Midwestern food gets ragged on quite a bit, and we thought it might be nice to level the playing field a bit. We asked one of our favorite Midwesterners, Andrew Zimmern of the television series Bizarre Foods, to let us in on his favorite hamburger joints from the region.
Gun to my head quick, go ? what are your handful of favorite burger joints sprinkled around the five state region that includes Minnesota, the state I call home? Here it is, with apologies to Culver's, a chain restaurant I dine in once a month, and all the burger joints that would have made the list had it just been permissible to be a little bigger.
I like griddled patties all the way up to hand formed luxury burgers of the highest order. For me, ultimately it's about place and time as well. After a day of skiing with my six-year-old on Buck Hill in Minneapolis, a teeny speed bump with only a few hundred feet of vertical, I walked into their cafeteria. He and I crushed a five-pack of nasty, steamed commercially-prepared burgers that hit the spot in a way that I haven’t felt in a long time. That's the kind of place that makes this list-writing so much fun. Enjoy.
1) 5-8 Club, Minneapolis, Minnesota
The quintessential Midwestern tavern burger. Order up a beer and tuck into a real Juicy Lucy, a Midwestern specialty in which the cheese is on the inside of the burger, instead of on top. Better than Matt’s Bar any day of the week, and it's kid friendly as well. I love their onion rings.
5800 Cedar Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55417-2648. (612) 823-5858
2) 112 Eatery, Minneapolis, MN
A killer fancy schmancy, pedigreed cheeseburger served on a home-made English muffin, created by James Beard finalist, Isaac Becker. When Becker was at Restaurant Lurcat he developed the red wine and caramelized onion baby burgers that are rank insanely well on everyone's scorecard up here.
112 North 3rd St, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1633. (612) 343-7696
3) Buster's on 28th, Minneapolis, MN
My editor turned me on to Buster's where they serve a griddled tavern burger of the highest order served on an amazing bun freshly baked next door at A Baker's Wife bakery. Fries are good one day, crappy the next and that might bug some folks, but for the burger alone, beautifully constructed and superbly beefy, Buster's is awesome.
4204 28th Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55406-3123. (612) 729-0911.
4) Nick's Hamburger Shop, Brooking, South Dakota
SDSU students and Brookings faithful have been eating these made to order thin patty burgers by the sackful since the late 1920’s. This place is burger heaven, small with 20 stools. Order a pair of double burgers and a Cherry milk shake and you will see why this is one of the great American traditions of the Heartland. Family owned and operated. This is the ‘joint’ that so many new chains try to emulate.
427 Main Ave, Brookings, SD 57006 - 1935. (605) 692-4324
5) Hi-Ho South, Fargo, North Dakota
Hi-Ho serves straight up ¼ lb burgers butter griddled burgers, thick cut fries, a superb raspberry milkshake and no-nonsense service in this small delightful little joint off the strip in Fargo. If you are in this neck of the woods, you shouldn’t miss it. The meat is a top secret, but it's not commercial grade, it's way better. So good, that they don’t even season the little discs when they cook them. I get mine with fried onions. The preferred way since 1947.
3051 25th St S # L, Fargo, ND 58103-6102. (701) 280-9505
6) B&B, Des Moines, Iowa
B&B is a must stop, a must go, a must eat. And it couldn’t be in a more nondescript building on the back side of town. Family owned and operated since 1922. It’s a meat market that will sell you a whole hog for your weekend pig roast, they make their own sausages, they will build you a 6 foot hoagie if you need one, they will sell you steaks if you care to pony up the big dough?oh, and yes, they have a grill and they serve burgers, hand ground and formed, and they make them as singles, doubles and triples. The meat is what makes the burgers here. I like to split a double burger with someone and share a steak sandwich as well. This place is achingly good. A national treasure.
2001 SE 6th Street, Des Moines, Iowa 50315. (515) 243-7607
7) Christopher's, Des Moines, Iowa
Christophers is a fancy (by Iowan standards that means clean boots and overalls) Italian style restaurant that is about 60 years old and has been run by the same superb folks for their whole run. Skip the imitations of 70’s era continental supperhouse menu thrillers and go straight to the bar and order a Beaverdale Burger (you cant make this shit up). Its ground to order from their filets and sirloin tips and I am telling you this burger is phenomenal. Perfect char, great beef flavor, pillowy bun. Enjoy.
2816 Beaver Ave., Des Moines, IA 50310. (515) 274 – 3694.
8) Anchor Bar, Superior, Wisconsin
A superb bar burger, ground fresh from Angus chuck, and it’s the only place I have ever seen a full griddle of burgers manned at the lunch rush by a cook with a full cigarette of ash hanging out of his mouth and he never missed a beat. The clientele could care less as long as the burgers stay this good and the beer is cold.
413 Tower Ave, Superior, WI 54880-1048. (715) 394-9747
9) Solly's, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Walk into Solly’s. Greeted by the youngest member of the wait staff. She finds you a seat at the crowded counter. You order a butter burger, and watch as they spread a tablespoon of real soft sweet cream butter on your burger as it makes its way out to you. trust me, its amazing, and the first bite confirms what your heart has already told you?quick, start eating their amazing fries. By the way, Solly's is where the butter burger was invented. You order a banana malt. She says sure, you got the last one because they only serve them with super ripe bananas. Charmed, you ask the rookie how long she’s been there? “Well, I am the newest employee, I've only been here 30 years.” You want this burger, my lips to gods ears.
4629 N Port Washington Rd, Milwaukee, WI 53212-1084. (414) 332-8808
10) The Plaza Tavern, Madison, Wisconsin
The legend is that the first beers poured during Prohibition were served at the Plaza. At the tap was "Moon" Molinaro, a UW football player who operated a little speakeasy next to the pool hall that took up most of the building's space. That’s what the folks at The Plaza will tell you, anyway. Today, I love their thin patty griddled beauties with a basket of fries and a tall vanilla coke. This joint is long on charm, filled with college kids and I always make to get in a few games of bubble hockey before I go. And the Plaza burger special sauce! You got to love a place like this that swears it's something special. It isn’t, but everything else about the place is.
319 North Henry Street, Madison, WI 53703. (608) 255-6592