The humidity suffocated us like a woollen shroud on Memorial Day; everyone at Lake Calhoun was feeling it, from the sunburned and clothing-deficient volleyball players to children doused by their parents’ water bottles. But somehow, as a steamy, greasy, and burger-smelling mist gradually sank into our skins, the collective stink and sense of discomfort just evaporated. That is, one cannot underestimate the soothing power of the perfect hamburger.
You can’t find the best hamburger in Minneapolis in a restaurant — not yet, anyway. Though done simply, with freshly ground (by a Hobart meat grinder named “Lord Byron”) beef chuck, salt, and pepper (bacon, fried onions, and your standard cheeses may apply), the city’s best hamburger is served in a not-so-simple context: Burger Night.
The brainchild of John Blue, a regular dude with a superhero’s name, Burger Night is basically an occasional hamburger laboratory in which Blue samples out his creations to an adoring and expanding crowd. Let’s just say that attendees tend to exclaim, “This is the best burger I’ve ever had!” The donations Blue collects go toward opening the official Burger Night restaurant — a venture some could call crazy, if Blue’s burgers weren’t so damn good. Burger Night posts locations and times on Facebook, and it is open to the general public, as long as you’re down for adventure and willing to make some new friends. (He also has Tumblr and Twitter pages just ripe for the following.) If anything, attend just so you can check out Blue’s sweet setup: a 3-foot-wide, portable flat-top griddle by Blackstone.
As with most things in life, this burger’s simplicity is what makes it great. There’s no gimmick to it: The meat isn’t dry-aged, nor filled with peanut butter or any other non-burger ingredients. There’s just something about it that makes it seem worthy of being served alongside the Black Label Burger at New York City’s Minetta Tavern. First biting into it, you get the sense that all of your hamburger alarms are going off at once, with nary a neuron remaining unfired. The soft, white bun is the perfect foil to the juicy meat, and the onions are cut thick, keeping them substantial even after being fried. The burger’s freshness will be a familiar sensation to In-N-Out Burger acolytes, though it’s the gutsy seasoning that pushes it even further.
Blue copiously seasons his patties with salt and pepper (that’s it!) just before throwing them onto the grill. Once flipped, the patties are topped with their buns, a technique that Blue insists permeates the buns with ambient beefy flavor. Each sandwich is served with an adorable blue-and-white-checked wrapper — a truly classy touch. If you so choose, you can top your burger with some of Blue’s own zippy and umami-screaming burger sauce, some homemade pickle slices, or just plain ketchup or mustard. Blue’s portable plastic cooler is filled to the brim with burger toppings: Just ask and you shall receive.
After attending a Burger Night, the sandwich’s absence from your life will gnaw on you like an acute ulcer. You won’t be able to stop thinking about it. Vincent’s short rib-and-gouda burger will seem too ridiculous; Burger Jones’, only like a mere shadow of what a burger can and should be. Take a chance: Just show up and introduce yourself. Though the burger is something truly great, the company is even better.