To say one version of a much-loved, local creation is bounds above another is dangerous. People have severely strong-held opinions on their favorite place. And there has been a debate brewing for years among those in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area about the best Juicy Lucy burger.
For the uninitiated, a Juicy Lucy is a normal cheeseburger, but with the cheese embedded inside the patty before cooking. The burger is fried on the flat-top, turning the cheese into a molten core.
There are two places in Minneapolis that claim to be the originator of the burger and they’re on the same street. Matt’s Bar and the 5-8 Club have been featured on national TV and in countless stories, making them both eternally busy, filled with fans looking for the Lucy.
The main difference in the burgers from Matt’s and 5-8 is that at 5-8, you can choose which type of cheese is nestled inside the meat. You can get the classic American cheese or have Amablu Blue, Pepper Jack or Swiss. At Matt’s, it’s only American.
I was able to hit up the 5-8 Club last weekend and had (I’m ashamed to say) my first Juicy Lucy. Reggie has been raving about them for a while. I didn’t have time to try out Matt’s or any of the other places in the area that serve the burger, but I plan on trying as many as I can and keep a running tally of the best.
We went to the 5-8 at about 2:30 on a gloomy Sunday and the place was absolutely packed. It’s fairly small, but every seat was taken. We were forced to do takeout.
The 5-8 has sort of an Applebee’s-type decor, with kitschy stuff nailed to the walls. I’m told Matt’s is far more of a dive and even smaller than 5-8.
We ordered three Lucys and they were out surprisingly fast. As it was starting to rain, we drove looking for a sheltered area at a nearby lake. We found one and dug into the burgers and fries. But that short drive cost the burger dearly. It was no longer the piping hot perfection it is when you get it at the restaurant and eat it there. This was a mistake on our parts.
But beside the heat issue, there was also a taste issue.
I was thoroughly surprised at the lack of flavor of the meat and accompanying grilled onions we had added. I took a bite of the meat without the cheese and it seemed there was little, if any seasoning used. All a good burger needs is a bit of salt and pepper added while it cooks. Maybe some other type of seasoning like garlic powder or cajun spices to liven it up.
The grilled onions tasted similarly unseasoned. And the cheese looked like it was pushed to one side of the burger’s pocket, resulting in uneven bites.
The fries were also disappointing. They weren’t crispy and appeared to be of the frozen variety. Although for a place like 5-8 to hand-cut all their fries is a tall order with the amount of volume they do.
I don’t know if I had unrealistic expectations for my first Lucy experience, but I had hope it would have been better. But that’s not going to stop me from finding the best one. How can you not love a burger with a molten cheese core?!
I’ll be checking out the local Lucy at the Blue Moose, the Green Mill, El Roco, and Southgate soon.