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A Quest for Burger Greatness

I'm a Seattle dweller normally, but my boyfriend lives in the Twin Cities, so I'm out here visiting pretty often. He and I are on a quest to have (find? whatever) the best burgers the Twin Cities have to offer.

Of course there are endless lists online, Yelp! and UrbanSpoon reviews, etc, etc... Even old Chowhound threads. But when it comes to such things, I find time is of the essence (that is, a spot that was great two years ago may now be awful, or closed; conversely, other places improve, or new ones open), and there is no greater fountain of contemporaneous foodie knowledge to be found than Chowhound.

We've already tried Bulldog NE, which got our seal of approval. We've also had burgers at Ginger Hop (solid), Pat's Tap (big thumbs down), and Chatterbox (decently tasty). Blue Door is on our list to hit this week.

Where else should we try? (Note: We're well aware of the classics, like Matt's, 5-8 Club, and Nook. While we're not UNinterested in these places, it'd be helpful to get a legit sense of where has a great burger versus just a great history/reputation/atmosphere.)


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  1. The Nook or Shamrocks (same owners). Great burgers that also happen to be reasonably priced.

    Skip the juicy Lucy/stuffed burgers unless you like your burgers overcooked.

    1. Another vote for the Nook. I wouldn't go to Matt's or 5-8 for a great burger, although there's something to be said for the blazing hot-off-the-griddle burger from Matt's that's satisfying in a greasy spoon way.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Jordan

        And yes, +1000 on the Nook, but you said you already know about that. :)

      2. I also like the Nook quite a bit. For a more upscale burger, try the burger and fries at Meritage. I also like the burger at Bon Vie on Selby, and I'd say it is of better quality than the nook for a slightly higher price.

        1. My Burger in the Minneapolis Skyway

          3 Replies
          1. re: AmyMo

            Myburger is a local fast-food burger place with a few locations. It's not bad, but it's really not an exceptional burger.

            I will give a semi-endorsement to Red Cow. This is a new place around 50th & France that has a burger-focused menu. The burgers are interesting and the buns are great. I haven't had a "great" burger there yet, but I think they can get there.

            1. re: AmyMo

              Tried My Burger on Excelsior and wasn't too impressed. Burger had no discernible flavor and the toppings were nothing special. The ambiance smacks of chain (although they do serve beer.) I'd put it in the same realm as Smash Burger.

              1. re: ChancesR

                IMHO smashburger is ALOT better...then we have vincent nook matt's etc...

            2. I really enjoyed the burger at Victory 44 recently, and they have a 1/2-off deal if you order between 5:00 and 5:44 on a weekday. I don't know if it's necessarily the "perfect" burger, but it is good.


              1. In addition to the Nook, of course, I've enjoyed the burgers at Salut in both locations and in the bar at WA Frost.

                1. The Capital Grille downtown really does make a superior burger with truffle fries. You can get it in the bar as well if you want a less formal experience.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Lincster

                    I would add the House Hamburger at Meritage if you are looking for a high-end burger experience.

                    As for the rest, the Nook is as good as it gets.

                  2. My go-to in the Twin Cities is Buster's on 28th (unfortunately currently closed for renovation).

                    1 Reply
                    1. D Spot has good burgers and fries and of course the wings

                      1. I really love the Nook's burgers. And I've never found that their Jucy Lucy-type burgers (e.g. the Juicy Nookie) are overdone. In fact, I think The Nook is one of the few places that has a tender, med./med-well stuffed burger.

                        I also like the Blue Door, Vincent, and Buster's bison burger, but alas, as foreverhungry said, Buster's is closed right now.

                        1. thanks for all the replies so far, guys! love the recommendations and appreciate the help. keep it coming for sure... i'm in the twin cities for a couple weeks every other month or so, so there's no such thing as too many recommendations! (and if something's temporarily closed now, we can hit it on a future visit.)

                          does anybody know anything about the camel burger at safari express? we're intrigued, but curious if anyone has any advice. otherwise, i guess we'll try it and report back...

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: chartreauxx

                            I have had the camel burger and it is good. Maybe not drive out of your way for - but if already going - absolutely - stop by Left Handed Cook and Sonora Grill while there for some additional great food.

                            Also - Victory 44's burger is great (at 1/2 price during 'happy hour'- even better). +1 for Vincent also.

                          2. I've never tried, but now I'm going to try the burgers at Anchor Fish and Chips and Ward 6. I've heard good things about both places. Both places do their fries in tallow which I've enjoyed tremendously. Usually the wonderful fish at both places pulls me in before I even think about a burger.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: shoo bee doo

                              Ward 6's burgers are good---grass-fed beef and not dried out. But, they've never been able to deliver one cooked to order. This doesn't bother me much, but be forewarned if you're a stickler...


                              1. re: shoo bee doo

                                I'll vouch for the Anchor, though it's been a year or two since I had it. It's a big, messy, heart stopping creation, but it's damn delicious.

                              2. I would recommend Low Brow ( 4244 Nicollet Ave) - the Highbrow burger - grass field MN beef with melted brie, carmelized onions, field greens, roasted garlic aioli. Yum!! The buns are delicious too.

                                / Glad to hear you liked the NE Bulldog's burgers!

                                1. Wait for it, TDQ.... I'm going to suggest Happy Gnome for the burgers. :) They're all good, cheesburger, game burger and lamb burger. Fries are tasty too and they've got a beer list a mile long. What more could you want when eating a burger?

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: Seige

                                    I agree with this. They've really stepped their food game up, across the board. I would, however, avoid the duck burger. That one was quite dry and basically fell apart.

                                    Off the burger side, their wings are quite good, and their steak tartare is maybe the best I've had anywhere. Just incredible.

                                    1. re: BigE

                                      I would say, with 112, busters and lowbrow being the biggest offenders on my usual burger rotation, that temps are pretty inconsistent. I would prefer a griddled thin patty with a well developed crust on the outside over a hacked thicker patty cooked to oblivion. The nook and shamrocks have the temps pretty dialed in, and haute dish usually crushes it(even though they cook it how they want it every time, which is fine with me as long as it tastes good)

                                      Anyone know who is doing a thin patty? A la Au Cheval in Chicago?


                                      1. re: mitch cumstein

                                        my favorite is Northeast Yacht Club, no cheese, very dark fried onion. May have to go tonight!

                                        1. re: mitch cumstein

                                          Interesting that you put Busters on the list of offenders. I've been going to Busters since they opened, and only once have I had a burger that was not cooked to my order, and that was on my most recent visit. When I said something to the waitress about it, she thanked me for the feedback, said they were training in a new cook and would tell him, and comped me a beer. I'll go back when they open again.

                                          Side story - I recently spent a few days in North Carolina, and was horrified to learn that there had been, until recently, a law on their books requiring ground beef to be cooked to 155F. Even though that law was reversed a few years ago, every place I went to either did all their burgers well, or asked if you wanted "well done or a little pink", with no option for rare or medium rare. Made me feel lucky to live in MN where we can, in most places, order burgers to any degree of doneness imaginable.

                                          1. re: foreverhungry

                                            I still think pre-fire I ate more busters burgers than any other, but usually that was the case. Shame on me for never saying anything I guess...

                                            Technically, meat in mn has to be cooked to 160 degrees. You will see on most steakhouse/corporate menu's that there is a disclaimer that consuming raw or undercooked blah blah blah.... that is dept of health mandated.

                                            1. re: mitch cumstein

                                              No, technically meat doesn't have to be cooked to 160 in MN. Yes, there's a disclaimer at the bottom of the menu, but that's different than the NC "you want that cooked to leather, or slightly less". It's up to the establishment to decide their policy, with the only regulation that if they serve below a certain Dept of Health temp, they have a stipulation on their menu. With few exceptions (for example the crappy Groveland Tap, though that was years ago and I never went back), I've always been able to order burgers how I want.

                                              1. re: mitch cumstein

                                                I'm a big fan of Buster's, and their burgers are a salt shaker away from being top notch. As much as I like their burgers, they have been, without exception, under seasoned.

                                      2. I really dig 112 Eatery's cheeseburger. The toasted english muffin is perfect and I love the melty brie. In fact began using english muffins as hamburger buns at home after trying their burger a few years back.

                                        1. Here's one that makes few, if any, lists. Shish on Grand's Shish-burger.

                                          It was thick and obviously formed by hand. Maybe I just got lucky, but without even asking, mine came out nicely between medium-rare and medium. The bun was not bad. The toppings were interesting, Feta + Hummus.

                                          Bonus points: You can eat at a side-walk table if the weather is nice.


                                          1. I'm sure there is gonna be some dissenting opinions here but it seemed pertinent....


                                            8 Replies
                                            1. re: mitch cumstein

                                              And what's interesting the staff picked V44 Perfect Burger. I agree....

                                              1. re: mitch cumstein

                                                Has anyone had the burger at Parlour yet? That one really intrigues me. As a rule, I prefer the thin smashed double cheese over a huge pub burger.

                                                1. re: BigE

                                                  Usually my style as well...its all about the maillard. I've heard from trusted sources that it is indeed killer, but I have not made it in before closing for one. Maybe tonite...

                                                  1. re: mitch cumstein

                                                    I made it down to Parlour last night. My plan was to sit on the patio, but for some reason, there were plenty of other people with that plan circa 8pm on a perfect summer night, so I went downstairs to the bar. There were a few people at the bar itself, and a few tables occupied, but it was mostly empty.

                                                    I saddled up, ordered an Old Fashioned, and perused the menu, even though I knew what I was getting into. Burger and fries were ordered, and I waited.

                                                    The burger arrived on a plate with a small stack of house made pickle slices. Two burgers (made with a mix of ribeye, sirloin, and brisket), each topped with white American cheese. No other toppings, but they did provide classic squeeze bottles of ketchup and mustard.

                                                    Alright, on to the burger. The beef flavor on this one is the best I've had with any burger in TC. Better than V-44, Nook, HD, and a few other "higher" end spots. It's just...beefy. I don't know how else to put it. The cheese is great, gooey, it almost ends up turning into a sauce. The bun is soft but sturdy, and it manages to stay together even though the burger is insanely juicy. After a few bites, the bottom bun was soaked, but it held together the whole way. The whole construction was quite hefty too; every bit of a half pound, I would think. Now, the slight negatives. For me, even with the insanely beefy flavor, I would have loved a little more salt. Personal preference, and the most minor of quibbles. Second, I would have minded some other accompaniments (mayo or special sauce type thing, onion, lettuce, etc), but again, minor complaint. The patties were definitely fresh and hand made (or smashed) because they both had irregular shapes. In terms of char/crust, it seemed to be slight, if present at all. Temperature seemed med-rare/medium, but it was so dark in the bar, I couldn't really tell. Again though, it was VERY juicy.

                                                    Overall, probably the best burger I've had in TC. Very simple, but I just love the double cheese over a huge single burger. It comes in at $11, with a side of fries available for $4. The fries were fine, but unspectacular. Again, lacking a little salt for me. There are enough for 2 people, however, so the burger/fry experience for 2 would come in at $13 a head, which I think is well worth it.

                                                    1. re: BigE

                                                      $4 for fries, even with enough for two is kind of pricy, for unspectacular.

                                                      1. re: BigE

                                                        Parlour's burgers are undersalted? I am SO there! Now that I've switched to a low-sodium diet, I'm on an eternal quest for low-salt restaurant items. I really miss eating out! This burger (minus the salty cheese and condiments) sounds like just the ticket. Especially with the all-important char, which has me drooling into my keyboard.

                                                        1. re: AnneInMpls

                                                          Yes, it was under salted for me, but the intense beefiness made up for it. And mine had a lack of char, to be honest. Serious char would put this burger in a league of its own. Still, very good burger that should be tried.

                                                          To DF's comment, $4 seems to be a reasonable price point for a side of fries at higher end places. They are just another part of the bar menu; not an exclusive add on for burgers. But yes, they could certainly have been better.

                                                          1. re: BigE

                                                            Made a return visit to Parlour last night, and the burger was even better. Again, lack of char for me (this must be the norm), but it did have some crispy edges, due to griddled preparation. Meat was a little more salted, more juicy than any other restaurant burger, and it managed to stay together throughout. No frills, no bacon, no fried egg. Just burger, bun, and cheese.

                                                            Make it a point to get down there. This is the best burger in town.

                                                2. Looks like you don't have Smashburger in Seattle. It's definitely worth a try -- a great greasy burger. Sure it's a chain, but definitely a cut above.

                                                  1. I are a burger at Rock Bottom Brewery today (downtown, Hennein) and I was really surprised hor good it was. Much better than I had anticipated. And their summer Kolsch beer is my new favorite. Kolsch is the style not the name of the beer, comes from Cologne, Germany region. But this version is made at RBB says the waiter. Oh, we had the best waiter. Él era el mejor!

                                                    1. Burger Jones on Lake Street in Minneapolis, though it is a Parasole creation, does serve good hamburgers.

                                                      The Nook is one of my favorites. In the suburbs, the Lion's Tap in Eden Prairie is almost strictly a burger place and I think a good one.

                                                      In downtown Minneapolis my favorite hangout was Lyon's Pub on Sixth.

                                                      For the chain fast food variety, Culver's is it. We don't have an Elevation Burger yet. That one will make you forget Five Guys and Smashburger if it gets here.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: Davydd

                                                        I think I have found burger greatness in the Twin Cities. Last night I had the Ike's Roadhouse Steak Burger, a 10 ounce blend of ground Angus chuck and prime rib, on a butter toasted onion bun, with Widmer aged Cheddar, sauteed mushrooms and crispy onion rings. It was a bit pricey at $15 but worth it and probably a tad too much to eat in one sane setting. I had it with an Excelsior Brewing Co. Bitteschlappe on tap.

                                                        On edit. I checked the Ike's website. It appears this burger is not on the downtown menu but on the Minnetonka menu.

                                                        Ike's Food and Coctails is located on 6th Street downtown Minneapolis, Highway 7 in Minnetonka and at the Airport.

                                                        1. re: Davydd

                                                          We went to Burger Jones for the first time last Friday. I thought the burger was really good.

                                                          It has been azfew years since I've been to the Lion's Tap, but I do recall being underwelmed.

                                                        2. I'm always searching for the perfect burger! A new place we just tried was Parlour (located under Borough on Washington Avenue) after reading about it on a few blogs. Classic double with cheese (only way you can get it) and with its' perfect blend of meat, it offers a great taste profile. It's also on a brioche bun, which is always a bonus in my book. Try the old-fashioned when you're there, too - you won't be disappointed!

                                                          1. Cap grill, Icehouse (foiegras), 112, the nook,Burger Jones, the Convention Grill

                                                            1. The Anchor's basic burger turns me into a crazy soapbox evangelist. I just haven't found anything better, but I have some rules for it:

                                                              1. Medium-rare or rare ONLY. If it's not cooked perfectly (though it usually is), let them know, they will take care of you.
                                                              2. No ketchup or mustard (they don't add those condiments, but philistines might)
                                                              3. Cheese

                                                              Just a warning that it could ruin you like it's ruined me.

                                                              1. My list of places to try in order of preference:

                                                                1) craftsman
                                                                2) Vincents
                                                                3) Craftsman again
                                                                4) Bar lurcat
                                                                5) 112 eatery
                                                                6) nook
                                                                7) matts for a jucy
                                                                8) back to Craftsman

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: alpa chino

                                                                  If you haven't tried Borough, put it on the list. No frills, just the best burger in town.

                                                                2. When will Buster's reopen?

                                                                  1. CHARLIE’S JUICY BURGER$9.95
                                                                    This one makes Steers quiver! Two patties stuffed with saucy beef brisket. Topped with caramelized onions, Jalapeno Jack cheese, bacon & topped with an onion ring

                                                                    Love this burger at chuck wagon Charlie's in Chanhassen. Nothing fancy but its damn good.