Our 2023 guide to the best burgers in the Twin Cities

posted in: News | 0

It’s burger time!

As the weather grows chillier and we’re craving comfort foods, a burger is often the answer to what we want for dinner.

Every time we compile this annual guide, we think that the burger pinnacle has been reached — that there could not possibly be more amazing Twin Cities versions of pattied meat and cheese to explore.

And every year, chefs, restaurants and food truck owners prove us wrong. The only thing greater than our culinary community’s commitment to creating the best burgers in the nation is your voracious appetite for them.

This year, the double-smash trend is still going strong, but a few new burgers are bucking the trend. I have to say, I’m here for it, mostly because if you’re not careful, a smash burger gets overcooked and dry. In fact, one of my favorite new entries is a single, loosely pattied burger — from a Korean restaurant. Trust me.

As usual, we didn’t limit our “research” to newbies — there are a few new entries from restaurants that have been around for a while that we tried after recommendations from readers. If you have a suggestion, email it to us at eat@pioneerpress.com.

Meanwhile, here’s our annual ode to the humble burger, helpfully grouped, as usual, into categories that might help you choose what you’re in the mood for. New or updated entries are marked with an asterisk.

Cheffy burgers

When some of the city’s best chefs put their minds to making a burger, the results are nothing short of amazing.

The bulgogi burger at Juche in St. Paul.

* Juche: When I say that a Korean restaurant has one of my favorite new burgers of the year, I’m often met with raised eyebrows, but this is a hill I’m willing to die upon. Chef Chris Her and owner Eddie Wu have made some burger magic in this dark, comfortable space. The bulgogi burger has a very slight Korean flavor — what mostly comes through is the delicious Peterson beef, topped simply with American cheese, aioli, romaine and caramelized onion and nestled into a squishy brioche bun. The spicy Korean burger is for the more adventurous among us, but the spicy pickled slaw on top is super addictive. It’s paired with tangy cheddar and spicy mayo and is somehow still not overly spicy. My teen boy — who has been making his own list of favorites this year — even loved it. The fries here, hand cut and fried until deep golden brown, are exceptional, and you should definitely ask for the Korean hot sauce for dipping them in.

Juche: 1124 Payne Ave., St. Paul; 612-490-3380; juchestpaul.com

The Vincent Burger at Chloe in Minneapolis. (Jess Fleming / Pioneer Press)

* Chloe by Vincent: Chef Vincent Francoual’s Vincent Burger, a standout on the menu of his now-closed Vincent A Restaurant (that’s a lot of Vincent!), is back. Francoual’s new downtown Minneapolis restaurant, Chloe, offers his famed Juicy Lucy spin-off, stuffed with braised short rib and smoked gouda. The burger, first of all, is absolutely massive. The short rib inside is so flavorful and keeps the burger from drying out, and the smoked gouda is the perfect cheese choice. People have been waiting years for this burger, and Francoual told us that bringing it back makes him “excited like a little kid!” He has mixed feelings on burgers in general, he said cheekily, but, “this burger with Coca-Cola? The best hangover food.”

Chloe by Vincent: 700 3rd St. S., Minneapolis; 612-200-8041; chloebyvincent.com

The burger at Wrestaurant at the Palace in downtown St. Paul. (Jess Fleming / Pioneer Press)

* Wrestaurant at the Palace: This new restaurant next to the Palace Theatre is a real boon to downtown. The Detroit-style pizza is great — but so is the burger! With its thin patties, American cheese, crisp iceberg and a lovely sauce, it’s not exactly reinventing the wheel, but it’s a solid burger. When we ordered it, the bun was essentially four slider buns, still attached, which made it really easy for us to cut it into fours and share, because there was no way we weren’t ordering a pizza, too. Comes with curly fries, which is a rarity outside of drive-throughs in these parts.

Wrestaurant at the Palace: 33 W. Seventh Place, St. Paul; 952-600-5611; wrestaurantatthepalace.com

The burger at Apostle Supper Club in St. Paul. (Jess Fleming / Pioneer Press)

* Apostle Supper Club: If you’re looking for a burger with a side of mid-century-modern/tiki atmosphere, the Apostle is your spot. Theirs is a behemoth of a double smashie, properly seasoned, extremely juicy and classically topped with American, shredded lettuce, pickle, caramelized onion and your typical burger sauce on a sesame bun. The plank-like crinkle fries are tasty, too. We are not fans of their tiki drinks (too sweet, not enough fresh-squeezed juice), but they do make a mean martini, which honestly pairs pretty well with this burger.

Apostle Supper Club: 253 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul; apostlesupperclub.com

* Blondette: The award for prettiest surroundings in which to eat a burger definitely goes to Blondette, the retractable-roof French-bistro dining experience at the Rand Tower Hotel in downtown Minneapolis. This thick patty of waygu beef infused with duck fat (yes, really) is so insanely juicy and flavorful that it wouldn’t need any accouterment, but tarragon mustard and a slab of smoked cheddar do nicely. We’d expect nothing less from chef Daniel del Prado, who has become a west-metro fine dining darling in recent years. Maybe it’s time to come east!

Blondette: 527 S. Marquette Ave., Minneapolis; 612-224-3750; blondettempls.com

The “Oui Burger” served with pickles and fries at Maison Margaux in Minneapolis on Oct. 19, 2023. (Jared Kaufman / Pioneer Press)

* Maison Margaux: Depending on where you’re seated in chef David Fhima’s new Parisian restaurant, you might have to ask for the “Oui Burger” by name: The $23 foil-wrapped burger is available during happy hour in the main Brasserie and all the time in the opulent subterranean lounge, but it’s not printed on every menu. The single, quite thick patty is a high-end house grind that includes short rib and wagyu beef, and it’s topped with gruyere cheese on a bun that’s so all-around buttery, it literally glistens. And that’s it! A small cup of pickle slices and some fries come on the side. It’s ultra-beefy and indulgent and noticeably less salty than other burgers we’ve tried, but not in a way that feels underseasoned. Do be careful to shield your fancy clothes from oil drips. (Maison Margaux’s other French bistro staples — savory onion soup, cheesy aligot, creme brulee — are also fantastic, as are the restaurant’s cocktail and wine lists.)

Maison Margaux: 224 1st St. N, Minneapolis; 612-900-1800; maisonmargauxmpls.com

* World Street Kitchen: This summer, trendy Minneapolis favorite World Street Kitchen added the beef kofta burger to its lineup of fast-casual global street food — and it’s a home run. Kofta, spiced ground beef that’s common in the Middle East and North Africa in meatball or kebab form, works perfectly as a burger patty topped with white American cheese, pickles and a not-so-spicy harissa burger sauce. The spices in the meat itself are fine-tuned, and all the toppings play off each other well. It’s unbelievably saucy (to be clear: in a good way!), so grab more extra napkins than you think you’ll need. Oh, and Milkjam Creamery is right next door.

World Street Kitchen: 2743 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis; (612) 424-8855; eatwsk.com

Angry Line Cook: This food truck rose from the ashes of Just/Us, the chef collective restaurant that existed in two separate St. Paul locations. The truck focuses mostly on its very, very good smash burger, which features two Peterson beef patties smooshed on a griddle, which produces a crispy meat skirt. There’s also plenty of house-made American cheese (made from fontina, gouda and fenugreek), a beef-stock aioli for extra umami goodness, house-made pickles and a nice, squishy bun. If you like things spicy — and we do — opt for the Angry Burger, which consists of the same smashed patties kicked up with house-made pepper-jack cheese, “angry sauce,” chili oil, and pickled Fresno peppers.

Angry Line Cook: Location varies, find them at theangrylinecookfoodtruck.com

Herbie’s on the Park: In a world full of double smash burgers, Herbie’s is an unapologetic ½-pound thick patty. The juiciness of these behemoths, made from a brisket, short rib and chuck blend, cannot be overstated. Choose the patty adorned simply with melty American-Swiss, caramelized onions and house-made pickles; go for a fancy bacon-bleu, gilded with a blueberry/gochujang jam and arugula; or really mix it up with a French onion and Brie situation. It’s all good. And so are the garlic-herb fries, or the simple side salad, something we’ve come to love, especially in the thick of burger-reporting season. We have to get our veggies somehow.

Herbie’s on the Park: 317 Washington St., St. Paul; 651-726-1700; herbiesonthepark.com

Holman’s Table: This pretty, midmodern-style restaurant in the St. Paul airport features a view of runway action without having to go through security. The menu has lots to offer, including a few burgers at lunch and a different set of burgers at dinner time, including the $300 burger, which isn’t actually $300, but it does clock in at a not-so-wallet-friendly $27.50. For that price tag, though, you get a juicy, beefy patty on a soft bun, topped with nutty gruyere and foie gras butter. The entire thing is then doused with a madeira truffle demi glace. It’s a fork-and-knife burger that one of our dining partners said tastes like “fancy salisbury steak.” He’s not wrong, but we also happen to love that nostalgic dish.

Holman’s Table: 644 Bayfield St., St. Paul; 612-800-5298; holmanstable.com

Estelle: This southern European spot updates its burger nearly every year, but they are always, always good. Chef Jason Hansen created one of our other favorites in town — the burger at Stewart’s, now Gus Gus — and his commitment to a juicy, interesting burger cannot be understated. The current iteration is a double smash with American cheese, bacon and char-broiled tomatoes and topped with a typical burger sauce.

Estelle: 1806 St Clair Ave., St. Paul; 651-330-9648; estellestp.com

The burger at Sonder Shaker in Minneapolis. (Jess Fleming / Pioneer Press)

Sonder Shaker: The buzz around this burger has been strong for the past few years, and after finally getting there to try it, we know why. Two wagyu beef patties are smashed and griddled until they develop a nice, crispy meat skirt. They’re topped with melty American cheese, house-made pickles and a fairly standard burger sauce. There’s nothing really outrageously different about this burger — it’s just executed perfectly. Though at $19 ($20 with the restaurant’s crisp, handcut fries) the price tag is not for the faint of heart or light of wallet. That said, the cocktails here are top-notch, too.

Sonder Shaker: 130 Hennepin Ave. E., Minneapolis; 612-353-6557; sondershaker.com

Gus Gus: We’ve given lots of love to chef Jason Hansen’s burger mind, and this double smash burger is based off the one at Stewart’s, which occupied the space before Gus Gus moved in last year. The two patties are juicy and beefy and crispy around the edges; exactly what we’re looking for. The caramelized onions and mustard aioli are both great. The burger’s one possible downside is the too-thick American cheese, which makes things so slippery that eating the burger is a challenge. The fries are served with ketchup, but hot tip: Ask for a side of the bagna cauda aioli, which comes with the fries when you order them as an app.

Gus Gus: 128 N. Cleveland Ave., St. Paul; 651-645-4128; gusgusmn.com

Everywhen Burger Bar: This burger spot, from restaurateur Jami Olson and executive chef Jose Alarcon, has set up shop in St. Paul this year, after starting on Eat Street in Minneapolis. Like Minneapolis, the St. Paul location is a dual concept, sharing space with taco-centric Centro.  Their Nicollet Burger is a single smashed patty with the fixings: American cheese, pickles, lettuce, tomato, onions, mayo. And it rocks. The meat itself is perfectly seasoned and crispy. And with just one patty, it’s a good lunch burger — not so heavy that it weighs you down for the afternoon. Nothing over-the-top; a classic done right. (Worth noting: Their chicken sandwich is also delightful, but that’s another story.)

Everywhen Burger Bar: 750 S. Cleveland Ave., St. Paul, 612-489-5558 or 2412 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis, 612-452-9785; everywhenburgers.com

DeGidio’s: This burger was created when the now 90-year-old West Seventh Street Italian institution hired chef Shane Oporto, formerly of La Belle Vie and Octo FishBar, to consult on some menu items. Owner Jason Tschida knew he couldn’t change any of the old-school Italian favorites, so they “worked around the edges” of the menu, starting with this absolute stunner of a burger. It’s two patties, recently upgraded to wagyu beef, enrobed with nutty taleggio cheese and topped with a proprietary special sauce and a few crisp pickles before being nestled in a pillowy egg bun. And the fries are cut in-house and worth every calorie.

DeGidio’s: 425 W. 7th St., St. Paul; 651-291-7105; degidios.com

The burger at Chip’s Clubhouse in St. Paul. (Jess Fleming / Pioneer Press)

Chip’s Clubhouse: The buzz around this restaurant, which opened during the pandemic, from Hot Hands & Pie owner Tara Coleman and her friend Gina Mangiameli, is still going strong, and a lot of that buzz surrounds the burger.

Mangiameli worked for the Chicago restaurant group that includes Au Cheval, which is the place that inspired our local double-smash-burger trend. You can order Mangiameli’s version with one patty or two. I recommend a second, mostly for the meat-to-bun ratio. Share it if you must. The patties are wider than the (properly buttered and toasted) bun, and brought to a perfect crisp on a griddle. Thinly sliced onion and just the right amount of pickle bring the crunch. And a mustardy sauce perks things up.

Chip’s Clubhouse:  272 S. Snelling Ave., No. 200, St. Paul; 651-330-1617; visitchips.com

Kyndred Hearth: Did you know Ann Kim, queen of pizza, has a burger? Consider yourself informed. And as with everything else Kim creates, it’s delicious. It’s a trendy double-smash, adorned with American cheese, deeply caramelized onions, lettuce and fresh pickles and served on a soft bun. I went with friends, and we split the burger and some pizzas, because if you go to an Ann Kim pizza restaurant and don’t get pizza, were you even there?

Kyndred Hearth: 2611 Nordic Way, Eagan; 651-689-9800; omnihotels.com/hotels/viking-lakes-minnesota/dining/kyndred-hearth

Tongue in Cheek: Chef Leonard Anderson might be known for catering to vegans, but he knows his way around (sustainably raised) meat, too. The restaurant’s deceptively simple cheeseburger starts with a properly seasoned, juicy patty that is topped with just the right amount of melty American cheese, a great pickley sauce, crisp, shredded romaine and fresh pickles, all nestled in a lovely, squishy bun. The fries are good, too. While you’re there, balance things out with some vegetables, because the chef’s vegan and vegetarian dishes are some of our favorites in town.

Tongue in Cheek: 989 Payne Ave., St. Paul; 651-888-6148; tongueincheek.biz

Petite Leon: Chef Jorge Guzman is a master of flavor building, so it’s no surprise that his creation is frequently on the lips of those who obsess about burgers. Guzman is on the double-smash train, but he gives it the Oklahoma twist, which involves smashing some thinly sliced onions into those juicy (Peterson beef) patties. There’s melty cheese, but not too much, house-made pickles for pucker and a toasty milk bun. The cocktails and the rest of the menu items here are fabulous, too.

Petite Leon: 3800 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis; 612-208-1247; petiteleonmpls.com

Stepchld: Most everything on this Northeast Minneapolis neighborhood restaurant menu is slightly askew — like, Ethiopian spiced birria tacos or garlic noodles with Japanese flavors — but the burger is pretty straightforward. It’s also delicious. Another double-smash, it has good beef flavor and proper char, crisp house-made pickles, and a squishy bun just like most of the others. Two things set it apart though: Super melty Cooper’s sharp American cheese and a swipe of smoky chipotle aioli. The shoestring fries that accompany it are also delicious.

Stepchld: 24 University Ave. N.E., Minneapolis; 612-354-7409; www.stepchld.com

This is the burger at Baldamar, the steakhouse at Rosedale Center. (Jess Fleming / Pioneer Press)

Baldamar: This swanky steakhouse, which is also behind 6Smith in Wayzata, knows its way around a burger. Its lunch burger is a stunner: Two giant patties, plenty of melty swiss cheese and bacon that’s cured and smoked in-house join crisp iceberg, a brandy peppercorn sauce and fried onions on an airy Breadsmith roll for a tasty, and utterly filling (really, consider sharing it) sandwich. The hand-cut, deep-golden fries, served with a truffle aioli, aren’t hurting anything, either. We have yet to try the dinner burger, made with wagyu beef and topped with gouda and American cheeses, but it’s on our list of things to do.

Baldamar: 1642 W. County Road B2, Roseville; 651-796-0040; baldamar.com

112 Eatery: The spot has become a pilgrimage for burger connoisseurs and it’s easy to see why. James Beard winner chef Isaac Becker takes the classic burger to gourmet heights. The 112 Cheeseburger with grass-fed beef from Niman Ranch out of Iowa is blended with eggs, sauteed onions and spices for a juicy and tasty 6-ounce patty. It’s served with brie on a toasty English muffin, which is off the beaten path, but works wonderfully, allowing diners more enjoyment of the quality, mouthwatering patty without too much bun. House-made pickles with cucumbers with Fresno and Serrano chiles served on the side also add to the deliciousness of this dish.

112 Eatery: 112 N. Third St., Minneapolis; 612-343-7696; 112eatery.com

St. Dinette: If this restaurant’s decision to add plenty of butter to its burger’s beef grind is wrong, I don’t wanna be right. This simple, juicy, two-patty beauty, slathered with American cheese made in-house from Wisconsin cheddar, Wisconsin gruyere and champagne is absolutely one of our top three burgers. The burger comes unadorned, with a pile of sweet, house-made pickles on the side. You should order it while sitting at the bar, where the talented, friendly bartending staff takes care of all your drink needs and then some.

St. Dinette: 261 E. Fifth St., St. Paul; 651-800-1415; saintdinette.com.

The Revival burger with a side of buttery grits.(Jess Fleming / Pioneer Press)

Revival: The care that Chef Thomas Boemer puts into all his food is absolutely apparent in this burger. Boemer grinds grass-fed beef in-house, using 80% short rib and 20% brisket. That specific grind, tested over many months, gave Boemer the mouthfeel he was looking for. It’s purposely split into two patties to double the char flavor, but it’s somehow still pink in the middle. The meat is so good it almost doesn’t need cheese, but it doesn’t hurt, either. Even the slightly undersized bun is designed to put the focus on that fantastic meat. You can top it with really thick-cut bacon for an extra $2, but it doesn’t need it. At all. We could go on, but we’ll stop with this: Go get it.

Revival: 525 Selby Ave., St. Paul, 651-340-2355; 4257 Nicollet Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-345-4516; revivalfriedchicken.com

The Lexington: Our love for this half-pound behemoth cannot be overstated. Dearly departed chef Jack Riebel’s recipe — house-ground steak trimmings to create a simple, beefy, juicy, stupid delicious burger that really does taste like steak — is still going strong. It’s topped simply with Swiss cheese, shredded lettuce, pickles, onions and the Lex “special sauce.” The swanky atmosphere of the Lex only adds to the experience.

The Lexington: 1096 Grand Ave., St. Paul; 651-289-4990; thelexmn.com

Borough/Parlour: The Parlour Burger is served unadorned, save for what looks like a few slap-dash sliced pickles on the side, but it would be a mistake to judge this sandwich by its cover. Two thin, perfectly seared patties (made from freshly ground sirloin, rib-eye and brisket) absolutely drip with cheese and are contained by a grilled bun. In Minneapolis, if you want it for lunch, you’ll have to hit the upstairs stunner, Borough, or get it downstairs at the cocktail-centric Parlour in the evening. But at Parlour St. Paul, you can get it whenever they’re open.

Borough: 730 Washington Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612-354-3135; boroughmpls.com

Parlour St. Paul: 267 W. Seventh St., St. Paul; 651-207-4433; parlourbar.com

Dive bar burgers

They may not all have a website, but they have regulars, pull tabs, and griddles that have been around long enough to give their burgers a little extra seasoning.

The burger at Station No. 6 at Rosetown American Legion. (Jess Fleming / Pioneer Press)

* Station No. 6 at Rosetown American Legion: This popular burger-centric food truck followed the 328 Grill model, opening a food operation within the Rosetown American Legion. This is definitely a trend we can get behind — an important community space gets delicious food, and an operator gets a steady stream of new customers while also bringing its fans to the joint venture. Rosetown is very lucky to have Station No. 6, which produces one of the best, crisp-edged smashies in town. Since each patty is 5 ounces, one is definitely enough for me, but you do you. They’re served topped in a number of ways, on a good bun and with fast-food fries that are actually golden brown instead of pale yellow, as the burger gods intended.

Station No. 6: 700 W. County Road C, Roseville; stationno6foodtruck.com

328 Grill at the Legion: Chef Mik German brought his bar-food operation to the St. Paul Park American Legion and infused the place with new life — and new customers. Burger lovers have found their way to this off-the-beaten-track locale that serves creative, delicious burgers, sandwiches and sides. Though it’s hard to pick a favorite, we recommend whatever the burger of the week is, but also The 328, a juicy patty topped with American, crisp, shredded iceberg, tomato, housemade dill pickles and an herb-infused mayo. And if you’re a fan of hot peppers, the Jalapeno Bizness, infused with smoky bacon, jalapeno peppers and cheddar jack and topped with smoked cheddar and spicy mayo, is a real treat.

328 Grill at the Legion: 328 Broadway Ave., St. Paul Park; 651-459-8016; 328grill.com

Bay Street Burger Dive: With a name like Burger Dive, the burgers had better be good. And they are. Chef Nick O’Leary, who has a long résumé working at some finer dining restaurants in town, including The Lexington, where he’s helming the kitchen, serves up burgers and other bar food here, and each item on this menu gets proper attention. As for the burgers, try the Wedge, a burger play on the popular wedge salad, which is a gloriously messy and delicious concoction; or the Onion, with onions in raw, fried, onion dip and onion jam forms. The latter is definitely only for onion fans, but if you’re one, you’ll love it. Go with friends and order all the sides — from the pierogies to the curried cauliflower to best-in-class fried mushrooms, jalapeno cheese curds and onion rings — they’re all good. In fact, I prefer any of them to the fairly ho-hum fries.

Bay Street Burger Dive: 731 Randolph Ave., St. Paul; 651-294-3240; burgerdivemn.com

Shantytown Bar and Grill: We’d heard about this awesome suburban dive bar, where the burgers are good and the conversation is better, for years before we checked it out — don’t make our mistake. The space and the burger do not disappoint. We love the simple bacon cheeseburger, served without any pesky lettuce or tomato to muck things up. The tater tots are extra crispy and served with seasoned sour cream, but we’d come back just for the lightly battered, perfectly tender onion rings.

Shantytown Bar and Grill: 8512 Pillsbury Ave. S., Bloomington; 952-881-7223

Half Time Rec: The Rec’s award-winning, half-pound burgers are made with good beef, cooked through but still plenty juicy, and topped with a number of options, but we prefer the one with tangy, pickled green tomatoes, and a flavorful house-made sauce. It’s a three-napkin affair that goes great with a Guinness, which is usually what we’re drinking at this long-standing, appropriately dingy Irish pub.

Paddy Shack at Half Time Rec: 1013 Front Ave., St. Paul; 651-488-8245; halftimerec.com

The single-patty, Peterson beef burger from Bull’s Horn, chef Doug Flicker’s dive bar in Minneapolis. (Jess Fleming / Pioneer Press)

Bull’s Horn: Oh, how we wish that Doug Flicker and Amy Greeley’s dive bar was in our neighborhood! Flicker, an award-winning fine-dining chef, has put all his know-how into making juicy fried chicken, bologna sandwiches and a really nice, reasonably-sized burger made from Peterson beef. It comes with lettuce, pickles and special sauce, and we highly recommend adding the house-made American cheese and some righteous, smoky bacon.

Bull’s Horn: 4563 34th Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612-208-1378; bullshornfoodanddrink.com

Neighborhood burgers

These spots close to home serve a crave-worthy burger.

The burger at MyBurger on St. Paul’s Grand Avenue. (Jess Fleming / Pioneer Press)

* MyBurger: Although this local chain is dangerously close to fast food, the burgers themselves are a big step up from what you can get in a drive-through. Properly seasoned, smashed on a griddle but still juicy enough, with quality toppings and reasonable prices, it’s a family-friendly option for busy nights. The fact that the St. Paul location is on a busy corner without much parking kept us from trying these burgers for too long.

My Burger: Multiple locations, including 1580 Grand Ave., St. Paul; 651-330-7816; myburgerusa.com

The Tommie Smash burger at Tiffany Sports Lounge in St. Paul. (Jess Fleming / Pioneer Press)

* Tiffany Sports Lounge: The first time we tried a burger at Tiff’s, it was probably a decade ago, and we were, to put it politely, unimpressed. Since then, the neighborhood bar and restaurant has upped its game, succumbing to the double-smash trend and doing it pretty well. We are especially big fans of the Tommie Smash, a messy affair that involves a queso-like pepper-jack sauce, jalapenos, bacon and chipotle ranch. It’s a juicy, spicy, delicious mess, though, in a beloved neighborhood spot.

Tiffany Sports Lounge: 2051 Ford Parkway, St. Paul; 651-690-4747; tiffanysportslounge.com

The Mac Daddy (left) and Rodeo Smash (right) burgers at Mac’s Diner in North St. Paul, on Oct. 14, 2023. (Jared Kaufman / Pioneer Press)

* Mac’s Diner: This North St. Paul spot opened a little more than a year ago, picking up the proverbial torch (and restored neon sign) from the landmark but long-closed Mac’s Dinette. New Mac’s is bright and tastefully retro, and their signature burger — the Mac Daddy — is a nicely crispy-edged double smash with sauteed onions, fairly gooey cheese, pickles and a house burger sauce. Their other burger, the Rodeo Smash, tops its two patties with cheddar, bacon, barbecue sauce, seasoned sour cream (unnecessary) and crispy onions (very necessary). The “M” logo branded into the buns is a nice touch, too.

Mac’s Diner: 2526 E. 7th Ave, North St Paul; 651-777-9995; macsdinernsp.com

The gyro burger, which includes a double patty with gyro meat, tzatziki sauce, lettuce, tomato and onion, is a signature item at Boga Ice Cream & Burger, pictured Sept. 7, 2023. Boga, run by the owners of Afandina Cafe in Columbia Heights, opened in summer 2023 in the former Dari-Ette Drive-In. (Jared Kaufman / Pioneer Press)

* Boga Ice Cream and Burger: There’s new life in the old Dari-Ette Drive-In spot on Minnehaha Avenue thanks to Boga, a walk-up burger stand that opened this summer from the same family behind Afandina Cafe in Columbia Heights. The burgers are affordable and creative, if a little imperfect. Their signature gyro burger is tasty, but, during a visit earlier this fall for our Small Bites restaurant review column, the gyro meat atop the cheesy patties felt like an afterthought. The seasoned fries and cheese curds are both stunning, though, and a scoop of dense gelato is a sweet way to finish out the meal.

Boga Ice Cream and Burger: 1440 E. Minnehaha Ave; 651-200-3785

Groveland Tap: This restaurant, known for its great burgers and a tap beer list a mile long, was recently renovated to add a bar to sit at while you wait for a table, which was a great move. The single-patty burgers here are just the right size, loosely pattied with a perfect amount of crisp on the outside without being overcooked. Though we’re not always a fan of distracting from a great burger with too many toppings, the stroganoff burger with its sauteed mushrooms, melty swiss, sour cream and chives is undeniably awesome.

Groveland Tap: 184 St. Clair Ave., St. Paul; 651-699-5058; grovelandtap.com

Pillbox Tavern: This downtown St. Paul spot opened just before the pandemic closures of 2020, and it’s still chugging along, even without the full downtown workforce. And for burger lovers, that’s a great thing. All burgers start with six ounces of juicy, properly charred meat and a Grandma’s bakery bun — so really, it’s all about your preference of toppings, of which they have plenty.

Pillbox Tavern: 400 N. Wabasha St., St. Paul; 651-756-7566; pillboxtav.com

Foodsmith: This little gastropub, which has a great beer list (but also decent wines and a craft cocktail menu), is one of our favorite spots for a casual, weeknight nosh, and the burger is one we crave. It’s a single, juicy patty, topped with crisp iceberg and lots of pickley remoulade sauce on a pillowy milk bun. Simple, well-executed, delicious. The skin-on deep-golden fries are worth the calories, too.

Foodsmith: 973 S. Smith Ave., West St. Paul; 651-330-0896; foodsmithpub.com

The Burger at Yum Kitchen & Bakery in St. Paul. (Jess Fleming / Pioneer Press)

Yum Kitchen and Bakery: If you’re at this bakery and cafe, you might not think to order the burger, but we’re here to tell you that you absolutely should. It’s two juicy patties with really fresh lettuce, tomato, onion and a special sauce on a house-made bun. It’s served with a crisp pickle and the cafe’s thin, crisp and addictive house-made potato chips. This is one of our favorite lunch spots, especially if we have a meeting, because the space is bright and airy, and we never feel rushed to give up a table because there’s plenty of space.

Yum Kitchen and Bakery: Four locations, including 164 N. Snelling Ave., St. Paul, 651-615-1230; and 8340 City Centre Drive, Woodbury, 651-603-4444; yumkitchen.com

Destination burgers

City dwellers, these burgers are worth the drive.

The burger at LoLo in Hudson, Wis. (Jess Fleming / Pioneer Press)

* LoLo American Kitchen: We recently tried to get another trendy burger in Hudson and struck out. But since my teenage son had his heart set on burgers, we decided to check out this riverside spot. The burgers here are all one good, loosely pattied puck of juicy beef served on a fresh bun and topped with Boston lettuce and an heirloom tomato if you want it. It’s like your neighbor who is a good cook invited you over for burgers. The thin-cut fries are deep golden and salty in the best way, too.

Lolo American Kitchen: 175 S. Second St., Hudson, Wis., 715-808-8025 or 233 S. Main St., Stillwater, 715-808-8025; loloamericankitchen.com

Churchill St.: We love this bright, airy suburban restaurant for a million reasons, including its killer coffee and cocktails, its simple, well-executed menu, its perfect old-fashioned doughnut and its cute little market, which has tempted us on every visit. And the burger here? It’s great. Two well-seasoned patties, fully cooked for the squeamish among us, but still plenty juicy. There’s caramelized onion for sweetness, an aggressive (but welcome) amount of tasty house-made pickles, melty, high-quality Cooper American cheese, and a malted fry sauce, which is awesome for dipping, though the fries are probably my second choice here, as the simple side salad, with a good vinaigrette and some crystally sea salt, is the perfect foil to all the fatty richness of the burger.

Churchill St.: 4606 Churchill St., Shoreview; 612-466-2596; churchillst.com

The Better Half: This hip finer diner in downtown Lakeville was hopping when we visited for dinner, so much so that it was tough to find a parking spot and there was an hour wait for a table (they don’t take reservations, but you can join the waitlist from their website). Still, it was worth the trouble to score a burly, juicy double-smash burger. We went with the classic, which is smothered in melty American cheese and topped with house-made pickles for crunch and acid, diced caramelized onions for sweetness and a “fancy sauce,” which is basically spiced mayo, and encased in squishy bun that somehow holds everything together. The on-tap, house-made old-fashioned here is definitely the move, especially as the temperatures drop.

The Better Half: 20851 Holyoke Ave., Lakeville; 952-214-7402; thebetterhalfmn.com

The burger at Feller in Stillwater, October 2019. (Jess Fleming / Pioneer Press)

Feller: Fall is the best time to visit scenic Stillwater, and if you need a break from browsing one of the town’s many cute boutiques, a burger at Feller is just the thing. Two patties, a baked-in-house brioche bun, house-made American cheese, everything on this plate is cheffed up in just the right way. We also love the addictive little shoestring fries, served in a cute bag, that come with the burger.

Feller: 402 S. Main St., Stillwater (in the Lora Hotel); 651-571-3501; fellerrestaurant.com

B-52 Burgers and Brew: The rooftop patio at this Inver Grove Heights mainstay is one of the most hopping places in the south suburbs. Live music, a full outdoor bar and cushy furniture make it a great place to hang out, especially with one of the restaurant’s awesome burgers. The mushroom gouda, with charred bacon and a scallion aioli, is our current crush. Now there’s a second location in Lakeville, too.

B-52 Burgers and Brew: 5639 Bishop Ave., Inver Grove Heights, 651-451-3838; 20751 Holyoke Ave. Lakeville, 952-213-4150; b52burgersandbrew.com

Burgers and Bottles: There’s a burger for every taste at this suburban strip-mall storefront, and all of them are nicely flame-grilled outside and juicy in. The bacon cheeseburger, with plenty of thick-cut bacon, suits us just fine. The hand-cut fries are delicious, too.

Burgers and Bottles: 1278 Lone Oak Road, Eagan; 651-340-7175; burgersbottles.com

Dick’s Bar: This lovable dive just off the main drag in downtown Hudson has a dark, day-drinking friendly bar, a lighter, appropriately care-worn dining room and a cute little patio. The burgers here are just the way we like them, with a squishy bun and nice griddle char. The Ricky, with American cheese, griddled (not caramelized, there is a difference) onion, lettuce, tomato, and special sauce, is a winner, but we were surprised by just how much we loved the French onion burger, which is an oniony take on a patty melt, made with a nice, tangy sourdough bread and served with au jus for beefy, salty dipping.

Dick’s Bar: 111 Walnut St., Hudson; 715-386-5222; dicksbarhudson.com

King’s Bar and Grill: It’s best to leave for remote Miesville when there’s plenty of daylight, and preferably when there are some fall colors to enjoy. This roadside eatery attracts lots of motorcyclists, because the drive is a pretty one. The restaurant is worth the trek, too, with relatively small, tasty burgers that are topped with all manner of craziness, from peanut butter to giardiniera to sauerkraut to pineapple. Though there are more than 90 varieties, we are fans of the relatively simple Knight: sauteed mushrooms, onions, lettuce, tomato and mayo. You should also upgrade to the thin, crisp, skin-on fries to go with that burger (they are usually served with chips).

King’s Bar and Grill: 14460 240th St. E., Miesville; 651-437-1418; kingsplacebar.com

Tavern Grill: If you look around the sprawling dining room at this suburban outpost, probably half the diners are chowing down on thick, juicy burgers served on fresh buns. We’re often put off by barbecue sauce on a burger, but the house bourbon red sauce on the Tavern Style Burger here is less sweet than most, and pairs beautifully with smoked gouda and crispy bacon.

Tavern Grill: Multiple locations, including 772 Bielenberg Drive, Woodbury, 651-578-3000; 10950 Club West Parkway Suite 280, Blaine, 763-398-8100; 3561 Lexington Ave., Arden Hills, 651-478-4450; 15435 Founders Lane, Apple Valley, 952-683-1222; 6740 France Ave. S., Edina, 952-358-6100; thetaverngrill.com

Wild Bill’s Sports Saloon: This local chain has a ginormous menu, but the thick, fresh burgers are really where it’s at. We’re partial to the “Feelin’ Gouda,” which features plenty of gouda cheese, some garlicky aioli and crisp bacon on a griddled egg bun, preferably while watching a football game, because the place is lousy with televisions and has special events every Sunday. The outfit took over the former Liffey space in the Holiday Inn in downtown St. Paul last year, too.

Wild Bill’s Sports Saloon: Six locations, including 175 W. Seventh St., St. Paul, 651-556-1420; 546 Commons Drive, Woodbury; 651-357-1050 and 15020 Glazier Ave., Apple Valley; 952-432-2455; wildbillssportssaloon.com

Cult burgers

These are the burgers for which people are willing to wait — sometimes as long as an hour or two. And they are worth the hype.

Private Sector Provisions’ double smash burger at their pop-up at Nova Bar in Hudson, Wisc., on Oct. 18, 2023. (Jared Kaufman / Pioneer Press)

* Private Sector Provisions: The guys behind this buzzy pop-up make a truly unbelievable burger. A big bad ball of beef, topped with raw onions, is smashed directly into the flat top and hit with seasoning, letting everything commingle as it cooks. (“I’m trying to be vulnerable with the beef,” co-owner Brett Splinter joked as he manned the grill. “You have to give it love!”) Two of those, each with its own slice of American cheese, go onto a soft toasted bun with delightfully dilly house pickles and sauce. For $10! An extra dollar for a bag of chips. Tell me where else you’re going to get a quality burger for that price, let alone one that’s as juicy and beefy and perfectly, dreamily savory as this. Impossible! This is what a burger is meant to be. My bun runneth over.

Private Sector Provisions: Currently a pop-up at Nova Bar in Hudson (236 Coulee Rd, Hudson), but follow them on Instagram @privatesectorprovisions for times/availability.

The Burger from Bebe Zito at The Market at Malcolm Yards. (Jess Fleming / Pioneer Press)

Bebe Zito: Can a burger become a cult phenomenon in less than four years? In this case, yes. The folks behind this Uptown Minneapolis ice cream shop started slinging an inexpensive burger during the pandemic, and almost immediately, lines began to form. It was only available on weekends, which was part of its allure. But lucky for us, they now have a counter at The Market at Malcolm Yards and another at Eat Street Crossing, so we can all get our hands on this bacon-infused, thinly smashed, properly cheese-enrobed burger, which gets extra flavor from kicky pickled cukes and onions. It’s a cult burger for a reason, folks. The ice cream is amazing, too.

Bebe Zito: 704 22nd St. W., Minneapolis (Friday-Sunday only); The Market at Malcolm Yards, 501 30th Ave. S.E., Minneapolis; Eat Street Crossing, 2819 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis; bebezitomn.com

Casper and Runyon’s Nook and Shamrocks Irish Nook: The original Nook and its larger counterpart, Shamrocks, make what might be the best Juicy Lucy (called a Juicy Nookie) in town, but the burger that makes meat-lovers weep with joy is the Nookie Supreme. The burger is two giant patties of the restaurant’s proprietary Angus chuck, separated by a bun half and copious amounts of dripping American cheese. It’s topped with lettuce, onion and a tangy special sauce that ties the whole thing together. It’s a don’t-put-it-down burger, but good luck when beautifully browned fries are sitting there, likely covered with sauce and cheese drippings. Two patties are way too much for me, but a server recently revealed a valuable secret: Order a cheeseburger with lettuce and special sauce, and — presto! — a single version of the hour-wait-worthy burger.

Casper & Runyon’s Nook: 492 S. Hamline Ave., St. Paul; 651-698-4347; crnook.com

Shamrocks Irish Nook: 995 W. Seventh St., St. Paul; 651-228-9925; crnook.com

Matt’s: The menu includes a completely unfancy Jucy (their spelling, not ours) Lucy on a completely unfancy bun in a divey neighborhood tavern. But the burger is very Minnesota, and everyone should eat it at least once. Plenty of famous people have visited, including President Barack Obama in 2014. The fries are fast-food quality but plentiful, and the well-worn griddle produces a tasty burger char.

Matt’s Bar: 3500 Cedar Ave., Minneapolis; 612-722-7072; mattsbar.com

Burgers for beer (and cocktail) hounds

Like a craft beer or tasty cocktail with your burger? These places are for you.

Drive Thru burger at Dark Horse Bar and Eatery in Lowertown, St. Paul. (Jess Fleming / Pioneer Press)

* Dark Horse Bar and Eatery: One of our favorite bars, period, Dark Horse offers a great tap selection, and of course, a delicious burger, which got an update this year. The Drive Thru burger features patties that are coated in mustard before hitting the grill (a la the In-N-Out Animal Burger), which gives them a little tang and crisp. American cheese blends in, without overwhelming, and there is caramelized onion for sweetness, shredded lettuce and pickle for freshness and lots of special sauce on a good, squishy, buttery brioche bun. Four napkins, five stars. And the chip-like fries that accompany it are worth the calories to boot.

Dark Horse Bar and Eatery: 250 E. Seventh St., St. Paul; 651-313-7960; darkhorsebarandeatery.com

The burger at Animales Burger Co., which is parked outside Bauhaus Brew Labs in Northeast Minneapolis. (Jess Fleming / Pioneer Press)

* Animales Burger Co.: Chef Jon Wipfli’s burger truck is back at Bauhaus Brew Labs, and it’s as good as ever. The Burger is a Peterson Meats grind, smashed and cooked until perfectly crisp and juicy, topped with American cheese and slightly sweet pickles. The sturdy milk bun is made in house. It goes great with any of Bauhaus’ beers — or a low-dose THC beverage.

Animales Burger Co. (at Bauhaus Brew Labs): 1315 Tyler St. N.E., Minneapolis; animalesbarbeque.com/burgers

* Bricksworth Beer Co.: The Burnsville brewpub, run by BlackStack Brewing founders’ son, opened its second location in Minneapolis’ North Loop this year. The food menu is nearly identical to the wings and Detroit-style pizzas on offer in Burnsville, with one addition — a “handhelds” section — that contains precisely one item: The Bricksworth Smash Burger. And honestly, it’s fine. The two patties were smaller than expected but tasty, although they got lost under the cheese. The bright spot was the pickles, which are made in-house and have a spicy zing. It’s solid beer food, but the rest of the menu is a little more on-point.

Bricksworth Beer Co.: 305 N 5th Ave Suite 105, Minneapolis; 612-886-1848; bricksworthbeer.co

Inver Grove Brewing: I love this busy brewpub, which is really just what this south metro suburb needed. Everything, including the beer, is made from scratch, here, and the house burger, made from a brisket/chuck blend, is straightforwardly delicious. A single juicy patty, American, lettuce, tomato, house-made dill pickles and a zippy little house sauce make everything I need to make a tough day brighter.

Inver Grove Brewing: 9051 Buchanan Trail, Inver Grove Heights; 651-370-1565; igbrewing.com

Tipsy Steer at High Pines Brewing: East metro brewery High Pines wisely partnered with kitchen outfit Tipsy Steer, which serves a pretty giant menu of scratch-made bar food. We had a few burgers here, but are partial to the Fairibault Pride, a juicy, beefy patty made from Swanson Reserve beef and topped with aged cheddar and Gorgonzola as well as sweet caramelized onion and thick-cut bacon and nestled in a well-buttered bun. It’s greasy — but in the best way — and pairs perfectly with a crisp beer.

High Pines/Tipsy Steer: 2704 N. Snelling Ave., Roseville; 651-200-3581; highpinesbrewing.com; tipsysteer.com/roseville

A-Side Public House: This brewpub in St. Paul’s West Seventh neighborhood has everything it needs to make it a must-visit for us: House-brewed beer, but also wine or cocktails, and a super tasty double-smash burger. The Station 10 burger is two juicy patties, gilded with melty muenster cheese and a few pickles. The house sauce has a sweetness to it that’s appealing — ask for some on the side so you can dip the tasty, thin-cut fries in it.

A-Side Public House: 754 Randolph Ave., St. Paul; 651-756-1351; asidepublichouse.com

Brunson’s classic double burger features two burly patties, ample amounts of melty American cheese and fresh onion, tomato and pickle. (Jess Fleming / Pioneer Press)

Brunson’s Pub: I love the beer list (and the affordable craft cocktails) at this east-side pub, which has a whole menu of craveable, upscale bar food at very downscale prices. There are three burgers, but we are partial to the classic double, which consists of two juicy patties, lots of melty American cheese and enough classic toppings that getting our mouth around the thing is a challenge. This is one of the only spots where we skip the fries and go for the house-made potato chips instead. Order a side of the restaurant’s onion-dill dip to go with them — you won’t be sorry.

Brunson’s Pub: 956 Payne Ave., St. Paul; 651-447-2483; brunsonspub.com

Red Cow: This burger-centric restaurant has wisely also taken up the flag for craft beer, and its list is something to behold. Cocktails here are great, too, and wine-nerd owner Luke Shimp has curated a fun and very global selection. The burgers here are all decent, but we’re partial to the mushroom swiss. The fungus here is cooked in a glug of merlot for extra richness, and melty swiss and a swipe of garlic mayo are the perfect accompaniments.

Red Cow: 393 Selby Ave., St. Paul (and three Minneapolis locations); 651-789-0545; redcowmn.com

Pat’s Tap: Much has been written about the Bacon Burger, in which bacon is ground into the (admittedly delicious) thick patty, which is topped with Swiss cheese and fried onions. But the burger that has this Wisconsin native’s heart is the Big Cheese Burger, topped with a fat slab of tangy cheddar that is flipped and griddled so the cheese is caramelized on top. The burger comes with house-made pickles and luscious, acidic heirloom tomatoes that serve as the anti-ketchup. Just thinking about that burger still makes me swoon. And the full-page beer list isn’t too shabby, either.

Pat’s Tap: 3510 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis; 612-822-8216; patstap.com

Surly: The destination brewery knows that burgers and beer belong together. Two smashed patties, plenty of melty American cheese, crisp pickles, just enough red onion for bite and a swipe of “fancy sauce” keep things interesting. The brewery recommends pairing it with Furious, its flagship IPA, but you can’t go wrong with just about any of the brewery’s well-made, tasty beers.

Surly Brewing Company: 520 Malcolm Ave. S.E., Minneapolis; 763-999-4040; surlybrewing.com

Related Articles

Restaurants, Food and Drink |

Why are eggs so expensive and which are best? Cracking the code on carton labels

Restaurants, Food and Drink |

Gretchen’s table: Apples sweeten this chicken pot pie

Restaurants, Food and Drink |

On its 40th anniversary, Kowalski’s remains committed to being a civic-minded neighborhood grocer

Restaurants, Food and Drink |

Now open: Little Brazil, a cafe and market highlighting affordable regional Brazilian cuisine

Restaurants, Food and Drink |

Gretchen’s table: Fall in love with an apple salad with maple vinaigrette


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.