They may not all have a website, but they have regulars, pull tabs and griddles that have been around long enough to give their burgers a little extra seasoning.
This bar’s ode to the Big Mac is made with good beef, cooked through but still plenty juicy, tangy green tomatoes, a flavorful house-made sauce and a squishy bun. It’s a three-napkin burger that goes great with a Guinness, which is usually what we’re drinking at this long-standing, appropriately dingy Irish pub.1013 Front Ave., St. Paul; 651-488-8245
We love sitting at the bar of this dark, well-loved Lowertown establishment and watching staff patty up burgers from fresh meat right in front of us. Those loose, thick, juicy patties are given a ride on a well-seasoned griddle and plopped on a squishy, griddled bun for maximum burger deliciousness. The onion rings are worth the extra cash, too.241 E. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul; 651-298-0099
We only recently discovered that the cup on this neighborhood bar’s sign isn’t a coffee cup, but a tin cup, to represent the original owner, Rudolph “Tin Cup” Tschida. This means that the apostrophe, which has always driven us crazy, isn’t misplaced after all. That bit of history isn’t the only reason to visit, either — you should definitely go for Tin Cup’s top-notch burgers. Perfectly charred and juicy, these burgers stand on their own, without tons of toppings, but we do love their signature Tin Cup burger, which partners up two quarter-pound patties with cheddar and pepper jack, a few strips of bacon, an onion ring and just enough steak sauce to complement, not overpower, the beef.1220 Rice St., St. Paul; 651-487-7967
This is our kind of bar — great burgers and a tap beer list a mile long. The single-patty burgers are just the right size, loosely pattied with a perfect amount of crisp on the outside without being overcooked. Though we’re not always a fan of distracting from a great burger with too many toppings, the stroganoff burger with its sauteed mushrooms, melty Swiss, sour cream and chives is undeniably awesome.184 St. Clair Ave., St. Paul; 651-699-5058
City dwellers, these burgers are worth the drive.
The new rooftop patio at this Inver Grove Heights mainstay is one of the most hopping places in the south suburbs. Live music, a full outdoor bar and cushy furniture make it a great place to hang out, especially with one of the restaurant’s awesome burgers. We are especially enamored with the skirt burger, which tops a juicy patty with jalapenos and bacon and then a slab of jack and cheddar cheese that’s allowed to run over and hit the griddle on the edges, creating a crispy “skirt” of cheese. Trust us, it’s great.5639 Bishop Ave., Inver Grove Heights; 651-451-3838
Best to leave for Miesville, south of Hastings, when there’s plenty of daylight, and preferably when there are some fall colors to enjoy. This roadside eatery attracts lots of motorcyclists, because the drive is a pretty one. The destination is worth the trek, too, with relatively small, tasty burgers that are topped with all manner of craziness, from peanut butter to giardiniera to sauerkraut to pineapple. Though there are more than 90 varieties, we are big fans of the relatively simple Knight: sauteed mushrooms, onions, lettuce, tomato and mayo. Best to upgrade (from chips) to the thin, crisp, skin-on fries to go with that burger.14460 240th St. E., Miesville; 651-437-1418
This lovable dive just off the main drag in downtown Hudson has a dark, day-drinking friendly bar, a lighter, appropriately care-worn dining room and a cute little patio. The burgers here are just the way we like them, with a squishy bun and nice griddle char. The Ricky, with American cheese griddled (not caramelized — there is a difference) onion, lettuce, tomato and special sauce, is a winner, but we were surprised by just how much we loved the French onion burger, an oniony take on a patty melt made with a nice, tangy sourdough bread and served with au jus for beefy, salty dipping.111 Walnut St., Hudson; 715-386-5222
We love a good diner, and the Flameburger definitely fits the bill. The burgers here are classic and delicious — the California is simple and perfect, especially when you add a slice of American cheese. Also, you should definitely upgrade to the crisp onion rings as a side.2534 Rice St., Little Canada; 651-483-8444
If you look around the sprawling dining room at this suburban outpost, probably half the diners are chowing down on thick, juicy burgers served on fresh buns. We’re usually opposed to barbecue sauce on a burger, but the house bourbon red sauce on the Tavern Style Burger here is less sweet than most, and pairs beautifully with smoked gouda and crispy bacon.772 Bielenberg Drive, Woodbury, 651-578-3000 10950 Club West Parkway Suite 280, Blaine, 763-398-8100 3561 Lexington Ave., Arden Hills, 651-478-4450 6740 France Ave. S., Edina, 952-358-6100
When some of the city’s best chefs really put their minds to making a burger, the results are nothing short of amazing.
The spot has become a pilgrimage for burger connoisseurs and it’s easy to see why. James Beard winner chef Isaac Becker takes the classic burger to gourmet heights. The 112 Cheeseburger with grass-fed beef from Niman Ranch out of Iowa is blended with eggs, sautéed onions and spices for a juicy and tasty 6-ounce patty. Served with brie on a toasty English muffin is off the beaten path. But it sure works wonderfully, allowing diners more enjoyment of the quality, mouthwatering patty without too much bun. The house-made pickles with cucumbers and Fresno and Serrano chiles served on the side also add to the deliciousness of this dish.112 Third St. N., Minneapolis; 612-343-7696
If chef Adam Eaton’s decision to add plenty of butter to his burger’s beef grind is wrong, we don’t wanna be right. This simple, juicy, two-patty beauty, slathered with American cheese made in-house of Wisconsin cheddar, Wisconsin gruyere and champagne is absolutely one of our top three burgers. The burger comes unadorned, with a pile of sweet, house-made pickles on the side. You should order it while sitting at the bar, where the talented, friendly bartending staff takes care of all your drink needs and then some.261 E. Fifth St., St. Paul; 651-800-1415
This burger might just be our favorite, which, if you are reading this list, is saying a lot. The care that chef Thomas Boemer puts into all his food is absolutely apparent in this burger. Boemer grinds grass-fed beef in-house, using 80 percent short rib and 20 percent brisket. That specific grind, tested over many months, gave Boemer the mouthfeel he was looking for. It’s purposely split into two patties to double the char flavor, but each patty is somehow still pink in the middle. The meat is so good it almost doesn’t need cheese, but a few slices of American don’t hurt, either. Even the slightly undersized St. Agnes bun is designed to put the focus on that fantastic meat. You can top it with really thick-cut bacon for an extra $2, but it doesn’t need it. At all. We could go on, but we’ll stop with this: Go get it. Also, it’s blessedly now available at the restaurant’s new St. Paul location.525 Selby Ave., St. Paul, 651-340-2355; 4257 Nicollet Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-345-4516;
When chef Max Thompson closed 128 Cafe and reopened as a more casual eatery, he decided on two different burgers — a thick, juicy steakhouse burger with aged cheddar and an onion jam for dinner, and a thinner, classic burger with American cheese, pickles and shredded lettuce for lunch. Though you can’t really go wrong with either — Thompson is grinding some fantastic Peterson Meats beef in house — we really like the smaller lunch version, if for no other reason than it gives us plenty of room for the restaurant’s dirty-good Korean fries, served with two killer dipping sauces. The best news of all? It’s available for just $5 during happy hour and from 9 to 10 p.m.128 Cleveland Ave., St. Paul; 651-645-4128
Our love for this half-pound behemoth cannot be overstated. Chef Jack Riebel wisely uses house-ground steak trimmings to create a simple, beefy, juicy, stupid delicious burger that really does taste like steak. It’s topped simply with white American cheese, shredded lettuce, pickles, onions and the Lex “special sauce.” The swanky atmosphere of the newly remodeled Lex only adds to the experience.1096 Grand Ave., St. Paul; 651-289-4990
We might not be able to get an In-N-Out burger here in the Midwest, but chef Donald Gonzalez has done a bang-up job with his ode to the not-so-secret menu item that West Coast burger lovers can’t get enough of, the Animal Burger. Two quarter-pound patties, lettuce, tomato, caramelized onion, pickles, special sauce and bibb lettuce in just the right proportions make it a burger worth seeking out. It doesn’t come with fries, but we’re fans of skipping those and going for a side of the restaurant’s fantastic broccolini instead.345 Wabasha St., St. Paul; 651-340-9022
Need to do some business over a meal but still craving a meaty treat? These burgers are for you.
The Bacon Cheddar Burger is big, just like the political players who generally fill this dining room across from pretty Rice Park. But its size isn’t to make up for a lack of flavor. The patty has a deep char but still comes out rare and juicy, if that’s the way you order it. Add a slab of cheddar, some thick-cut bacon and fresh-cut fries, and you have a darn good burger with a darn good view.350 Market St., St. Paul; 651-224-7455
The Parlour Burger is served unadorned, save for what looks like a few slap-dash sliced pickles on the side, but it would be a mistake to judge this sandwich by its cover. Two thin, perfectly seared patties (made from freshly ground sirloin, rib-eye and brisket) absolutely drip with cheese and are contained by a grilled bun. It’s served in Borough at lunch or on the patio, or at Parlour, the downstairs cocktail bar, in the evening.730 Washington Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612-354-3135
This French restaurant definitely knows how to make America’s signature dish. However, chef Russell Klein serves one of a few burgers on the list that goes better with a glass of wine. A thick, juicy patty is smothered in Emmentaler cheese and topped with shallots cooked in wine until they taste almost raisiny. A grilled Rustica bun holds the whole thing together nicely, and the bistro’s crispy frites, served with bearnaise sauce, are contenders for the best fries in the Twin Cities.410 St. Peter St., St. Paul; 651-222-5670
These are the burgers for which people are willing to wait — and wait and wait — sometimes as long as an hour or two. And they are worth the hype.
The original Nook and its larger counterpart, Shamrocks, make what might be the best Juicy Lucy (called a Juicy Nookie) in town, but the burger that makes meat-lovers weep with joy is the Nookie Supreme. The burger is two giant patties of the restaurant’s proprietary Angus chuck, separated by a bun half and copious amounts of dripping American cheese. It’s topped with lettuce, onion and a tangy special sauce that ties the whole thing together. It’s a don’t-put-it-down burger, but good luck when beautifully browned fries are sitting there, likely covered with sauce and cheese drippings. Two patties are way too much for me, but a server recently revealed a valuable secret: Order a cheeseburger with lettuce and special sauce, and — presto! — a single version of the hour-wait-worthy burger.492 S. Hamline Ave., St. Paul; 651-698-4347 (Casper/Runyons) 995 W. Seventh St., St. Paul; 651-228-9925 (Shamrocks)
The list of Blucys — yes, another cutesy name for the Juicy Lucy — we’ve tried at this bustling little neighborhood pub is nearly exhaustive, but our favorite is the Breakfast Blucy, a cheddar-stuffed, charred hunk of meat, topped with more cheese, bacon and a lacy-edged fried egg. It’s served on a slightly sweet, pillowy bun and accompanied by hand-cut fries.1811 Selby Ave., St. Paul; 651-493-1865
The menu includes a completely unfancy Jucy (their spelling, not ours) Lucy on a completely unfancy bun in a divey neighborhood tavern. But the burger is very Minnesota, and everyone should eat it at least once. The fries are fast-food quality but plentiful, and the well-worn griddle produces a tasty burger char.3500 Cedar Ave., Minneapolis; 612-722-7072
Like a craft beer with your burger? These places are for you.
This burger-centric restaurant has wisely also taken up the flag for craft beer, and its list is something to behold. The list is well balanced between well-loved local brands and some of the most sought-after national brands like Clown Shoes, Green Flash and Dogfish Head. The burger you want to pair with that beer is up to you — they’re all decent — but we’re partial to the mushroom Swiss. The fungus here are cooked in a glug of merlot for extra richness, and melty Swiss with a swipe of garlic mayo are the perfect accompaniment.393 Selby Ave., St. Paul (and three Minneapolis locations); 651-789-0545
Much has been written about the Bacon Burger, in which bacon is ground into the (admittedly delicious) thick patty, which is topped with Swiss cheese and fried onions. But the burger that has our heart is the Big Cheese Burger, topped with a fat slab of tangy cheddar and flipped and griddled so the cheese is caramelized on top. The burger comes with house-made pickles and luscious, acidic heirloom tomatoes that serve as the anti-ketchup. Just thinking about that burger still makes us swoon. And the full-page beer list isn’t too shabby, either.3510 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis; 612-822-8216
Maybe the beer list at a restaurant shouldn’t be a consideration in rating a burger. But what goes better with a burger? That’s not to belittle the Gnome’s worthy Angus Cheeseburger, a loosely pattied hunk of beef, charred just enough to hold it together and topped with aged cheddar and Surly Coffee Bender-braised short ribs. The hand-cut, salt-and-peppered fries are good, too. And did we mention the beer list? It’s a beer geek’s dream.498 Selby Ave., St. Paul; 651-287-2018
One of our favorite bars, period, Dark Horse offers a great tap selection, and of course, a delicious burger. The patty of their signature Dark Horse Burger is a brisket blend, and it pairs beautifully with a smoked gouda, pickle chunks, a zippy special sauce and some crunchy lettuce. You have to order fries separately here, and we recommend you do so, because a shareable serving of these hand-cut, deep-dark golden brown beauties, dusted with fresh herbs and served with an herbaceous, paprika-spiked ranch, are totally worth the calories.250 E. Seventh St., St. Paul; 651-313-7960