The burger: One of the smartest decisions that Delaware North – it’s the food service juggernaut that manages noshing operations at Target Field – has made in the past few years is partnering up with local operators. Pizza Luce, Hot Indian Foods, Izzy’s Ice Cream and Barrio are all welcome ballpark additions. My favorite (on Burger Friday, anyway)? It just might be Red Cow.

Restaurateur Luke Shimp operates three Red Cow restaurants – a fourth is going into the former longtime home of the Green Mill in Uptown Minneapolis – and its burger-centric menu makes it a prime ballpark tenant. Shimp and his crew rise to the occasion by offering baseball fans a trio of options: a turkey burger (two enthusiastic thumbs up), a double-decker beef burger garnished with blue cheese and sweet-spicy apricot/black pepper jam (clever), and the best-in-show entry, a well-packaged spin on the classic California-style burger that Shimp has accurately dubbed “the Ultimate.”

Its double-patty format is a no-brainer. Given the incessant crush they face before and during games, the motto at Target Field's concession stands should probably be “Speed is Life.” That’s particularly true at this ticketholder-magnet, which sold 1,200 burgers during Monday’s opening day game.

Do the calculus: Grilling two thin-ish, 3-ounce patties goes much faster than grilling a single (and decidedly thicker) 6-ounce patty. But there’s another benefit: Two patties means that there's also twice the surface area for the beef to interact with the hot stove, which means double the taste-improving caramelization/charring potential.

That the beef actually tastes like beef, big time, is no accident. As it does at its restaurants, the Red Cow kitchen puts this blend of chuck, rib eye, brisket and short rib through a flavor-boosting 21-day aging process. The same proprietary seasoning blend that goes into all burgers at brick-and-more Red Cows is also enlisted at the ballpark. Yep, these are highly seasoned (translation: salty, in a good way) patties.

Shimp follows the California formula to a T, calling upon crisp shredded iceberg lettuce, a (not bad for April) tomato slice, a bit of sharp onion and a generous swipe of a mayo-mustard-pickle sauce. The cheese – both slices – is billed as Cheddar but comes off more as a fancy American. The bun, liberally buttered and toasted, more than fulfills its obligations.  

It all adds up to an unwieldly, messy and altogether delicious Target Field treat. Although it’s only in its sophomore year at the ballpark, the Red Cow "Ultimate" tastes as if it's already headed for Hall of Fame status. (For my take on the Class of 2017 newcomers to Target Field's food-and-drink roster, go here). 

Price: $14.50. If that sounds semi-expensive for ballpark fare, consider this: a highly mediocre cheeseburger and fries at the nearby (and dreary) Hennepin Grille stand is $13. For those who value quality and flavor, chipping in an extra buck-fifty at Red Cow is a wise investment.

Fries: Included. A beer-batter coating gives them an extra crunch, a welcome touch on a blustery, chilly April day in the stands.

Still there: Red Cow’s main concourse cart remains (find it near section 126, aka third base), where it’s concentrating on its wicked-good "60/40" burger, a 60 percent beef-40 percent ground bacon patty. They’re sold slider-style, two for $15 or one for $9. Take my advice and start with the single, because they pack a dietary wallop. 

Raise your glass: Red Cow's Target Field busy outpost also features a pair of brewed-in-Minnesota craft beers. Stillwater’s Lift Bridge Brewing Co. is tapping its Farm Girl Saison, and St. Paul’s Summit Brewing Co. is featuring its Extra Pale Ale. Both are a far cry from the ballpark’s omnipresent Bud and Bud Lite. There’s a hitch, of course, and it's the price: $9.50 for a small, $10.50 for a large, a shameless (and ballpark-wide) markup. 

 

 

Friday fish day: Go here for my most recent fish fry roster. And if you’re in the mood for a noon-hour fish sandwich, check out these suggestions (that's the marvel at Sea Change, pictured above).

Address book: Red Cow at Target Field is located at Minnie & Paul’s, section 234.

Talk to me: Do you have a favorite burger? Share the details at rick.nelson@startribune.com

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