The burger: If “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Hollywood’s latest paean to excess, had a burger promotional tie-in, a leading candidate could easily be the Bacon Burger at Pat’s Tap.
With its insane 50-50 blend of beef and bacon, the patty pretty much defines “over the top.” Like so many top-flight Twin Cities burgers, the former is sourced from Peterson Limousin Farms in Osceola, Wis. As for the latter, chef Matt Gray purchases ends and scraps from premium pork-meister Tim Fischer of Fischer Family Farms Pork in Waseca, Minn.
This is not one of those burgers where an all-beef patty is topped with a criss-cross of crispy thick-cut bacon. The fatty, teasingly smoky cured pork is mixed, raw, with the beef. The marriage is conducted in the kitchen’s big Hobart mixer.
“That beef is so lean, and then we add a bunch of bacon to it,” says Gray with a laugh. The blend is hand-formed into 6-ounce patties, and no matter how long they languish on the grill, the patties end up tinted to medium-rare on the burger color chart (the results remind me -- visually, anyway -- of the Spam burgers my mom made when I was a kid), thanks to all that pork.
“We could cook them for 14 years and they’ll still be pink,” said Gray, who prefers to take them to medium-rare, “just warm enough so that the bacon melts,” he said. Fine by me. It's a remarkable flavor (only reinforcing the theory that bacon improves everything it touches), with that top-shelf bacon permeating every bite but not completely overshadowing its beefy counterpart. The word gilded comes to mind.
When I mentioned to Gray that I lasted through about three before my appetite cried “uncle” -- that’s how rich this burger is -- he laughed. Turns out, the Bacon Burger is dietary chicken feed compared to the menu’s Big Cheese Burger, which is crowned with 2 ½ Lipitor-defying ounces of fried Cheddar cheese.
“I recommend them for when you’re slightly hung over, or when you have a nap scheduled,” said Gray.
Back to the Bacon Burger. Not content to leave well enough alone, Gray continues on the more-more-more melody by blanketing said patty with a slab of melt-friendly Swiss cheese, then showers the whole shebang with crispy fried onions, thinly shaved and breaded with a Cajun-inspired seasoning. The simple white bun, baked by the New French Bakery, shows remarkable restraint. It arrives with just the barest, faintest trace of a toast. Still, Gray can’t resist brushing the cooktop, pre-toasting, with a conspicuous bit of clarified butter.
My take? This unwieldy burger is a definite reach-for-the-knife-and-fork-er, and I was all over it. I’m not alone; Gray sells upwards of 270 Bacon Burgers per week.
Price: $14. Bacon -- particularly top-shelf bacon -- doesn't come cheap, remember?
Fries: An additional $2. They’re ultra-crisp (Gray fries them in rice oil) and generously salty, and the enormous handful is a fine complement to this unusually – and unusually delicious – burger.
Add-ons: Along with renewing my deep and abiding appreciation for the kitchen’s night-owl hours – work-ethic-centric Minneapolis still goes to bed far too early -- I’d forgotten what a pleasant getaway Pat’s can be at lunch. I’ll be back just for another crack at the robust tomato soup and Gray’s amusing (and addictive) obsession with recreating the iconic Cheez-It cracker. The 2-for-1 Bloody Marys (weekdays, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) are also a draw.
Address book: 3510 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., 612-822-8216. Open 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.
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