I’m sure many Minneapolis natives would love to say the Matt’s Bar/5-8 Club feud actually determines the best Juicy Lucy in the Twin Cities. Perhaps Merriam Park bar loiterers would try to sell their beloved Blue Door as the champion’s home, and Highland Park may (feebly) argue for the Groveland Tap. The more mainstream St. Paulitics might back The Nook.
No matter who you root for – the original, the underdog, the unwashed up-and-comer who’s keepin’ it real – we can all agree the high rollers are about as much fun to root for as a day off from work to fight mono. That’s why it’s so painful to confess that the best Juicy Lucy in Twins Territory doesn’t hide out in a corner bar with dirty brick walls. You won’t find beer neons in the window of this juggernaut. There’s no down home feel to be had here. The champion has only two beers on tap, and one is called “Sweet Child of Vine.”
The best Juicy Lucy in the Cities and the best burger south of the Twin Ports is on Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis. It rests between a Doubletree Suites and Orchestra Hall, a half-block from the University of St. Thomas, where designer tees and double-parked Audis dominate the landscape.
The belt hangs in Vincent A Restaurant. The one percent wins again.
The Basics: Vincent’s website is extremely easy to navigate. A few notes: It won Local Eats’ best French restaurant last year. Head chef Vincent Francoual is from France. Yep – your favorite Twin Cities burger spot is getting the back of its jersey pulled over its head by a French restaurant. Welcome to Minneapolis!
Also, there is a designer named Vincent Burger. There’s a pretty good reason you’ve never heard of him.
To eat the best, you have to beat cloth napkins and lounge funk, half-circle booths and barkeeps with ties. Most people at the bar drink wine. If you want to ignite a random conversation while you wait for a friend to show up, forget about it. They’re too good for you in their minds. The bartenders, however, are not; they keep up with your glass and your conversation quite well.
The softly-lit lounge is dominated by squares: a chalkboard with the happy hour fares on one wall, a large poster advertising an exotic wine on the opposite wall, and rows of small paintings situated on another wall. The lounge’s designer definitely had symmetry in mind, and Vincent wields it expertly.
The last time I was here was the night I dragged GBR over to A Street Called Mall after our work schedules allowed a late happy hour back in January. Knowing your surroundings is key, lest you park three blocks away and force your bar buddy to hoof it in treadless office flats (oops). I remember getting to the bar, waiting to feel our faces again, and ordering drinks.
Vincent has a superb happy hour, and you don’t have to go out of your way to hit it. It runs 4:30-6 p.m. Monday-Friday, and 8:30-9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday. The happy hour specials are here. Write this down: The $15.50 Vincent Burger plummets to $8.
Six days out of the week, Vincent has the best burger in the Cities at a lower price during their happy hour than Burger Moe’s. Moe’s dishes a good burger, but comparing Vincent to Moe’s is like comparing an ass-wipe with Quilted Northern Ultra-Soft to an ass-wipe with the cardboard tube in the middle.
The aforementioned French beer, Krorenbourg 1664, is $3 at happy hour and a fungible drink. GBR ordered a lemon-drop martini ($5) and gushed about it to friends the next day. On an average weeknight, the burger arrives quickly.
The Vincent Burger appears subtle on its plate. Onions and tomatoes come with it; don’t use them. Your choice of fries and a salad come on the side; don’t use them, either. If you really want a good side, order the duck wings.
When I describe the Vincent, people react like they’ve just heard a biblical revelation. The bun is fluffy on the outside, toasted on the inside, and doesn’t dominate the burger. Thousand Island dressing sits beneath the patty, and inside the burger … wait, are you seated? Is your blood pressure at least somewhat normal? I’ll give you a second then.
Okay … inside the burger are braised short ribs and smoked Gouda cheese.
Suddenly, whimsical melodies like the 5-8’s Pig Pen (American and bacon inside) and the Groveland Tap’s Cordon Bleu Lucy (ham and Swiss inside) turn into that Taylor Swift song your radio dial won’t stop landing on. Gouda and short ribs inside of a burger!? How does that even …
Take one bite and you know you’ve got something levels above what you’re used to. The Gouda and short ribs slide onto your tongue the way a Game Genie slides onto a Nintendo cartridge, and creates about as much excitement. Unlike most Lucy burgers, where the beef is a flavorless container, the Vincent’s patty is tasteful enough to leave its own impression. I’m not sure what the Vincent weighs exactly, but it’s adequately-sized. It’s a smooth, elegant bite from top to bottom and end to end.
You don’t want to believe it. You sit down at a shiny hardwood table and unroll your white cloth napkin. You sit among the suits and wine glasses and purposely-exposed wristwatches, with nothing wacky on the walls and music that doesn’t bring back memories, and meet the best cheeseburger south of Gronk’s on a spotless white plate with a tin cup of ketchup on the side.
But, as it is in life, the best lives well. You may hate the Vincent Burger’s neighbors and you may hate the rest of her houseguests, but your emotions will fall in line when you see how well she treats you.