The burger: The Twins might not be the winning-est team in major league baseball, but Target Field has got to be one of the sport’s top-performing venues. Consider the way it’s always innovating in the food-and-drink front. This season’s big to-do is pretty major: it’s the advent of Bat & Barrel, an enormous, great-looking, open-to-everyone restaurant and bar, located on right field’s Club level.
In remaking the former Metropolitan Club, executive chef Kurt Chenier tapped partnerships with Twin Cities restaurants to craft his table-service menu (the servers, by the way, are terrific, communicating with the kitchen via iPad, and the food arrives in a flash), a savvy way to connect the ballpark with the community.
There are a handful of burgers on the menu, including an impressive double-decker veggie cheeseburger using Impossible Burger patties, a plant-based product that comes remarkably close to resembling an actual grilled beef patty.
The headliner is another double-patty cheeseburger, a knife-and-fork bruiser that Chenier borrows (and tweaks, smartly) from Ike’s Food & Cocktails.
At Ike’s, the “Tavern Burger” calls upon a half-pound patty. But at Bat & Barrel, Chenier splits the difference, using two four-ounce patties. Why? Timing.
“On any given day, we’ve had 400 people walk through the door, and when the weather gets nice, I imagine we’ll have up to a thousand,” he said. “That’s a big chunk of people. Which is why we built our menu based on speed and accuracy.”
A four-ounce patty cooks in five minutes, while an eight-ounce version requires an additional three to four minutes. There are aesthetics to consider, too.
“I just think it’s easier to eat a double stack rather than a single eight-ounce patty,” he said.
Mine arrived medium-rare, with a perfect level of tasty pink in the middle of each patty. All garnishes found in the standard diner double-patty treatment are present and accounted for: tons of melty American cheese, crunchy shredded iceberg lettuce and red onion, a juicy tomato slice, a few supermarket-esque pickles to act as a palate cleanser (all the veggies are tucked between patties and the bottom half of the bun) and a mayo-ketchup “special” sauce to contribute a bit more juice to the proceedings. Oh, and bacon (cut pancetta-thin), laid out in a criss-cross pattern. It’s very Emberger Royale, if anyone recalls that 1970s delicacy from the Embers chain.
The bun? A plus-size, buttered, toasted onion bun, one that’s sturdy enough to handle the pile-on inside it; the onion is a swell touch.
Back to that time-is-of-the-essence issue (which explains why Chenier and his crew studied the kitchen's engineering at high-volume Surly Brewing Co.). It's why the menu reads, “No substitutions, no modifications.” Ignore it.
“We put that on the menu, and it’s not going over well,” said Chenier with a laugh. “Of course we will cater to the needs that people have.”
Taken as a whole, the “Tavern” stands up to the proliferation of double-patty cheeseburgers found around town. It certainly exceeds expectations for baseball stadium fare. And it’s already popular.
“We’re only a few games in, but so far, we’re selling 100 Tavern burgers a night,” said Chenier. “The next best item is the Tennessee Hot chicken sandwich, and that’s maybe 50 to 70 a night.”
Fries: Included. They’re the beer-battered fry that’s also served at the Target Field’s Red Cow outfield outpost, and they’re terrific, particularly their uncanny ability to retain their crunch-ed up texture.
Where he burgers: “I’m not necessarily a burger person,” said Chenier. “I’m more of a Reuben connoisseur.” “We live in Minnetonka, so when I’m out with the kids, we’ll go to Maynards and I’ll get the ‘Mr. Jimmy’ burger. Or I’ll go to the Gold Nugget. Red Cow does a great job, but that’s a drive all the way into town.”
Address book: Find Bat & Barrel on the Club level, between gates 29 (right field) and 34 (Target Plaza) at Target Field. From the main concourse (look for this sign, pictured above) there’s a handy staircase, and an elevator. B&B opens when the gates open, and continues to serve for an hour after the game’s conclusion.
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