The burger: Not just one, but two. Trace the local lineage of the upscale slider back to its roots, and no doubt the Lurcat Burger – technically, shouldn’t that be Burger(s)? – at Bar Lurcat will be front and center.
What an inspired idea. Instead of going plus-size, as so many burgers seem to do in their attempt to impress, the Lurcat version veers in the opposite direction, tucking a small-ish (roughly 3 oz.) patty inside a flavorful New French Bakery potato roll. The beef is chuck, ground in-house and boosted with trimmings from the dining room menu’s tenderloins and New York strips.
That’s an auspicious start to any burger, but then chef Adam King and his crew turn to the magic ingredient, and plenty of it: Butter. It’s used – to excellent effect – to sweat onions and fresh thyme, a savory mix that’s folded into the ground beef, along with eggs, salt, pepper and, yes, more butter.
“We try not to tell people how much butter is in it,” said King with a laugh. “But I also remind people that a lot of it eventually cooks out.”
Well, not all of it, because this diminutive and affordable nosh manages to pack quite the luxurious punch. A sear on the bar kitchen’s flattop grill -- an even heat that places a light, uniform char over the patty’s surface while keeping the interior tender and juicy – only enhances the beef’s taste properties.
Garnishes? Barely any, just a reduction of purple-red shallots, red wine and sugar, mixed with – what else? – butter. There’s a bit of chopped parsley, too. That’s it, an admirable restraint that works, beautifully.
“People will ask for mayo, or lettuce, or tomatoes and pickles, and of course we’ll honor their requests,” said King. “But you lose the whole point of the burger. That hint of thyme, the juicy butter, the sweetness of the shallots.” Indeed.
Of course, that’s not the end of the butter (and people wonder why dining out can be so perilous to weight-reduction efforts?). More is smeared on the sliced side of the buns, a kick-start to the toasting process that yields a tantalizing, this-only-happens-with-butter gentle crispness.
The twin burgers have been on the menu since the restaurant opened 11 years ago under chef Isaac Becker (who later went on to launch his own trio of first-rate properties, 112 Eatery, Bar La Grassa and Burch Steak and Pizza Bar), and they continue to be the bar’s top-selling food item. King would probably be run out of town if he so much as thought about taking them off the menu.
A word to the wise: Don't kid yourself. When that plate of two cute burgers materializes at the table, a person will genuinely (if naively) believe that they're going to share one of them, but that's so not going to happen. Order a second round, pronto.
Price: $8.50, a top-notch value. In typical early-to-bed Minneapolis fashion, the bar’s kitchen cooks until 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday (and 9 p.m. Sunday, yikes); the good news is that King keeps the stoves going until midnight on Friday and Saturday.
Fries: An additional $9. That’s somewhat steep, although they pretty much belong on anyone’s Lurcat itinerary. Along with their deep-fried compatriots, pastry chef Leah Henderson’s warm, twinkling-with-cinnamon-and-sugar mini-doughnuts ($7.50), which put their Minnesota State Fair counterparts to shame.
Hurry in: Lurcat boasts not one but two patios, both doozies: One fronts the gorgeous green sweep that is Loring Park, the other is tucked inside an uber-romantic alley, a decidedly this-can’t-be-in-Minneapolis treasure that dates back to the days when the space was home to the Loring Cafe. This warm weather won’t last forever, so take advantage of it – and Lurcat’s outdoor dining venues – while you can. One additional note: The restaurant’s attentive, gracious service is a hallmark of the restaurant’s place in the D’Amico family of well-managed food-and-drink establishments.
Address book: 1624 Harmon Place, Mpls., 612-486-5500.
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