It’s tough to stay in the limelight for long in this age of Tinder swiping and six-second video loops. In the bite of an apple, our on-screen temperament swings from outraged to amazed and back again. It’s impressive, really, but it’s even more so when a simple cheeseburger stays in the discussion regardless of trends.
If you follow Twin Cities food, you know about Lions Tap. It doesn’t matter who’s hot right now.
While big-name chefs bicker and shuffle, anonymous heroes at this suburban oasis pump out prize-worthy patties like Tommy gun rounds. By my understanding, it’s been this way since before I was born. The prices, the plates, and the flavors: You can call them old-fashioned, but the better word might be “Timeless.”
The Basics: You can find Lions Tap dominating the corner of Flying Cloud Dr. and Spring Road in Eden Prairie, and on the Internet here. Occasionally, you can find their burgers featured on airplane menus when departing MSP.
I sit in the same spot every time, near the end at the bar counter with the merchandise nook almost directly behind me. I look to my 3 o’clock and see an entrance way caked in award plaques; I look to my nine and see the fireplace on the far wall, and the iconic lion portrait above it. Near my feet was a mud bucket with a hand-written sign: “5-gallon pail with lid: $3.”
I’ve been heckled by management every time I’ve been in here. This time, it was because I asked for a to-go box.
“They’re free with every order!” said tonight’s manager. “But no, we’re just gonna make you carry it out in your hands.”
Two things are a must: A double-cheese (I ordered this for my wife to-go in said box), and the double California. The double Cali doesn’t sit on a plate so much as it towers. The Friday afternoon thunderweights they pile up at 6Smith aren’t even this tall. Three wooden stakes are needed to keep this puppy upright; a triple would likely require an elevator.
They’re juicy like they are tall. This ain’t the place to be showing off your $120 Kanye tee.
The double Cali without cheese or ketchup is ground beef at its best — bricks magicked with Lions Tap’s own seasoning mix and the grizzle of a 35-year-old kitchen. One bite sends a cascade of grease and tomato juice onto your plate, accumulating to the point you can dip your last bites into it like au jus. I was in and out in 20 minutes, but the flavor lingered in my mouth like a souvenir.
Speaking of 20, how about $20 for the double Cali, a single cheese, tax, and tip? Good luck with that just about anywhere else. Hell, good luck with that at Burger King even.
They make it look easy, but what do you expect from a business that’s been doing it this way for 35 years? When you do it this well for this long, it doesn’t matter if Eater stupidly excludes them from their iconic burger listicle or if an Uptown joint’s hogging hashtags on Instagram. Lions Tap was built and solidified long before the Internet hotness, and it’ll be standing strong long after the fires go out. #MicDrop