The burger: Anyone expecting to encounter a burger on the menu at Sandcastle is going to be knee-deep in disappointment.
Six days of the week, anyway. Then comes Monday. Glorious Monday. That's when this Lake Nokomis concession stand – a model for warm-weather lakeside gathering spots – gets its burger on, in a big way.
It’s one of three “family” nights at Sandcastle; Sloppy Joes on are the docket for Wednesday, and Friday is all about fried chicken. The kitchen’s limited capacity is such that none of these specials could make it into the daily production schedule. But once a week? Sure.
“We wanted to do something different,” said chef/co-owner Doug Flicker. Why burgers?
“Because everyone loves them,” said Flicker. “I love them.”
Let’s break this burger down. There’s a bit of a Jucy Lucy vibe going on, and here’s why: Flicker rather ingeniously incorporates cheese curds into the 5-oz., all-chuck patty. (For those unfamiliar with the Jucy Lucy, it's a burger with a cheese-stuffed patty. It's the kind of hometown invention that would usually garner official Minnesota State Burger status, but if we can't expect the state Legislature to agree on a bonding bill, then forget about pressing the House and Senate for this important recognition). Hello, Curdburger.
“So it’s Jucy Lucy-ish, without being a stuffed burger,” said Flicker. That fatty dairy (which he boosts with even more fat, in the form of butter) makes for a noticeably juicy patty. And here's a bonus: the cheese, because it's in such small portions, doesn't squirt out, the way it often does when it fills the center of Jucy Lucy.
The rest is fairly straightforward. The super-flavorful, onion-studded bun (a beauty from Saint Agnes Baking Co.) gets a quick toast on the grill before the bottom half is swiped with a generous layer of mayo. The patty is topped with cool, crisp shredded iceberg lettuce and tangy, noticeably crunchy house-made pickles. The crowning touch? A blazing swirl of Minnesota-made Uncle Pete’s Mustard, its fiery personality a distinct opposite to the tepid reputation (which, let’s face it, is kind of true) of “Minnesota Spicy.” Uncle Pete’s packs a wallop, in a very good way, and it really helps set this burger apart. If only it were available on a daily basis. Suddenly, Monday is my favorite night of the week.
Price: $9, which means that this burger resides smack dab in the middle of Bargain City. Want bacon? Add a buck.
By the way, when it comes to the adding-bacon-to-your-burger provision, by all means, pile it on. It’s the same crisp, meaty, made-in-Minnesota bacon that makes the Sandcastle BLT such a doozy.
Now that I have bacon on the brain, I’m thinking that Flicker has a slam-dunk entry should he ever want to get into business at the Minnesota State Fair. Bacon and cheese curds, in a burger; it’s golden, right? Let’s all get together over a Bacon Curdburger at the Great Minnesota Get-Together, and soon.
Fries: None. Instead, Flicker & Friends offer a heaping helping of Tater Tots. They’re cooked to perfection – piping hot and gently crispy on the outside, yet almost creamy on the inside. That’s not all. They’re coated in a reddish seasoning formula that Flicker describes as his attempt, god love him, at recreating Doritos’ spice blend.
It works, sort of. In the end, color is the attribute that’s far more pronounced, and flavor comes in a distant second. But so what? Like the best French fries, these junk food-doctored Tots are devilishly addictive.
Forget DQ: Sandcastle’s soft-serve ice cream is a total treat. It’s far more luscious than its Dairy Queen counterpart, and it radiates a clean vanilla taste. Don’t miss it.
Where he burgers: Matt’s Bar. “It’s a classic,” Flicker said. “Everyone seems to be catching on to the simple, stripped-down, straightforward cheeseburger, and it doesn’t get any simpler than Matt’s. The only decision you have to make is ‘onions’ and ‘no onions.’ And it’s such a great bar, such a great place to sit.” Flicker is also an enthusiastic member of the Revival cheeseburger fan club. “But I'll only eat one if I don’t have anything to do for a few hours,” he said. “That thing just knocks you out.”
Happy holiday: Sandcastle’s Burger Monday usually starts at 4 p.m., but because this Monday is Memorial Day, the restaurant will be going into available-all-day mode. Then it’s back to post-4 p.m. on the following Mondays.
Address book: 4955 W. Lake Nokomis Pkwy., Mpls., 612-722-5550. Open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Starting June 1, closing will move to 9 p.m.
Talk to me: Do you have a favorite burger? Share the details at firstname.lastname@example.org.