The burger: If the half-pound burger at Mission American Kitchen & Bar is good enough for downtown's captains of industry, it's good enough for the likes of me.
People-watching is a big draw at this 10-year-old IDS Center hot spot. During any given noon hour, a healthy majority of the Hubert White mailing list appears to be congregating over salmon BLTs, Cobb salads, open-face Reubens, French dip sandwiches and other straight-up renditions of all-American fare. (The kitchen's speed and the service staff's unflappable nature are two other major assets, along with that 100 percent address).
If they're smart -- and let's face it, this crowd didn't get where they are by floundering in the shallower percentiles of their B-school grading curves -- they're also making a habit of the Mission burger, which is almost as noteworthy for what it isn't as for what it is.
What it's not is complicated, just a very what-you-see-is-what-you get monster (so big that it tiptoes into knife-and-fork territory). No runny egg yolk to make a mess of that hundred-dollar Talbott tie, no painstaking prepared sauces that a nervous job candidate can't properly pronounce, no exotic bun that will fall apart when it gets into someone's hands.
Instead, the kitchen delivers a loosely packed, thickly formed patty, gingerly seasoned and brought to a faint char, with a barely pink, nicely but not outrageously juicy (see Ruined Tie Comment, above) interior.
The bun is of the soft white variety, barely toasted. Condiments go the bare-bones route: a rash of sweet, not-quite-crunchy grilled onions. A pair of tomato slices that at least look as if they might have come from the summer sun even if they don't taste that way. A single garden-fresh romaine lettuce leaf. And a melty slab of quietly sharp Cheddar.
In short, no surprises, no showy add-ons, just solid burger goodness. Those who prefer their burgers on the conservative side will be all over it.
Fries: Included. Those who gravitate towards the skinny-and-crispy side of the french-fry spectrum will probably not find satisfaction at Mission. The long, skin-on, hand-cut fries are more limp than firm, with a solid, deeply potato-ey bite.
Bear in mind: Consider yourself a rookie if you lunch at Mission minus a reservation. Walk-ins, don't despair: the restaurant's sunny, four-sided bar is one of downtown's most appealing dine-at-the-bar venues.
Address book: 77 S. 7th St. in the IDS Center, Mpls., 612-339-1000. Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday.
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