The burger: Some might say that Victory 44 is exercising a bit of presumptiveness when its menu hails the "Perfect Burger." But the safer argument is that the name is all about certitude.
This is one excellent burger. For starters, it's proof positive that everything truly is better with pork belly. That fatty meat isn't a garnish, it's an integral part of the sublimely juicy patty, an ingenious composition that meshes beef and pork. The meats are ground together in roughly a four-to-one ratio, infusing each bite with a richness not normally associated with lean ground beef.
The well-seasoned patty is thick and jagged-edged, and it gets a dark, flavorful char on a flat-top grill. From there, chef Erick Harcey sticks to a fairly simple and surprisingly disciplined regimen. The golden, brioche-esque buns are anyone's idea of a perfect hamburger bun. No wonder, they're from Rustica, baker of all things delicious.
They're toasted and swiped with a gentle Dijonnaise. Size-wise, patty and bun are a perfect (there's that word again) match. The bottom half is neatly covered in a layer of crunchy, teasingly tangy icebox pickles, which follow a beloved Harcey family recipe. The top of the patty is crowned with two burger classics: Crisp bacon, cut to pancetta-like skinniness, and two melting-down-the-sides slices of American cheese.
You read that correctly. No four-year aged Cheddar, no oozy brie, no funky Roquefort, no artisanal Gouda, just a plain-old supermarket dairy case staple, the kind that Kraft sells in individual wrappers. It's an offbeat choice for such a food-forward operation, but it really works; anyone raised in a Betty Crocker household will instantly associate this mild processed product with burgers, so why not go there?
It's one of those burgers that's as tall as it is wide. And yeah, the name fits.
Price: $14. However, during happy hour (5 to 5:44 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday), Harcey cuts that in half, a move that has to rank right up there as one of the Twin Cities' can't-be-beat burger bargains. There's one caveat: Each $7 burger must be accompanied by a beverage purchase. Fortunately, the bar has a well-practiced knack for rooting out small-batch beers.
Fries: Yes, a monster pile of them. Those who prefer their French fries straight-up will not appreciate the extra touches that are lavished upon these long, gently crisp lovelies: a shake of finely chopped fresh herbs, a dusting of bacon powder and a flurry of grated Parmesan cheese. But they're tailor-made for those in search of a French fries adventure.
Something sweet: Victory 44's relationship with Rustica bears all kinds of benefits, not the least of which is in the portable desserts department. Namely, the bakery's one-of-a-kind bittersweet chocolate cookies, which are available in the restaurant's appealing coffee bar.
Address book: 2203 44th Av. N. (at Penn Av. N.), Mpls., 612-588-2228.
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