The burger: Wooden Hill Brewing Co. chef Jordan Roots placed an uncomplicated, straightforward burger on his taproom menu for a simple reason. “It falls back to a burger and a beer,” he said. “Which is why we wanted to offer exactly what that sounds like, a straight-up burger. We’re in an industrial park in Edina, and we weren’t sure who our clientele would be.”
He dubbed his restrained creation the “House Burger,” and — outwardly, at least — there’s not much to it: bun, patty (or patties), cheese, mayo and pickles. Still, it’s evident, from the get-go, that Roots invests all kinds of time into each one of those components.
The bun is an eye-grabber, with a gleaming golden dome and a rich, faintly sweet bite. “It’s from a local ma-and-pa outfit,” said Roots. “They call it ‘brioche’ because it’s so rich, but there’s no butter, no milk, no eggs. The only allergen is wheat. I have no idea how they do it — I know they’re using different scientific powders — but I’m glad that they are.”
Same here. The patty measures out at a quarter of a pound. It's a deeply flavorful half-and-half blend of chuck and rib eye that never sees the inside of the freezer (“That’s the big thing for me, it makes a world of difference,” said Roots) and is remarkably juicy. “One of my line cooks can overcook it and it’ll still be juicy,” Roots said with a laugh.
Speed is the reasoning behind the wide patty’s thin-ish proportions. A thin patty doesn’t have to spend a lot of time on the grill. “We’re keeping it fast and casual, food-truck style,” said Roots.
On the cheese front, Roots opts for a sharp Cheddar, a welcome switch from the ubiquitous American.
“American is the go-to, I see it everywhere,” he said. “American has its place, but I wanted to be more elevated pub grub. And I fall under the umbrella of wanting to be a little different. I tried a bunch of cheeses, I even tried Velveeta. But I’m a big sharp Cheddar guy. It’s richer, more flavorful.”
Exactly. What Cheddar lacks is American’s highly appealing melting properties, although Roots gets around that with a trick: after he drapes the cheese across the patty, he covers the patty with a dome, for about 10 seconds, which builds a brief head of steam. “That seems to get the melting process going,” he said.
There are just two garnishes (for a more piled-on alternative, check out the kitchen’s “Burger of the Moment,” which could include such delicacies as the “Big Kahuna,” which piles ham, pineapple relish, provolone and a teriyaki-sesame sauce on a patty), and Roots makes the most of both: snappy housemade pickles, and a creamy, garlicky aioli.
Unsurprisingly, sales are strong. “We used to be close to food truck numbers, but now we’re close to restaurant numbers,” said Roots. Translation: that’s 70 to 80 burgers on a Friday or Saturday night.
A shoutout to Burger Friday follower Hunter Eggers of Bloomington, who tipped me off to the splendors of Wooden Hill’s “House Burger.”
“It’s a pretty simple burger, but it is juicy,” he said. “Like, four-napkins juicy. I’d also like to mention that the pickles do a really good job of balancing out the aioli with their sweetish crunch. As a bonus, the fries have a nice crispiness factor.”
Agreed, on all counts.
Price: $11. Make it a double-patty burger (highly recommended) for an additional $2.
Fries: Included. There’s a choice of fries, sweet potato fries or vegetables. Get the fries. As Eggers noted, they’re notably, delectably crispy. Roots uses a pre-made, triple-fried product. “I love doing a hearty fry, but I couldn’t achieve it,” he said. “Then a vendor came in and showed me a product that’s par-fried, then tossed in flour and par-fried again, and then we drop it in the fryer for four minutes. They’re spectacular. I never thought I’d want to serve someone else’s fry — I wanted to do my own — but the quality is great.” A bonus: along with being liberally seasoned, these fries are so sturdy that they more than hold up to all the goodies that Roots throws at them ($9 and $10), in variations that include chili, cheese and kimchi.
Beer recommendation: What’s the brewery’s best effort for pairing with a burger? “Everyone loves the IPA,” said Roots. “But we have a good kolsch, it’s called Kold Shoulder. It’s lightly hopped, so it’s a more flavorful kolsch. It’s my go-to, it’s a nice drinking beer.” By the way, the Wooden Hill name is taken from an expression that co-owners (and siblings) James Ewen and Sean Ewen picked up from their grandfather: When he told them to walk "up the wooden hill," that meant it was time to climb the staircase and go to bed.
Where he burgers: “That’s a loaded question,” Roots said with a laugh. “Parlour has a fantastic burger, I tend to find myself there having a really nice cocktail, and their burger. My second-favorite is Common Roots. I love it because of the casual ambience, and their farm-to-table program is exceptional. It’s a basic, straight-up burger, and the meat is of such high quality.”
Address book: 7421 Bush Lake Road, Edina. Open 3 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.
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