The Animal Burger at Gray Duck Tavern in St. Paul

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

It hails from a section of the menu called “Handhelds” — come on, they’re sandwiches! — and it costs $13. Even with that context, the Animal Burger at St. Paul’s Gray Duck Tavern still deserves acknowledgement for being one of the latest and greatest ACL* burgers to hit the metro scene.

Like any good ACL, this isn’t a story about meat. Don’t get me wrong — the twin quarter-pound beef patties are rich and delicious, and they’re important players in this burger’s ensemble. But the Animal Burger (whose name evokes the grilled-onion Animal Style burger of In-N-Out fame) really revolves around the caramelized onions, whose earthy-but-bright flavor explodes in every bite.

The American cheese, the onions, the mustard, the Thousand Island dressing (aka “special sauce”), and the meat are all players. This isn’t an egotistical hunk of beef shouting down its teammates; it’s a civil boardroom meeting of flavor.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

And the Animal Burger is big, big enough that two average adults could chop it in half and lunch like kings at a far more reasonable $6.50 a head. There seems to be an unwritten law that new, ambitious, business-friendly eateries like Gray Duck Tavern need to have a burger like the Animal on their menus and we, frankly, wouldn’t mind seeing that law written out and made permanent.

Oh, and order the fries ($5). They’re extra, but they’re crispy and perfect, and they come with a house-made mayo that can be combined with ketchup to create world-class fry sauce. If you’re into that sort of thing, which we most assuredly are.

*“Au Cheval-like” burgers; there are lots of them now

The Gray Duck Tavern, 345 Wabasha St N, St. Paul; 651.340.9022

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James Norton

James Norton is editor and co-founder of the Heavy Table. He is also the co-author of Lake Superior Flavors, the co-author of a book about Wisconsin’s master cheesemakers, and a regular on-air contributor to Minnesota Public Radio.

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2 Comments

  1. Isn’t this an obvious homage to In ‘n Out, Not Au Cheval?

    • Author

      Absolutely. But I’m lumping it into the high-end burger + American cheese + all-ingredient symphony thing, because that’s the larger trend I’m seeing. Click on the link to my ACL column, give it a read, that breaks it down in more detail.

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