Forget everything you know about Borough and everything you think you know about Parlour. In fact, forget everything you think you know about the North Loop, and forget everything you know about cheeseburgers. Tell you what, just forget everything. Hammer the hard drives and shred what you can't fit into the furnace.
On Washington Avenue, down a staircase on the street side of Borough, is Parlour. It's dark in there, and quiet. You're virtually dining among shadows.
In the kitchen is a cunning culinary supervillain, a mastermind who absorbed the powers of the Twin Cities' best burgers and bound them all between one pair of buns. The creation is simply called "Burger." I rounded up five amigos for "Burger." In the end, principles were compromised and ideals were threatened.
"Burger" is clarifying and stupefying at once, but don't dwell too hard on that. The less you try to use your head about this, the better off you'll be.
The Basics: Borough has a hanging sign but Parlour doesn't. Its entrance looks like a maintenance door, but its name is on the glass. Parlour doesn't have its own website, just a tab within Borough's. According to said tab, Parlour was recognized by Playboy as one of America's best bars.
This cheeseburger was recently named the best dish in the Twin Cities by City Pages, besting Corner Table's Turd Smear with Pork Bits Plopped Atop. The next cheeseburger on the list is Matt's Lucy, at number 38.
This review is specific to Parlour. I've reviewed Borough in the past, and I wasn't particularly ... HEY! Remember what I said about forgetting everything?!
The first thing you can put behind you are the parking troubles we're accustomed to downtown. Parlour is just far enough out of the bustle that spots aren't an issue. In fact, it was the opposite Wednesday night; our driver was befuddled by the selection of lots.
You walk up into Borough, but you walk down into Parlour. It's metaphoric on accident. Borough is uppity, boppity, and bubbly; Parlour's light presence goes from dusky to erotic as the evening winds on. If you're just out to be seen, go up to Borough. Nobody's going to see you down here unless you sit on them.
Parlour is hallway-shaped. We passed a rich wooden bar, one with a deer head mount and a bowl of fruit on the counter, and found a six-person table in the back half. The accent wall was entirely padded. With a shimmery wall in front of me and the small-paned windows behind me, it looked like an upscale nuthouse. The seats were very nice, though. Six more drinks and this lighting, I would've slept exceptionally.
Our drink selection ranged from a friend's Manhattan -- an elixir so powerful it cleared up her cough on first sip -- to my Lake Superior Kayak Kolsch. It ranged from Snoopy's refreshing There's an App For That, to the Old Fashioned he drank later on. The Old Fashioned was a brutal concoction, and I swear it left a skid mark on my tongue. Snoopy enjoyed it, though. Ducky drank a paradisaical drink called Wise Beyond His Years; his girlfriend and the selfie queen ordered stouts.
The wait time for drinks was excessive. You could argue the tenders were getting worked, but it didn't end there. The bills would've reached us quicker, methinks, had somebody blown them our way. Also, it wasn't that busy Wednesday night.
It was burgers all around (some split) with two plates of fried risotto and a bowl of popcorn to share. The food's lead time was unnoticeable, as the selfie queen talked about her upcoming move to Florida while I furiously punched in restaurant notes -- which I haven't once looked at, so that was a wise expenditure of my time.
The plates began to be set down, and I was confronted by "Burger." On it is white American cheese and two patties. The patties are constructed of ribeye, sirloin, and brisket.
It isn't a Juicy Lucy, I swear. The cheese oozes and glues like that of a Lucy, but it isn't. The patties drip and grease rushes through bites like the burgers at Icehouse, but they aren't.
Those pickles on the side? Leave 'em off. They're good, but you don't want interference.
I chomped and was sent skyward (not really, though; ceilings are pretty low in here). It's infused with a salty love similar to the bricks at Lions Tap, with the same smooth grind and plush bread handles as Victory 44's Perfect Burger. The cheese looked unevenly stationed, but fell back into every bite. After I finished, there was the same "Oh God" I felt after my first Vincent. I quivered a little, and I spoke hardly at all.
Is my word not enough? Hear this: The selfie queen is a vegetarian with an irrational fondness for ketchup. Not only did she scarf her half with a Crusader's vigor, the corny red bottle didn't get lifted once. Never before had a burger gone into her un-catsuped. Two religions were besmirched on one plate. You need to try this. Today.
The fried risotto had the subtle crunch and soft interior of a fine crab cake, with a little smear of avocado beneath it - just nifty. I'm not a big popcorn guy, but the table emptied it. I had a few fries, and they checked out positively.
I understand there's a predisposition that the North Loop is only bearable to a particular set of wallets and hairstyles, and that it's a hassle, and that it's overpriced, and that it's loud. Forget all of that. Hit yourself in the head really hard if you have to. The burger clocks in at $13; and, while you might cringe at the $9 pint of stout or the $12 spittle of scotch, there are a handful of beers that fall in line with the prices of other neighborhoods. Otherwise, you can drink at Bunkers across the street.
Aside from a smidgen of service lag, there's nothing to unlike about Parlour. I managed to get out of here only $25 lighter, tip and all. "Burger" and one beer is all you need. There are hoity-toities and eye-roll-inducing decor, but you won't notice it without trying to. If you want to lose yourself in a dim, cozy abode, come to Parlour and let a supervillain serve you up dinner.
It's worth getting baffled over. Let nothing stop you from "Burger."