The burger: Bread & Pickle, the seasonal and scenic dining pavilion that's perched on the northwest shore of Lake Harriet, sells a lot of burgers.
“They’re our No. 1 menu item,” said Mo Moore, director of purchasing and culinary operations for the Bartmann Group, the restaurant’s owner. “Last year, we sold 27,000 burgers.”
That translates to roughly 200 burgers a day during the restaurant’s five-month season.
Practice clearly makes perfect. There’s a reason these burgers are so popular: consumers obviously recognize quality – and value – when they see it.
Starting with the bun. When the name over the door starts with “Bread,” that component had better be good, and it is. Moore partners with Denny’s 5th Avenue Bakery in Bloomington, which bakes a bun to his specifications.
“The texture goes well with all of the ingredients we put into it,” he said. “And it’s got a good patty-to-bun ratio. It’s not too much bread for the meat.”
The beef is also first-rate. Moore works with Peterson Craftsman Meats – supplier of a wide swath of the Twin Cities’ top burger makers – creating a custom Bread & Pickle blend and forming it into time-saving quarter-pound patties.
“They have a special die that gives us the proper diameter and width,” said Moore. “The fat-meat ratio and the thickness are right where we need it. It stays juicy when we cook it.”
It does, a miracle for a quick-service burger; my order, during a busy dinner rush, took less than 10 minutes to materialize. Once the beef hits the flat top grill – a five-foot-wide stove that’s reserved exclusively for burgers -- Moore and his crew season the meat with a salt-forward seasoning blend.
The format sticks to a fairly classic framework. A basic burger – which includes crunchy, vinegary pickles and a swipe of a “special sauce” (one background ingredient is truffle oil) is $6. “The Works” adds sweet caramelized onions, shredded iceberg lettuce and a thick and surprisingly juicy (given the off-season date) tomato slice, for $8.25. In between is a California-style iteration – lettuce and tomatoes, no pickles – for $7.50.
Want a cheeseburger? Moore tosses in a slice of white, Wisconsin-made Cheddar for an additional $1.25.
“Kim [Bartmann, the restaurant’s owner] is from Wisconsin, and Wisconsin makes really good cheese,” said Moore. “I like it because there’s nothing unnatural, there are no food dyes.”
One of the most fruitful decisions the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has made in recent years was to open up food-and-drink facilities to private vendors: Sea Salt Eatery at Minnehaha Park, Sandcastle at Lake Nokomis and Bread & Pickle at Lake Harriet (pictured, above). (The bad news: the refectory at Bde Maka Ska, home to Lola’s on the Lake, was badly damaged in an early Thursday morning fire).
Moore certainly agrees. His workplace, now in its ninth season, has become one of the city’s great warm-weather haunts, drawing a hugely diverse, democracy-in-action crowd that comes for the enchanting setting and the thoughtful counter-service fare.
“My office has the best view of anyone in the world,” he said. “If you like dogs, you see all kinds, every day. And the cyclists, and the runners, and the families having fun, and the people hanging out. It’s a great atmosphere, and it’s such a beautiful spot. You can’t ask for much more than that.”
Price: $6 to $8.25, a notable value. Add a second patty for an additional $3.
Fries: An additional $3 and $5, and terrific. They’re a frozen pre-cut product (“There’s no way we could handle hand-cut fries,” said Moore), and they’re taken to a crispy, golden finish in the kitchen’s fryer, then pelted with plenty of salt.
Check it out: There are all kinds of reasons to appreciate Bread & Pickle, including the local beers (on tap and in tallboy cans), the four affordable ($7 to $8) tap wines, the refreshing lemonade and iced tea, the excellent ice cream (from Sonny’s), the Jonny Pops (an ideal air-conditioner-on –a-stick on a sweltering summer’s day) and the short but does-the-trick breakfast menu, a godsend for those who work up an a.m. appetite on the lake’s walking and bike paths.
Where he burgers: “I am most definitely a burger eater,” said Moore. “Outside of our organization [a family of restaurants that includes Red Stag Supperclub, Barbette, Pat’s Tap and Tiny Diner, among others], it’s Lions Tap, without a doubt. They are phenomenal at what they do. I live in Lakeville, and it’s worth the drive to Eden Prairie.”
Metro Transit: Route 6U gets within a few blocks of the lakeside pavilion that houses Bread & Pickle. Or jump on the historic Como-Harriet Streetcar Line, which connects the south shore of nearby Bde Maka Ska to a platform at W. 42nd St., a short walk from the pavilion. For the trolley’s schedule, go here.
Address book: 4135 W. Lake Harriet Pkwy., Mpls., 612-767-9009. Open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily through May 26; post-Memorial Day, it’s 7 a.m. to 9 p.m daily.
Talk to me: Do you have a favorite burger? Share the details at firstname.lastname@example.org.