HOME > Chowhound > Minneapolis-St. Paul >


Where's the beef?

I've been doing a burger tour of the TC for the past 6 months. And I must say, I'm not impressed with what everyone has conventionally been claiming to be good.

Tried the Lion's tap---Really folks??
groveland Tap--Big Dud
Victory 44 perfect burger--not perfect. (although for a $6 special. Very perfect)
Blue Door Pub, juicy lucy---Take matt's any day of the week.
Burger Jones--You gotta be kidding me. Love the "smoked ketchup"--someone mixed liquid smoke + heinz.
Cardinal bar juicy lucy--Not worth the trip.
Rail Station--Meh.
Park Tavern--Nah.
stub and herbs--meh,
Big 10-meh.
Chatterbox bleu burger--so so.

To be fair, I have been impressed with a few.

The library squealer--excellent. This one really caught me off guard.
Matt's bar--classic mainstay. Had it many times before, but my estimation of it always rises.
Vincent's---Smoked Gouda Juicy lucy, very good.
Ike's--Steak burger. Good, but will take up to 24 hours to digest.
Bar Lurcat--fancy, small and pretty good. Nice char.

Am I being too picky? I understand it's just beef between bread.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Try the Chimay Burger at the Northeast Bulldog. "Chimay beer cheese, Chimay beer mayo, red onion, romaine on a Brioche bun." Yum!! It's one of my favorites.


    1. I don't like beef burgers, but I'm addicted to the bison burger with cheddar cheese at Trotter's Cafe - it's simple and delicious (and the whole wheat bun is fabulous). However, I need to bring my own sriracha to mix half-and-half with the ketchup - that's what would really send this burger over the top.

      1. Has anyone tried the Bacon Burger at Pats Tap? I agree that finding a good burger in Mpls is nearly impossible.

        2 Replies
        1. re: ibew292

          I have. It was ok, overcooked, overworked The flavor could have been nice but it was just lost to the beef fat not being present, due to the well done nature of the thing, and full of greasy bacon....

          1. re: ibew292

            I just tried this abomination at Pat's Tap. First of all, I didn't like the atmosphere at that bar/restaurant. I didn't understand exactly what motif they were aiming for. The bacon burger had a really funky taste to it. The texture really threw me for a loop. I wasn't sure if I was eating beef or pork or..........

            It was either too much bacon flavor? Or not enough flavor? Or.....I'm not sure what. I really didn't enjoy it. The fries weren't bad though.

          2. I'd second the suggestion of the Bulldog NE. I'm partial to the Junk burger there (mushrooms, bacon & cheese). Buster's on 28th does a pretty solid burger, too, and of course the Nook is one of the classic JL places.

            1 Reply
            1. re: LiaM

              I'll third the votes for both Bulldog NE and the Nook. At Bulldog, I like the Rooster burger -- Sriracha glaze, sweet pickles, spicy mayo. But you can't go wrong with any of their varieties or just the plain burger.

            2. are you intentionally hitting the sysco-tavern circuit? have you tried the grass-fed beef places? i am assuming that since you spent $17.50 plus downtown tax or whatever ridiculous price ike's currently charges for a sysco burger, that price is not an issue in the great burger quest...

              5 Replies
              1. re: soupkitten

                I had the Roadhouse Steak Burger. It's angus sirloin and prime rib. It was pretty good, very meaty and juicy. It's a helluva burger experience. Definitely well worth the money.

                I'll take a Matt's/5-8 Jucy over the grass-fed premium any day. I think victory 44 was grass fed. But I had grass fed at Merlin's rest and corner table. Doesn't make a difference. To me at least.

                1. re: soupkitten

                  I do retract what I wrote above. I checked out the Craftsman for the first time yesterday. Had the beef burger with harissa, cheddar, and bacon. The beef was premium grass fed and cooked to perfection, mild white cheddar, applewood smoked bacon, and a spread of perfectly flavored harissa--not too hot. The accompanying fries were off the chain--perfectly crisp, thin, and no greasy aftertaste. Only drawback is the homemade chili ketchup--too pungent and hot. All in all, the absolute best burger I've ever had.

                  I had to ask if it was grass fed, and that was one helluva piece of meat.

                  1. re: soupkitten

                    I'm not sure that grass fed beef matters that much for a burger. While beef quality certainly matters, I think proper handling, seasoning, and cooking are at least as important. In general, I'm not convinced grass-fed beef in general is superior over non-grass fed. I've had mediocre grass fed beef, and excellent non-grass fed beef. Well produced grass-fed beef can be excellent, some grass fed beef can be pretty bad. There are a lot of variables at play when it comes to quality beef production, and grass-fed doesn't automatically guarantee great results. When a burger has so many more components than a simple steak, I think it's easy for beef quality differences to take a back seat to seasoning, proper cooking, the bun, etc.

                    In the excellent burger category, I'd throw my favorite to Buster's on 28th, and second favorite to Burger Moe's.

                    1. re: foreverhungry

                      Agree Forever....I do taste the difference in grass-fed for a steak, but for a burger the blend and the cooking are really the key.

                    2. re: soupkitten

                      Had the Merlin's Rest burger. Yes, it's grass-fed premium. It wasn't bad for a bare bones burger. Just bun, meat, tomatoes, lettuce. No cheese. Meat speaks for itself and the home made potato chips were okay. Wasn't bad for a plain burger, and an ale to wash it down.

                    3. The Anchor Fish and Chips, yup, for a burger. Simple burger with Irish cheddar. YUM. 1000 Hills beef. Perfect bun. Beautiful marriage between beef and bread.

                      1. The Nook? Kings Place in Miesville? The House of Coates?

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: AmyMo

                          The Nook is my go to place for burgers. Tried TBD, but I keep returning to the Nook. Damn good burgers, fabulous fries.

                        2. The Happy Gnome is making a helluva burger these days. Also Meritage has a great one. Those are my suggestions...

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: mtullius

                            Smashburger is better than most of the places this guy listed. Matt's is a joke. For my money The Lodge Burger from The Nook reigns over all.

                          2. Yes you are being too picky. I have tried almost all the places on your list and they all make a good burger IMHO. I think I can suggest a good place to try on your quest for burger perfection............your kitchen. (owning a cast iron skillet helps) That way you know whats in it, and if you screw it up......you know where to place the blame :)

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: KAJohnson328

                              I'll make the umami burger one of these days. But I just want to see what's out there first.

                            2. I had a burger at Heartland, with provenance, that was delicious for the price. I avoid Lenny Russo for personal reasons, but you should give it a try.

                              The harissa burger at The Craftsman is credible as well on the level of being well seasoned, cooked to the requested temp, and with a clean back story. They also know how to execute shoestring fries, which you'd think would be relatively easy, but unfortunately it isn't.

                              I avoid beef that has been grown with hormones and antibiotics. Not so much because I fear human health risks (which I believe are debatable), rather I don't believe they make the beef taste better.

                              1. I can't decipher what exactly it is that you're looking for -- thin, overcooked patties on a crappy bun (Matt's)? Inventive, unusual ingredients (Craftsman)? To me these are completely different foods and, depending on my mood, would suck one day and hit the spot the next. Although Matt's always sucks in my opinion.

                                Anyway....Jucy Lucy fans seem to rave about Tin Cup's over in St. Paul. Also, I've heard a lot of great things about the burgers at D-Spot in Maplewood. The owner Darin, will talk your ear off about the ingredients he uses if you let him.

                                I've been recommending it for years -- Good Day Cafe. But I hesitate because it's very beefy, good quality bun, and thick-style....based on the ones you like, I suspect you'll hate it. But for those that like the Nook style of burgers, it's a winner.

                                1. In your next go round, I would start with Buster's. The burger itself is great, they can actually cook a legit medium rare (!!!!!!!), and the fries are as good as anywhere in MSP. My two minor quibbles are: 1) The meat could do with more salt. Maybe this is a personal preference, but it always seems like the patty is under seasoned. 2) The bun, while baked fresh at the wonderful bakery next door, is a little too...bready for me. I don't know how to properly describe it, but it tends to be a little crumbly, and it falls apart under the med-rare I normally get.

                                  Still, well worth a visit, if only for a few beers and some fries/chips/rings (all fresh made and delish).

                                  1. I agree with you on the Lion's Tap. I don't get it. I can get about the same quality of burger they have at any ballpark. The only thing I can think of to explain it is that they had the best burgers in town back when Perkins was the best restaurant in town, and now people are nostalgic for them.

                                    A few places I've been where I've enjoyed the burgers:

                                    Bulldog NE -Pretty solid burgers, though the buns can sometimes be dry.

                                    Barley Johns - off 35W at County Road C north of Minneapolis - Really good burgers, though again watch out for the buns on some of them. You want to order one that comes with a normal bun, not something fancified. Great fries to go with 'em, and they have their own in-house microbrewery with some really good beers.

                                    McDonald's (I kid, I kid)

                                    Morgan's in the Park - Zane and 610 in Brooklyn Park. The wild rice burger is very good.

                                    3-squares in downtown Maple Grove.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: shadowfax

                                      Barley Johns is on County Rd D, west of 35W.

                                      1. re: shadowfax

                                        "McDonald's (I kid, I kid)"

                                        That's not so far from the truth. I just got back from my first visit to Burger Jones where I had the Bacon Cheeseburger. The cheese was so thin it was nearly transparent and once I tossed aside the crumbly bun and ate the patty, I found it to be tasteless and greasy and beyond even the help of ketchup. And the fries! Those little straw fries were terrible and took about two minutes until they were too cold to eat. I don't know what the attraction is to this place, but I'll take a Quarter Pounder or a Whopper any day over another visit to Burger Jones.

                                        1. re: mifish

                                          Haven't been to BJ myself, but I'll make sure I don't go now ;)

                                          BTW, scratch Morgan's from my list - they closed suddenly and got replaced with a Roasted Pear.

                                          Just had the. . I think they call it the Red Rooster burger at Bulldog NE last week though - that's a good, if messy, burger! It's the one with sirracia on it. They have some really interesting beers to go with it, too.

                                          And one more to add to the list - Hazel's NE. Good burgers, and just about everything else on the menu too.

                                      2. Had a burger at Birchwood Cafe for the first time a few weeks back and was really impressed. They use Thousand Hills grass-fed beef and they know how to treat it right. When I had it it was perfectly seasoned and served with a seasonal veggie salsa (I'm remembering tomato, corn, and zucchini, but could be misremembering), but if I know the Birchwood they probably change up the specifics each week. On Sundays there's a special for 2 burgers and one pitcher of Surly for $30.

                                        1. Want a good burger? Stop ordering juicy lucys. They have to cook the crap out of the meat to get the cheese to melt. Then you have to wait five minutes for the molten cheese to cool down.

                                          I don't get it.

                                          Give me a burger with cheese on top, thank you very much.

                                          1. On my last few trips to the Nook, I've been getting the Matt Birk. It's a double (without the middle bun like the Supreme) with pepper jack cheese. Of course, they use giant slices of pepper jack, so you get a gooey, cheesy, delicious mess of a burger. It might be my new go to burger. I LOVE the Nookie Supreme, but I can't physically eat that thing without breaking it down and asking for a second bun top.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: BigE

                                              My spouse and I share the Nookie Supreme for dinner. Sliced in half it makes the burger consumable and a great meal for 2 people.

                                            2. I've been to a couple more places.

                                              The 112 eatery was a fantastic burger. The english muffin and brie was a nice touch, and the fries were fantastic. It tastes exactly like what the bar Lurcat burger is supposed to taste like.

                                              The anchor bar fish and chips. Forget the fish and chips. That burger is fantastic. It's juicy and full of flavor......and it's simple. Great bar burger.

                                              And I had to check out burger moe's in St. Paul. Not bad. It's definitely not that hellhole known as Burger Jones. Burger wasn't spectacular, but adequate.