Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Minneapolis-St. Paul >
May 24, 2012 10:04 PM

Cooks Ilustrated Shout Out to Minnesota's Jucy Lucy

I may not be a fan of the Jucy Lucy, but it's still cool that CI picked it up and re-posted it - for the local home cooks.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Three words: "Jumped the Shark".

    26 Replies
    1. re: MSPD

      Re: Jumped the Shark - you mean CI?

      1. re: foreverhungry

        Yep. To me, it seems like a food publication has hit the bottom of the barrel when they run something like this. Besides, the photo with the recipe looks totally unappealing.

        1. re: MSPD

          I'm not sure how I feel about something like this. On the one hand, I'm not a Jucy Lucy fan, and would be very unlikely to make one at home.

          On the other hand, there are fans of stuffed burgers, and a challenge is getting the inside melted without drying out the exterior. CI's method does a good job of preventing a dried burger.

          I kinda see this as fitting in CI's mission. They provide recipes for the basics, but making those basics the best they can be. Some of those basics include stuff that folks eat when out, but may want to try at home - pizza and cheesesteaks, for example.

          As for the photo, does any JL photo look appealing? Or even a JL in person? Different strokes for different folks, I suppose. In any case, I think it's still nice to see Minnesota getting some press time.

          1. re: foreverhungry

            I guess if you follow the mantra that "any press is good press".

            I just can't help but see the big picture. From a cooking perspective, if it's a challenge to get cheese melted inside a burger patty without drying the interior or ruining the beef, my answer would be to say "stop putting the cheese inside -- duh". It does nothing to enhance the ingredients, it's harder to cook and infinitely more difficult to eat.

            From the "press time" angle, once again someone is attaching the Minnesota food identity to a horrible concept. It's like there's some "magic" to having the cheese or other ingredients inside, as if the Kraft American cheese is suddenly becoming pleasant just because it's inside.

            The whole concept of the Jucy Lucy/stuffed burger just doesn't make any sense, save for a crappy place like Matt's staying in business only by duping morons into buying into a "Minnesota cultural icon". Every single one of Blue Door Pub's burgers would almost certainly be better and much more consistent if they just cooked a quality burger to perfection and offered all that stuff they plow inside as toppings. But the sheeple wouldn't flock there I guess.

            More power to Matt's and BDP -- and Cook's Illustrated -- for parting fools and their money, but the cookbooks or recipe sources I respect wouldn't buy into hype.

            Anyway....once again, I just thrust myself into the flaming gates of hell. Let 'er rip.

            1. re: MSPD

              I personally feel the same way about Philly Cheesesteak. I'd take melted Kraft over Cheese Whiz any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

              Most town's "iconic" food usually isn't their best. Is NY Pizza really that great? Is a Chicago Dog that superior? I've had Detroit's famous Coneys. They aren't worth the trip (or the risk).

              1. re: Db Cooper

                I agree that most town's "iconic" food isn't the best. I don't think anyone would argue that Philly's most iconic foods - the cheesesteak, the intersection soft pretzel that's been gassed by road fumes for hours, or scrapple - are anywhere near culinary art. For that matter, Philly offers a dozen sandwiches, hot and cold, that are leagues better than a cheesesteak.

                Yet as someone that lived in Philly for 13 years, I always have a cheesesteak (among other foods) when I get back there. Because cheesesteaks do taste good when they're well made.

                I'm afraid, though, that the same can't be said of a Jucy Lucy. I don't see any method of making a JL that results in a good burger, whereas at least a cheesesteak, when well executed, is a solidly good sandwich.

                As for the Cheese Whiz - whiz isn't standard on cheesesteaks in Philly. There's no "standard" cheese. Different places use different cheeses, though "American" and provolone are the two favorites, with American the most popular. Only a few places use Whiz are their default, but most notably Pat's is one of them. The reason they started using Whiz is because the 9th St., Wharton, and Passyunk neighborhood where Pat's is used to have a high concentration of Jewish folks. From what I understand under Kosher law, meat and dairy can't be served in the same meal, or can't be cooked on the same grill, or something like that. So in order to served cheesesteaks for those observing Kosher law, they started using Whiz, since it's not dairy.

                1. re: foreverhungry

                  I have no doubt about anything you say about Phlly cheesesteaks, but your rationale for use of Cheese Whiz is most likely an urban legend. Cheese Whiz has dairy - it's a processed cheese - so it would not be permitted under Kosher rules. But even if Cheese Whiz were dairy-free, it's highly unlikely that Pat's (or anyone else) uses kosher beef. So those who follow Kosher law would be unlikely to eat any cheesesteak.

                  1. re: bob s

                    bob s - you are completely correct. It seems it is an urban legend, one that I'd heard from several sources, several times. But just because something is repeated often, it doesn't make it the truth.

                    I did some digging, and came up with an article explaining the history of cheese on cheesesteaks from the Olivieris.

                    Thanks for cluing me into the fact I had been unwittingly spreading a falsehood for many years.

                  2. re: foreverhungry

                    I guess it all depends on our definition of a "good burger." I believe that you, MSPD, and I are fans of rare to medium rare meat. Therefore, we see a Jucy as being overcooked. However, there are people out there, misguided as they may be, who prefer their meats to be well-done. If that is how they prefer their meat to be cooked, who's to say a Jucy Lucy isn't done exactly the way they want it?

                    I should note that I do enjoy a Jucy from Matt's or 5/8 from time to time. Granted, my blood alcohol level is usually somewhere around .20 or I'm hungover so badly that anything greasy seems to help. But still, there's a time and a place.

                    Finally, isn't Pat's the original cheesesteak vendor? They were the first to sell it weren't they? If the original uses Whiz, then that's the standard at least by my definition. The rest are just making variations are they not?

                    1. re: Db Cooper

                      Yes Db, good point. For those that enjoy well done burgers, then a JL is perfectly good. I used to eat my fair share of JLs, but lately I've been so fixed on being able to find a place that makes a great burger (as how I see it), that I don't waste my precious burger eating trips on JLs, saving them instead for the quest for the perfect burger.

                      So I just read an article that interviewed members of the Olivieri family. An uncle Pat invented the cheesesteak in the '30's. Back then, no cheese at all. A little while later, they started introducing cheese (American and provolone) to spice things up a little. When Whiz came out in the 50's, they started keeping a can of it on the grill, and customers started liking it. According to the Olivieri's, that's how Whiz caught on.

                      1. re: foreverhungry

                        Try the Meritage Burger. I know it's hard to go there and get a burger, but it's the best in town that I've had so far.

                        1. re: Db Cooper

                          Great call on the Meritage burger although I do without the shallot confit. The Strip Club has a good one too.

                          If you're stuck in or find yourself in the south metro, the Valley Tap in Apple Valley puts out a great burger (same people as the Lyndale Tap which I know nothing about). Far and away the best burger I've had in the Apple Valley, Eagan, Burnsville area. Competes well with the Tier 2 in the downtowns, etc. (Tier 1 consists solely of the Nookie Supreme....everything else is Tier 2 in my book).

                          1. re: MSPD

                            I'll have to try the Valley Tap next time I'm out that way. In the past, I've always just gone to Rascal's. I know it's not gourmet, but I think they do very well at what they are shooting for at a reasonable price. I liked it more before the remodel and the new paint, but everything changes.

                            We totally agree on the Nookie Supreme. I took down the challenge this winter. The fries were the hard part. No problem slamming home the two burgers though....

                2. re: MSPD

                  I agree 100% with you on the JL concept. I don't understand the attraction of them either. It's a gimmick that makes good money for a few places. I agree that every one of BDP's would be better if made the traditional way. In one sense, the Jucy Lucy concept gives the ability for bad cooks to cheat, because they don't have to worry about cooking burgers to certain specifications. All burgers just get overcooked, which just about any bad chef can do easily.

                  From the CI perspective, yes, they're just giving people what they want, and for that, I can't fault them. Yes, you can take perspective that they should realize the JL concept is a crappy one, and not offer how to make a crappy (yet popular) burger at home. But that would be a hard stance to publicly defend without taking lots of flak.

                  1. re: MSPD

                    It seems a little over the top to refer to people who like a food that you don't like as "sheeple" "fools" and "morons." I like a Jucy Lucy from time to time, and I'm pretty sure I'm not being duped. I like other, more high-quality burgers, too, but personally I think there's something to be said for the way the crappy cheese melts with the grease--to me, that sometimes tastes better than an aged cheddar on top of a grass fed burger.

                    1. re: baa

                      Yeah, I suppose it's over the top, but when it comes right down to's my opinion. I don't claim to be above reproach and I'm positive I enjoy some things that would earn me a similar characterization.

                      I've said before on here that my hatred for the Jucy Lucy is out of proportion (same with walleye) because I truly care about the food scene here and time and time again, I see people breathlessly raving about these things to visitors without context or qualification. I see the Jucy Lucy as a giant thorn in the side of the Minnesota food culture (e.g. the original post that it's cool that MN got some pub).

                      I don't want Minnesota to be defined as the home of the Jucy Lucy. It does get me riled up and I start throwing around names. Sorry about that.

                      p.s. - I'm not opposed to melty Kraft American cheese product oozing all over a greasy slab of burger. I just don't want that guilty pleasure held up as the hallmark of Minnesota dining nor am I impressed that a cooking/recipe publication can figure out an overly complicated way to achieve it.

                      Again, I know I've thrust myself into the flames. I'm OK with that.

                      1. re: MSPD

                        For some of us that call ourselves Matt's fans, it's in part nostalgia. Many years ago I lived just blocks from the place. Our eighty year old neighbors had us make JL takeout trips for them. Good old Esther and Ernie craved the things and when I find myself in the area, it has to be a JL.

                        It brings back good memories of a simpler time in my life. I'm certain that can be said of all of us and our association with certain foods.

                        1. re: MSPD

                          Not flaming, but as usual we disagree on this point. The neighborhood bar thing is a pretty important part of St. Paul culture and the juicy lucy just plays into that. Where I come from, bars aren't neighborhoody or family friendly, so when you send a visitor out for a juicy lucy, in addition to hopefully pointing them to some good food, you're also saying, "Hey, check out this neat family-friendly neighborhood bar thing we have going on in St. Paul."

                          I will continue to send visitors to the Nook for the hand cut fries and the Molitor. If they want to get an ordinary burger instead, that's fine with me, too and I won't feel flamed. At the same time, I'm probably also steering them to the Hmong Market and Somali food and Kramarczuk's and out for wild rice somewhere so on. It's hard to imagine that a discerning chowhound would come away from that list of recommendations thinking a burger is the hallmark of Twin Cities dining.


                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                            "The neighborhood bar thing is a pretty important part of St. Paul culture"

                            Yeah, but it isn't unique to St. Paul (not really sure how this became a St. Paul issue since Matt's and 5-8 -- arguably the originators of the Jucy Lucy -- are in Minneapolis). You can find almost a carbon copy of Matt's Bar or a 5-8 Club or a "family friendly bar" in almost every town in America, especially "working class" cities. The only difference is that the cheese is inside the patty here.

                            The "hot dish" is an important part of Minnesota culture as well and some would define our local cuisine that way as well. Thing is, hot dish is ubiquitous around the's just called casserole everywhere else. These things aren't as special as we think they are.

                            Defining Minnesota food culture by the Jucy Lucy or "family friendly bars" or hot dish just perpetuates the myth that we have nothing of substance here from a food standpoint/that we're a culinary flyover land. I don't like when locals do that and I HATE when national publications do that.

                            p.s. - I don't get your 2nd paragraph at all in context of this topic. It's great that you make good recommendations to visitors. I wish you were at the helm of Cooks Illustrated, not whoever thought a good 'shout out to Minnesota' was an overly complicated recipe for a knockoff of a non-unique food.

                            1. re: MSPD

                              Most importantly, in case anyone is wondering where to eat, I never recommend Matt's. The food is awful and the atmosphere is downright depressing. If they invented the juicy lucy, they have my gratitude, but that's about it. I don't recommend Blue Door Pub either, except for the beer, the tots, and the overall friendly vibe.

                              I'm going to have to continue to disagree with you on the "neighborhood bar thing". Family-friendly bars are definitely not universal in the U.S.. In fact, when I moved to Minnesota, I was stunned to discover people under the age of 18 are permitted in bars.

                              And, yes, I think St. Paul's tavern culture --partly because of the particular groups of immigrants who settled in St. Paul vs. in Minneapolis but also because of the influence of the particular breweries in St. Paul-- is more representative of out-state MN bar culture and, therefore, the state in general. Vs. Minneapolis.

                              My second paragraph was intended to be a response to your comment "I don't want Minnesota to be defined as the home of the Jucy Lucy." Normally you and I have this conversation in the "I'm coming in from out town" threads. It was 3am'ish when I wrote that and I apparently forgot this was a Cooks Illustrated thread, not an out of towner thread. I can see why you might be confused. My bad.'

                              Anyway, I was trying to point out that a recommendation for a juicy lucy is just one of many recommendations I and others give out of towners and that I really didn't think that those other recommendations were in danger of being eclipsed by the JL. I mean, c'mon, it's just a burger. ;-).

                              Nevertheless, I still don't think there's currently any danger of the rest of the country "defining Minnesota" as the home of the Jucy Lucy. I think it will take us years and years and years to climb out of the deep hotdish/lefse/lutefisk hole Garrison Keillor has dug for us.

                              For the most part, the rest of the country thinks of Minnesota thusly:

                              10,000 lakes
                              Prairie Home Companion (lutefisk/hotdish/lefse, maybe rhubarb pie)
                              Michelle Bachman
                              Cartoonish and/or badly-behaved Scandinavians (thanks Vikings!).


                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                actually it's: 'isn't it bitter cold 11 months out of 12?', and 'that's where Prince is from, right?'

                              2. re: MSPD

                                MSPD - you'll be absolutely apoplectic at a recent "Best Burgers in the US" story in Travel + Leisure:


                                Providence RI comes out on top. Philly is in 2nd, with a burger that sounds pretty darned interesting. Minneapolis comes in 7th, and it's all about the Jucy Lucy.

                                1. re: foreverhungry

                                  I wonder about T&L's facts. I thought the Vincent burger was a (vastly inferior) knock off Boulud's and not a spin on the JL.


                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                    Yep. And my one and only experience with the Vincent burger was horrible. The whole thing was dry, the bun was lousy, and even the fries were lacking any character whatsoever.

                                    I would rather smash my head with a hammer than return food at a restaurant but I regret not pointing out to them how horrible this thing was. It was one of the biggest single meal disappointments I've ever had.

                                    All this discussion has kind of made me sad. I may have to drown my sorrows in a Nookie Supreme tomorrow. That thing always cheers me up.

                                  2. re: foreverhungry

                                    No need to despair MSPD. Chicago had the Billy Goat Tavern Cheeseburger mentioned. While I love the BGT for a beer while the better half blows the doors off the credit card up on the street, I'd rather go to any school cafeteria for a SoyBurger than eat the crappy burgers there. That's totally naming a burger based off 5 minutes of SNL fame.

                      2. re: MSPD

                        If you click the link you'll notice that this recipe was first published 5 years ago in "Cook's Country" - the decidedly more down-home publication from America's Test Kitchen. The link was sent out again today in their email newsletter.

                  2. I had burgers as a child in the 70's that were stuffed with mushrooms and or cheese. It was a novelty then, and it's a novelty now. Along side the chicken cordon bleu (from scratch thank you) it was a fun diversion and that's about it. Baked Alaska was another wacky treat.

                    It's probably a good thing for most food service establishments to annihilate their beef. Anything that knocks out pathogens is your friend - in low brow as well as high brow establishments. You take a calculated risk when you eat anything rare or medium rare. You are testing the weakest links in a food handling system, and there are many.

                    I would guess that most of the beef patties in the JL camp are machine formed, commodity product (meaning coming from beef grown with growth hormones, and nummy prophylactic antibiotics). Given that ruminant digestive systems are not designed to process grains, I'd say that human digestive systems are not designed eat too much processed crap. Obesity epidemic would be a case in point.

                    My one local bar JL experience yielded a trip to the porcelain god. It was not a malted beverage induced incident. In all my culinary wanderings this set the "worst restaurant experience" bar exceptionally low.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: keg

                      Hasn't Matt's been serving Juicy Lucy's since the mid-fifties? It might be a novelty, but it appears to be one we've clung to for decades.

                      Sorry about your local bar JL experience. I think you're going to hold out until Heartland or Alma or Lucia's or Spoonriver adds one to the menu.


                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        @TDQ, unlikely that any you mention would dip into the well of Lucy-fer or fried snickers on a stick. Wait a minute, am I visioning their next menu cycle(s)? The Lucy is low food and as low food goes is not really that compelling a form. I can see upscale low food working if it's executed with good technique and competent (consistent) line cooking. Then you have to take a stab at the overhead and guess the price. Somehow I think the targets in all these places lie elsewhere. I respect all the places you mention, but don't eat in any of them very often. My food/entertainment dollars go towards lower food establishments and raw ingredients for the home stove almost every night of the year.

                        1. re: keg

                          Of course I agree with you that none of those restaurants will ever have JLs on their menus. Doesn't make sense for them at all.

                          RE: "lower food establishments and raw ingredients"--where in St. Paul do you like to go as far as "lower food establishments"? (Not even Heartland deli?)


                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                            Black Sheep. Ngon. Brasa. St. Paul Cheese. Punch. Mavericks. Izzy's. Grand Old Creamery. Black Sheep Coffee. Kopplins.

                            Heartland FDM? Are they open in the evening or lunch hours only? I couldn't find info about hours of operation on the website. On my days off, Sunday is a home brunch day, and Mondays Heartland is closed as far as I know. Out of curiosity, what's the sandwich price structure and do they still have upscale coffee? I seem to remember Bull Run beans.

                            1. re: keg

                              Great list. The only thing I'd add that has similar ethos is Tanpopo. I'm surprised to see Mavericks on your list, though. You're okay with their meats?

                              I haven't been to Heartland deli since winter, but I thought the hours were 9-9 every day the restaurant is open. And, yes, I agree with you that it's weird that they don't have the deli hours on their website. I've always gone on weekends and I usually go to buy frozen soups and stock and their smoked fish. We've also bought sausages and headcheese. I think the sandwiches are all around $9. That's a lot of nines, ha! I'm sorry, I'm afraid I didn't notice anything about their coffee, but I asked my husband if he remembered and he said, "I don't remember, but I know it was special." Not very helpful, i know.

                              I've never been to St. Paul Black Sheep!


                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                Mavericks has a spot in my heart. More principled ingredients sourcing, and better fung shoe (feng shui) would elevate it to the next level. I'm not averse to enjoying the occasional commodity product. Had high hopes for Buster's, and the burgers and vibe were decent, but the lack of concern about pharm raised meats is a deal breaker. Blue Door falls into the same league. Groveland Tap fails to make it to the dance unfortunately as it would be my neighborhood haunt if they learned how to clean the place and well there is the food.

                    2. I don't think this classifies as Jumping the Shark. If Craig Finn was on the show singing about it, maybe.

                      I also don't think the Juicy Lucy should have the backlash that it is given. As a recent transplant and epicurious traveler, I love regional recipes. Is it fine dining? What?!@ It's a burger stuffed with cheese.

                      It was nice to find a good way to cook these things. I think I would half the cubed deli American with some good cheddar. I like how they kept the meat moist with a panade.

                      I enjoy homestyle recipes (like the patty melts I had tonight!) and although I did think it was fairly low-brow, I like the CI spot. Their following Cornell (NY) chicken and salt potatoes on that episode rocked too.

                      1. Why people get so worked about a magazine article is beyond me. I think that sushi is repulsive and when that fad has gone the way of the fondu, I won't be throwing stones. To each their own. The juicy lucy is just a different take on a traditional hamburger. Obviously lots of people liked it or it wouldn't have gotten popular in the first place. However statements like the one below are what turn people off of forums like this. Calling people sheep for liking a style of food is low in my book. Kudos to the CI for giving some recognition to something semi-unique to the Twin Cities and showing folks a method for making it at home. That's all that this article was in reality.

                        "The whole concept of the Jucy Lucy/stuffed burger just doesn't make any sense, save for a crappy place like Matt's staying in business only by duping morons into buying into a "Minnesota cultural icon". Every single one of Blue Door Pub's burgers would almost certainly be better and much more consistent if they just cooked a quality burger to perfection and offered all that stuff they plow inside as toppings. But the sheeple wouldn't flock there I guess." -MSPD

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: GutGrease

                          Well said.....I think a lot of places people love here are only tolerable...

                          1. re: GutGrease

                            I'll own it. Hopefully you also read my follow-up post.

                            Again, I know it's my opinion which doesn't carry any more or less weight than anyone else's.

                            And I know it was harsh and I said "sorry". I was very clear that my passion for this particular subject runs hot. I feel that way about a lot of things and filter out most of my true opinions on certain topics when they cross over to potentially personal. If an unfiltered comment outweighs my 9 years/thousands of posts on here and "turns people off to forums like this"....well, sorry for that too.

                            1. re: MSPD

                              Nah, you don't turn me off from these forums. I too enjoy giving the dissenting voice when I feel that the snobbery (not yours in this instance) reaches great heights. There is a tendency for food enthusiasts to poo-poo the common foods while holding fois gras and other delicacies to the highest esteem. What would the right be like without the left or the Smurfs without Gargamel?

                              I just couldn't pass up the sheep comment but I do appreciate your enthusiasm for good, quality food in the Twin Cities.