The burger: There’s no question that Crema Cafe, the home of Sonny's Ice Cream, serves a fine burger. But in a step-away-from-the-script moment here at Burger Friday, let’s pay homage to the menu’s Sloppy Ron.
The name is a nod to chef/co-owner Ron Siron. His version of the Sloppy Joe is a joy to behold, a 50/50 mix of premium ground beef (hailing, as so many top-notch burgers do, from Peterson Limousin Farms in Osceola, Wis.) and pork (from that shining star of all things pork, Fischer Family Farms Pork in Waseca, Minn.), a rich composition held together by a thickly simmered tomato sauce that Siron seasons with a secret spice combination.
Unlike the Sloppy Joe of your high school cafeteria, the Sloppy Ron boasts a nuanced bit of heat at the back of each bite, and that robust tomato-based sauce hits just the right consistency: not so thick that it isn’t sloppy, but not so runny that it doesn’t keep all that delicious ground beef and pork together.
Siron liberally spoons that meaty goodness over a toasted brioche bun that's so expertly made that it could have only come from Rustica. “It’s the same bun we use with our burgers,” said Siron. “It’s kind of weird, because if you get a regular white bun – which I like – they tend to fall apart. But the brioche bun holds the Sloppy Ron and the burgers better. It’s nice and buttery, and they toast really well.”
Yes, they do. As for garnishes, there’s a garden-fresh lettuce leaf and a few nicely vinegar-ey pickles, and that’s it. Not that this meal-in-a-bun needs anything else.
Price: $7.95, a bargain.
Fries: None. Splurge and order the side salad, a thoughtful pile of just-picked organic greens, expertly dressed in a basic and utterly satisfying vinaigrette. It’s well worth the $2.95 investment.
More than ice cream: Siren started serving food at his ice cream shop nearly a decade ago. “We want to make it like a European cafe, with wine and beer and good local food,” he said. “That’s a big buzz word, local, but that’s the way we eat. And when you come in, that’s the way you’ll eat. It’s just good, honest, wholesome food. I’m not Thomas Keller. I’m all about comfort food. Carrie [Gustafson, Siron’s business and life partner] calls me an Italian grandma, because I want to feed everybody and get them fat.”
Coming soon: Siron is going to introduce a vegetarian version of the Sloppy Ron. “We’ll probably start it this fall,” he said.
Meanwhile, at the scoop case: Siron recently began producing gelato: chocolate-hazelnut, brown butter-cashew, vanilla bean and other, gotta-try excursions into frozen creaminess. “The techniques are very different from making ice cream,” he said. “Our old ice cream machines are like bulldozers, really heavy duty. Our gelato machine is like a Ferrari. It doesn’t even sound like a machine. It hums and whistles. It’s fun, and the freshness of the milk and the cream reminds me of the old days, when Sonny [Siron’s late father, and the Sonny of Sonny’s Ice Cream] and I used to make our own bases. I’m turning 60 on Sunday – I thought I’d die before I got old – but I have literally been making ice cream for 50 years.”
One last thought: The cafe's alley-like patio is the epitome of romantic. Take advantage while the weather still cooperates.
Address book: 3403 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls. The Sloppy Ron is available 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
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