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Burger Jones

15 Jan

Burger Jones
Visited December 9th, 2010

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Ryan

At my company, we go through Medica health insurance, and Medica has this nice little program where they reward you for taking surveys and challenges involving your health. Super easy to do, well worth the effort. Anyway, I cashed in $105 worth of rewards on a $75 Target gift card and a $30 Burger Jones gift card. Score! So recently, Lauren and I went to Burger Jones to redeem my $30 worth of healthy behavior in 2010.

I am a big fan of hamburgers, probably because I grew up on a cattle farm where we had freezers stocked full of beef products. It has been a personal food quest of mine to scour the Twin Cities for the perfect burger. I’ve had dozens, from Matt’s Bar to The Nook to Green Mill to Fuddrucker’s, and while many of them were awesome, none stick out in my mind as being the great “go-to” burger I’m seeking. I had hoped Burger Jones could fill that void.

I started my meal off with an adult “hard shake” called the Georgia Peach that included ice cream, vanilla wafers, peaches, peach schnapps, and best of all Jim Beam. The $10 price tag seemed steep, but it was free to me! Mmmm-mmmm was it tasty! My only complaint is it wasn’t enough for me… for $10 I could have had two regular milkshakes and skipped the Beam.

Not being a big cheese guy, I opted for the build-a-burger once again, and chose a medium hamburger with jalapeños, mushrooms, and smoky BBQ sauce, with a side of thick-cut onion rings. Our food was out in less than ten minutes, and I dug right in to that beast of a burger, which was piled high with slices jalapeños. It truly was delicious, as well as I would expect from a restaurant with Burger in the name. However, I would still not say that I’ve had a hamburger at a restaurant that is better than a burger I could cook myself at home using authentic Grade A South Dakota Glanzer beef. To be honest though, the onion rings were among the best I’ve had. It was truly the shake and onion rings that stand out to me about this place.

Our waitress was very pleasant and attentive, the food was great, and we were served in a very timely manner. The food wasn’t outrageously expensive, and they had a lot of unique food and drink options. I really enjoyed myself and would go back again.

Burger Jones, Minneapolis

Ryan

Lauren

I was a little wary when Ryan told me he opted for a Burger Jones gift certificate as I had not heard the best things about it when it opened a year ago. But that husband of mine sure does love his hamburgers! I’m not as much of a meat eater. Oh, the things I do to keep that Ryan Glanzer happy. 😉

For some reason, I was in a rotten mood that night, and when we were originally seated at a table that was right in the middle of the server stations it did not improve. I swear that we were in the center of a triangle of the silverware and napkins, the register and the drink station. I was not having any of that so we asked our server if we could move, and she was fine with it.

They had a decent selection of tap beers but I opted for the cheaper but tasty Grain Belt Nordeast. For food I had for the Green Chile Cheeseburger, with cilantro, salsa verde and an onion ring, along with white cheddar cheese and a side of the maple-bacon sweet potato fries. Ordering fries in addition to a burger is a good idea, I would say, as frequently I can’t even finish a burger at a restaurant. But with most of the specialty burgers priced at $10 and fries for $2 or $3, it’s pretty spendy for a basic meal.

Having said all that, I was actually pretty pleased with the food at Burger Jones. The salsa verde on the burger was decently spicy and I really liked how it came out of the kitchen – the onion ring was a cute little bowl for the salsa. The burger itself was tasty, but given the way they rave about their special blend of different cuts of beef I didn’t find anything too extraordinary about it. The sweet potato fries were not worth the hype to me; the maple-bacon flavor was in the form of little crystals that had been sprinkled over the fries like salt and I thought that given the $3 price tag, the portion was small. For me, that was okay. If we were to go back, however, I would skip ordering fries entirely.
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One thing that really annoyed me about Burger Jones was some of their menu items were priced strangely. For instance, Ryan ordered a side of onions rings for $3, which came with three onion rings. The appetizer portion of onion rings is $7 and comes with six onion rings. The appetizer onion rings come with a dipping sauce, but ordered a la carte the dipping sauces are $.50, so it still doesn’t make sense.

Our service was good – it took us longer to decide what to order than it did for the kitchen to whip up our food, but I suppose that makes sense when you’re just toasting buns, frying burgers on a grill and sticking fries in a deep fryer. Impressive nonetheless, though.

Ambiance – I was actually very impressed with what they’ve done with this former Applebee’s space. It was chic, which you don’t expect in a burger joint.
Service – Friendly and accommodated my request to change tables. Food came out very fast.
Food – It was good, but I wasn’t blown away. It wasn’t the best burger I’ve ever eaten.
Overall experience – I had a good time, and I could be persuaded to go back. Burger Jones seems to be more about style than substance, but based on other reviews from when they opened it seems like they have come a long way in a year and a half.

The Necessities
Burger Jones
3200 West Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55416
612.746.0800
Hours: 11 am-11 pm every day

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Blue Door Pub

27 Aug

Visited Tuesday, August 24th with Dick and Marcie Glanzer

Ryan
With my parents visiting from South Dakota, we decided to take them out to a restaurant on our “must try” list. Something casual and local was the thought, so we took in St. Paul’s Blue Door Pub, one of the area’s four restaurants claiming to have the best Juicy Lucy type of burger. At Blue Door Pub, their famous burger is known as the Blucy.

Much like competitor Matt’s Bar, the line to get a table stretched outside with a 15-20 minute wait for indoor seating. But there were outdoor tables, and on an unseasonably pleasant August night, we opted to sit outside. The only catch is they don’t serve alcohol outside, and their beer list was supposedly very impressive. That was disappointing, but clearly the outdoor area was a far more pleasant place to sit.

I scoured the menu up and down looking for a burger that didn’t have much cheese, but I was out of luck. As I’ve said many times before, I’m not a big cheese fan, but will certainly eat it in smaller doses if it’s part of an entrée. I could have done a custom build-a-burger, but I was really wanting to try one of their original concoctions. With that in mind, I thought the Bangkok Blucy was my best bet. The mozzarella on the inside of the burger was soaked in coconut oil first. The burger was then prepared with  some Thai-style vegetables on top, and came with a side of spicy curry dipping sauce. I also ordered the fries. Dad opted for the Bacon Blucy, while Mom tried the weekly special Guadalupe Lucy.

Bangkok Blucy

Ryan tried the Bangkok Blucy

Coming from a family that raises its own cows, I have eaten many hamburgers over the years, and always have a freezer stocked full of hamburger, so it takes quite a bit to impress this guy. But I must say the Bangkok was pretty awesome. The first few bites were good, but I wasn’t getting a blast of Thai flavor like I expected, but I had overlooked the dish of curry sauce at first. When dipped in that, the Bangkok really came to life! I believe it was a 1/3 lb. burger, which is a bit smaller than the burgers I usually make for myself, but it was filling. I barely noticed the cheese since it had more of a coconut flavor to it. For me, this was a winning burger.

I don’t have much to grade other than the food for the Blue Door Pub, seeing how we didn’t really get to  see the inside of the restaurant or experience their beer list. The service was good, the menu had lots more options than the other local burger establishments, and the food was very tasty. Between the four of us, our bill was in the $40 range, so it was also affordable. I’d go there again.

Lauren:
I had suggested the Blue Door Pub once before, but we ended up going to Saji Ya instead that night – and thank God! We went with Ryan’s parents on a mild Tuesday night at 8pm and found ourselves in the peanut-sized restaurant, yelling back and forth over the din (and probably ruining the dinner of the table we were practically standing on top of) if we should wait for inside seating or sit on the sidewalk and forgo the BDP’s supposedly awesome beer list. We chose the quieter, beer-less route and sought immediate seating outside. I can’t imagine how busy it must be on a Saturday night!

I think it took me longest of the four of us to decide on what I should order… everything looked so tasty! I was torn between the original Blucy and the Merriam Park, which was just like the original (blue cheese and garlic) with the addition of bacon and red currant jelly. In the end I went the sweet-savory route with the Merriam Park. I also ordered tator tots, which I love but ended up being COMPLETELY unnecessary as I could only finish half of my burger.

Merriam Park Blucy

Lauren went the savoury-meets-sweet route with the Merriam Park Blucy

Unfortunately I think I made the wrong choice as the red currant jelly was more sweet than I was expecting…I had hoped for a savory-sweet-tart experience. I thought Ryan’s Bangkok Blucy was FANTASTIC though! That coconut curry dipping sauce they served with the burger was outstanding and I definitely dipped most of my tots in it. He was definitely on the fence about whether to build his own burger or to get one of the house specialties, but I did my part to badger him a little bit about not re-inventing the wheel, and I think he was pleased with his decision.

On all technical notes I think the Blue Door Pub hit all the right notes. While the M.P. Blucy wasn’t my favorite from a taste standpoint, from a Jucy Lucy standpoint it was prepared very well…toasty bun, melty cheese without having a charred meat exterior…mmmmm. I have attempted my share of home-Jucy Lucy making and I can *never* get it right. I always overcook the meat and the cheese leaks out from the burger.

Service was fine, I don’t think any of us had any complaints. I think the server may have forgotten about us once or twice and didn’t check on us very often (I recall her apologising) but I wasn’t bothered; my water and Diet Coke were both kept reasonably filled.

All in all, the Blue Door is definitely a place I would like to go back to. I would love to try another Blucy and experience this beer list I keep hearing so much about! Someone tell me, though, is there a time when they’re not busy? Early Wednesday morning? Sunday at precisely 4:19 pm?

Ambience – 4.5/5. We sat outside. Although BDP is on somewhat of a main  street, it’s a dead end so there isn’t too much traffic past the front of the restaurant
Service – 3.5/5. No complaints here. Our waitress apologized for not checking in with us more, but I don’t think any of us minded being left alone to eat our burgers.
Food – 3.5/5. I think I would have liked it more with a different burger – but that was my fault for bad ordering.  Next time I will know better! Also, I really wish something could be done so you could sit on the sidewalk AND have a beer!
Overall experience – 4/5. I really liked it! It was small, of course, and had an upscale neighbourhood pub feel…although, to really pull off the neighbourhood pub thing, they would need to have about seating for about 50 more, just MHO. But all of the people waiting outside near our table were very mellow, so to have them standing around was not really a bother. I can say that the Blue Door Pub is a place that I would definitely go again!

The Bulldog (Uptown)

18 Jul

Visited July 5th, 2010

The Monday after the Fourth of July, we killed the day by hanging out at The Bulldog’s Uptown location at 26th & Lyndale with friends Chris and Sarah. This was far from the first time any of us had been there. It has long been one of our favorite places to grab a drink as they serve a wide range of European beers, including my all-time favorite, Kwak, which comes in an oddly shaped glass held in place by a wooden stand. We also have enjoyed their selection of burgers, hot dogs, and tator tots. Just a little twist on typical bar food.

Ryan
It wasn’t particularly busy when we arrived at 12:40pm the day after the 4th of July. It appeared as though there were two people on staff—a man working the bar and a woman waiting tables. The woman was completely disheveled. She was running to and fro at top speeds. It took us over 20 minutes for our drink orders to be taken. While we were slightly irritated with the slow service, we were also entertained by the waitress’s manic “drive-by” style of taking our food order and replenishing our drinks throughout our four-hour stay. She didn’t really stop walking, just passed by us and talked as she did other things. I truly have never seen waitressing quite like it, and am not sure I totally hated it.

For lunch, I ordered their special Burger of the Week, which sounded very peculiar—all-beef patty topped with pig cheek, and seasoned with Cajun spices and sauces. I opted for regular tator-tots on the side. Surprisingly enough, being from a farm, I didn’t know if pig cheek literally meant the cheek, or if it was just the name for a particular cut. Some quick research later showed it is a cut of pork located between the head and shoulders, so it’s not actually the lining of the pig’s mouth, thankfully.

I ordered the Burger of the Week special.

I ordered the Burger of the Week special.

The food took quite a while to arrive. We had been at the Bulldog for almost 90 minutes by the time our food arrived, but we weren’t too upset considering we planned to spend the whole afternoon there drinking beer. I had three pints of Rush River Unforgiven (an amber ale) at $5 each, followed by three pints of PBR at $3 each. Yes, six pints in succession is the definition of binge drinking, but it was a holiday!

My burger was well worth the wait though. I can’t pinpoint the exact flavors used for the sauces and the spiced mayo, but I do recall they were Cajun flavored. The burger, which I ordered medium-done, was juicy and flavorful, and was really brought to life by the thick cuts of pig cheek, which was a cross between bacon and ham. I thoroughly enjoyed the burger and side of tator tots. I noticed I got way more tots than Lauren—so much so that I couldn’t even finish them all.

Later, we shared a plate of chips, salsa, and guacamole. This was just average. The salsa left a lot to be desired in the heat department, and the $1 cup of guac wasn’t nearly enough for all the chips we were given. Lauren found it funny to load up a chip with a ton of salsa and fly it like a plane into my mouth, whether I was willing to cooperate and open my mouth or not.

The chips and salsa, in Ryan's opinion, were average at best.

The chips and salsa, in Ryan's opinion, were average at best.

If you check my Rankings page, you’ll see I gave The Bulldog the following points. This is good for 13th of 17 restaurants on the list. The strong point of The Bulldog was the portions; the weak point was the waiting staff, but far from the worst I’ve seen.

Food: 6
Portions: 8
Value: 6
Atmosphere: 5
Staff: 3
Experience: 5

Lauren

The Hawaiian Volcano Burger

After spending the Fourth of July holiday visiting Ryan’s family in South Dakota, we were looking forward to a relaxing Monday off of work. Our friend Chris called, in the neighborhood and looking for a bite to eat and a cold beer. That sounded like a fine plan to us, so we walked the achingly-long three blocks from our apartment to the original Bulldog location. (side note: I ate at this same restaurant location when it was the vegetarian restaurant Mud Pie, ten! years! ago! Where does the time go?)

As Ryan noted, although the restaurant was mostly empty, the lone server was running back and forth, calling out orders and instructions to the kitchen staff and bartender. It made me feel as if I was a great disturbance, sitting at a table waiting for her precious attention. But it mattered little as we were planning on staying a while to enjoy a few cold beers.

Once we finally ordered and were delivered our beers, our waitress came back at length to take our food order. I made the whole waiting situation much worse by asking what the “Burger of the Week” was, sending our waitress off in search of a slip of paper that had the specials written down on them. She also delivered a few food orders before coming back to us — this was after Chris had given her his order. I passed on the specials, going for the “Hawaiian Volcano” burger, with jalapenos, grilled pineapple, bacon and gouda. The gouda sounded a little incongruous on a tropical burger, but tasted good. I have become a little bit obsessed, lately, with grilled pineapple, so that with the spicy jalapenos was very welcome. I also ordered the tater tots, though in the end I could have skipped those, as the burger more than filled me up. That paired with a couple of Ommegang Hennepin pints, and our waitress finally chilling out, made for a relaxing observed Independence Day.

All in all, the Bulldog is a reliable neighborhood joint. Good beer selection, good food and usually a pretty relaxed environment. It’s probably my favorite of the spots in our immediate vicinity.

Green Mill (Uptown)

17 May

Saturday afternoon, Lauren, Jason, Patrick, and I made a stop at the Green Mill for a couple beers and a bite to eat.  Since we had a buy-one-get-one-free coupon for an entrée, I opted to do Green Mill’s Build-a-Burger!

I chose the following: Black Angus burger done medium on a ciabatta bun, with buffalo sauce, sautéed mushrooms, and onion straws, topped off with a fried egg.

Lauren teased that it would be disgusting, but our server said he actually thought it sounded pretty good… and it was!

Green Mill Build a Burger

While it may not have been the healthiest thing I’ve ever consumed, it couldn’t have been that bad for me.

And a special thanks to Jason LaPlant for paying our tab!  Jason offered to pay for everyone, saying he now had everyone’s birthdays covered for the year.

Liffey’s Pub

2 Aug

Today, Lauren and I visited St. Paul to tour the Titanic exhibit at the Minnesota Science Museum (I touched part of the Titanic), but before that, we stopped for a late lunch at Liffey’s Pub in St. Paul, right down near the XCel Energy Center.

I ordered the Shepherd’s Pie and a pint of Boddington’s.  The food was excellent.  I am all about thick gravy, meat, and vegetables, so this was right up my proverbial alley.  And of course the Boddington’s is always a favorite.  As my good friend Patrick once described it, “it kind of tastes like air.”

I ordered the Shepherd's Pie, which came with a side salad.

I ordered the Shepherd's Pie, which came with a side salad.

Lauren opted for the bison burger, which she enjoyed but wondered if it was as lean as it could have been.  She also sampled four half-pint glasses of Guinness beers, including the original, the 250 special lager, Harp, and Smithwick’s.

Lauren opted for the bison burger.

Lauren opted for the bison burger.

Lauren also slammed back sample-sized Guinness brews.

Lauren also slammed back sample-sized Guinness brews.

The real fun was dessert.  The waitress talked me into ordering a 3-dessert sampler, supposedly small portions of their three desserts.  I anticipated little shooters or something, but I was shocked to receive full-sized portions of chocolate cake, apple crisp with ice cream, and a carmel apple cheesecake.  This was definitely the highlight of my meal, and all for only $6.99!  I made certain to hit the gym extra hard that night to work off what had to have been a couple thousand calories.

This 3-course dessert could have fed a family, but I did it proud myself.

This 3-course dessert could have fed a family, but I did it proud myself.

Aside from the food, I enjoyed the quiet, empty atmosphere of the 2:40 Sunday crowd, and the attentiveness of our vocal waitress, who did an excellent job with recommendations.  We tipped her well for her efforts.

Lauren:

It’s impossible to dislike the Liffey. I love it when I get the option to order a salad with a burger, and out of the kitchen comes a pile of mixed baby greens. But the burger itself was, unfortunately, very forgettable. For supposedly being a bison burger, it was incredibly greasy! I didn’t quite understand how that happened, unless it had been marinated in butter. Blech.

The real highlight of our visit to the Liffey for me, was the four teeny Guinness beers on a tray. Guinness 250 has just come out, so as a long-time fan of the dark Irish stout I had to try it. My verdict? I prefer the original Guinness. The anniversary brew had too much sweetness for me. I had tried Harp and Smithwick’s before, of course, but I enjoyed drinking out of the teeny little glasses.

When we go out to restaurants, it tends to be Ryan who wants to order desserts. I am actually not a very big fan of most restaurant desserts. I’m not a huge fan of dense, fudgy chocolate concoctions, and most cheesecakes you will find in an average restaurant are grainy and worth neither the calories consumed nor the money spent.

However, I can rarely resist a tasty fruit-based dessert. Don’t be fooled that I am trying to be “healthy” if I ever order a fruit dessert in front of you – I simply prefer desserts that are centered around seasonal fruit! So it was with gusto that I tucked into the apple-pear cobbler portion (middle) of the ridiculous dessert trio that Ryan was convinced into ordering. Nothing speaks of the approaching fall (and our approaching wedding!) like a spicy, fragrant apple crisp. Mmmm.

Ryan: Overall, I’d recommend Liffey’s for food and drink before or after your next Wild game.  4.4/5 Noms + bonus points for atmosphere and staff friendliness.

Lauren: Our waitress was very friendly and attentive, talking to me about the new Guinness 250, but the restaurant was also empty but for us. I didn’t care for my burger, to be honest, but the Liffey is still a great place to grab a beer and an appetizer before a Wild game. 3.5/5 Noms.

Town Hall

20 Jun

Ryan

After attending the Twins/Astros game on the evening of Saturday, June 20, Lauren and I met up with friends Christian and Jaime at one of our favorite local restaurants/breweries, Town Hall.  Located at Seven Corners in Minneapolis on Washington Ave, Town Hall has long been Lauren’s standby for excellent food and drink.

A couple of Town Hall's craft brews went down smooth on a muggy summer night.

A couple of Town Hall's craft brews went down smooth on a muggy summer night.

In my experiences there, I’ve found their home brews exceptional.  On this night, I tried the Oatmeal Stout and was once again very satisfied!  This isn’t the kind of place you should go to get drunk.  I think Town Hall is better for occasions when you’re going to just sip on a beer or two and savor the flavor.

I didn't think to get a picture until I was halfway done.  But, better late than never.

I didn't think to get a picture until I was halfway done. But, better late than never.

I had no choice but to order the Seven Corners Burger, the best burger I’ve tried so far in the Twin Cities.  Of course I’m biased because I don’t like cheese, so I can’t consider most people’s favorites like the Juicy Lucy.  The Seven Corners burger is a 1/2 lb. burger topped with smoked bacon and Oatmeal Stout BBQ sauce, served with a lettuce, tomato, and pickle.  I’m not sure what it is that makes it so good.  Maybe it’s the BBQ sauce or even the bun, but whatever it is, it blows me away!

Lauren

It’s true, reviewing Town Hall Brewery, for me, is like interviewing someone I’ve known for years. I took many a date there for dinner before Ryan convinced me to settle down. I particularly love the sidewalk patio.

Like Ryan, my typical go-to choice of entree at Town Hall is the Seven Corners Burger.  But this night in particular, I decided to deviate from the beaten path for something just a bit lighter.

Lauren raved about her Raspberry Chicken Salad.

Lauren raved about her Raspberry Chicken Salad

Don’t let the salad fool you — I stole at least a few fries off of Ryan’s plate. I loved this salad, though! The bright pink dressing was a bit heavy for my taste, as I usually prefer to order my dressings on the side and drizzle them on lightly. But the red onions had a little bit of bite, the blue cheese was tangy and the chicken tasty.

I think the Seven Corners burger will always be my favorite menu item at Town Hall, but for a lighter option I was very pleased with this salad.

Ratings:
Ryan: 5/5 Noms!  The food and drink were delicious, the atmosphere was great, and the prices were very reasonable.

Lauren: I agree with Ryan! I love this place. Reasonable food prices, delicious beer and a friendly, casual atmosphere.