First things first. Yes, 90-cent hamburgers!
It’s a deal with a one-day-only shelf life: Dec. 5. The occasion? To mark the 90th birthday of the 5-8 Club in south Minneapolis.
Those 90-cent burgers will not be the kitchen’s signature cheese-stuffed Juicy Lucys (pictured, above); they’ll be the menu’s classic, single-patty iteration.
“Personally, I like our singles better than the Juicy Lucy,” said company president Jill Skogheim. “But we sell more of the Juicy Lucy. That changed ever since the ‘Man v. Food’ days [when the specialty burger was featured on the popular Travel Channel show]. It used to be an even split.”
For the few Burger Friday followers who might be perplexed by the words “Juicy Lucy” (or its alternate spelling, “Jucy Lucy”), it’s Minnesota’s contribution to the burger pantheon, a kind of extra-thick, inside-out cheeseburger, where a pair of patties are pinched around a small amount of cheese.
At the 5-8, each Juicy Lucy patty (“Fresh, never frozen,” said Skogheim), weighs in at a quarter-pound, and the cheese options are American, blue, pepper Jack and Swiss. The grill’s heat turns the cheese into the dairy equivalent of volcanic magma.
No wonder my all-smiles and whip-efficient 5-8 server offered this sage bit of advice: “You might want to let it sit for a few minutes before you take a bite,” she said, a ploy that allows the dangerously hot molten cheese to attempt to return to its more palatable solid form. Duly noted.
There’s a raging controversy over the cheese-stuffed burger’s origin story: was it created at the 5-8, or at another south Minneapolis dive bar, Matt’s? Someday, historians will uncover the truth.
Skogheim is a 20-year 5-8 veteran, starting as a college intern. One of her duties back then was to make the daily trek to the meat counter at GJ’s Supervalu on nearby Chicago Avenue (it’s now a Kowalski’s Market) and pick up the day’s ground beef order.
“That was fun, it was a south Minneapolis kind of thing,” said Skogheim. “I was just doing whatever needed to be done, and I’m still doing some of that today. It’s all hands on deck. I think of myself as a ‘Jill of all trades.’”
(By the way, a wholesale meat purveyor now supplies the 5-8’s ground beef).
It’s hard to imagine today, but when what is now the 5-8 opened on 58th Street and Cedar Avenue in 1928, the location was considered to be out in the country, a beyond-the-limelight location suitable for its not-so-legal shenanigans. For context, consider this: at the time, the Foshay Tower, which would be the city’s tallest building for the next 40 years, was under construction.
When Prohibition was lifted – on Dec. 5, 1933 -- the 5-8 went legit, and added a kitchen. Skogheim believes that the Juicy Lucy came along sometime during the 1950s.
Back to the big bash. Along with those 90-cent burgers, the 5-8 will celebrate on Dec. 5 with 90-cent beers (a Leinenkugel’s ale), along with 90-cent fries and 90-cent onion straws, the kitchen’s onion ring-like delicacy.
“We’re also tapping a keg of Bent Paddle Brewing Co.’s Old Fashioned,” said Skogheim, referring to the Duluth brewery’s bourbon barrel-aged beer with cherry and orange accents. Sadly, it’s the one celebratory option that’s not priced at 90 cents.
There’s also a freebie alert: As long as supplies last, Skogheim and her crew will also be handing out birthday cake, gratis. Expect a crowd.
“I’m pretty sure that we’ll be very busy,” she said. “It’s a pretty small place, but the 5-8 has a lot of history, and people are very sentimental about it. I think we could sell five hundred to a thousand burgers.”
Some of the festivities – that 90-cent ale, the free cake -- are being extended to the metro area’s three other members of 5-8 family: 5-8 Grill & Bar in Champlin (6251 Douglas Court N.), 5-8 Tavern & Grill in Maplewood (2289 E. Minnehaha Av.), the 5-8 Grill & Tap in West St. Paul (1741 S. Robert St.).
The original 5-8 is located at 5800 Cedar Av. S. in Minneapolis.