The burger: Another remarkable cheeseburger is defying the double-patty trend. This time, it’s at the Bird, the breakfast-and-lunch remake of the Third Bird that belongs on everyone’s dining-out radar. Chef Kevin Kathman has a clear reason for embracing the single-patty formula.
“Because everyone is doing the double patty,” he said. “Joe Rolle [formerly of Borough and Il Foro, now at the soon-to-open Martina] is that creator of all that, isn’t he?”
This armchair burger historian would say, “yes.”
Kathman – he’s culinary director for restaurateur Kim Bartmann’s eight Minneapolis restaurants, a roster that includes Tiny Diner, Pat’s Tap, Bryant Lake Bowl and Barbette – is clearly a sharp editor, because this is one of those burgers where the patty – a bruiser that clearly tops the quarter-pound weight division -- does nearly all the heavy lifting. Big, beefy flavor is the clear priority.
“The beef is from Andy Peterson," he said. [That's always a good sign, by the way]. "We just give it a little bit of love."
That affection comes in form of salt and pepper. Outside of the stove’s heat, nothing else is required to bring that premium ground beef to its fullest flavor, with an exterior that’s evenly caramelized and an interior that’s notably juicy and streaked with faint streaks of pink.
Sticking with that editor's skill set, Kathman keeps the embellishments to a minimum.
“I really just wanted to make a good burger,” said Kathman. “One with pickles, and government cheese, because anyone who grew up in the Midwest [he hails from Cold Spring, Minn.] grew up on Velveeta. We use a decent white Cheddar, the kind that reminds all of us of our youth.”
The bun -- buttered, lightly toasted – also gets the job done. It hails from Denny’s 5th Avenue Bakery in Bloomington.
“It’s the same bun that we use at Bread & Pickle,” he said, referring to Bartmann's excellent Lake Harriet pavilion; it’s closing for the season at the end of the weekend, so hurry in. “You’ve got to have that squishy, collapsible bun. You want it to be pillowy, so it sort of disappears. It’s a delivery vehicle for the patty, because a burger is all about the meat.”
Kathman’s remake of the restaurant has made it his favorite among Bartmann’s properties.
“It’s the style that I eat,” he said. “I look at the menu and think, ‘I want to eat most of this.’ The juice program is rockin’. I’ve brought Venice Beach to Minneapolis.”
Turns out, the burger is something of an anomaly on the Bird’s menu.
“It’s the one item that isn’t healthy,” Kathman said with a laugh. No wonder it sells so well.
Fries: Included, and a reason to visit. No nose-wrinkling or eyebrow-raising should occur because they’re a frozen, commercially prepared product.
“I’m leery about saying that, because at all the other stores, we make fries from scratch,” said Kathman. “But they’re awfully good.”
Boy, are they ever. Long, slightly skinny and fried (in vegetable oil) until they attain a golden glow, they sport an ideal crispy outside/tender inside ratio, and they’re finished with just the right amount of salt. To say that the serving is generous is an understatement. They’re my kind of fry, and had I not been dining with several carbs-conscious friends, I would have eagerly consumed the entire pile. Next time, I’m dining alone.
Where he burgers: “Honestly, I don’t get out too much,” said Kathman. “Bread & Pickle stands out.” But that doesn’t count, because it’s one of his restaurants. Next? “I was working in L.A. for the last five years. I flew in a few years ago and had dinner at Borough, and they served the Parlour burger for me for dessert. It was perfect. I guess the last really great burger that I had was when Joe Rolle was at Il Foro.” Yep, a lot of us miss that cheese-laden beauty. My guess is that Rolle won’t be serving cheeseburgers at seafood-focused Martina. But a guy can dream, right?
Address book: 1612 Harmon Place, Mpls., 612-767-9495. Open 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, Thursday and Friday, and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday (closed Tuesday and Wednesday). Burger served after 11 a.m.
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