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Burger Friday: It's Big Mac 2.0 at Scena Tavern in Uptown

The burger: Adding a burger to the menu at Scena Tavern “was a little bit of a joke,” said chef Erik Anderson.

The nearby McDonald’s had curtailed its dining room’s late-night hours, “we thought we should do a Big Mac tribute,” he said. Let’s just say that Anderson & Co. nailed it, and then some, paying proper respect to the qualities that make the double-patty classuc the Big Mac, but improving upon them, big time.

“The burger is not something you should re-invent,” said Anderson. “It’s something that should be well-thought out.” Truer words were never spoken.

The magic begins with the bun. Baker Johnny Silvera doesn’t fully embrace the brioche-style bun, but it’s safe to say that the outcome is brioche-adjacent. And it’s a total knockout, baked to a deep mahogany and sliced into the requisite triple-layer Big Mac format.

The tops are studded with black sesame seeds (“It’s the anti-Big Mac,” said Anderson) and the kitchen crew isn’t content to leave well enough alone. Instead, they give them a sublime finishing touch by liberally bushing the insides with beef fat that’s rendered with herbs, then hand them a good, long toast on the grill (also brushed with that flavorful fat), burnishing those flat surfaces to a delicate crispiness. Meanwhile, the steam from that sizzling beef fat rises, warming and softening the rest of the bun. Even the most dedicated carb-avoider will find this bun to be completely irresistible.

Ditto the patty. Sorry, patties. Talk about the anti-Big Mac; Anderson fashions them from leftover trim off the menu’s boneless short ribs entrée, grinding that prized beef and then forming it into 3 ½ ounce balls. They’re pressed into thin, sort-of circular patties on the flattop grill, brushed with more of that herb-enriched beef fat, and then carefully watched over. “We treat it almost like fish,” said Anderson. “We crisp one side, then barely crisp the other.”

They leave the stove a spot-on medium, with bits of crisped-up, mouth-watering char on their surfaces, and then the Big Mac-ization begins.

Shredded iceberg lettuce? Check. (Excellent) pickle chips? Check. Enough straight-up American cheese to invoke the word blanket? Check. The finishing touch is Anderson’s version of McD’s special sauce, a winning mix of mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, onion and chopped pickles, held together via the vinegar-ey bite of extra pickle juice.

McDonald’s, are you paying attention? This is how the Big Mac should taste.

“I’d like to sell more of them,” said Anderson, then he laughed. “But be careful what you ask for, right?”

Price: $8 at happy hour, a deal of Groupon-like dimensions. Expect to pay $14 the rest of the time, which still ranks in the worth-it category. 

Fries: None.

Insider’s tip: The burger only appears on the happy hour menu (4 to 5 p.m. daily) and the Sunday brunch menu (10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.), but don’t despair. “You can get it any time,” said Anderson. Phew.

Be on the lookout: In the how-great-would-that-be department, Anderson is toying with the idea of adding a Filet-O-Fish tribute to Scena’s bar menu. “I’m not gonna lie,” he said. “I love junk food.”

Talking burgers: Anderson counts himself a burger eater. “One hundred percent,” he said. “Without a doubt.” Where does he turn to when the craving calls? “I hate to say Matt’s, but Matt’s is good. We [meaning chef Jamie Malone] live above Borough and Parlour, and having that six floors down means that I’ve had a lot of those burgers. Revival is super-killer. But you know who put burgers on the map? Landon [Schoenefeld] did, starting with the Bulldog, then HauteDish and now Nighthawks. We’re in a burger renaissance. We should enjoy it.”

Address book: 2943 Girard Av. S., Mpls., 612-200-8641. Open 4 p.m. to midnight Monday, 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to midnight Sunday.

Talk to me: Do you have a favorite burger? Share the details at rick.nelson@startribune.com.

Restaurant going into old Walker Library

It looks as if the former Walker Library in Uptown is on its way to becoming a restaurant. Again.

According to plans filed with the city’s Heritage Preservation Commission, the 105-year-old neoclassical building – located at 2901 Hennepin Av. S. and last used as a library in 1981 – is being retrofitted from its last use as a yoga studio and gym into a 5,500 square foot restaurant.

Owner Ned Abdul has asked the city for permission to build a deck that would wrap around the building’s southern (side) and eastern (rear) facades, along with a few smaller alterations. The deck would be on the same level as the building’s main floor, which is seven feet off the ground.

The building’s most recognizable façade faces west, to Hennepin Avenue.

The proposal doesn’t include details on the restaurant itself, only the structure.

The building (shown above in a 1979 Star Tribune file photo) was named for the donor of the land beneath it -- Thomas Barlow Walker, the lumber baron and founder of the Walker Art Center -- and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999. It was decommissioned as a library after a new facility was built across Hennepin Avenue. That replacement lasted for just over three decades before being replaced in 2014 by the current Walker Library.

The building has stood empty for several years. Past incarnations have included a secondhand clothing store, offices, a spa and, in the 1980s and 1990s, several restaurants. Diners with long memories may recall Brian’s Seafood Casa, the Library Cafe and, before that, the Old Library Cafe.

Abdul's Swervo Development is currently renovating the historic Minneapolis Armory into an events center (that project recently hit a speed bump with city officials) and recently sold three historic downtown Minneapolis properties (510 Marquette, 300 1st Av. N. and 123 N. 3rd St.) for $87.5 million. 

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