Twin Cities Burger Battle 2016

Last Saturday was one of my favorite days of the year: Twin Cities Burger Battle.  This was the second year in a row that I attended this (and the third year that they have held it – the first year was sold out before I knew about it – won’t make that mistake again!).  This year they upped the number of tickets to 2,500 (previously 1,800), and it sold out again in record time.  This year featured 6 more restaurants than last year, bringing the total to 25.  To accommodate the larger crowd and the additional restaurants, they moved the event to Harriett Island, which was a great venue.  All-you-can-eat burgers, and all-you-can-drink beer provided by Summit and Fulton.  Not a bad way to spend a Saturday evening!

Just like last year, each of the locations offered a slider, which could be prepared any way they choose.  Each attendant received a chip to vote for their favorite.  There was also a panel of judges that selected their favorite burger.  There were main awards that were given out: People’s Choice and Judge’s Choice.  I’ll cover who was in attendance and what they brought before announcing the winner.

The Contestants:

Ox Cart Ale House“The Ox Cart Burger”
Ground Chuck and Brisket Patty, House-made American Cheese and Dill Pickles, Caramelized Onions on a Saint Agnes Milk Bun.  With house-made ketchup and yellow mustard upon request.

My Burger “The Saint Paul Double Stack”
Two beef patties made from a special house grind, topped with two slices of aged white Irish cheddar and grilled onions braised overnight in Summit Great Northern Porter beer, served on top of a garlic herb buttered bun.

Gold Nugget Tavern and Grille“The GFB” (Good F-ing Burger)
Smoked short rib blended into a premium blend ground beef patty, topped with a house made chive “Velvetta”, smoked poblanos, bacon fat whipped mayo, tomato jam, and pickled red onions.

Happy Gnome“Gnomewurst Burger”
Bratwurst patty (beef, pork) topped with smoked Gouda cheese, pickled red onions, bibb lettuce, fresno chilies, creamy beer mustard, on a caraway bun.

Twin Cities Burger Battle 2016 - Freight House
Freight House – “Reuben Burger”

Freight House“Reuben Burger”
Fresh patty made with ground sirloin and ground corned beef, aged Swiss cheese, house made bacon, beer brined kraut, house made Surly Hell mustard, fresh house made artisan pretzel bun.

Busters on 28th “Red Curry Thai Peanut Burger”
Red curry, red and yellow pepper, red onion, and potato infused all-beef patty.  Topped off with a fried egg, crushed peanuts, cilantro, and a coconut peanut butter cream cheese.  On a toasted coconut bun.

FireLake“FireLake Bison Burger”
BBQ brisket ragù, bacon marmalade, ghost pepper cheese.

Twin Cities Burger Battle 2016 - St Paul Grill
St. Paul Grill – “River City Patty Melt”

St. Paul Grill “River City Patty Melt”
Bourbon Glazed Triple Prime Beef, Freewheeler dry apple cider infused Muenster Cheese, Makers Mark Aioli, Crispy Prosciutto, Spicy Apple Slaw, English Muffin Bread.

Tin Cup’s“Inside Out California Lucy”
American cheese, pickle and bacon stuffed burger topped with lettuce and tomato.

Pat’s Tap“Big Cheeseburger”
Peterson Grassfed Limousin Beef, Fried Cheddar, Heirloom Tomato, and Pickles

 

Twin Cities Burger Battle 2016 - B-52
B-52 Burgers and Brew – “Valhalla Burger”

B-52 Burgers and Brew“Valhalla Burger”
A signature garlic herb and au jus patty topped with prosciutto crudo, roasted red peppers, caramelized shallots, Swiss cheese, and a house roasted garlic aioli.

 

 

The Suburban“Chimento Burger”
Peterson Limousin Beef, St. Agnes Milk Bun, Chipotle Pimento Cheese, Honey Cured Bacon, Cajun Seasoning, Chipotle Mayo.

 

 

Twin Cities Burger Battle 2016 - BLVD
BLVD – “Royale with Cheese”

BLVD “Royale with Cheese”
Two burger patties, white American cheese, pickles, caramelized onions, frizzled onions, served on a bread smith pretzel bun.  Side of BLVD fries tossed in truffle oil and parmesan cheese. Served with a gorgonzola dipping sauce.

 

Casper and Runyon’s Nook“GFY Burger”
A one of a kind, hand pattied burger topped with our signature creamy velvet cheese, raw onion, and a special sauce that keeps this burger a classic.

5-8 Club“Candied Lucy”
Our special 5-8 burger blend, fresh and never frozen, stuffed with cheese and topped with candied bacon, pickles and onion straws on a bakery fresh bun.

Twin Cities Burger Battle 2016 - Rock Elm Tavern
Rock Elm Tavern – “Rock Elm Burger”

Rock Elm Tavern“Rock Elm Burger”
Candied Walnut Aioli, Montamore Cheese, Arugula, Roasted Mushrooms

Paddy Shack at Half Time Rec.“Paddy Melt”
10oz burger patty mixed with Irish blue cheese, and secret spices, thick cut bacon, red onion chutney and American cheese on Caraway rye toast.

7th Street Social“Burger Thyme”
Beef patty, bentos bacon, garlic, thyme, house cheese blend, mr. pickles.

Tilia“Gorgonzola Burger”
Bread and butter pickles, caramelized onion, and pan drippings mayo.

Strip Club“Loaded Burger Redux AKA Fantasy Burger”
Grassfed beef, white cheddar, chiffonade red leaf lettuce, sliced tomato, buttermilk onion ring and Fantasy Island dressing on a sesame milk bun.

Twin Cities Burger Battle 2016 - Meisters
Meister’s, Scandia – “The Cheese Curd Meister’s Burger”

Citizen Supper Club “Citizen Burger”
Grilled shallot, thyme infused burger, red wine butter, velvetta cheese, brioche bun.

Meister’s, Scandia“The Cheese Curd Meister’s Burger”
Certified Hereford ground beef patty with American cheese, bacon, fried onions.  Topped with hand battered cheese curds, all on a pretzel bun.

Red Cow“The Double Barrel Burger”
In House Ground Beef Patties, House Made American Cheese, Special Sauce, Wuollet Hamburger Bun.

Twin Cities Burger Battle 2016 - Red Cow
Red Cow – “The Double Barrel Burger”

Pub 819“The Bleu-Berry Burger”
Short rib patty, gorgonzola bleu cheese, port wine blueberry compote, red onions, arugula & brioche bun.

Peppers and Fries“The Bangkok Burger”
An all-American beef patty, cool cream cheese, house-made sweet Asian garlic sauce, creamy Sriracha coleslaw, and fresh jalapeno slices and cilantro on a buttered, toasted bun.

Twin Cities Burger Battle 2016 - Peppers and Fries
Peppers and Fries – “The Bangkok Burger”

I didn’t try all 25, but I did make a good dent in the list.  I had: My Burger, Freight House, St. Paul Grill, B-52, The Suburban, BLVD, 5-8 Club, Rock Elm Tavern, Paddy Shack, 7th Street Social, Tilia, Strip Club, Citizen Supper Club, Meiser’s, Red Cow, and Pepper’s and Fries.  FireLake ran out of burgers by the time I got to their booth, but they did give me a bowl of their BBQ brisket ragù topped with ghost pepper cheese, which was excellent.  I bet their burger was pretty good too…

My top four were as follows:
1) Red Cow – This burger the best flavor overall.  In order to try more restaurants, we ended up cutting the sliders in half, and upon cutting this burger, it completely fell apart.  It wasn’t elegant to look at, but it was sure delicious.

2) Peppers and Fries – There was a whole lot going on with this burger, but it all worked very well.  The Sriracha sauce added a nice bit of heat, while the coleslaw added a great crunch.  The bun that they used was nicely toasted, and had a generous amount of butter on it.

3) Tilia – The burger patty for this burger had a great flavor, and the gorgonzola on it paired well with the pickles on it.  It was just a great overall burger.

4) 5-8 Club – When going to the 5-8 Club, I have had some pretty mixed experiences.  I have been there on some great days, and on some pretty poor days.  Saturday, however, was a great day for them.   The burger had a great flavor, and was cooked perfectly.  The bacon on it was nice and crisp, and fairly thick-cut.  Everything worked well.

So enough about my opinions… who won?!

People’s Choice:
Third Place – Rock Elm
Second Place – Red Cow
First Place – Peppers and Fries

Judge’s Choice:
Third Place – 5-8 Club
Second Place – Peppers and Fries
First Place – Red Cow

I am pleased for the winners, but was a little surprised by Rock Elm placing third for People’s Choice; the burger that I had was kind of muddled, and the burger flavor was masked by everything else that was on it.  The mushrooms that they used left a gritty, dirty feel.  I was not impressed with it, though maybe I just got one from a bad batch.

If you would like to join me next year, let me know! It would be fun to have a whole group where we could try them all.

Haute Dish – North Loop Minneapolis

Day 2 of Restaurant Week had me venturing downtown to Haute Dish.  If you are not familiar with this restaurant, you should be: it is one of those locally famous restaurants that is typically on the Best of the Twin Cities lists.  Haute Dish is an upscale restaurant in the North Loop of Minneapolis, and one that has been on my “must try” list for a few years.  Needless to say, I was excited to finally give them a try.

The restaurant is in an elegantly styled turn of the century building, and has a pleasant ambiance.  The waitstaff are very attentive, which is to be expected for an upscale restaurant.

The special that they had for this week was a three course meal, with a number of options that could be selected for each course.  My first course was a raw course, which they called Steak & Eggs: steak tartare, raw egg yolk on a brioche bread square, and a bloody mary oyster shooter.  While this may sound disgusting to many readers, it was simply amazing.  The steak tartare was by far the star of the show, and I found myself trying to scrape up every last crumb of it.  My second course was a delectable Reuben Soup.  The soup was great, and would have made a great meal itself, but I still kept wishing for more tartare throughout it.  The third course, however, is where we get to the real reason for visiting this establishment: The Flavor Country Burger.

If the “flavor country” was a real place, I would want to live there.  The burger was on a house-made sesame seed brioche bun, and was topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, house-made pickles, Uncle Pete’s Horseradish Mustard®, garlic aioli, bacon, and two slices of American cheese.  The “flavor country” name really sticks, as I was getting different flavors each bite I took, and no one flavor overpowered the others.

20160223_201048

Haute Dish’s Flavor Country Burger: lettuce, tomato, onion, house-made pickles, Uncle Pete’s Horseradish Mustard, garlic aioli, bacon, American Cheese on house-made sesame seed brioche bun, with side of fries

Everything about this burger was perfection, and may have been the best burger I have ever eaten.  The meat was cooked perfectly to the chef’s standard (medium-rare), which allowed for a juicy patty.  The taste has been lingering on my mind, well after having eaten it.  The fries on the side were also fantastic: perfectly cooked and salty with just a hint of sweet.  No surprise, but here is how I would rate it:

  1. Burger Patty Flavor: 5 out of 5
  2. Overall Burger Flavor: 5 out of 5
  3. Burger Juiciness: 5 out of 5
  4. Bun Quality: 5 out of 5

Overall: 5 out of 5

In some ways, I wish I would have met this burger much later in my foray into burger-blogging.  This burger will now be the benchmark for how I see other burgers.  “It was good, but was it Haute Dish-good?” That really isn’t fair for other burger joints.  I believe the regular menu price of this burger is $40 (which, to be fair, does include fries…), so it it really fair to compare a $40 burger to a $12 burger? Perhaps. Perhaps not.  It is, however, truly something that every burger aficionado should experience.

If you would like to visit Haute Dish, you can check out their website here:
Haute Dish

RedRossa Italian Grille – Bloomington

Restaurant Week began today in Minneapolis.  For those of you that are not familiar with the concept, basically it is a week in which many of the locally popular restaurants offer special lunch and dinner menus at a heavily reduced price, as a way to attract new patrons.  Lunches are priced between $10 and $15, while dinners are priced between $20 and $35 for a multi-course meal.  If you would like to check out the selection of local restaurants offering deals, here is the link:
Restaurant Week 2016 – Minneapolis

I digress… Today for lunch I visited RedRossa  Italian Grille in Bloomington.  It is located attached to the Best Western across from the Mall of America.  While not a chain restaurant, they do have another location in Pierre, SD.

The restaurant itself has a very nice upscale atmosphere.  When I went there for lunch today, there were very few other patrons, which led to a nice, quiet meal.  They pride themselves on authentic Italian-American dining, with house-made pastas, and wood-fired pizzas.  So why am I reviewing a hamburger at an Italian-American restaurant? Because they have burgers on the menu! (And because I don’t write for a pasta-reviewing blog, duh!)

Their menu has three different burgers: the House Burger, the Bruschetta Burger, and the Killebrew Burger.  All three burgers boast “Charbroiled Certified Angus Beef®”.  For Restaurant Week, RedRossa was offering a special burger option: the Bravo Burger.

20160222_113026
RedRossa’s Bravo Burger (charbroiled Angus Beef, capicola, provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato, garlic herb butter)

RedRossa’s Bravo Burger features the same charbroiled certified Angus Beef that the other burgers include, but also have on it capicola (which is a traditional Italian slice of cured pork cold cut), provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato, and a hunk of garlic herb compound butter.  Check out the picture – that isn’t a hunk of cheese on the top of it; it is a slab of butter, which melts into a delicious sauce that adds to the light flavor of the capicola.

The burger patty itself had a great char flavor, and was plenty juicy when cooked medium well.  According to our waitress, the buns are house-made.  I found it to be a nice soft, lightly-toasted bun.  It is better than most restaurants’ hamburger buns, but not quite as good as the St. Agnus buns that Burger Burger uses.

Here is my scoring of the burger:

  1. Burger Patty Flavor: 4.5 out of 5
  2. Overall Burger Flavor: 5 out of 5
  3. Burger Juiciness: 4 out of 5
  4. Bun Quality: 4 out of 5

Overall: 4.375 out of 5

I would recommend this burger, and am anxious to try the other hamburgers that are on their menu.  If their burgers are this good, I would really love to try their pasta dishes.  I will be back, for sure.  Only question is, will it be a burger next time, or pasta? (The shrimp ravioli are calling my name…)

If you would like to visit RedRossa Italian Grille, you can check out their website here:
RedRossa Italian Grille

Burger Burger – Mall of America

Today I went to “The Mall” (also known as the “Mall of America” to the out-of-towners) for lunch today.  On tap for burger tasting was one of the newest restaurants at the mall: Burger Burger.  Burger Burger is owned by Kaskaid, the same restaurant group that runs the popular Crave restaurants, and the Italian restaurants, Avenida (one of which is conveniently located right next to Burger Burger, which itself is located just a short walk down from a Crave restaurant).  This is the first Burger Burger location that they have opened, though I suspect it will not be the last.

For being a mall-based fast(ish) food restaurant, the location is surprisingly spacious.  There are many tables that can be assembled to fit a large crowd, or separated to have a more intimate dinner.  They also have a rather large bar off to the right of the entrance that has a decent selection of tap beers, signature cocktails, and “adult shakes”.

Burger Burger doesn’t have a huge menu – 8 different burgers, 3 different salads, and fries for a side – however at a place named as such, I wouldn’t expect to see anything more on it.  It’s not like you’d go to a place called Burger Burger and expect to find a French Dip or spaghetti, right?  When you go in, there is a counter where you place your order before finding a table.

20160218_120755-1

John Wayne Burger (beef patty, Wisconsin Sharp Cheddar, dill pickle slices, bourbon bbq sauce, mayo, onion rings, brown sugar bacon) from Burger Burger with side of fries

I ordered the John Wayne Burger with a side of fries.  Ok, confession time… this was actually my second visit to this location, and I had gotten this burger last time as well; it was so good that I decided to get it again.  When ordering fries, you are given a selection of dipping sauces to try.  They have 11 options, with flavors such as Bacon Ketchup, Guacamole Ranch, and Green Chile Mayo.  I went with the Bourbon BBQ, since I liked it on my burger so much last time. (I would actually buy a bottle of it to keep at home, if they offered it)  The food came out rather quickly today – in about half the time it took on my first visit.

The John Wayne Burger has sharp cheddar, pickle slices, brown sugar bacon, onion rings, the Bourbon BBQ sauce that I love so much, and mayo on it.  The “ground fresh daily” meat that they use has an excellent flavor to it.  My burger was cooked perfectly, and was nice and juicy.  The pickles add a nice little crunch and tang it, and are a great touch.  The buns that they use are baked at St. Agnus Bakery in St. Paul, and delivered daily.  One of the most underrated aspects of a good burger is the bun, and this is one of the best that I have had.  It is lightly grilled to get just the right crisp, while still being soft and light.  Overall, this is an excellent mid-price range burger, and one that I would be happy to eat again.  Based on the burger flavor, burger juiciness, and bun, I would rate this at 4.5 out of 5.  The fries as a side item are good, and the sauce selection is a nice touch, but I didn’t think they were wonderful.  On my first visit we must have gotten a bad batch of fries, because they were over-cooked (hard and crispy), cold, and under-seasoned.  This time, they were much better, however the burger was the real star of the show.  I would rate the fries at 3.5 out of 5 – better than average, but not the best fry I have ever had.

While my review of the restaurant is favorable, here are a few of the things that I have an issue with:

  • There are freaking onion rings on my burger, but there isn’t an option to get them as a side item! This one boggles my mind: why do they only offer one side item, and why does it have to be fries or nothing? Throw 6 onion rings on the plate and charge $4 for it, and you are good to go! I would have loved to have onion rings and dipping sauces.  How about some cheese curds?
  • The drink cups that they give you when dining in are pretty tiny.  When eating salty foods, like burgers and fries, you often need something to wet your whistle.  While they do have free refills on the soda fountain, the cups are small, and by the time you add ice, you are left with little room for drink.  This is fat, gluttonous America! We want “big ass” drink sizes with unlimited refills! And to top it off, the soda machine is on the far back corner of the restaurant – which means that I have to get my lazy butt out of my seat to walk all the way over to get a drink. I want sugar water, not exercise! (It isn’t really that far, but I refer to my comment about fat, gluttonous America) Here is a little tip for you: if you go here, sit at the bar.  The bar has nice large mugs, and the kind bartender refills them for you.
  • The price was a little on the steep side – for burger, fries, and soft drink, I paid $14.04 – however it probably isn’t unreasonable for the tourist location it is in.  Not saying that it isn’t worth it, just that for the price paid I would rather have a waitstaff that takes my order and refills my drinks (it all goes back to the drinks).

If you would like to check Burger Burger out for yourself, they are located on the third floor of the Mall of America, in the dining area.  You can visit their website at eatburgerburger.com.  You can tell them that Glas sent you, though they will be confused as to who “Glas” is and why he sent you.

Welcome to TwinCitiesBurgers.com

20150508_115811
Juicy Lucy from the 5-8 Club

The idea for this site came about after many discussions and debates at work over who has the best hamburger in the Twin Cities area.  Minnesota cuisine may be synonymous with hot dish and lutefisk, however the Twin Cities boasts hundreds of restaurants with flavors from around the world.

One of the most famous foods to have come out of Minneapolis is the Jucy Lucy – a gourmet hamburger stuffed with molten cheese.  This blog will focus on more than just the Jucy; it will feature all of the best hamburgers throughout Minneapolis and Saint Paul, and the surrounding areas.  Stick with us if you want to find recommendations on the best burger for a family dinner, or a great place for a worktime lunch.

If you have recommendations for places that have great burgers, I would love to hear them.  Shoot me an email at contact@twincitiesburgers.com.