Burger Friday is on vacation. While I’m away, I'll share an idea that was forwarded to me from Ann Johnson of Wayzata, one that she encourages others to replicate.
“I’ve been an avid subscriber to the Star Trib for over 30 years,” she wrote. “I want to tell you about how you inspired me to do something really fun. After reading your article on '10 Best Burgers' in the Essential Twin Cities Guide, I formed a ‘burger club’ and appointed myself president and social secretary.”
[That guide -- pictured, above -- was published in late January, just prior to the Super Bowl, and that list was compiled after scrutinizing several years of Burger Friday posts.]
“I gathered 12 people who I wanted to hang out with more — some are friends with each other, and some aren’t,” she wrote. “Once a month, we go to one of the places you listed and try the burgers. We’ve added the five destinations that you recently published [that was my recent list of “The 5 best Twin Cities burgers of the year....so far”] and I’m taking nominations from the club members to keep us going.”
Wanting to know more, I called Johnson and got the details. Why did she start the "club”?
“I’m going to have to choose my words carefully,” she said with a laugh. “I live in Wayzata and I teach at the U, but I know so many people who never go downtown, or into the city. Even my husband. It’s the whole, ‘Why should we do that when we can go to the Muni?’ [otherwise known as the Wayzata Bar & Grill]. My motivation is to get a bunch of people together — not just friends, but people who might not know one another, a little bit of friends matchmaking, you know? — and get out of our comfort zone and explore the city. I had not been to nine of the 10 places, and I’m pretty worldly, and I’ve lived in Minneapolis for more than 30 years. It has been really fun.”
(Note: This isn't the first time that a Burger Friday reader has devised a tour based upon favorites that have been chronicled in the blog; for another one, from 2016, go here).
So far, their Tour de Burger has included:
Parlour: “That was our favorite, by far,” said Johnson. “That burger, with all that cheese on it. And it’s so funny, because the night we went there, the restaurant was empty. They gave us this big, long table in the back, and they were wonderful.” (That's the Parlour burger, pictured, top).
Barnes & Noble Kitchen: “That was a surprise,” she said. “That burger was amazing. And then we told the manager why we were there, they brought us desserts. That was so nice.”
Blue Door Pub: "It's the only one that I'd been to on the list, and I was more than happy to go back," she said.
Next up: Chef Shack Ranch (pictured, above), Constantine, Esker Grove, Revival and Saint Dinette. And their itinerary also includes the Birchwood Cafe, which was hosting the annual (and very popular) Dining Out for Life program on the April evening that Johnson & Co. planned to visit; they decided to avoid what was clearly going to be a mob scene. “We’ll circle back,” she said.
How does the club work? “The good thing about a burger club is that you can pick an odd night," said Johnson. "We go out on the last Thursday of the month, and we’re skipping December because of the holidays. Burgers are easy. But if you pick, say, ‘brunch,’ then it’s always going to be on Saturday or Sunday, when it’s busy. I’ll call the morning that we’re visiting, and find out if there’s a time that we should get there."
Why has it been successful? “People have been jazzed about the idea of setting aside a day a month to go out to dinner, and to see people,” said Johnson. "I think people just get busy, or they think that they’re busy. Plus, I think people think that they see their friends, because they see them on social media, but that's not the same thing. I don’t think people entertain at home the way they used to, which is too bad, because sitting around and sharing food is great, it’s such an intimate thing. And the burger club is not expensive. Yeah, some of the restaurants are more expensive than others, but it’s all manageable, because it’s burgers. You’re not spending $100 when you’re eating burgers.”
What happens after they visit all 15 places? “We’ll definitely keep it going,” said Johnson. “Maybe you’ll do another ‘best’ article. Fried chicken is definitely one that we want to know more about.”
Hmmm. That’s a good idea. In the meantime, why not start your own burger club? And then tell me all about it; I'm at firstname.lastname@example.org, or hit me up on Twitter (#BurgerFriday) @RickNelsonStrib.
Burger Friday will return next week.