Nope. That’s why you won’t see mention of Parlour, Revival (that's the Revival burger, pictured, above), Matt’s Bar, the Nook or any other top-of-the-charts burger purveyors. (For that list, compiled in January, go here).
Instead, I’ve revisited all 31 installments of Burger Friday from 2018, and selected five that rise to the top. Here goes, in alphabetical order:
This Saintly City branch of a Long Lake brewery is located in Lowertown’s Market House Collaborative, a kind of mini food hall that genuinely practices the “Collaborative” portion of its name. Shane Oporto, chef of Market House anchor tenant Octo Fishbar, created the Birch’s Lowertown menu and produces it in a corner of the Octo kitchen. The burger’s beef comes from the collective’s Peterson Craftsman Meats counter, and the bun is produced by another Market House player, the Salty Tart.
Yes, this is yet another entry ($14) in the already crowded pantheon of double-patty cheeseburgers. But this iteration really stands out, starting with the beef. Each burger utilizes meat from a single (as in one, and not as in unmarried) cow, a rarity that can comes from controlling production — the Peterson grass-fed operation is near Osceola, Wis. — and having the run of the butcher shop.
“What I’m noticing from butchering over here at the butcher shop is that I’m able to grab short rib, rib eye, chuck, all the lead pieces from the round,” he said. “It’s really nice to use that whole cow. I’m not being too picky and choosy, and grabbing parts from 12 or 20 cows to create a certain formula. That’s why the flavor is so good, because you’re getting just that one cow.”
The thin patties weigh in at three ounces. They start in a semi meatball-ish state before being smashed on a hot flat top stove and taken to a still-juicy and still-tender medium. Oporto favors white American cheese. Contributing to the caloric overkill is a prodigious amount of a sauce that’s equal parts ketchup and Kewpie mayonnaise. There’s no lettuce, no tomato, no onion. But Oporto doesn’t avoid the produce section entirely: he builds a layer of crunchy refrigerator pickles. Five of them, every time.
The bun is Salty Tart chef/owner Michelle Gayer’s patented (well, it should be, anyway) milk-enriched formula. It’s sliced, buttered and toasted, and then the crown of the bun gets a quick browning toast, too.
“We’re using quality meats, we’re adding quality ingredients and on top of that we’re using quality bread from Michelle,” said Oporto. “It’s really that simple.” 289 E. 5th St., St. Paul, 651-432-4677
"We asked ourselves, 'How can we make the best classic cheeseburger that anyone has ever had?'" he said. "It had to start with the bun, because no burger is complete without the perfect bun. If the bun falls short, the burger falls short."
He's right, and Collins also practices what he preaches, because this bun does not disappoint. It's a brioche dough, baked on the premises. Every bite screams "butter," because it's incorporated into the dough and lavishly spread on the inside flat surfaces before they're toasted.
The patty, a thickish 6-ouncer that hugs the bun's edges, is also scrupulously prepared. It's a grass-fed blend of chuck, plus the scaps from the kitchen's New York strip steaks. Collins leaves nothing to chance, grinding and pattying the beef himself. "A lot of it is feel, and eye, and that's tough to explain," he said. "It's not the same as just handing someone a recipe. It's constant technique."
Cheese is American, a housemade version, and plenty of it. Collins also devised a Thousand Island-style formula that incorporates a spiced-up housemade ketchup, a tangy brown mustard, mayonnaise, celery, onions, pickled jalapenos, some first-rate bread-and-butter pickles and a dash of Sriracha, "for a background heat note," Collins said.
Along with more of those crisp, palate-cleansing pickles, the only other embellishment is a pile of soft -- and slightly sweet - onions, cooked on the flat top in a bit of olive oil and seasoned with a surprise ingredient: a splash of tamari. At every turn, the attention to detail is obvious, which explains why Collins clearly has a hit on his hands.
"It's our No. 1 seller," he said. "By a long shot." 402 S. Main St., Stillwater, 651-571-3501
Chef/owner Destiny Buron purchases entire cows, one at a time, from a farmer in Watertown, Minn.
“I get the liver, the heart, the tongue, the bones, everything,” she said. “The rest of the whole cow is ground into beef, for burgers. That’s about 400 pounds of burger meat, per cow.”
That premium, ultra-flavorful beef is the backbone of a memorable burger ($12). The thick-ish patties tip the scale at 5 ounces, and Buron deftly places a gently crunchy char on the exterior but keeps the interior at a medium pink.
“There’s no real secret," she said. "It’s just all the good parts of the cow, and then we don’t overcook it. It’s so good, you can’t beat it.”
As lavish as she goes with the beef, Buron remains restrained with the burger’s other components. A generous layer of house-made pickles — snappy, vinegary, with a slight garlic punch — are a necessary foil to that rich beef. Buron prefers to pile on the American cheese, and selects Minnesota-made Bongards. Onions are sliced thick and grilled, but they don’t spend a lot of time on the stove.
“If the onions are cooked too long, they tend to melt too much into the cheese,” said Buron. “I like them to be a little crisper than that, because I like to layer different textures on a burger.”
The bun — soft, not overly bread-ey, nicely toasted — is baked at Grandma’s Bakery in White Bear Lake.
“We lucked out,” said Buron. “We were using Saint Agnes. The buns that they made were perfect, but they went out of business, and I thought, ‘What am I going to do?’ My Mom called Grandma’s, and they said, ‘The guy from Saint Agnes, he works here now, and he brought his recipes — and most of his employees — with him. And I thought, ‘Oh, score.’”
What a coincidence: Those two words flashed across my mind when I took my first bite of this old-school burger. 285 W. George St., St. Paul, 612-720-4766
Adam Eaton, the chef who helped launch the craze for the double-patty cheeseburger when he opened Saint Dinette in 2015, is revisiting — and revising — that gotta-have equation. This is a burger ($15, with fries) where the beef is front and center. It’s a noticeably beefy blend of brisket, chuck and sirloin that’s dry-aged for 14 days, and that richness is boosted by an over-the-top level of butter that’s expertly blended into the ground beef.
“For every five pounds of meat, there’s one pound of butter,” said Eaton. “It’s a ton of butter.”
No kidding. It’s what Land O’Lakes has been telling us all along: butter really does make everything better. He’s only just starting, dairy-wise. The two well-seasoned, nicely caramelized patties are liberally coated in a cleverly doctored Emmenthaler cheese, a formula that uses Champagne and sodium citrate to enhance the cheese’s sharp qualities, and increase its emulsification, which is a fancy way of saying “meltiness,” if that’s a word.
“Cheese is my favorite food,” said Eaton. “If people had the nerve to ask for extra cheese, they would do it. So I give it to them without them having to ask. Besides, you want a wet sandwich. There’s nothing worse than a dry sandwich.”
The sesame-topped challah bun — it’s baked at PJ Murphy’s in St. Paul — contributes all kinds of goodness.
Eaton improves upon a good thing by brushing the insides with clarified butter and giving the buns a gentle toast. Perfect. Because the beef (and cheese) is so knock-your-socks-off special, add-ons are restrained: lettuce, tomato, raw onion.
“I like the crunch of raw vegetables,” said Eaton. “And I really like a Cali-style burger. And I wanted that classic deli feel.”
No doubt about it, Eaton has another instant-classic burger on his hands. 901 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-315-4608
There are several reasons why chef Peter Hoff adheres to the diner-style, double-patty format for his gotta-have cheeseburger ($15, with fries).
“Two patties means more surface for caramelization, more of that beefy, beefy flavor,” he said. “And in my opinion, when you get those 6- and 7-ounce patties, they’re harder to eat. They’re a real commitment, managing those things. You can’t keep picking them up and putting them down, you have to go head-first into them.”
Surprise, surprise: Following the example of many other first-rate Twin Cites burgers, this one wisely relies upon ground beef from Peterson Craftsman Meats.
“It’s what Andy [Peterson] calls his ‘Chuckwagon’ blend,” said Hoff. “It’s really rich, probably close to a 70/30 [meat/fat] ratio, nice and juicy. When you’re making thin, two- to three-ounce patties, you want more fat in the grind, because you want the patties to be nice and juicy. That higher fat ratio keeps them from drying out.”
The golden, challah-style bun — soft, with a subtly sweet after-bite, its interior crisply toasted — plays a key role in this burger’s success. It’s baked at Turtle Bread Co. Cheese is two semi-melted slices of American. It’s also a well-sauced burger. When Hoff was living — and cooking — in California, he became a card-carrying member of the In-N-Out Burger nation.
“I’ll just blatantly call myself a rip-off artist,” Hoff said with a laugh. “The In-N-Out Double-Double is the best burger there is, and this sauce is a riff on that. We slather it on everything here.”
The Thousand Island-like formula, a total umami-booster, includes mustard, tomato paste and mayonnaise, to which Hoff adds grated cornichons and hard-cooked egg. It’s one of many reasons why Hoff sells a lot of burgers.
“A ton,” he said. “In a given week, we’ll sell a couple of hundred.” 511 Washington Av. N., Mpls., 612-800-6033
Talk to me: Do you have a favorite burger? Share the details at email@example.com. Burger Friday will return on Jan. 4.
Note: This compilation originally included the burger from the Draft Horse, but the northeast Minneapolis restaurant closed on Dec. 30th. The list has been amended to include Feller in Stillwater.