The Great ‘Juicy Lucy’ Debate

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.

5-8 Club Juicy Lucy

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.

15 thoughts on “The Great ‘Juicy Lucy’ Debate

  1. I’ve heard an overwhelming amount of people tell me that the Nook/Shamrocks and the Blue Door are far and away the top two. The Nook and Shamrocks are two different places but are owned by the same people and have the same menu. I have yet to try either of those ones myself, but I’ll be going to the Blue Door when I go to a Gophers football game in September.

  2. Adam, according to Chris Regimbal, Shamrock’s has the best. And I heard from multiple people in the Twin Cities that the Nook isn’t too shabby either. I clearly need to do some further investigation.

  3. The Nook is our favorite! It’s totally different than Shamrocks. I’m confused about why Matt’s and 5-8 Club got into the spotlight anyway. People seem to love The Nook or Blue Door Pub. We like the Nook so much we stick there, but Blue Door gets good feedback, although they are small and crowded and you may have to wait a while to get in.

    • i’m assuming the nook and the blue door pub weren’t around in the 1950’s when the jucy lucy was invented? that’s probably why…

  4. Matt’s and the 5-8 get the spotlight because one of them actually created the Jucy Lucy without which there would have been nothing for those other bars to have ripped off. You should at least try the originals before you hand the trophy to the imposters.

    That being said, American cheese to American cheese, the Matt’s Lucy far surpasses any other Lucy in the cities. Probably because they’ve spent almost 60 years perfecting their burger. If, however, you’re a big proponent of having choices, then the only place to go is The Blue Door Pub. Unlike their many competitors, they make a burger that, number one, stays together (which if you didn’t know, is the hardest part of correctly making a Lucy), and number two, uses the perfect ratio of cheese to meat to bun in every burger they make. If you like spicy food, try the Cajun Blucy with the Cajun tots. BDP also has a phenomenal tap list!

  5. I love the Cardinal off of Hiawatha Ave. Another hole in the wall type place but they have a great Juicy Lucy as well and it is on one of the Light Rails stops! Great Patio too!

  6. You have to try Vincent’s burger. The beef is stuffed with short rib and gouda cheese. The short ribs makes it just melt in your mouth. I’ve tried Matt’ s and the 5-8, prefer Matt’s, but Vincent’s gourmet burger knocks them both out of the park. A bit pricier, but during happy hour, it’s $8.

  7. I was born here, the year before Matt’s opened and left in1961, so I never had a Juicy (or Jucy) Lucy before. I have had Ted’s steamed in Meriden, CT, Louis Lunch in New Haven, CT, Bud’s in Sedalia, Colorado and several other legendary joints.

    So after 52 years away from my birthplace I find myself in South Minneapolis and a buddy, a burger afficienado extrodinaire asks me to check out the scene here. Today I made the trek to Matt’s. I lucked out because there was no line when I got there but every seat was filled. The places is small (but much larger than Bud’s), and there’s one dreadlocked cook on a small grill just inside the door, one barkeep and one waitress. They were all hustling but they could use more help, even so they were curt but cordial.

    The burger itself, maybe the whole Juicy Lucy concept is a little flawed. The burger was well cooked and sort of crisp on the outside, bun soft, but the cheese wasn’t a big deal, frankly Shady Glen Dairy’s Abigail Platter is a much more interesting and tasty treatment of cheese, as is the steamed cheeseburger at Ted’s.

    I will check out the Nook tomorrow, or maybe check out a dog place like the Wienery before I pass judgement, but so far I wouldn’t brag about the Juicy Lucy.

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