The burger: The question of the day is, “What constitutes bacon ‘jam’”? The answer: “It’s mostly bacon, with vinegar, onions and a little bit of pure maple syrup,” said Colossal Cafe co-owner Elizabeth Tinucci. It’s also fantastic – one of the all-time great burger garnishes -- and the topper on a monster of a burger that Tinucci has christened the “Breakfast Burger.” Because, why not start your day with America’s favorite sandwich? Or have "breakfast" for lunch?
Naturally, the folks at the Colossal aren’t tentative about piling it on.
“We don’t hold back on the bacon, that’s for sure,” said Tinucci with a laugh.
As for the patty – and yes, it’s there, buried beneath all of that chopped pork -- it’s a quarter-pounder, cooked on a flattop to medium-rare, with plenty of pink inside, and a flavorful char on the outside. Keeping her business in the neighborhood, Tinucci buys the freshly ground beef from the meat counter at Tim & Tom’s Speedy Market for her two St. Paul locations, and at Everett’s Foods for her south Minneapolis spot.
The bun is a standout. It’s baked in-house, a milky formula that’s equally sturdy and soft. It gets a toast on the grill, but not before getting the plenty-of-butter treatment.
The garnish motto is "keep it simple," in an all-major-food-groups kind of way: a thick blanket of sharp Cheddar, and a camera-ready, sunny side-up egg, the runny yolk contributing much-needed texture. Oh, and that dolled-up bacon. What a breakfast. Or, a lunch.
“They’re popular,” said Tinucci. “Maybe it’s because we don’t serve dinner, but people order them all the time, especially on the weekends.”
Fries: None. Burgers are served with chips or a salad. Which makes sense. You're already having a burger at 8 a.m., do you really need fries? Wait, don't answer that.
Where she burgers: “I’m a huge burger person,” said Tinucci. “My two favorites – the ones I eat on a regular basis – are the Paul Molitor at Shamrocks. It’s a Juicy Lucy, but it’s filled with pepper jack cheese. I grew up eating them. And the burgers at Kelly’s Depot. They’re just regular burgers – there’s nothing fancy about them, at all -- and they’re really delicious.”
On your way out: All three Colossal locations sell a phenomenal to-go item. It’s a heat-and-serve chicken pot pie ($13), a lifesaver for anyone facing a last-minute “what’s-for-dinner” quandary. All the proper components are present and accounted for: tons of tender white-meat chicken, the standard potato-carrot-pea triumvirate and a rich cream sauce, all done up a hefty, feeds-two portion. Vegetarians, here’s a tip: Colossal prepares a veggie version (the components change weekly, reflecting seasonal produce) and sells it exclusively at the (newly expanded) Golden Fig in St. Paul.
In other breaking burger news: Parlour is opening its St. Paul location (at 267 W 7th St.) on Monday (doors open at 10 a.m.), and the burger implications are enormous. Yes, the Parlour burger will be available in the 651. Sing hallelujah.
Address book: 2403 E. 38th St., Mpls., 612-886-3443; 1340 Grand Av., St. Paul, 651-414-0543; 2315 Como Av., St. Paul, 651-797-4027. Open daily from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
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