The burger: Last week I heard from Star Tribune reader Marsha Wagner, who shared a great story. She and husband Mike -- along with friends Peggy and Eric Van Wyk -- used Burger Friday as a guide for their own burger-a-thon. Setting out on a sweltering Saturday afternoon, they dropped in on four Minneapolis restaurants (including Revival, pictured above), on a mission to compare-and-contrast burgers. What a great idea, right? Here’s my conversation with Marsha (and her images).
Q: What was the genesis of your burger tour?
A: I follow your column throughout the year, and I think it was January when you published a list of your Top 10, or your Hall of Fame, something like that. I forwarded that to my foodie friends and said that it would be fun to do a burger hop. We finally got around to doing it. There’s no way that anyone has time to visit all of them, so I suggested that we lop off four at a time.
Q: Four burgers is a lot to consume in a single night. How did you manage?
A: The four of us would go in, order a burger and split it four ways. We were never in one place for more than 40 minutes. We knew what we wanted, we didn’t need menus. We’d just just order the burger, and beers, and then we’d be on our way. In each case, we always told the host or hostess what we were up to, and said that if they didn’t want to give up a table that that was OK, and we’d move on. But in each case, they were all on board.
Q: Where was your first stop?
A: Revival. We tried to avoid going to restaurants where we’d been before, or at least restaurants where we’d not had the burger. Mike and I had been to Revival for their fried chicken, so this gave us a chance to try their burger. Knowing that there’s always a line, we got there at 4:30 and we were lucky, there were four seats open at the bar.
Q: Your notes?
A: Wonderful. The meat/cheese combination is just great. We always ordered a side dish, or stuck with whatever came with the burger. At Revival, it was the hush puppies — so good — and the pickles. And we had this great pink beer, Rosetta by Brewery Ommegang.
Q: What was the second installment?
A: Chef Shack Ranch. Because it was only 5:30, the place was nearly empty. The good news is that we got in for happy hour. They had $2 cans of Hamm’s. On a hot day, that didn’t suck.
Q: That’s a bison burger (pictured, above). What did you think?
A: Really good. We had the fries, also good. The waitress was great. It’s a really fun neighborhood place.
Q: Stop No. 3?
A: That was Nightingale. The kitchen cut the burger into four pieces, with a toothpick in each one, that was so nice of them. The bar is so great. They have $3 Hamm’s on tap, who even knew that that existed? On a 90-degree day, you can drink darned near anything. The burger was OK. What I really loved was the bun. It’s awesome, a homemade brioche. It was pillowy, but it held up to the burger. There’s nothing worse than a bad bun on a burger.
It’s such a cute place. I had never heard of it. That’s what I liked about doing this, it exposed us to places that we’ve never experienced. We had a terrific server. Gosh, I wish we had a place like Nightingale in walking distance of our house. We’d be there once or twice a week. (That's Mike and Marsha at Nightingale, above).
Q: And where was your final destination?
A: We decided to keep it all in south Minneapolis, and we’ve already decided that we’re going to have to do a St. Paul version, and a North Loop version. Because we made the decision to stay south, we went to Lake & Irving.
We’d been there before, but we hadn’t had the burger. I think I might have liked that one overall the best, but that’s subjective. Their fries are really good. (That's Peggy and Eric at Lake & Irving, above).
Q: How did you feel at the end of the night?
A: Full [laughs]. As much from the four beers — the burger-and-beer ratio got a bit off, because I don’t usually drink four beers in a night [laughs]. I ate the equivalent of one burger, but in four installments. But it was so much fun. We were just kind of jazzed by the whole experience. We don’t have another one planned, but we’re absolutely going to do it. I think our next outing is going to be to Fair State Brewing Cooperative, they have a veggie raffle every Tuesday night. We heard that and thought, “Heck, let’s do that.” But we’ll get back to burgers, soon.
Q: Any other observations?
A: It was fun how the wait staff got involved. They gave us suggestions.
Q: Such as?
A: One told us to go to Parlour.
Q: That's wise advice. Any others?
A: Another one mentioned Blue Door, but we’ve already been there. One of the servers also gave our burger tour a name: the Burger Crawl.
Q: I like that. Any tips for other would-be Burger Crawl organizers?
A: Whenever bacon was an option, we went for it. I suggest going during an off-peak time. Be prepared to pay with cash — we didn’t, but it would have been easier for them — and tip well!
Q: Always. Where are your burger standbys?
Q: I highly endorse both. Do you have any suggestions for me for Burger Friday possibilities?
A: It has been several years since I've had it, but the turkey burger at Tilia.
Q: I'll put it in on the list. Thanks for reading Burger Friday. How long have you been following the blog?
A: Probably from the start. I think I’ve seen them all. Thanks for doing it. It’s a sacrifice, I know.
Talk to me: Do you have a favorite burger? Share the details at email@example.com. Burger Friday will return to its regularly scheduled format next week, with a glimpse into the spectacular Wyn 65 cheeseburger.