask for medium rare, I often get no pink. There are 2 places I can confidently get burgers rare or medium rare the majority of the time. That's why I've given up on JLs - I can't reliably get them cooked the way I want. That, and I don't see the point (though Foureyes's comparison gets me very interested....)

                    2. re: LiaM
                      foreverhungry Oct 12, 2010 11:56 AM

                      Interesting. I'm not sure how you can get pink beef with melted (not softened) cheddar (or American). To get cheddar (or American) to completely liquefy (which is how I've seen JLs), one has to go past 140F, which is the temperature for medium beef. Unless they are using a processed cheese that has a lower melting point?

                      1. re: foreverhungry
                        MSPD Oct 12, 2010 12:09 PM

                        I have no idea either. All I know is the last time I had one at the Nook, I commented to my friend that it was the first time I've ever had one with pink in the middle.

                        1. re: MSPD
                          The Dairy Queen Oct 12, 2010 12:17 PM

                          Maybe the chunk of cheese at the Nook is frozen? http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7400...

                          (And, yes, the Nook is the only place I've had a JL that was worth a darn--and that includes Shamrock's-- and, occasionally, even the Nook's are overcooked...).

                          Okay, which one is the Nookie Supreme? Is that two patties?


                          1. re: The Dairy Queen
                            John E. Oct 12, 2010 12:36 PM

                            If the cheese were frozen that would be just the opposite of melting which would go against the point of a juicy lucy.

                            1. re: John E.
                              The Dairy Queen Oct 12, 2010 02:06 PM

                              Well, it's frozen at the beginning of the cooking process; but not by the end.


                              1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                John E. Oct 12, 2010 05:51 PM

                                If the cooking process is started with frozen cheese then for sure the beef will be overdone before the cheese melts.

                                1. re: John E.
                                  scoopG Oct 12, 2010 06:05 PM

                                  Maybe that is what Matt's is doing then...using frozen cheese. But what would that "add" to the JL?

                        2. re: foreverhungry
                          jfood Oct 12, 2010 12:56 PM

                          jfood has accomplished pink and melted stuffed american cheese at home on the grill. He believes in the "if it ain't broke don't fix it philosophy."

                          1. re: jfood
                            foreverhungry Oct 12, 2010 01:36 PM

                            By the "if it ain't broke don't fix it philosophy", I take that to mean that if one can get burgers cooked ranging from rare to well, and still get melted cheese (on top, in the "traditional manner"), then why try to stuff cheese into the burger? Given that: A) it requires a bit more work, and B) it restricts the range of temperatures one can cook a burger at (medium? maybe. rare? highly doubt it), what's the point of it?

                            To me, the JL is part gimmick, part local tradition. It's what a lot of people grew up with.

                            But if one wiped burger-knowledge from the face of the earth (perish the thought, I know), and we started from scratch on how to make a perfect burger, I'm not sure anyone would suggest stuffing it with cheese. I don't think anyone would say, Yeah, that makes sense. To me, that's the embodiment of the "if it ain't broke don't fix it philosophy."

                            But again, I didn't grow up with JLs, and like I don't get the fascination with fried walleye or tater tots, I don't get JLs. That's OK.

                            1. re: foreverhungry
                              jfood Oct 12, 2010 02:55 PM

                              Add this to the fray.

                              food's normal SOP in grilling burgers is to open the bun and lay it insides up on a plate. He layers caramelized onion on the top half and then places cheese on top of the onion and an equal amount of cheese on the lower bun. He takes both sides of the bun and places them cheese side up on the warming rack in the back of the Weber. The cheese melts (a) over the onions on the top half and (b) over the bottom half of the bun.

                              When the burger is grilled to MR, he takes the bottom half with the melted cheese, then the burger, then some ketchup, then the top half with the inions encased between the melted cheese and the top bun.

                              1. re: jfood
                                foreverhungry Oct 12, 2010 06:08 PM

                                I like it. A little more exercise than I want to do for grilling everyday burgers, but I gotta admit, it sounds excellent. It's the little touches that don't take that much more time, but that add to the quality - caramelized onion (I'm not an onion fan - until they are caramelized. then they're a completely different animal), warm the bun, warm the cheese on the bun, the double cheese strategy. Nice.

                                That all being said, I'd take that burger over a JL any day of the week.

                            2. re: jfood
                              Davydd Oct 12, 2010 04:11 PM

                              I think I can confirm that. This is my home Jucy Lucy pan fried and was pink inside. I hope you can see it.

                              1. re: Davydd
                                scoopG Oct 12, 2010 05:34 PM

                                Were the buns toasted? Regardless, I know where to go now in the Twin Cities for my home-cooked JL!

                                1. re: Davydd
                                  foreverhungry Oct 12, 2010 06:25 PM

                                  I'm not disagreeing with you, but I gotta say, it's hard to tell from the pic. Of course, there's lots of variation to pink, and when it comes to a burger, the definition of medium rare can vary for people. I've seen people call 0.5 square centimeter of pink medium rare, whereas I certainly wouldn't. Medium rare throughout? Again, tough to get that in a JL. A thin band of pink? Sure. Does that really qualify as medium rare? If you got a steak that had a 1 mm thick band of pink in the center and the waiter said, Yup, that's medium rare, what would you say?

                                  Perhaps different definitions of medium rare for different folks. In burgers, I think it's very hard to call.

                                  But again, if if one could achieve a reasonable medium rare throughout - what's the point? Other than Foureyes' description above (which, again, intrigues me), what makes a JL better than a traditional with cheese on top and melted? Or is it a provincial thing, that unless you're from here, you don't get (like my aforementioned battered walleye and tater tots?)

                                  1. re: foreverhungry
                                    faith Oct 12, 2010 09:11 PM

                                    in a way, foureyes description isn't so surprising given...the name ...of this concoction............did this come from Minnesota Lutheran culture? kinda risque...

                                    1. re: faith
                                      Fudist Oct 17, 2010 07:30 PM

                                      The cheese that go into JL at The Nook is not frozen.

                    3. f
                      fm1 Oct 10, 2010 05:18 AM

                      Why the big deal with the Juicy Lucy? I'll take a great real burger every time and Convention Grill blows all the rest of em away

                      Convention Grill
                      3912 Sunnyside Rd, Minneapolis, MN 55424

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: fm1
                        kevin47 Oct 10, 2010 04:05 PM

                        In the case of BDP, it allows them to layer some interesting ingredients without the whole thing becoming a slurry. None of the 5-8, Matt's or the Nook blew me away, though I'd return for the Molitor and fries at the latter.

                        BDP, V-44, Busters and Vincent are the only burgers that make sense to me for this conversation, but that's getting a bit granular for USA Today.

                        1. re: kevin47
                          mtullius Oct 16, 2010 06:17 AM

                          But kevin47, have you had the Meritage burger? Should def. be in a serious conversation about best burgers, I think....

                          410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

                          1. re: mtullius
                            jfood Oct 16, 2010 06:37 AM

                            jfood went back to nook last week for a 3B and a JL. The 3B was very good but he left half the JL.

                            Jfood's current choices as the go-to burgers are Travail, V-44 - Buster's and the regular Nook burger. Nice idea on Meritage and jfood will place that on the schedule for next week. Never had one but a great idea since he loves Meritage.

                            410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

                      2. scoopG Oct 8, 2010 02:39 PM

                        OK. I have had both Matt's and the 5-8 JL. I thought the 5-8 came in much better than Matt's burnt offering. Have not tried the Nook's version yet. What makes theirs the best?

                        15 Replies
                        1. re: scoopG
                          The Dairy Queen Oct 8, 2010 04:48 PM

                          1. The collegial atmosphere 2. the fresh bakery bun from PJ Murphy's across the street 3. the handcut fries. 4. Not charred like Matt's.


                          1. re: The Dairy Queen
                            scoopG Oct 8, 2010 05:31 PM

                            Thanks. My next stop for a burger in MSP. Are these the guys that serve up the "Molitor" and is that a JL?

                            1. re: scoopG
                              The Dairy Queen Oct 8, 2010 05:33 PM

                              Yes, and yes.

                              My husband's favorite is the Lodge Burger--not a JL.


                              1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                Seige Oct 8, 2010 07:29 PM

                                My hubby's fave is the Matt Birk burger. Not a JL, but a great burger with pepperjack cheese. I prefer the Nookie (JL) with bacon. And onion rings. And cheese curds. And a pitcher of 1919 root beer. :)

                                1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                  Foureyes137 Oct 11, 2010 01:03 PM

                                  Nookie Supreme! Also not a JL, but one terrific burger.

                                  1. re: Foureyes137
                                    The Dairy Queen Oct 11, 2010 01:07 PM

                                    I don't know if I've ever tried that one! I'm very risk/change averse. I shall add it to my list, or, better yet, someone else's list and I will just have a bite to see if I like it. Then, negotiate a swap of burgers, if necessary (a few extra of those home-cut fries make powerful bargaining chips).


                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                      scoopG Oct 11, 2010 03:27 PM

                                      Is it safe to say that the Nook has likely the best metro JL, but their other cheeseburgers are better?

                                      1. re: scoopG
                                        foreverhungry Oct 11, 2010 04:41 PM

                                        I would vote for the Blue Door Pub for the best Juicy Lucy. But if the contest if between the "traditional" JL joints - Matt's, Nook, and 5-8, I'd go with the Nook.

                                        The Blue Door Pub
                                        1811 Selby Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55104

                                        1. re: scoopG
                                          The Dairy Queen Oct 11, 2010 04:54 PM

                                          Most serious burger fans will say their other cheeseburgers are better. But, I love the Molitor, which is a jucy lucy. Really, what you're getting when you visit the Nook is a slice of the real St. Paul. Joe Mauer went to high school across the street.

                                          I love the hospitality of the Blue Door Pub, but I think their JL's are a sloppy mess and their sides aren't as good and their buns aren't as good. Their JL's are more creative, but, not worth it for the overall package in my opinion.

                                          Also, the Nook is a family/high school hangout. The BDP is a hipster hangout.

                                          P.S. you can't get tots at the Nook, though.


                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                            foreverhungry Oct 11, 2010 08:05 PM

                                            I get what you're saying TDQ. I don't always like the crowd at TBD. Yes, it is a hipster type crowd, the the attitude that they're too cool gets really old.

                                            I think the Nook - and Matt's and the 5-8 Club, in their own ways - are homages to the past. The Nook is probably like it was 30 years ago, in a neighborhood that probably hasn't changed much in 30 years, in a city that doesn't want to change much in 30 years. The Nook, Matt's, and the 5-8 Club are all really neat places, that should be around for a long time, and I go to each occasionally (5-8 more than the other because I live a few blocks away - if the Nook was next door, I'd be going there more).

                                            But it just gets me when the media claims the best burger in MN is a Juicy Lucy, then picks one of the 3 standard-bearers (or even TBD, for that matter). It's a stuffed burger, the same as is served in all other 49 states. I'm not convinced you can't do the same thing with a standard burger that you do with a JL, the difference being you can actually get it cooked the way you want it.

                                            But, hey, that's just me, and I realize that because I'm not native to MN, I might just not get it, and that's OK.

                                        2. re: The Dairy Queen
                                          Foureyes137 Oct 11, 2010 03:40 PM

                                          This is how my wife and I play...but it seems like I just keep getting the Nookie Supreme and asking her to get a different burger. :)

                                        3. re: Foureyes137
                                          BigE Oct 12, 2010 07:10 AM

                                          Second the Nookie Supreme all day.

                                          I agree with whoever said that, at its heart, the JL is a pretty bland creation.

                                          1. re: BigE
                                            The Dairy Queen Oct 12, 2010 07:28 AM

                                            At its heart, the JL is delicious gooey cheese.


                                      2. re: scoopG
                                        jfood Oct 11, 2010 09:59 AM

                                        get a regular, non-JL as well. jfood thinks the non-JL is better at the Lodge.

                                        1. re: jfood
                                          The Dairy Queen Oct 11, 2010 01:11 PM

                                          TDQ doesn't know what jfood is trying to say here. Where is the Lodge? Or, does he mean the Lodge Burger at the Nook?


                                  2. f
                                    foreverhungry Oct 2, 2010 07:14 PM

                                    This is a good thread to ask a question about Juicy Lucys that I've been wanting to ask...Why is it that the "quintessential Minnesota burger" is a Juicy Lucy? And why do Matts and the 5-8 get credit for starting it? Isn't it just a stuffed burger, the same that can be found on bar menus across the US? (And no, they're not copying MN). And while I know this might be a tired question, why is it that the quintessential burger in MN is one that, by definition, has to be made well done? Is this reflective at all (and I won't say which way) on Minnesotan's palates and love for cheap cheese? Why isn't the quintessential MN burger one that's just a well made burger using quality ingredients? Maybe some wild rice somewhere? Or a duck product? But why a burger that cooked into briquet that stuffed with crappy cheese? What does that say about Minnesota?

                                    On the choice for a juicy lucy, I will agree that given what it is (it's kinda like saying who has the best fried mozzarella sticks), Blue Door Pub has the most inventive juicy lucy's, the best made (such as it can be), and of the other choices, by far the best beer list selection.

                                    For those that complain about Blue Door's service, it's a small place, with what, about 10 tables? With no offense to the BD (I'm going there Monday to meet a friend), offer Surly and a creative juicy lucy in that Mac-Groveland / Merriam Park middle class neighborhood, and it'll be packed. Marketing genius. It's like a Highland Grill for hipsters. So you need to wait to get in. I've been there over 20 times (yeah, I know, the hypocrisy drips), and I've always had good service - that meaning, once I get seated, I get a menu, I order, I get my food in a timely fashion. That's what I expect from a place like that. On the plus side, on a 30 minute wait, I've been able to order a beer and just stand in the way of the servers, without them complaining or looking at me evil. That's good.

                                    EDIT: I checked out the article. I grew up in NJ. USAT picked White Manna as the NJ representative. I grew up minutes from White Manna, and have eaten my share of them. Now I get the juicy lucy choice. It's like picking PBR as the best beer.

                                    Highland Grill
                                    771 Cleveland Ave S, Saint Paul, MN 55116

                                    The Blue Door Pub
                                    1811 Selby Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55104

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: foreverhungry
                                      Davydd Oct 4, 2010 03:54 PM

                                      If you guys would only open your eyes and look around you could get a lamb burger goat cheese juicy Lucy at McBarry's Pub in Maple Plain if you want to try something different from SYSCO burger meat and buns.

                                      As for quintessential I am afraid the cable TV food shows have anointed the juicy Lucy though none of them could be considered the "best" burger.

                                      1. re: Davydd
                                        foreverhungry Oct 4, 2010 04:29 PM

                                        Well, that does certainly sound interesting (though it would require me to leave my Minneapolis enclave...). Kidding.

                                        While it does sound interesting, I would have to ask, why the penchant for turning it into a Juicy Lucy? Why not just make a lamb burger, then top it with goat cheese? That way, the lamb wouldn't have to be cooked the pre-requisite well done to get the cheese to melt (admittedly, though, you might not have to go as far with goat cheese to get it soft). Isn't it really just a gimmick? One that produces over-cooked pieces of meat? Or am I missing something (which is altogether possible...).

                                        1. re: foreverhungry
                                          Davydd Oct 8, 2010 06:40 PM

                                          I guess the answer is aren't all Jucy Lucys just a gimmick? I suppose McGarry's did it to differentiate from all the other Jucy Lucys. Lamb is more Irish than beef. The pressure is on now for most bars to join the bandwagon now that the national media has anointed Jucy Lucys as the Twin Cities burger.

                                        2. re: Davydd
                                          Seige Oct 8, 2010 07:27 PM

                                          I might consider that if goat cheese didn't make my throat close up. LOL Lamb burger does sound yummy though!

                                        3. re: foreverhungry
                                          Haricotsv2 Oct 15, 2010 06:24 AM

                                          Groveland Tap has been serving juicy lucys (including a cajun lucy with pepper cheese and jalapenos) forever. They also have Surly's. Disclaimer: I'm not a juicy lucy afficianado--what makes one better than another?

                                          Groveland Tap
                                          1834 Saint Clair Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55105

                                        4. clepro Oct 1, 2010 06:47 PM

                                          Looks like James Norton said it, and USA Today just printed it.

                                          I really do need to get to the Nook one of these days, but I certainly agree that Matt's is nothing write home, or USA Today, about.

                                          1. mtullius Oct 1, 2010 01:57 PM

                                            You must be trying to stir things up..... I mean, there are few topics as controversial.....

                                            From my JL-eating days, I'd have to say that the Blue Door's version is better than any of them. Now THERE's a controversial opinion!

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: mtullius
                                              Seige Oct 1, 2010 05:35 PM

                                              Haven't been back to Blue Door since right after they opened. Atrocious service and so-so food. We should really give them another chance, but I do adore The Nook.

                                              1. re: mtullius
                                                NugarifiK Oct 2, 2010 10:32 AM

                                                I like to think I've eaten at every "lucy" joint in the cities and in my opinion, BDP has both the best burger and menu...however service can be an issue. Also, after BDP airs on "Diners Drive-Ins and Dives" this fall, its essentially not going to be worth eating there due to the inevitable 60+ minute wait that you will have to endure.

                                              2. b
                                                BigE Oct 1, 2010 01:53 PM

                                                Here's the link, for those who haven't seen the article.


                                                1. b
                                                  BigE Oct 1, 2010 11:08 AM

                                                  The Nook blows the other two away. I've really tried to like the 5-8, but the taste of the meat is always lacking for me.

                                                  Matt's is fine, but not on the level of the Nook.

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