Some of the best sounds and smells of summer come from the sizzle and crackle of burgers on a hot grill. Whether they're skinny and smashed with salty-crisp lacy edges or thick and juicy with pink in the middle, it is their season to shine.
To pay tribute, we've compiled a burger bucket list for summer 2023. These are all the new and notable beefy burgers that are worth a trip across town, or even across the state line. From a new pop-up that pulls into a neighborhood parking lot to a seasonal bite best paired with ice cream and a totally new-to-us creation that's developed into a new obsession, it's not a summer well-lived without these beautiful burgers. Dig in. (Bonus: The next hot place to get burgers? A random person's backyard.)
The Salsa Collaborative
Pop-up darlings Brian and Nikki Podgorski have settled into a residency at Hackamore Brewery in Chanhassen, where they recently unveiled a four-burger lineup: the no-fuss Cheese Please, patty melt, Just B.S. BBQ and Earth & Vine, TSC's version of mushroom and Swiss ($13-$15, includes chips). Each begins with a well-seasoned smash patty (extra patties are $4 each; stack as many as you want) and escalates from there. There is no wrong choice, but the Earth and Vine — two crisped-up quarter-pound smash patties topped with herb-roasted mushrooms, Swiss-American cheese and housemade red wine sauce — is divine. Pro tips: Don't procrastinate, as burgers sell out. And don't leave without an oatmeal creme pie cookie sandwich ($5).
The North Loop's shiny new French bistro has a familiar burger on the menu. The Oui Burger ($18) comes wrapped in foil so the buttery bun and burger inside gets all steamy, not unlike a Culver's classic — and much like the burger at chef/owner David Fhima's other restaurants. But here, you can have this indulgent handheld one of two ways: for happy hour at a standout veiny blue marble counter or below ground at the seductive Moulin Rouge-style bar.
224 N. 1st St., Mpls., maisonmargauxmpls.com
This new Northeast restaurant has all the hallmarks of a classic all-day diner, with crispy hash browns, fresh-baked treats and a serious burger. There's no going home hungry after feasting on this double-stacked burger ($15) that's topped with shredded lettuce, American cheese and a secret sauce. Even though the patties are thin, there's a little pink in the middle, which makes for a juicy bite. Throw in fries for $2 or pair alongside an adult beverage — Relish also has a full bar.
700 Central Av. NE., Mpls., relishmpls.com
It's almost surprising that it took the Duluth Grill restaurant group this long to go all in on a burger joint. Burger Paradox is exactly the kind of place where out-of-towners are willing to line up, but locals can claim as their own. Serving affordable burgers with a variety of toppings all for $15 or less, the interior has major '90s neon vibes. So does the It's Called Royale with Cheese ($12): burger purity with double/skinny patties, sauce and a couple of squares of drippy, yellow cheese.
2113 W. Superior St., Duluth, burgerparadox.com
Star Bar & Bistro
Downtown Minneapolis happy hour has been slow to return, but the newly opened Star Bar is making a strong argument for the comeback of office lunches. Antithetical to the current skinny burger phenomenon, the California Burger has more substance, stacking two patties on a squishy milk bun ($16) with quality lettuce, red onion and a thick tomato slice. Paired with good fries and a gorgeous setting, it's a lovely excuse to sneak out during the workday — or linger after. Star Bar is open for happy hour, too.
618 2nd Av. S., Mpls., starbarbistrompls.com
Private Sector at Nova Bar
The Private Sector burger ($10) has been a cult favorite since it began as a pop-up. Now, this mess of a burger can reliably be found at Nova Bar in Hudson, Wis., every Wednesday night until they sell out (and they always sell out). Prop those elbows on the bar and get ready for the juice and sauce to drip down your greasy grip. The meat is smashed into charred onions on the flat top, creating flavor alchemy that's worth the trip across the border. Further topped with special sauce and piled on a specially made bun that somehow manages to be soft while retaining its integrity beneath all that juiciness only furthers the argument that this burger is magical.
236 Coulee Road, Hudson, Wis., novabarhudson.com
A Big Mac, but in the hands of a chef: That's how we'd describe this near-identical fast-food mainstay, only with way better ingredients, from this Excelsior newcomer by Daniel del Prado. Two thicker smash patties get topped with American cheese that oozes out the sides, plus pickles and special sauce — a nostalgic combination ($18).
301 Water St., Excelsior, laylinerestaurant.com
The ultimate beefy wallop ($10) is delivered courtesy of this diminutive, crushed-on-a-griddle burger. The proper smash burger with the crispy meat lace around the edges is topped with American cheese, Dream Sauce and garlic-dill pickles. From the chefs behind Travail, it's only available during the warm season on the patio at Dream Creamery. (The rest of the year, get the Dream Burger at Robbinsdale's Nouvelle Brewing, which has a fine patio of its own.)
816 Lowry Av. NE., Mpls., dreamcreamerymn.com
Animales Burger Co.
Jon Wipfli may have built Animales' meaty reputation on barbecue, but the burgers are worth their own shrine to meat glory. It's almost not fair that one place can do two separate things this well, but just go with it. Burgers are available on the Bauhaus Brew Labs patio Tuesday and Wednesday nights.
1315 NE. Tyler St., Mpls., animalesbarbeque.com
Toma Mojo Grill
Toma's colorful array of housemade sauces channel the flavors of Spain and Portugal, and usually accompany pork and chicken. But they're equally at home on a cheeseburger ($10.99), served with a side of seasoned fries or Brussels sprouts. Available as a single or double (spend the extra $2 for the double), it's the ideal topping-to-burger ratio, with cheddar, lettuce shreds, tomatoes and crunchy white onions on board along with your choice of sauce. From creamy herb aioli to a spicy piri-piri, it can taste like a different burger every time. Bonus points for the friendly service and charming patio.
1700 E. 66th St., Richfield, tomamojogrill.com
In the dark days of the pandemic, even before the restaurant fully opened, there was Le Petite Cheeseburger ($14). It remains the stuff of beefy legend, but now we get to eat it on the cute little sidewalk patio outside Petite León — not because we can't go inside, but because who would want to on a sun-filled day like this? Unctuous, crusty patties are smothered in umami-sweet charred onions and luscious white cheese and snappy pickles.
3800 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., petiteleonmpls.com
Despite Blondette being a beautiful scene of the "be seen" variety, it's best to abandon all hope of delicacy when attacking the Blondette Burger ($21). Snag a spot on the impressive fifth-floor patio that's tucked among the towering buildings of downtown Minneapolis and maybe request extra napkins before digging in. The rich beef is topped with smoked cheddar, giving it a faint summer campfire taste, along with the rich and tangy tarragon-laced mustard. Juices dripped down our forearms as we ate it, which is where those extra napkins come in.
527 Marquette Av. S., Mpls., 612-224-3750, blondettempls.com
World Street Kitchen
A new addition to the menu at this 11-year-old Lyndale Avenue institution puts the flavors of the Middle East between a sesame seed bun. The Beef Kofta Burger ($14) matches spiced beef kofta with white American cheese, pickled cukes and a special sauce laced with fiery harissa (use the accompanying battered fries to dip that sauce up). We don't know how we went this long without it.
2743 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls., eatwsk.com