Category: Burger (Page 1 of 4)

Returning to Fargo: The Best Place To Stop For A Snack Off I-94

Disclaimer: Logan spoiler. 

Oh, Logan. North Dakota was supposed to have a starring role. The whole film builds towards this majestic moment where all of the little mutants make a grand pilgrimage to North Dakota.

I’ve gone as North as Grand Forks and I’ve driven across the state from Fargo to Medora. The burnt orange, rolling prairie grass and rugged terrain of Theodore Roosevelt National Park left me awestruck. I’m sure the prairie grass is scratchy and thick with critters, when you drive by and see it gently rolling in the wind, you’ll want to pull your car over and take a nap in it.

North Dakota is actually really beautiful. I could see the characters in Logan reaching the fictional destination of Eden in my mind as prairie grass danced in the wind.

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Let’s Fight About Jucy Lucys

Once I got into an Anchorman-style fight on Twitter about Jucy Lucy’s. Someone definitely drew a Twitter trident.

Fighting about Jucy Lucys is relatively easy to do in Minnesota. Many of us harbor lots of strong feelings about the subject.

If you’ve never heard of a Jucy Lucy, it’s essentially a burger stuffed with cheese. Two restaurants in Minnesota claim to have invented it. If you’ve ever seen Jucy Lucys featured on national television shows or travel blogs, you’ll probably find they only feature Matt’s Bar and 5-8 Club. This usually has me rolling my eyes because they leave out the Nook (or Casper & Runyan’s Nook, to be exact).

I really haven’t had that many versions of the Jucy Lucy and I haven’t even visited the 5-8 Club which is going to compel some to cry “heresy.” Once upon a time we tried Matt’s Bar and then we visited the Nook. Then, we thought we should branch out and try a different place and the burgers were overcooked and disappointing so we kept returning to the Nook.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t visit other places. And I’m not saying that we shouldn’t either. I’m just saying that the Nook is my favorite.

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Let Me Tell You About The Four Best Burgers I Ate This Year 2015

Burgers are one of my endearing passions. As I look back over the past year, these four burgers stand out above the rest:


1. The Galley Boy at Swensons Drive In, Cuyahoga Falls, OH


This is the burger I waited over 10 years for. Lebron James totally likes this burger, too, and mentioned Swensons is the first place he stops when we returns to Akron. He took his Trainwreck co-stars Amy Schumar, Judd Apatow and Bill Hader to the drive-in for Galley Boys and shakes when the film premiered in his hometown.

Akron isn’t my hometown, but almost feels like it. We visited often to see our grandparents and always stopped at Swensons. This fall I road tripped to Cedar Point for a conference and made a burger pilgramage. I’m happy to report that the car hops still sprint to your car and the Galley Boy tastes like it always has. The bun’s buttered and toasted and the two burger patties taste like they’re seasoned with a hint of brown sugar.

What really makes the Galley Boy unique is the combination of sauces. One tastes like BBQ and the other like tartar, which may sound strange, but totally works. And then there’s the cheese. Finally, it’s garnished with a big, green olive so that sort of makes it like a burger martini.

2. Blue Cheese Burger, Jimmy’s Pro Billiards, Minneapolis, MN

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I was invited to join Heavy Table on this leg of their Central Avenue Food Crawl. Our last stop landed at Jimmy’s Pro Billiards. The interior opened into expansive pool tables. We perched at high tops near the grill window. I think it’s safe to say that we were all surprised by how much we liked the burgers. Soon after, HT Writer Amy even returned to Jimmy’s wrote this piece focusing on the burgers.

The young woman who took our order also cooked our meal. She was friendly and hospitable. We didn’t specify burger doneness and they did arrive cooked-through. Still, they were tasty and prepared with care. This blue cheese burger sandwiched between a toasted bun and homemade blue cheese dressing was my favorite.

The hand-cut fries were sprinkled with a seasoning salt with a intriguing hint of sweetness that made me want to return for more even though I was really full. One member of our party ordered a side of ranch dip that was less like salad dressing and more like a sour cream dip. With french fries, it made a delightful combination.

3. Cheeseburger at R.J. Grunts, Chicago, IL

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This cheeseburger just barely snuck onto this year’s “best of” list last week. While staying at the Hotel Lincoln, we walked down the street to R.J. Grunts for pre-Star Wars burgers. Inside the tables and booths were arranged closely together and every inch was packed with customers like the other restaurants we visited that weekend.

I was surprised to learn that R.J. Grunts is the oldest restaurant in the Lettuce Entertain You empire that also includes chains like Big Bowl and Maggiano’s Little Italy, plus non-chains like Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba and Tucci Benucch in the Mall of America. RJ Grunts has a very non-chainy vibe that reminds me more of Cheers than a soulless, over-produced concept. We loved our server, a woman who’s worked here for 34-years. She’s featured in this Eater article highlighting restaurant industry “lifers.” The menu is charmingly illustrated and to-the-point. Ordering is a breeze and diners don’t have to listen to scripted up-sells or promotions.

I ordered a simple cheeseburger with American cheese and it was a stand-out. In fact, everybody’s burgers were. This juicy burger arrived perfectly medium-rare as ordered. I understand the risks of rare beef and take them anyway. Heck, I’d even sign a waiver. I figure if R.J. Grunts has been serving burgers since 1970, it’s a pretty safe place to order medium-rare beef. Everyone in our party of eight ordered burgers with different toppings and stated how each might be the best burger he or she has ever eaten.

Also notable is the salad bar. It’s really, really big and a meal in itself. I found nearly every type of raw veggie and crispy-crunchy topping, homemade salad dressings, roasted beets, tuna pasta salad, and a non-throwaway creamy tomato soup that also tasted scratch-made.

4. Cheeseburger, O’Connell’s Pub, St. Louis, MO

O’Connell’s chargrilled burger was so satisfying, it inspired my post Everything I’ve Ever Wanted To Say About Burgers. We visited in the evening when the lighting was too dim to take a pretty photo. Like R.J. Grunts, O’Connell’s has existed at least since the 70’s. We admired the wall taxidermy and found seats at the big, wooden bar. Service is refreshingly hospitable in a no-nonsense manner.

The cheeseburgers we ordered arrived on paper plates and tasted like our mom and dad grilled the perfect backyard burger but just didn’t screw it up.

Did you enjoy any memorable burgers this year? Where did you find them and what made them worth a shout-out? 

St. Louis Food Firsts: Pork Steak & Cheese Spread Burger

Moving to a new state is stressful but it is also fun.

One of the things I like best about moving is learning about the local food traditions which vary state to state and region to region. Missouri is only two states down from Minnesota. Still, we’re finding that St. Louis has plenty of foods we’ve never tried before.

For one thing, there’s Provel. We both learned that we like it raw and shredded into salads, but we’re less sure how we feel about it melted. Jake’s tried more versions of St. Louis style-pizza than I have. In some cases, he’s liked it, and in others, not so much. We’ve literally never encountered Provel outside of Missouri, so imagine our surprise when we visited a local Italian restaurant and found it topping the chicken parmesan and baked ziti. The jury’s out on melted Provel. We’ve got plenty of time to decide.

This week we entertained several out-of town-guests who treated us to dinner at two restaurants we haven’t visited yet. These meals provided the perfect opportunity to try two foods I haven’t encountered outside of St. Louis:

Burger With Cheddar Cheese Spread
Burgers topped with cheddar cheese spread might be a thing elsewhere, but I haven’t encountered them yet. A while ago, I ran across this Chowhound thread in which a man asked for help finding a burger with cheddar cheese spread in St. Louis. Based upon the responses and a quick internet search, it seems like this type of burger is offered at many local restaurants.

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I spotted it on the menu at Schlafly Brewery in Maplewood, MO. If you’re in the camp that likes goopy cheese sauces, cheese balls, and cheese spreads, you’ll like this style of burger. There’s really nothing not to like. The fact that the cheese spread’s temperature was cooler than the burger struck me as interesting, since I’m used to the cheese being melted onto the burger. But eventually the warm burger patty made the cheese more melty.

Finally, there are two more things I really like about Schlafly: The brewery offers small 10 oz. glasses of beer & did NOT overcook the burger.

Pork Steaks
According to this Feast Magazine article, the pork steak is a slice from the pork shoulder or Boston butt. This cut was made very popular in the 1950’s by the second-generation owners of one of our major grocery store chains, Schnucks. I’ve only seen people cook pork shoulder low and slow in a braise or crock-pot. Supposedly, pork steaks take well to grilling. It seems like they’re typically baked or smoked before receiving a char on the grill. At Hendricks, this was the case.

My North Iowa Blogger friends visited St. Louis this week to promote North Iowa’s new flight service to and from St. Louis via Air Choice One. The city of St. Charles provided a warm welcome and treated us to a meal at Hendricks BBQ. Pork Steak was the Wednesday special and so I ordered it.


Keep in mind that this is the very first pork steak I have ever tried. The meat wasn’t as spoon tender as the menu described, but, honestly, I preferred it not to be. I dislike ribs that are cooked so long that their meat slides from the bones. I prefer the meat to still retain some chew. This pork steak’s flavor and texture reminded me of pork ribs. I especially liked the melting fatty bits around the edges. Jake got to enjoy the leftovers and agrees that we need to eat more pork steaks.

So far, we’ve tried Provel, toasted ravioli, pork steaks, gooey butter cake and cheese spread burgers. We’ve had Mr. Wizard’s frozen custard, but not Ted Drewes’. I still need to try an Imo’s pizza and neither of us has ordered a St. Paul Sandwich, Syberg’s-style wings, or slinger (yet). What unique-to-St. Louis foods should we try next? 

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