The burger: When Big 10 owners Todd DuPont and Tom Hutsell decided to remake their downtown Hopkins submarine sandwich shop into Thirty Bales, they hired consultants (and spouses) Beth Fisher and Caroline Glawe to develop the restaurant’s menus, with Fisher tackling the food and Glawe handling the beverages.
“I knew we had to have a burger,” said Fisher. “But I wanted to think outside the whole burger box. I kept asking myself, ‘How can I do a burger differently, without it being weird?’ Basically, what I wanted to do was a bacon cheeseburger, but not a bacon cheeseburger.”
The remake started from the outside and worked its way in. “The bun inspired the shape,” said Fisher, referring to the torpedo-shaped roll with a ciabatta texture that she encountered at Mainstreet Bakery, DuPont's and Hutsell's longtime supplier.
In a nicely nostalgic twist, that hoagie-esque bun calls back to the Big 10’s sandwich roots. It’s also a lot of bread, but then again, the 8-oz. patty is a whole lot of beef. That patty starts out as a well-seasoned meatball, but after sizzling on the flat-top grill – enough time to develop a bit of a crust – the beef gets flipped and then flattened with a spatula until it takes on an oblong shape that's tailored to fit into that longhorn bun. Here’s a clever finishing touch: as that second side cooks, chef Adam Price and his crew drop a pat of butter next to the patty, which facilitates even more tasty caramelization.
That unconventional shape merits more than a traditional criss-cross of bacon. Fisher’s solution is a generous portion of a bacon-apple jam, a savory riff on her love of apple butter that quietly inserts all kinds of subtle sweet-smoky flavors.
Other embellishments follow a more traditional path. Cheese is a no-nonsense Minnesota-made Cheddar, its richness countered by the straightforward vinegar bite of snappy refrigerator pickles. A crunchy lettuce leaf is strategically slipped under that juicy patty to prevent the bottom bun from getting soggy, and the finishing touch is a swipe of a ketchup-mayo-pickle juice sauce that’s jazzed with a bit of smoked paprika.
The "Bale Burger" may not have standard-issue looks, but it sure covers – and then exceeds – all flavor expectations.
Fries: Included. Fisher opted for crinkle cuts as part of the restaurant’s made-in-Minnesota theme. “Whenever we go up north, and stop at a diner in a small town, they almost always have crinkle fries,” she said. She chose a version with a pleasing crispy-outside/fluffy-inside texture, and they’re dusted in what Fisher calls her “Nice” spice, a warm but not blazing blend of 11 spices, a formula inspired by the chicken wings at the Monte Carlo in downtown Minneapolis. “I just love those wings,” she said. “So one day I went in, sat down and tried to figure out what’s in that spice blend, and I came up with my own version.”
Save room for dessert: The carrot cake (billed as “Purple Ribbon Carrot Cake”) is delicious – moist, dense and colorful, it’s not the sugar bomb that often befalls this All-American classic. It also possesses a sterling pedigree. “It’s Caroline’s recipe,” said Fisher. “She entered it in her county fair in Rochester – is that Olmsted County? – when she was maybe 12 or 13 years old. She was the 4-H grand champion, which means that she won the big purple ribbon. She’s really proud of it, even though she says, ‘It’s just spice cake with carrots.’” At Thirty Bales, Fisher finishes each slice with an over-the-top knob of thick cream-cheese frosting, a solution that came from a time crunch, when they weren’t able to properly frost the cake. “I thought, ‘Just put a big blob on each piece, because everyone always wants more frosting, right?’” said Fisher. Absolutely. “Then I hit it with vegetable confetti, which is ground-up carrots and beets," she said. "I love it.” I did, too.
Where she burgers: “I live right by Matt’s,” said Fisher. “Which means that I live too close to Matt’s.”
Address book: 1106 Mainstreet, Hopkins, 952-930-0369. Lunch and dinner, daily.
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