The Tap: The ACL (Au Cheval-Like) Burger Reigns Supreme

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This week in the Tap: A look ahead at upcoming restaurants, notes about spots that have closed, and about those that have recently opened.

The Tap is the metro area’s comprehensive restaurant buzz roundup, so if you see a new or newly shuttered restaurant, or anything that’s “coming soon,” email Tap editor James Norton at editor@heavytable.com.

James Norton / Heavy Table

James Norton / Heavy Table

ALL HAIL OUR NEW OVERLORD, THE AU CHEVAL(-LIKE) CHEESEBURGER

A recent cheeseburger lunch at Lowry Hill Meats (see above) got me thinking: Haven’t I had this burger before? Lowry Hill’s version was great — richly flavored and juicy as an orange — but the combo of excellent meat plus American cheese plus simple caramelized onions plus top-notch bun is something that keeps turning up at restaurants all around Minneapolis and St. Paul. It’s a trend that’s raging with the same force and ferocity as the upscale Jucy Lucy epidemic that swept the area three or four years back. Over the past year or so, it has gone well past the upscale, chef-driven places where it got its start in 2015 and penetrated spots from hotel restaurants to bars to suburban eateries.

Call it the rise of the ACL (Au Cheval-like) burger. Chicago’s Au Cheval is famous world-round for its simple but decidedly upscale spin on a classic American cheeseburger, and now similar burgers are everywhere from Revival to Saint Dinette (the first I had locally) to Parlour / Borough (below) to Hi-Lo Diner, and so on and so forth.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

The burger is a bit difficult to define. It’s not like a Chicago dog, where there’s one canonical list of ingredients down to the poppy seeds on the bun. The telltale combo is that it’s an expensive burger, but with a (seemingly) unpretentious list of supporting ingredients. American cheese is a hallmark. They make their own at Lowry Hill Meats, but that’s not a must. House-made pickles, caramelized onions, and a high-quality, carefully toasted brioche or pretzel bun are also typically part of the package. Maybe there’s some lettuce, maybe some special sauce, and the burger probably sports a quarter to a half pound of meat, so it’s not one of those dinky but delicious smashed up diner charburgers that you get at Five Guys or Culver’s. It could be one patty or two. The meat is usually a house blend that brings in some fatty richness, some steak flavor, some textural lightness, and more.

Our own Peter Sieve captured the essence of the trend at its dawning at the start of 2015, writing about the Parlour burger:

“There is nothing hiding the refined bare essentials except the burger’s deceptively simple appearance — the two patties are formed from ground sirloin, ribeye and brisket. There is no aioli, no sad, obligatory lettuce and tomato, no fucking bacon (is the bacon thing still a thing?). It’s a double cheeseburger.”

Simplicity done well, that’s the thing. Farewell, aioli; hello generally better cheeseburgers nearly everywhere. — James Norton

Editor’s note: We received the following thoughtful email from restaurateur Tobie Nidetz:

Great segment on the Au Cheval influence.  But there was something in town pre-dating it all. The burger at Ike’s downtown. We created it with the same ethos of great meat, simple cheese (we chose a 4yr Wisconsin cheddar for a little high brow) on a locally baked egg bread bun from Franklin Street.

NOW OPEN

Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table

Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table

  • Black Stack Brewing, 755 Prior Ave N, St. Paul | Sharing a complex with Can Can Wonderland (above).
  • J Selby’s, 169 Victoria St N, St. Paul | Vegan restaurant that prefers to call itself “plant-based,” opening tonight.
  • The Early Bird, 1612 Harmon Pl, Minneapolis | Formerly Bearcat, formerly Third Bird, still a Kim Bartmann joint. Sometimes just referred to as “The Bird,” further muddying the waters.
Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

  • Old Southern BBQ Smokehouse, 4501 France Ave S, Minneapolis | New barbecue chain from the founder of Famous Dave’s; we reviewed and enjoyed the location in Hudson (above).
  • HeadFlyer Brewing, 861 E Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis
  • Mercy, 901 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis | The former Marin.
  • Jambo! Kitchen, 1939 S 5th St, Minneapolis
  • Rah’Mn, 300 Snelling Ave S, St. Paul | A Chipotle-style build-your-0wn-ramen restaurant by Tryg Truelson, formerly of Tryg’s.
  • Baja Haus, 830 E Lake St, Wayzata  | A second restaurant by Billy Tserenbat of Sushi Fix, focused on Mexican seafood and scratch margaritas.
  • Bellecour, 739 E Lake Street, Wayzata (former Blue Point Location) | A second restaurant for the much-heralded chef owner of Spoon and Stable. This one is a French-inspired bistro and bakery.
  • Copperwing Distillery, 6409 Cambridge St, St. Louis Park | Distillery and 45-seat cocktail room.
James Norton / Heavy Table

James Norton / Heavy Table

  • Bottle Rocket, 1806 St. Clair Ave, St. Paul  | A reboot by the Blue Plate Restaurant Company of the former Scusi space with craft cocktails. Our review here.
  • Bar Brigade, 470 Cleveland Ave S, St. Paul | French-inspired bar from J.D. Fratzke (Strip Club Meat and Fish) and Matty O’Reilly (Republic) in the old Ristorante Luci space.
  • Geno’s, 12 4th St SE, Minneapolis | Italian sandwich shop from the owners of Lyndale Tap House.
  • Zait & Za’atar, 1626 Selby Ave, St. Paul

CLOSED / CLOSING:

WACSO / Heavy Table

WACSO / Heavy Table

  • Arnellia’s (closing at the end of the month, after 25 years; we had a blast at Arnellia’s during our Green Line Checklist crawl).
  • Devil’s Advocate
  • Wong Cafe (had a 94-year run).
  • Tinto Cocina (moving from Uptown to 50th and Penn and expanding).
  • Jerusalem’s (building to be demolished; closing end of August).
  • Sidhe Brewing (reopening as Culhane Brewing in Lowertown, St. Paul).
Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

  • The Strip Club Meat and Fish (closing July 1).
  • Ox Cart Ale House (rebooting with new concept).
  • Evergreen (closing in June).
  • Sunrise Inn (The venerable 3.2 bar will reopen as Bull’s Horn Food and Drink under the aegis of Doug Flicker.)

COMING UP:

Minneapolis

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

  • Five Watt (Roastery and Cafe), 2904 Harriet Ave S, Minneapolis | 2017 | Roastery is up and running; cafe still in the works.
  • Tenant4300 Bryant Ave S, Minneapolis | May 11 | A tasting-menu-only restaurant in the former Piccolo space.
  • Mrs. Dumpling, 700 W Lake St, Minneapolis | “Coming Soon,” somewhat delayed | Not to be confused with Dumpling in Longfellow.
  • Popol Vuh and Central | Fall | A two-restaurants-in-one (ala Birdie and Nighthawks) high concept / street food with a Mexican emphasis from the team behind the successful Lyn65 in Richfield.
Jamie Malone at Sea Change

Peter Sieve & Justin Blair / Heavy Table

  • Grand Cafe | May | Reopening under new ownership (Jamie Malone [above] and Erik Anderson).
  • NOLO’s Kitchen and Bar and The Basement Bar, 515 Washington Ave. North, Minneapolis | September
  • Burrigato, 314 15th Ave SE, Minneapolis | April | The sushi + burrito trend kicked off by SotaRol refuses to die.
  • Hai Hai, 2121 University Av. NE, Minneapolis | Early Fall | New Southeast Asian restaurant by the team behind Hola Arepa at the former Double Deuce.
  • The Cove, 1320 5th St SE, Minneapolis | Soon | Can poke succeed where crudo failed? Let’s find out.
  • Cardigan Donuts, 40 S 7th St, Minneapolis | May | More action within the “fancy doughnut” sphere.
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

St. Paul

Nick Fay / Heavy Table

Nick Fay / Heavy Table

  • Barrel Theory Beer Company, 248 E 7th St, St. Paul | 2017 | As per the Growler: “A partnership between Surly Brewing Company’s former director of technology Brett Splinter, former Surly brewer Timmy Johnson, and CPA Todd Tibesar.” Our preview is here.
  • Funky Grits, 805 E. 38th St., Minneapolis | Late Summer | A soul food spot in the home of the short-lived Hell’s Chicken and Fish.
  • Gray Duck Tavern, 345 Wabasha St., St. Paul | Late May
  • New Matty O’Reilly Spot Name TBD, 1341 Pascal St, St Paul | At the former Como Park Grill location. Eater reports possibly a pizzeria.
  • Waldmann Brewery and Wurstery, 445 Smith Avenue, St. Paul | | September | “A craft brewery specializing in German lagers and a wurstery offering a variety of house-made sausages.”
  • 12welve Eyes Brewing, 141 E 4th St, St. Paul | Summer | Opening in the Pioneer Endicott Building.
  • Keg and Case revitalization of the Schmidt Brewery, 928 W 7th St, St. Paul | Summer 2017 | Featuring restaurants by the teams behind Corner Table, Hola Arepa, and Five Watt, plus Sweet Science ice cream.
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

  • 11 Wells, Millwright Cocktail Room, Historic Hamm’s Brewery, St. Paul | Postponed to “at least 2018” | Multi-state distribution is keeping them busy.

Greater Twin Cities Area and Beyond

The Tap is the Heavy Table’s guide to area restaurant openings, closings, and other major events. The Tap is compiled and published biweekly by the Heavy Table. If you have tips for The Tap, please email James Norton at editor@heavytable.com.

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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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One Comment

  1. Kevin Horner 04/19/2017 Reply

    Having American cheese on a burger is like eating a Jucy Lucy at Matt’s – if you want to eat garbage that’s up to you, but you’re objectively wrong, wrong, wrong. Bacon and cheddar (or Munster or Gouda) make everything better, especially a burger.

    Why do people want to have “upscale” street food, or burgers? A hamburger is ground beef – why waste sirloin or ribeye by grinding it up? Tacos don’t need to be $5/each – a $1 taco from a legit taco truck taste at least as good. People should go to “upscale” restaurants for things they can’t make at home, not things that fast food restaurants do better. A non-fast food restaurant should be an experience, not just a raw bloody hamburger.

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