“Burger” can mean so much more than just a beef patty on a bun; burgers can get as wild as they are familiar. Sticklers may argue the rules of burgerdom—food police alert!— but we enjoy the wide variety of burgers today: hand-held goodness enhanced by culinary creativity.
In 1958, this storied gathering place sold burgers for a quarter apiece. The price has changed but the kitchen still knocks out a purist’s favorite: 20% lean freshly ground beef, plain white toasted bun, pickles and fried or raw onion, and that’s it: nothing to detract from the deep beefy flavor of good meat. To best accentuate the quality of the hand-pattied, flattop-grilled meat, the chef recommends medium temperature. The burger is still a fantastic bargain at $3.30; a double, $6.25. 6180 Flying Cloud Drive; Eden Prairie; 952.934.5299.
You can try once per lifetime: eat two of these monsters within an hour—fries too!—and there is no charge (except your hospital bill). Each belt buster is made with 2 half-pound beef patties and piled with bacon and cheese; no wonder only one person has ever met the challenge. The focus at Hopper’s is consistency and local products: Baumgartner cheese from nearby Wisconsin—choose Swiss, cheddar, American or pepperjack—and buns made by Mackenthun’s bakery right here in Waconia. Everyone who works at Hopper’s is trained to season and cook burgers in the same way, so you can count on a satisfying experience every visit. No fair sharing the Belt Buster! $10.50. 119 Olive St.; Waconia; 952.442.1149.
How nice—and how rare—to have a small-size option that’s not pinched from the kids’ menu. Besides, the small ain’t that small at Five Guys. This crazy-popular joint slings juicy burgers (no freezers on site) on freshly baked buns and whatever else you want; customization is the name of the game here. In fact there are no fewer than 250,000 possible ways to build your burger, but do not be daunted. Why not try this little guy with Swiss cheese, green peppers and A1 steak sauce? $4.69 12555 Castlemoor Drive; Eden Prairie; 952. 942.1111.
Local products are important here, too: Baumgartner cheese reigns supreme and the burgers are locally beloved. Channel 9 named Cy’s the best burger in the southwest metro and the bartender confirms it: “People love ’em—once they have ’em, they come back for more.” The Cowboy is an appealing combination of bacon, onion rings, barbecue sauce and American cheese: 1/3 pound of smoke and sweet, tang and brawn. Enjoy some live music Friday–Sunday and stop by the “intox box” on your way out to make sure your’re good, i.e. sober, to go. $6.95 Live music, 500 N. Pine St.; Chaska; 952.448.9001.
Spicy Baja Burger
Burgers love a Mexican workup, like the Spicy Baja “Big Smash.” It’s an eight-ounce, eight-napkin extravaganza that brings the heat in a few ways: with pepper jack cheese, smoky chipotle mayonnaise, fresh sliced jalapenos and a toasted and buttered chipotle bun. Guacamole adds a cool creaminess while the jalapeno’s heat sneaks up and stays awhile. The all-Angus beef patty is smashed, grilled in butter and sprinkled with the ubiquitous “signature spice mix.” $6.99. 8045 Flying Cloud Drive; Eden Prairie; 952.943.9010.
Tavern Turkey Burger
This convivial tavern takes the prize for creative burger concoctions, like Zac’s burger with talleggio cheese and bacon jam and the Boursin Juicy Lucy. There are two turkey burgers on the menu: we flipped out over the Tavern Turkey burger, a hefty patty of ground bird served with triple cream brie, pecan wood smoked bacon and finished with a house made cran-strawberry sauce. Turkey burgers have a way of drying out, but not this one: it’s as juicy and moist as its beefy cousins. Chef Zac Leeman credits the moistness to a bit of cream in the mix, along with scallion, garlic and onion. It’s served on a shiny brioche bun, made golden with egg and schmeared with extra butter. $12. 26396 Wagner Way; 952.934.4545.
Blue Moon Burger
Vic’s rocks a simple bar menu stocked of standards with a few fun options thrown in. Like the “Blue Moon” burger: buttery sautéed mushrooms, crumbled blue cheese and a final flourish of coarse cracked pepper. The mushrooms and blue cheese work double duty for an extra hit of umami, the “fifth flavor” that is often described as pungent. The cornmeal-dusted toasted white buns come from Victoria’s own Fresh Seasons Market, and they’re good—sturdy enough to withstand 1/3 pound of grilled beef with toppings, but not so crusty as to scrape the roof of your mouth. $8.50. 7900 Quomoclit; Victoria, 952.443.2542.
They call them “hand-helds” here; we forgive them the clever cuteness because their veggie burger is spectacular, a far cry from the funky hockey pucks that often pass. This liberally spiced patty is put together with black beans and chickpeas: full of fiber and flavor at once. Aged cheddar and ranch-style greens jump onto the toasted bun with the patty; there is a choice of sides including the excellent Asian-accented peanut ginger slaw. $9.95. 530 Pond Promenade; Chanhassen; 952.974.3939.
An incarnation of chef-driven comfort food; all the portions are large at this taphouse. The eight ounce burger is grilled in a Baltimore-style pit (with beef marinated in spices for three days). The Lyn-Lake burger includes one of our favorite toppings, a fried egg, oozing yolk with each bite. This brilliant coupling is celebrated by the addition of bacon, shaved parmesan, pickled onions and dressed greens. A light touch of mayo on herb ciabatta tastefully completes the picture. There are 35 beers on tap, because beers and burgers are best friends. $11.95. 8251 Flying Cloud Drive; Eden Prairie; 952.217.4054.
Wisconsin Swiss Melt
Known for its creamy custard, Culver’s scores pretty high in the burger department, too. Made with fresh-never-frozen Midwestern beef, it’s branded the “butterburger” for its melting richness. The Wiscosin Swiss melt is Culver’s take on the classic patty melt, a sandwich-like construction on bread instead of a bun. This one is made with local Wisconsin Swiss, red onions and grilled rye. Single (double and triple also available), $3.41. 450 Pond Promenade; Chanhassen; 952.949.6740.
Popcorn Shrimp Burger
This is where the purists get grumpy, but we’re ignoring them: the beauty of a burger is that there are no rules. This one is loaded with breaded deep fried shrimp and topped with lettuce, tomato and onion. The house dressing, a captivating mix of mustard and mayonnaise, adds the right note of tang to the seafood. If a shrimp burger is simply too far out for you, there are 20 different burger options available, so it’s safe to say there’s something here for everyone. $4.80. 162 Pioneer Trail; Chaska; 952.856.2567.