The burger: In just about any other instance, the beef patty on the Thor’s Burger at Erik the Red might be viewed as waifish. Paltry, even. But when the burger’s other, far showier animal protein – a bruiser of a slice of bacon – is taken into account, that modestly scaled patty takes on a right-size dimension.
That bacon truly belongs at center stage. It’s produced in-house, in a process that involves a six-day cure and an oak-fueled turn in the smoker (here’s a sign that the kitchen knows that it has a winner on its hands: a gigantic slab of the stuff is sold as an entree, for $16). For the burger, the bacon gets the sliced-thick treatment, and then it's obviously nurtured on the stove to the point where the dense, slightly chewy interior is robed in a crisped-up and utterly mouth-watering outer edge. It’s spectacular. Note to other, lesser bacon cheeseburgers: you’re way out of your league.
The patty, slight as it is, is hardly a slouch. It’s a standard mix of 80 percent lean beef and 20 percent fat, pressed to within maybe a quarter-inch thickness and taken to a no-nonsense medium. it's fairly safe to say that it's little more than a necessary component of a bacon delivery system.
Garnishes are fairly basic, and they certainly don’t get in the way of that fried porky goodness: a handful of crispy shredded iceberg lettuce, a well-melted Cheddar that exudes hints of smoke, crispy fried onions and mayo-based sauce punched up with onions and horseradish.
The tender, rich-tasting bun (baked at Emma Krumbee’s) has a noticeably high butterfat content. It’s lightly toasted and lavishly buttered, and it's a worthy companion to that bacon.
There are two burgers on the Erik the Red menu (the other is a double-patty cheeseburger), and that’s two more than when the self-proclaimed “Nordic smokehouse” opened last fall across 6th Street from U.S. Bank Stadium.
“There was a call for it,” said corporate executive chef Nicholas Mihajlov. “We’re here to make people happy, and people coming from the game wanted a burger. We decided to do a burger that has something you can’t find anywhere else, and that’s our slab bacon.”
Fries: Included, and interesting. It’s a handful of long, golden and nicely salty potato fries, interspersed with a few unexpected root veggies (parsnips, rutabagas) cut as fries, a pleasant and welcome surprise from the same-old, same-old.
Where he burgers: “I live in Eden Prairie, and so I like to go to the Lions Tap for a nice, greasy burger,” said Mihajlov. “I also like Snuffy’s Malt Shop over in Minnetonka. And you can’t go wrong with the Jucy Lucy from Matt’s.”
Coming this weekend: Mihajlov is a busy guy, overseeing kitchens for Overlord, the food-and-drink company owned by restaurateur Erik Forsberg. He’s in the midst of rebranding the former Dan Kelly’s into the second iteration of Devil’s Advocate. This weekend he’s also launching brunch service at Erik the Red, with a menu that features several Benedicts, a few hash dishes, poached salmon and of course the kitchen’s fabulous slab bacon, served with eggs.
Get happy: Sorry to report that there are no burger markdowns during Erik the Red’s happy hour. However, Mihajlov and his crew do pull together a series of sliders (lamb shank, braised short rib), serving them weekdays from 3 to 7 p.m.
Address book: 601 Chicago Av. S., Mpls., 612-249-5999. Kitchen open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily; bar open to 2 a.m. daily.
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