And they’re off! Head straight up 35W Northbound about 20 min or so to Columbus, MN and you’ll find a very special place that may or may not bring back some memories. Running Aces Casino & Racetrack is located on the old Trout Air property. Yes, that “city fishing” place that hosted some epic parties with A-list entertainment like Metallica and the Charlie Daniels Band. Well those days are long gone but the nostalgia lives on… Running Aces has a trout pond you can fish and eat your catch inside at the Trout Air Tavern. And that brings us to the Build Your Own Angus Steak Burger, yeah no fish sandy for this Hunter. The front runner in this race is the Angus and it’s v tasty. Good cows have a good pedigree. But let’s start with the bun, it’s Kaiser which is commonly a hard roll but this semi-soft sire is just perfy. Go all in on the Eichtens amablu cheese, it’s finesse and it’s local. Bet big on the Nueske’s bacon as it’s the best in the Midwest. Add LTO and Damn Gina those charred whisky onions! The burger is flamed grilled and so yum-town! It would make Dan Patch pace in the parking lot. Win, Place, Show your family a great time at Running Aces!
Scorecard: Flavor: 9.1 Presentation: 7 Originality: 8
Running Aces Casino & Racetrack, 15201 Running Ace Blvd, Columbus; runaces.com
Day trips to the lake in Minnesota might be our greatest pastime. Head 40 minutes west to Waconia, MN and you’ll find not only a lake, but a badass burger. Drop your pin on a place called Hoppers Bar & Grill. No fish stories here—the Hickory Burger is a behemoth. This muskellunge sized burger is of a traditional grind, most likely chuck around an 80/20 clip. It’s seasoned nicely with the basics but there’s something sweet in the mix—just a hint or a touch, if you will. The patty is all hand with a loose pack rendering a wonderful texture and chew. It conjures up the feeling of lawn chairs on a pontoon. Meat wads gone wild! If that ain’t country it’ll harelip the Monopoly Man himself (Waconia replaced Baltic Avenue on “Monopoly Here & Now”)! The bun is soft and holds this sandwich in check. Oh my my my, the hickory smoked bacon with a little BBQ sauce is a reason to smile for weeks. Topped off with cheddar cheese and you’ve got yourself a burger worth taking a picture of. Much like that prize catch back in 98′. But this time you’ll have proof!
Scorecard: Flavor: 8.8 Presentation: 5 Originality: 6
Hoppers Bar & Grill, 119 Olive St, Waconia; hoppersbar.com
If you are looking for a perfect setting to show off your new groutfit, look no further than Cooper Pub. You’ll contrast nicely in this Euro styled restaurant in the heart of St. Louis Park. Here lies The Vincent Burger. No it’s not dead, it’s alive and doing quite well. It’s timeless just like the atmosphere. Thankfully Vincent Francoual, chef and founder of Vincent A Restaurant, agreed to join Cara Irish Pubs (the mothership of Cooper Pub) as their Culinary Director. So the legacy lives on, folks. This burger is as good—or maybe even slightly better!—than it was before. That’s a big claim, so I’ll let you decide for yourself. The meat is a mix of ground beef and pulled braised short rib. So tasty. Infused into the burger is a smoked Gouda that’s sus of Dutch beginnings. Way way good. A fab gherkins sauce is spread on an egg bun making for the flavor ride of your life. Topped with LTO & this thing is James Worthy of an International prize. It’s TD, go get one! You’ll love the aesthetic—Vincent Burger your new home looks very good on you!
Scorecard: Flavor: 9.7 Presentation: 9 Originality: 10
Cooper Irish Pub, 1607 Park Pl Blvd, St Louis Park; cooperpub.com
Mike S. eats more burgers in a weekend than we do during the presidential election season and he also documents his meaty exploits at the #GreatAmericanBurgerHunter tag on Instagram. We love his work (how does he not have his own show for this?), so we convinced the Hunter to share some of his patty places with you, our hungry readership.
At the meeting point of highways 494, 694, & 94, through the sands of time (literally like piles of time to get that far out) you’ll find a suburban utopia known as Maple Grove, a land of legends like Sisqo and Jason “Jazzberry” DeRusha. Get to the windmill and look south, there lies a fantastic restaurant named Pittsburgh Blue. It’s an upscale steakhouse that’s not intimidating, rather inviting and chill! Gazing at their strong menu you might not default to the burger but in all honesty you really should. The Bacon & Cheddar Burger could quite possibly be your a new fave and have you Stanning like a sir. Let’s start with the bun, it’s sesame soft and buttery fresh. Perfect size and decent durability, handling the high juiciness level of the burger quite well. The meat is Midwest ground fresh presenting a classical flavor, letting the quality ingredients take the lead. Cooked by pros to exact spec. You can even go medium rare plus. That’s in between medium rare and medium. Or go medium plus, I think you get the picture—so bossy! Any which way you go, it’ll be juicy and delish. The bacon is an absolute hit. Pro tip: Always order bacon at a steakhouse. Always and forever. The burger comes with LTO (3 🍔 amigos ) and a lovely cheddar cheese that has nice coverage. It’s a fine unit. Fries are hand-cut Idaho russets so don’t substitute. Bring the family to a place like this for burgers and you’ll be a hero for at least a week.
Scorecard: Flavor: 9.1 Presentation: 9 Originality: 6
Pittsburgh Blue, 11900 Main St, Maple Grove; http://www.pittsburghbluesteak.com/
Mike S. eats more burgers in a weekend than we do during the whole summer of block parties and he also documents his meaty exploits at the #GreatAmericanBurgerHunter tag on Instagram. We love his work (how does he not have his own show for this?), so we convinced the Hunter to share some of his patty places with you, our hungry readership.
If you find yourself traveling through America’s little Sweden or checking out of Hazelden Betty Ford, your next best step should be to Eichten’s Cheese & Bison in Center City, MN. It’s a 45 minute jaunt from Twincy. The reason? You betcha—the Cheese and the Bison. It’s right there, properly in their name! Eichten’s is located right on their farm and the buffalo graze out back in the pasture. They have a market on one side to purchase off-sale (bison) and all sorts of fine Eichten’s original cheeses. On the other side is the bistro that offers burgers that are actually farm to table. I’m down with FTT! The Smoked Gouda with Bacon is a heart-healthier powerhouse. Bison meat is low in sat fat, yet rich in flavor. Kinda has a sweet taste. It’s very clean and should be a bit undercooked. Order it that way. You’ll be fine. The bun is softer than a marshmallow napping on a cloud and a g/f option is available. LTO equipped but you should def take a few bites without so you can hone in on the flavor of this high class meat. Eichten’s Smoked Gouda covers the bacon and these two add a nice contrast to the sweeter meat. This burger will leave you contemplating many things . . . but not your cholesterol! Yes, bison also makes for better tacos and spaghetti. That answers that. Bring a cooler.
Scorecard: Flavor: 9.0 Presentation: 8 Originality: 8
Eichten’s Cheese & Bison, 16440 Lake Blvd, Center City, MPLS; specialtycheese.com