The Twin Cities' Best New Burgers

Burgers and brews are as deeply Ingrained in Minnesota’s summertime DNA as swatting mosquitoes and swarming to the lakes. So rather than revisit the staples you already know and love (Matt’s Bar, Convention Grill, Grain Belt) we’ve surveyed the newcomers who are evolving our burger/brew ritual. Check out the best new burgers of 2015 from across the Twin Cities.

Icehouse – *1st Place*

A burger should be an indulgence. Not one of those anemic McBurgers or sliders eaten by the sack or the case; it’s a sandwich that, when publically enjoyed by Michelle Obama, sets the blogosphere ablaze. To that end, Icehouse’s burger is the first and last word on the subject. An extra $15 adds a seared half-inch-thick slab of the silky foie gras, from ducks raised in Caledonia, MN, at Au Bon Canard farms. The liver’s rich mineral flavor adds a layer of depth to chef Matt Bickford’s blend of brisket, sirloin, and chuck, ground in house (with a little butter, thyme, and shallot for good measure). The patty is paired with a housemade onion bun, pillowy as a fat baby’s thigh, plus caramelized onions so melty soft as to be nearly liquefied. Finally, the bun gets a swipe of lemony aioli and lettuce leaf, and housemade truffle Bordelaise sauce is poured over the assembly. Recently, a foie gras newbie plowing through the burger refused a napkin, despite the mess: “I want to lick all the juice off my fingers,” she insisted. • icehousempls.com 

The 128 Cafe

New ownership in 2013 ushered this cozy St. Paul eatery into an era that includes both lunch service and a signature burger (geared toward attracting neighboring St. Thomas students, and also served at dinner). The sandwich’s patty is made from dry-aged grass-fed beef (ground in-house, with scraps of steak and the brisket for 128’s Reuben added for good measure) and it’s topped simply with cheddar and pickles. The special homemade “fry sauce”—a blend of the usual burger condiments (aioli, ketchup, mustard, pickles, hot sauce, etc.) tastes as if it were reverse-engineered from the burger “spread” on an In-And-Out “Animal Style.” • the128cafe.com

Anchor Fish & Chips

Anchor’s Helicopter Burger—despite its suggestion of triggering a medevac—is just as good as its namesake fish-and-chips (and you still get the thick-cut, beef-tallow fried chips). Its foundation is a thick, tender, third-pound patty of Thousand Hills grass-fed beef, topped with melty sharp Irish cheddar, pickles, and tomato and slid into a squishy, Wonder Bread-soft (in a good way) bun. The secret is layering tomorrow’s breakfast into your dinner: salty Fischer Farms ham and a cage-free, organic fried egg. No word yet on its ability to counteract the next morning’s Guinness hangover. • theanchorfishandchips.com

Harriet Brasserie

Even with its French, Brazilian, and occasional Asian influence, this charming global brasserie also does a bang-up job with America’s favorite sandwich, which they’ve dubbed the Hill Burger. Harriet chef Fernando Silva starts with Limousin beef from various cuts of the chuck and cures it with salt and bay leaves for up to 24 hours. This creates a patty that’s tender, yet holds its shape, and gives the meat robust flavor and juiciness. Silva, a French Meadow bakery alumnus, couldn’t find a local bun with the exact characteristics he sought, so he imports them from the East Coast. Adding a slice of white cheddar, thick-cut bacon, sautéed mushrooms (often oyster, but also foraged hen-of-the-woods when available), and a bit of truffle aioli hints at a Japanese influence: The combination is the essence of the culture’s so-called “fifth taste,” the deep, savory flavor known as umami. • lakeharrietbrasserie.com

Haute Dish Burger
haute dish burger, photo by terry brennan, food styling by lara miklasevics

Haute Dish – *2nd Place*

There aren’t a lot of rules at Landon Schoenefeld’s Haute Dish, where the chef puts gourmet spins on Mom’s Midwestern classics. The exception is the burger, which comes with a menu description that forbids tampering with perfection: “No temps. No substitutions. Ever!” But trusting the experts is easy when Schoenefeld lays down a house-ground chuck-and-brisket patty laced with Gorgonzola powder on a house-made brioche bun speckled with sesame seeds. One bite results in a flavor explosion from roasted-garlic aioli, bacon, and button mushrooms, stacked with crisp veggie garnishes and a double dose of American cheese—we wouldn’t change a thing. • haute-dish.com

Hazel's NE Best Burger
Hazel’s Northeast burger, photo by TJ Turner

Hazel’s Northeast

It’s a cozy neighborhood joint known as much for its varied brunches as later-day meals, but there’s a distinctive find on both its lunch and dinner menus: the Butcher, a burger that combines dining genres into more than the sum of its parts. It’s a steak burger with cheddar spiked with horseradish and chive, salty pancetta, and house-made barbeque sauce. The whole thing sits on a croissant bun, which lends a note of butteriness that pulls the whole thing together. • hazelsnortheast.com

Heartland

In 2010, Heartland moved to massive new digs and added a bar menu with a large burger section: grass-fed beef, pork, lamb, and, most unusually, free-range veal. Meat from young cattle has a tender texture and a lighter yet more robust flavor than mature beef—it almost has a gamy twang, suggestive of pheasant or rabbit. The flavor is strong enough to stand up to raw-milk cheddar, pickled mushrooms, and mustard enriched with Summit beer. • heartlandrestaurant.com

The Kenwood

Chef Don Saunders created a versatile neighborhood restaurant in “downtown” Kenwood that does everything from pre-work pastries to fancy anniversary dinners. The Kenwood’s most crowd-pleasing dish is of course the namesake burger, made with heritage beef, a runny-yolk fried egg, Gruyere cheese, and seared, house-cured pork belly in between a Patisserie 46 brioche bun. It’s as rich as you’d expect it to be, considering the neighborhood. • thekenwoodrestaurant.com

Libertine

When restaurant factory Parasole traded up its kitschy Uptown Cafeteria for a sleek affordable-steakhouse concept, it gave culinary director Tim McKee a space to play with everything from oyster shooters to crispy pigs’ ears. The steak burger is no less adventurous: The beef patty (a 70/30 mix of ground chuck and fat to ensure a juicy bite) is smothered in white cheddar, bacon jam, and grilled onion. Piled on a pillowy Saint Agnes bun and served alongside massive potato wedges, the plate is as free-spirited as the restaurant’s name suggests. • libertinempls.com

Nightingale

From the bold blue tufted banquettes backed up against exposed brick walls, to the just-dim-enough lighting, to the late-night hours and $8 craft cocktails, this low-key Lyn-Lake eatery feels as hip as it is comfortable. Chef Carrie McCabe-Johnston’s burger follows the same formula: a basic California setup with Wisconsin sharp cheddar, lettuce, and tomato, plus a few spicy homemade bread-and-butter pickles on the side. Meat is ground in-house—a equal mix of Limousin beef chuck roast and brisket—then sprinkled with salt and seared on a flattop to create a lovely caramel crust that holds in the juiciness. When tucked into a tender, housemade brioche bun, which adeptly soaks up a swipe of herb aioli, the overall effect is surprisingly light for a meal so hearty. Good thing, because you’ll want to finish all the house-cut fries as well as the hospitable, gratis snacks—perhaps a few marinated Castelvetrano olives before that burger and a handful of grandma’s butter mints to follow. • nightingalempls.com

Northeast Social

The American farm-to-plate, homey sophisticate’s ethic at Northeast Social finds savory expression in its burger: a half pound of beef seared and served rare, topped with thick slices of bacon, spicy-sweet red pepper jelly, smoked gouda, and basil aioli that spruce up prosaic lettuce and tomato. It pairs perfectly with most of the rotating house red wines, as does its cousin at Eat Street Social, which substitutes onion marmalade and preserved tomato atop the same burgeoning patty. • northeastsocial.com  

Parlour

The subterranean cocktail den at Borough makes a burger as straightforward and stripped-down as a 4/4 rock beat: two salty, well-sizzled patties, melted American cheese, and a couple of pickles on the side. Nothing more. Nothing less. The secret is what carnivores consider the best bun in town: Not only is it sweet and tender as challah, but after it becomes saturated with the patty’s juicy grease, it squishes down to create a meat-to-bun ratio of at least 2:1. • boroughmpls.com

Public Kitchen + Bar

With its open spaces, historical background, and arched windows overlooking Mears Park, Public Kitchen + Bar has a lot going for it—including the Noyes + Cutler cheeseburger, named for the pharmaceutical company long housed in the 19th-century building. It’s a lesson in the art of adornment. Bourbon-glazed bacon, white cheddar, sweet jalapeno jam, and garlic aioli serve as sweet counterpoints to bring out the umami flavor in the burger itself—a half pound of ground chuck blended with filet scraps (as decadent as it sounds). • publickitchenstpaul.com

Rabbit Hole Burger
The Rabbit Hole burger, photo by TJ Turner

The Rabbit Hole

The menu at Midtown Global Market’s fusion hotspot features a handful of “Goobers” (good + burgers) stacked high with a pantry’s worth of toppings—and the Appa burger is the ultimate in messy indulgence. Just shy of a half-pound, the succulent patty is a house blend of chuck, brisket, and short rib that gets an extra dose of fat from thick layers of bleu and Gruyere cheeses. Smoked bacon, bourbon-fried onions, arugula, and tomato jam bring a range of flavors into play, and a smear of kimchi aioli nods to the restaurant’s Korean roots. A fluffy Patisserie 46 bun is the perfect vehicle to sop up the finishing touch—a runny fried egg. • eatdrinkrabbit.com

Red Cow

The fast-growing Red Cow (three locations in two years) is a mecca for all things trendy—sleek, modern décor, craft beer and wine on tap, and even designer beef blends. The Manhattan 2.0 burger is a chuck-and-short-rib variation from famed New York butcher Pat LaFrieda, whose patties have spawned cult followings at several cutting-edge Manhattan restaurants. The burger is stacked high on a chewy pretzel bun with bacon confit, gruyere cheese, peppery arugula, and a sweet dried cherry/red wine reduction—a combination that engages every taste bud. • redcowmn.com

Sea Change

Its tony environs and sustainable-seafood menu make it a stop for Guthrie audiences and mid-day power meetings, but Sea Change also has a devoted clientele from its Downtown East neighborhood and beyond that drops in exclusively for its burger. Under current chef Ryan Cook, it’s a stripped-down classic: house-ground beef, plus cheese, lettuce, and a mayo-based sauce that includes a hint of pickling brine for a subtle kick. • seachangempls.com

Victory 44

If a restaurant—an unassuming gastropub in North Minneapolis, at that—is going to presume to label its burger as “perfect,” it’d better be just that. At Victory 44, the Perfect Burger is the one item never erased from Erick Harcey’s ever-changing chalkboard menu—with good reason. Each individual component has been carefully considered to build the ultimate incarnation of a cheeseburger. The patty itself is a four-to-one ratio of beef and bacon, topped with more bacon and American cheese (two gooey slices, naturally) to achieve the richest of bites. Acidic house-made pickles cut the fat, and the Patisserie 46 bun, given a swipe of Dijonnaise, plays its supporting role in style. • victory-44.com

Wise Acre Eatery – *3rd Place*

The Royal Brie & Bacon Burger at Wise Acre Eatery embodies the restaurant’s “Plato-to-plate” philosophy, sourcing the main attraction from Plato, MN. Chef Beth Fisher packs beef from the farm’s shaggy, horned Scottish Highland cattle into chubby 1/3-pound patties that are formidable without being overwhelming. They’re then cooked in a cast-iron skillet alongside a slab of farm-sourced bacon to infuse the patty with extra fat. Stacked on a toasted St. Agnes milk bun with oozing Brie cheese (whipped in-house for maximum meltiness), farm-fresh basil, and that same chunk of pan-fried bacon, the burger’s flavors are as righteous as its pedigree. • wiseacreeatery.com

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