The burger: Take a peek at the resumes of the team behind the North Loop's new Dalton & Wade, and the word “burger” almost instantly comes to mind. After all, the ownership team of the growing My Burger chain is involved, as is chef Eli Renn, who spent a number of years turning out some of the western suburbs’ most memorable burgers during his tenure at the Golden Nugget Tavern & Grille.
Nope. No burger at Dalton & Wade. Instead, there’s a patty melt. A good one.
“We knew that everybody – well, not everybody, but certain people – would be looking for a burger,” said co-owner John Abdo. “We’ve made our living with burgers. So we decided to buck the expectation, and the patty melt is a fantastic alternative.”
The decision also suits the menu’s pretention-free feel.
“This whole menu was based on the concept that this is food that you can get just outside the city limits, anywhere in the country,” said Scott Pampuch, the chef who acted as a consultant on the project. “When you look at mom-and-pop diners and roadhouse joints, what do you see? Patty melts. Diners didn’t have buns, they had bread. You know, ‘I can make you a burger, but it has to be on toast.’”
There’s something to be said for skipping the bun and going for a few thick-cut slices of Texas toast (in this instance, the loaves hail from Saint Agnes Baking Co.). “Then we butter the heck out of it,” said Abdo. “We almost pour on the butter. We butter both sides, and we toast both sides on the griddle, to really give it that extra layer of lightly crispy texture. That’s four sides of lightly caramelized bread.”
Works for me, big time. The patty is a bruiser, nearly a half-pound, its weightiness in distinct contrast to the skinny, diner-style patties that are all the rage. It's grilled to medium on the flattop, boasts a big, beefy bite and holds together nicely. Toppings are plentiful, portions-wise, but their numbers are kept to a minimum.
Red onions are marinated overnight in Old Crow – that’s a bargain-basement shout-out to the bar, which is stocked with ka-jillions of whiskey labels – then charred on the flattop grill. They retain a bit of a crunch -- they're not soft and sweet in the caramelized onion school of burger toppings -- and the booze gives them a bit of a bite. They’re paired with earthy, oven-roasted mushrooms.
Instead of standard-issue American, the cheese is Muenster. “It’s a little different, it’s a little funky,” said Abdo. “It adds character without piling on another 15 toppings.” It’s also delicious, and it rates high on the all-important Melt-o-Meter.
The verdict? Nicely done. It's different enough to enjoy as a not-burger experience, yet it still contains all of the requisite (and, let’s face it, beloved) burger elements. Another winning trait: it’s easily shareable.
Fries: None. Instead, the kitchen includes a handful of house-made potato chips, liberally dusted in a perked-up (with sweet undertones), stain-your-fingers barbecue spice blend. They're made fresh each morning, and they’re cruelly addictive.
Where he burgers: “Because I’m so close to them on such a regular basis, I probably eat, on average, about three burgers a week,” said Abdo with a laugh. “I’ve rarely seen a burger that I didn’t like. I love the one at the 112, it’s such an unexpected pleasure. That Brie melts so perfectly, and it’s a great grind of meat. For the standard meat-cheese-bun, there’s the one at Parlour. Everyone loves it, but there’s a reason everyone loves it. And if it’s allowed, I’d love to throw the bacon cheeseburger at the Nicollet Island Inn into the mix [it’s barely allowed, as his family owns the property, but that’s OK; a solid recommendation is a solid recommendation].
Meanwhile, in St. Paul: Abdo offered an update on the My Burger outlet that’s under construction at the corner of Snelling and Grand avenues in St. Paul. “It’s coming along,” he said. “We tried to get it open before the State Fair, but that’s not going to happen. So now we’re going to wait. We’ll glide open the weekend after the fair closes.”
Address book: 323 N. Washington Av., Mpls., 612-236-4020. Kitchen open 4 to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday, 4 to around 10 p.m. Sunday.
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