The burger: Those in search of a superior burger need look no further than HauteDish, where chef/co-owner Landon Schoenefeld has made an art form out of creating best-practice versions of American comfort foods (his rendition of the tater tot hot dish has to be tasted to be believed).
Schoenefeld’s burger-making method has remained fairly constant since the North Loop restaurant opened three years ago. The process involves grinding two parts chuck with one part brisket, and then the considerable add-ons begin.
First up: minced garlic and fresh thyme, steeped in slow-cooked onions and folded into the meat. Just before they hit the stove, each plump, six-ounce patty is seasoned with a mixture of sea salt, black pepper, dried rosemary, powdered onion and powdered garlic. They’re fried in butter – “low-cal” is not in Schoenefeld’s vocabulary -- in a heat-holding cast-iron pan until the exterior achieves a crusty, tantalizing char, and the interior is mouth-wateringly juicy and pink.
For crunch, Schoenefeld borrows a page from the In-N-Out Burger playbook, and places vegetable garnishes under the patty. It's a tried-and-true mix: a succulent tomato slice wide enough to hug the bun's edges, thinly chopped raw yellow onion, crispy chopped lettuce and vinegary, jalapeno-kissed sweet pickle chips.
The patty is blanketed with an oozy double dose of American cheese (“We felt we needed to because, when we’d make it for ourselves, we would always double up,” said Schoenefeld with a laugh) in all of its caution-sign-yellow glory, a procedural choice that harkens back to Schoenefeld’s early days behind the stove with pal and colleague Erik Anderson, who later went on to open Sea Change and is now wowing the food press at the Catbird Seat in Nashville, Tenn.
“When Erik and I met we became instant friends, and we’d always talk about burgers and hot dogs and fried chicken,” said Schoenefeld. “We both had our little differences on how we thought things should be, but we always agreed that American cheese was the No. 1 choice for a burger. It’s the meltiness of it, and the nostalgia. And it’s American.”
Inserting layer upon layer of complementary flavors into this burger must require an astonishing amount of labor. There’s a dollop of roasted garlic aioli, a few thick slabs of applewood-smoked bacon and a delicious salad of raw button mushrooms tossed with chives, olive oil and lemon juice. Oh, and on the bottom, Schoenefeld instructs his cooking crew to add a “whisper” of horseradish-kissed, made-in-Minnesota Uncle Pete’s Mustard.
Oh, and did I mention the secret ingredient? It’s a sharp Wisconsin-made Gorgonzola, which Schoenefeld smokes for several hours. A blast of liquid nitrogen – molecular gastronomy, meet the hamburger -- converts the cheese into a subtle taste bud-tickling powder, which gets mixed into the beef.
The bun is a brioche-style beauty studded with sesame seeds and baked in-house. After several years of relying upon a bakery, Schoenefeld decided that his kitchen would satisfy all of the menu’s bread demands, from crackers to biscuits to a sourdough loaf. A dinner roll formula was tapped into creating this marvel of bun, which is split and griddled – in butter, of course – into nutty brown toastiness.
As burgers go, it’s a rarity, with nearly every component – and there are plenty – produced on the premises.
"I like the idea of looking at whole chunks of beef and big bags of flour on one end, and then, like a cartoon, having a burger come out of it on the other end,” said Schoenefeld with a laugh.
The whole shebang climbs as tall as an iPhone standing on end, but for all of its intricacies, the HauteDish burger doesn’t come off as fussy or mannered. On the contrary: It feels, looks and tastes like an idealized version of America's most familiar culinary export. The menu boldly declares “no temps or substitutions, ever” and that’s a wise dictate: How could anyone find fault with this masterpiece?
Fries: Included, and utterly addictive. Naturally, Schoenefeld is something of a French fries savant, a trait reflected in his winning approach to deep-fried potatoes. He prefers skin-on Russets, blanching them in water – it’s a dehydrating move, which coaxes some of the starch out of the tuber – and cooling them overnight before frying them twice in a soy-canola mix. The second fry is at a higher temperature than the first, which gives each salty fry a wonderfully crispy outside and a fluffy, almost baked potato-like quality on the inside.
Price: $13. That’s a deal, but get this: Schoenefeld rewards his happy hour clientele with one of the metro area's great dining-out bargains. For $10, the kitchen contributes its burger and fries, and the bar pours any one of its under-$6 draughts, including a malty German double bock, a sour wheat ale from Michigan, a creamy stout from Wisconsin, among others. Come on, ten dollars! That's inches away from BOGO territory. One caveat: It's available in the bar only.
Expansion plans: Along with plans to pump up the snack selection on his bar menu – the changes could come within the next month -- Schoenefeld (pictured, above, in a Star Tribune file photo) is tinkering with new weekend brunch items, including a possible breakfast version of his burger. “There have been a lot of requests,” he said. It’s easy to see why.
Address book: 119 Washington Av. N., Mpls., 612-338-8484.
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