The burger: A first-rate bar should have a first-rate burger, amirite? Someone at Merlins Rest obviously got the memo, because the basic burger at this British Isles-obsessed pub is a total keeper.
The headliner in this act is defintely the patty, a prodigiously thick, hand-formed, one third-pound behemoth of lean, grass-fed beef, taken to perfect medium on the inside and the barest trace of char on the outside. The meat is judiciously seasoned, and its flavor really blossoms on the stovetop. For appetites accustomed to the bland nothingness of a McDonald’s or Wendy’s burger, the patty that anchors the Merlins Rest burger will be something of a revelation.
For a dollar surcharge, the kitchen will add one of seven cheeses – including Stilton, naturally – but this is a burger that’s best consumed minus the dairy topping. Why cloak the goodness of that delicious beef?
Garnishes are minimal and not terribly exciting: a slice of a typically flavorless and cottony winter tomato, the requisite lettuce leaf. As for the bun, it’s a bit on the cotton candy-ish side, but its drab blandness dissipates via plenty of butter and a quick toast. Sometimes, skipping the frills really hits the spot, and this is one of those instances.
Fries: Not included (a chips upgrade is $1.50). The burger is served with house-made potato chips. The verdict? Meh. Not bad, but they could benefit from a thinner cut, a crisper fry and a more generous hand with the salt shaker.
At the bar: A major draw is the bar’s selection of imported ales, porters, stouts, lagers, pilsners and hard ciders.
Bonus round: Heartfelt huzzahs to the decision-maker keeping TV screens out of sight and choosing to nurture an environment where people – yes, even strangers, in Minnesota -- talk to one another. When I dropped in, the outgoing barkeep was hosting his own version of improvised version of “Jeopardy!,” tossing out questions for the late-lunch crowd. You know, “What’s the most populous state capital?” (answer: Phoenix) and “Which country has hosted the Winter Olympics three times?” (it’s France: Chamonix in 1924, Grenoble in 1968 and Albertville in 1992) and generally spreading bonhomie in all directions.
This weekend: Speaking of good times, Merlins Rest will give St. Patrick’s Day its due through a crowded schedule of events, including a full Irish breakfast served Saturday, Sunday and Monday starting at 9 a.m.
Apologies: Technical difficulties presented an earlier post of Burger Friday.
Address book: 3601 E. Lake St., Mpls., 612-216-2419.
Talk to me: Do you have a favorite burger? Share the details at firstname.lastname@example.org.