Five hours of
intermittently assisting my wife with cleaning the house for a New Year's Eve party left me without the motivation to impress once 2014 pushed through. My wife had rolled herself up in blankets and was not coming out. I wanted my first cheeseburger of the new year, but I wanted it in a restaurant where I could throw on my Spy vs. Spy T-shirt and not care if my beanie mussed my hair. I wanted a place where I could sit by myself and have space. I didn't want to open my wallet too wide.
I found it all 30 miles away in Miesville, Minn: Home of the Mudhens, at least one gorgeous church, and a cardboard box of a restaurant serving some of the state's finest beef wheels. It's got the wildest selection I've seen anywhere. It's Kings Place: You can find it near the top of many a favorites list, but you might need a GPS to find the building itself.
I went for one burger and bought three. Now you try.
The Basics: Read the front page of their website and be wowed by everything their building has been through. Crappy phone reception doesn't sound so bad anymore, now, does it? Minnesota Monthly has named them a favorite, and they're in Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine's League of Champions. If they're listed in order of enshrinement, Kings was the first one in. Yet, their "News and Reviews" page is empty.
I was listening to the Murder was the Case soundtrack and firing my gun fingers as I descended upon Dakota County. From 'hood to 'hood, my whip got me to Kings in just over 40 minutes.
I snagged one of the three parking spots near the entrance and kicked off snow in their entry way. Kings, decoratively, looks like a giant s'more on the outside and a well-done man cave on the inside. The faded hardwood floors tell you there's no shortage of patronage, despite the classroom-sized town population. I plopped up next to a divider wall covered in NASCAR posters.
The bartender engaged the new guy immediately. She was rockin' a red hoodie with its neck torn up, the back of which featured an outline of Miesville's main street and the words POPULATION: 135 (AND GROWING). Kings loves Miesville.
"This your first time here?" she asked. She might have called me "Honey" but I don't remember. "I'll give you a few minutes to look at the menu." Her fingernails clickity-clacked against the inside pages. "These are all cheeseburgers, so the hot dog section ... that means a hot dog ON the burger."
Kings' cheeseburger "team" is more than 50 strong, but she made my search a lot easier. It's 2014! I'm pretty sure I'd made a resolution to eat a hot dog ON a burger.
I ordered a Bullpen, which also has an egg and bacon. Most of their menu items have names associated with "sportsing."
Now, the rules for dining alone are equipollent to those for dining with company: It's only weird if you make it weird. Your humble author definitely made it weird. I'd suck down waters out of my crusty red tumbler, and my eyes would get lost chasing reflections in their many beer-logoed mirrors. Other times, they would lock onto the kid-sized Budweiser 9 car hoisted above the dining room, or the street sign reading THE HEN ROOM, and I'd just gaze off into it. My phone was fully charged and I could've passed for a businessman on the go. Instead, my face carried on like that of an empty being. I'm surprised local authorities weren't put on notice.
The burger was set before me on a worn-out red plate. The hot dog, egg, and bacon were like a food square shoved through the star hole of a shapes ball. It was one-hand sized but would've fallen apart had I not held on with both. Like a steering wheel, I guided it through my pile of ketchup and up into my mouth.
If all wrecks tasted like this, our morning commutes would play out like Mario Kart's battle mode. The bacon was done perfectly, the beef had that "ancient cooking surface" taste I love so much, and the bun was unexpectedly sturdy and spongy.
Resolve to eat a cheeseburger with a hot dog on it if you'd like, but I wanted to have one without it and acted upon that immediately.
Did I mention these burgers are between $4-6? Small town prices, baby, so go ahead and order a second one.
With cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, and chipotle sauce, the Shut Out was an easy pull from the originals section. During my second wait, the bartender and I swapped New Year's tales. While she recounted a wild night out with the gals, I spoke of mine using such verbiage as "quit drinking at midnight" and "wife stayed in sweatpants today." Mr. Eating Alone got to look even cooler when his second cheeseburger emerged.
The Shut Out arrived with the same threat of imbalance the Bullpen had. The lump of lettuce and slice of tomato were stacked under the burger, causing one side to be about an inch taller than the other. Oh well. I squished them even and bit in.
I wanted a cheeseburger where the beef ruled without protest, and this was it. The chipotle sauce drove off any ideas of ketchup use, leaving this fine offering to stand by itself. There was just enough lettuce and tomato to give the burger a crisp, refreshing bite, but not so much that I was actually eating vegetables. The Bullpen was great but this was the burger I wanted my new year to be.
I then ordered a third burger, this time to-go for my wife to try.
"You must really be a fan," said the young woman who brought out my to-go.
For three cheeseburgers, a side of fries, and tax: $20. Yeah, you could say I'm a fan. EDIT: I just got a text from my wife at work: "Damn, that burger was so good!"
I don't feel like I'm letting a secret out of the bag because those in the know have been hooting about Kings Place for years. Add me to the list. I can appreciate the hearty sense of pride Miesville's residents (or at least the ones I've met) carry, coming from a small town myself, and the excellent staff treated this spacy outsider as one of their own. So far, I like Miesville. I know a lot of people who wouldn't dare travel this far outside the Cities. That's their loss.
Don't make it yours, too. Take the drive and thank me later.