The burger: When she opened Yum! Kitchen and Bakery eight years ago, there was a simple reason why owner Patti Soskin included a burger on the menu.

“Because everyone wants a hamburger once in a while,” she said. “And having a damn good burger on the menu is a good thing.”

You’ll get no argument from this Yum! regular. Soskin’s tarragon chicken salad sandwich has been my default order, practically since Day 1 – so much so that I’d forgotten that she even had a burger on the menu, that’s how crazy I am for that sandwich. 

But when a friend reminded me that the Yum! burger was a longtime favorite, I investigated. And now I understand why. Soskin is right. This is one damn good burger.

I’ll reveal a little bias here: I’m head-over-heels when it comes to the rich, eggy and bewitchingly golden challah at Yum! (so much so that it's my Thanksgiving stuffing's secret ingredient). Sliced and toasted, it’s the foundation for that one-of-a-kind chicken salad sandwich, and Soskin and her crew wisely employ the same formula for their burger buns, swiping them with a hint of butter and coaxing them into a slight toast on the grill.

Then there’s the patty. It's a ground-in-house blend of chuck and tenderloin scraps, loosely formed into wide, thick patties. There’s definite discipline in the seasoning, just the right amounts of salt and pepper. The kitchen prepares them two ways, grilled or pan-seared.

“It’s the Burger King-McDonald’s thing,” said Soskin with a laugh, explaining why she offers a choice between the two cooking methods. Turns out that the majority of customers order their burgers grilled. But Soskin admitted that she prefers the pan-seared version, and I’m with her. The skillet’s flat surface evenly distributing the stove’s high heat across the patty, burnishing the meat with a tasty caramelized crust, leaving the inside wonderfully juicy.

Another reason to love: Patty and bun are an exact fit.

“I’m nutty about that,” said Soskin with a laugh. “Don’t give me a burger that doesn’t cover the bun.”

Toppings are kept to a minimum, just the standard tomato slice, raw onion and lettuce leaf. Cheese (at an additional 50 cents) melts as expected. That’s it, although who needs anything more? Not me.

Price: $8.95, and, like the vast majority of items across the Yum! menu, a tremendous value, with both quantity and quality equally in play.

Fries: Not included (although they’re worth the $5.25 upcharge, and then some). Instead, the burger shares the plate with a big-old handful of the kitchen’s superb potato chips. I always make a silent vow to eat just one of them, but their crispy, salty and barely greasy ways foil my not-so-steely reserve, every time.

Celebrate: On Nov. 18th, Soskin is marking her restaurant’s eighth birthday with what I consider to be a near-priceless giveaway: free mini-cupcake versions of her divine Patticake, an ultra-moist, super-chocolatey cake crowned with an indecently generous layer of vanilla buttercream icing. Don't miss it.

Address book: 4000 Minnetonka Blvd., St. Louis Park, 952-922-4000. Open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

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