The list of burger options at Shaw’s Bar and Grill in Northeast Minneapolis is extensive. There are classics like the bacon cheeseburger, the patty melt, and the mushroom and Swiss burger ($4-$6). Beyond that there are specialty burgers like the Bourbon, Cajun, and the Sun ($6). For those looking for something simple, sure, one of these burgers will fit the bill. For those looking for more of an adventure, read on.
The Shawburger ($8) is an intimidating sandwich; even its menu description reads like a challenge. It’s described as a “three napkin burger, smothered with sauteed onions and mushrooms, Swiss and American cheeses, mayo, lettuce, tomato, bacon, and Shaw’s signature sauce.”
A few words with our server confirmed this burger’s popularity and enormous size. Upping the game, we added fries to the order, instead of the chips with which their burgers are served. Debating on whether we wanted to order more, our server piped in saying that both of us could feast on the one burger, and if there are leftovers, “it’s pretty good reheated the next day, too!”
Although Shaw’s has only been in operation since the current owners Colleen and Michael Shaw bought it in 2000, the location has a lengthy history dating back to the days when it was Sun Drive-Inn. The Shaws kept the Sun burger on the menu, an edible tribute to the former drive-in, but added their influence to the burger selection with the Shawburger, which Colleen says is a collection of Michael’s favorite burger toppings.
Shaw’s seems to be a “where-everybody-knows-your-name” kind of spot. The Cheers-like environment is perfect for the locals, who sit around the bar sipping their beer and whiskey, chatting about a wide range of topics with unfiltered language. As my dining companion described it: “It was as if they felt like they were in their own living room.” That’s a nice way of saying that some comments would have been better left in the privacy of one’s own home.
Beyond the local flavor, there’s a music theme that runs throughout the interior. Vinyl records, framed Rolling Stone covers, and Woodstock posters adorn the place. Our server informed us that they have live blues and jazz music most nights of the week, sans cover except for a few bigger-name acts.
Our burger arrived and it seemed less intimidating in person. The toppings are clearly the star of this gastronomic show: Somewhere under those onions, gooey cheese, and mushrooms was a burger patty — I just knew it.
It took a few tries to pick up the burger, but once I got a good hold I took the first bite. The Shawburger is certainly tasty — with all that cheese, crisp bacon, and Shaw’s special sauce (Thousand Island?) — how could it not be? And confirming my suspicion, the thin, overcooked burger patty takes a backseat to the soft bun and generous toppings.
BEST BET: Go big or go home at Shaws — with the toppings as the star, go straight for the Shawburger.
Shaw’s Bar and Grill
1528 University Ave NE
Minneapolis, MN 55413
OWNER: Colleen and Michael Shaw
BAR: Full bar
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: No / No