Before the days of Smashburger, Burger Jones, and American Burger Bar, the Twin Cities had Bulldog N.E. Building on the Twin Cities burger movement, which had recently been revitalized by the 112 truffle burger, Bulldog N.E. opened in 2006 to accolades for their version, which featured hand-ground Kobe beef.
Not long after that auspicious opening, however, doubts began to swirl about the quality of the burgers that had once been all the rage. Polarized opinions were readily expressed; perhaps the most concerning opinions were, and continue to be, those that say the burgers are fantastic… when they are “on.”
With an air of uncertainty surrounding the consistency of the Bulldog N.E. burger, it seemed that a return visit was due.
Crowded, as usual, open seats were found at the large bar. After a quick glance at the menu, an order was placed — a house burger with Tillamook Smoked Cheddar.
The food arrived quickly, the basket full with the large burger topped with a toothpick-speared green olive and a generous side of hand-cut fries. The fries were fantastic, salty and crisp, but the burger?
It was prepared well, a nice char on the outside with a perfectly pink center, but the first indicator that something was amiss was the bottom bun; it was a soggy mess. Perhaps the cook forgot to let the burger sit for a minute before putting it on the bun; a forgivable mistake, in my book. Cutting the burger in half, however, proved that this was simply not the case.
This burger was greasy, and not the kind of greasy we all secretly love — rather, this grease was oily and oozed out of every surface area of the burger. Clearly this is not a case of forgetting to let the meat rest.
Only a few bites in and my meal was over. Contemplating how a burger could be so unappetizing and sloppy, it crossed my mind that perhaps it was a fluke. But as grease continued to pool in the corner of the paper-lined basket, the man across the bar requested that his meal be returned to the kitchen and a different order be prepared. A strong suspicion suggested that this was no fluke.
A return visit a couple weeks later begged to give the burger another try. This time ordering the Rooster upon the waiter’s recommendation, which features a Sriracha glaze, housemade sweet pickles, roasted garlic aioli, and pepperjack cheese. If nothing else, this burger should scream with flavor with these toppings.
Although not as greasy as the previous visit’s burger (soggy bun still there, but absent of any pools of grease), a couple bites in and, again, no more burger could be eaten. The same oily taste was there, prevailing over the gentle heat from the glaze and cheese and sweetness of the pickles. Another meal of downing only those tasty french fries for me.
Is the controversy about the Bulldog N.E.’s burger greatness validated? Although not a perfect test, my opinion has been formed. What was initially touted as such careful preparation — grinding the meat and cooking it to perfection — the Bulldog burger is as sloppy as the bun it is served upon.
This happened to me also. I eat out maybe 2-3 times a week for the maybe the last 8 years. In that time, I have only ever sent one item back- a stilton burger at Bulldog NE. It was cold. The grease had formed solids on the burger, as well as congealing with the bun above the burger. The meat itself had a bitter, almost acidic taste, which I ascribe to the temperature, and a heavy hand with rosemary (or whatever bitter herb they use to season).
At the same time, this place has also given me some of the best burgers I’ve ever had. It is a mystery to me why there could be such a range on such a simple itm.
I haven’t eaten there in probably over a year but in the past I’ve always been very satisfied with my burger and their tots are the best in town. Sounds like I may have gotten lucky during my visits.
Have to politely disagree with this article. The Rooster is quite possibly my favorite burger in town…and the others I’ve had at the Bulldog rank up there as well. I guess I come to expect the grease and have not found it unpleasant in the least….although it’s tough to decipher whether the amount during my visits equals that of yours. Just my $.02.
I made my first visit to Bulldog NE about a month ago. I ordered the Rooster, which sounded great in print. But after two bites, the beef was so unpleasant I could eat no more. My server was very kind to replace it. I chose the Black Bean Burger with all the Rooster toppings. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I won’t go back to Bulldog NE for a burger, but I must admit, those hot dogs sound pretty good. I may try one of those next time.
I love the rooster, and it certainly compares favorably to burgers I’ve gotten from Smashburger and Barley John’s. I’m with you on the soggy bun, but I always manage to eat all the Rooster and fries, which I order extra sriracha mayo for.
Thank you for this review. I thought something was wrong with me – my burger was awful, but people rave about this place. Loved the tots, but would not eat another burger there.
OK, so, the few bulldog lovers here, have you been there in the past 6 months? Sounds to me like something has seriously changed about the meat they are using for the burgers. I have actually never eaten there but just judging from the similarity of the taste complaints- ‘acidic’, ‘oily’ ‘bitter’ ‘off’….I would say they have gone to an inferior grade of meat, OR, they say they grind their own meat? I’m wondering if something is up with the grinder they are using. The lubricating oil that might be used on those grinders would not taste very good if by some chance it was getting into the meat…those are the two things I’m thinking that would cause such icky tastes to appear, because even a cheap burger doesn’t have those overtones.
I ordered the Tillamook burger there a few months ago and had to send it back because it was raw. Don’t get me wrong – I like my burgers pink and my steaks bloody – but this was completely uncooked ground beef. It was disgusting.
I moved into the neighborhood recently and I’ve been frequenting the Bulldog (among other places nearby) quite often for lunch and dinner, mostly to get a feel for the place. Their beer selection’s decent and the menu’s got enough variety to keep me occupied although it’s not nearly as varied as Whitey’s or the Red Stag nearby.
Just a few hours ago I had a Stilton burger that was pretty good, all things considered. I too have run into the soggy bun and overly greasy burgers (mostly in the evenings, maybe the staff change later in the day has something to do with it) and – depending on the server – service can be spotty or spot-on. Lately if I stop by in the evenings I usually stick with a relatively safe Californian sandwich or a Chicago dog, which is almost always a winner thanks to good bun selection and a good dog – hard to screw that up.
Really, the one word I’d use for the Bulldog NE lately is this: Inconsistent. When they’re doing well they kick ass – great service, very knowledgeable servers, well-prepared food with great flavor. When they’re not hitting on all cylinders they’re terrible – inattentive service (at best), long waits for food (and cold food – unacceptable) and very poor preparation.
When the burgers can easily approach $14 inconsistency really isn’t tolerable, in my opinion, but since it’s nearby I’ll still stop in once a week or so.
I go to the Bulldog NE every couple of months and have been since it opened. I’m usually pretty satisfied with my order (mostly the Tillamook or the Junk); now and then it’s been overcooked. In any case, I have never had an experience like the one described here.
The personal insults above are pretty lame, I gotta say.
I’ve been to the Bulldog a few times since moving to the TC’s a few years ago. At my very first visit, my immediate thought was, “these burgers aren’t as good as they think they are.” They try to pretend to be this upscale gastropub, but the burgers just aren’t very good. Palatable, but not that good. Which is a shame, because I’m all for the idea of high end pub grub. But I’ll take my friends to Buster’s on 28th (best burger in town) or any of St. Paul’s burger bars before a letdown at the Bulldog. Come on, spraying truffle oil on your tots will only take you so far.
only one experience at the Bulldog and the burger was really quite excellent. I think the inconsistency mentioned in some posts is the likely culprit. I had a burger at Busters on Monday night however and it was again perfect, truly the best in the city and a great draft beer selection, and excellent waitress.
I still ranked the one Bulldog burger I had very highly, well above the Shamrock and NOok burgers which i did not think lived up their hype.
I’m a huge fan of bulldog n.e. I think the specials are always fun and have had some amazing food there that rivals what a lot of people are trying to do in this town for a lot more money.
They’ve set standards that are very high and are constantly doing something tasty and new.
I’ve fallen into the trap of not sending back food at many restaurants in this town and it tends to make my night a bummer.
I also have sent food back at bulldog n.e. Out of the dozens of times I’ve eaten there over the years, I think it’s happened 2 or 3 times and every time I did it, I was way better for it and reveled in hamburger heaven.
So next time things ain’t right, just hitch up your britches, take a deep breath and say “Excuse me, I ordered my burger medium-rare and this is well done as hell”
It’ll probably turn out to be a much better night and maybe you’ll reward yourself with one of their cupcakes too.
I remember when Dara reviewed the Bulldog in City Pages, and being in the neighborhood I went there as much as possible for the truffle burger which just blew my mind.
As far as my taste goes, the Bulldog has taken a turn for the worse in the past 2 years. I still go, and every time I think it’s going to be different — my burger is going to be excellent. But it never is. In contrast, I’ve visited the Nook even more in that period and every time my burger is consistently prepared a perfect medium rare with the seasoned taste I’m hoping for and expecting.
There’s certainly something to be said about consistency.
I went to the st. paul version and it was pretty crappy. The service was meh and the waitress had a deep wet infectious sounding cough. I watched as she cleaned a table with one hand and coughed over it without covering her mouth with the other.
and the burger was dry. very sysco. The tots weren’t much better.
In some ways I felt that I was at a road side cafe on the way through S.D.
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“And no one has done a steak tartare as well since”
Sorry, Dara. 112’s absolutely slays the Bulldog’s.
I’m a huge burger fan. Like a commenter above, I also kept trying the burgers for a long time, convinced that eventually I’d get a “good” one, only to have it never happen. It’s very rare for me to not be able to finish a burger! I was wondering for a while if maybe I just didn’t like the taste of Kobe beef, but to hear other complaints that are so similar to mine makes me think twice – The observations about an “oily” taste and it being the wrong kind of greasy really resonate with me.
Being that I’m local, I still go for the fries and appetizers, but I skip the burger at this point. The poor service there, however, might change that practice. I swear, they have one server there that is just awesome (she has dark hair and is really knowledgeable about the beer), but the rest stare at you blankly if you ask about a certain kind of beer (as if they never eat or drink their own wares). They can be painfully slow and unobservant as well, and it’s not like I’m there during their peak hours, either.
Apologies for my boorish behavior.
OK, for myself I would like to apologize for any unkind remarks I have posted in this thread. I do feel that there must be a serious problem with this restaurant, and part of what I posted were constructive theories of things that could be affecting the taste of the burgers- now that I see someone posted that these are made from Kobe beef, I’m wondering if there is something related to the quality of the beef—I know it’s supposed to be way more rich..
If the restaurant staff/owner are reading this, I hope they check the things I mentioned, and solve the problem…seems more serious than ‘inconsistency’…
I accept the apologies. It is incredibly pleasing when an online community will so easily revert back to civility after heated, strong accusations and claims. It is refreshing.
I wanted to point out that the Heavy Table has followed-up directly on some of the claims brought up in the thread. We have chosen to unapprove the personal attacks and false rumors as well as some of the axillary comments to them to keep the thread coherent. I have followed-up personally with everyone involved. If you have a positive or negative thing to say, we welcome it but note that rumors and claims we may follow-up on to make sure the record’s straight. If you have any questions about this, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
Thanks for understanding and thank you for the continued participation on the Heavy Table.
Kobe beef has a very strong taste, and it may shock you if you are not prepared for that flavor. In order to appreciate Bulldog NE’s burgers, you must enjoy that kind of meat. The other Bulldog’s use “regular” beef and bison.
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