Nighthawks – Cheeseburger

The #MSPmeatventure continued this past weekend at Nighthawks Diner in south Minneapolis. Nighthawks is mostly known for their hot dogs, but we had heard some buzz about their burger as well and decided to give it a try.

Having braved the polar vortex (i.e. I lost feeling in my toes after walking a half block from my parking spot to the restaurant and didn’t regain it until hours later) and a 30 minute wait for a table, we were very ready to pig out.

We started our meal with T’s Caramel Roll, which was warm, buttery, gooey and delicious.

Soon after tucking in to the caramel roll, the Cheeseburger and Raw Vegetable Salad arrived.

The Cheeseburger was relatively simple as current burger trends seem to dictate. It was served on a rather thick bun with cheese, pickles, grilled onions, and special sauce.

Unfortunately, the first thing we noticed about the burger was that the cheese slice was still intact in its square shape. In other words, the cheese was not melted to a state of goo, which is a big point docker as far as the #MSPmeatventure team is concerned.

The cheeseburger, served with a side of super classic potato salad.

Upon cutting the burger into thirds (a new skill I have honed to perfection), I also became concerned about the burger’s bun. The top of the bun did not squish down as an ideal burger bun does and it felt rather dry. Our fears were confirmed as we bit into the burger as well: the bun was more like a dense dinner roll than a proper hamburger bun. I believe that a burger bun should be a minor element of the burger that tastes delicious and holds everything together without being too in-your-face.

Despite these two initial strikes, the interior of the burger was quite nice. I’m a huge fan of all kinds of special/secret sauce, my favorite being In-N-Out’s of course. The special sauce at Nighthawks was a departure from the usual Thousand Island-based special sauce, with stronger mustard notes that paired wonderfully with the sweet caramelized onions and tangy pickles on the burger. The patty itself was fine – nice and juicy – but not incredibly unique or memorable.

Burger cross-section. Note the incorrect bun:filling ratio.

The salad we ordered as a nutritious accompaniment to our meal ended up being the star. It included avocado, carrots, cabbage, and a few types of radish marinated in a sweet and spicy vinaigrette with a peanut garnish. While I’m skeptical of paying money for salad in restaurants (with a few notable exceptions), this was one I’d definitely come back for.

Overall, we agreed that while we wouldn’t necessarily come back for the burger, we would definitely come back for the salad and to try their hot dogs. The folks at Nighthawks are doing great things with food even if their burger isn’t the most remarkable. Who knows – perhaps the next chapter of #MSPmeatventure will be a survey of all the hot dogs in the Twin Cities!

The Rating

Burger: 60/100

Pros: special sauce, onions, pickles

Cons: too much bun, unmelted cheese

Nighthawks is located at 3753 Nicollet Avenue South in Minneapolis



Saint Dinette – Cheeseburger

The #MSPmeatventure continues this weekend with a truly magnificent cheeseburger at Saint Dinette in Lowertown.


The burger itself was simple but elegant. As soon as I began cutting it into thirds, I could tell that the textures were perfect: crunchiness on the inside of the bun, a perfect crust on the outside of each patty, and gooey cheese oozing out.

There were no fussy accessories or condiments – just a simple double party burger with cheddar cheese and pickles on the side. The greatness of this burger comes from the ingredients and how it’s cooked. I’m nearly positive they mixed butter into the ground beef of the patties, making them super juicy, rich, and decadent. The cheddar was melted to perfection and the pickles added a bit of acidity to cut the richness.


The only complaint we had was that the bottom bun got a bit soggy, but with a burger this juicy that’s unavoidable and it really didn’t detract from the burger enough to dock too many points. We all agreed that we would come back to get this burger again and that it would be just as good as a late-night post-bar snack, a #breakfastofchampions, or anything in between.

To accompany our burger, we ordered brussels sprouts and turducken, both quite tasty. None of us had ever had turducken, and we were all thrilled to taste it – although I have a feeling this one was more glamorous than most. They used turkey and chicken breast as well as duck gizzard confit and cooked it first in a sous vide and then deep fried it for good measure (naturally). The delectable slices were served with fried sage, cranberries, and gravy. A perfect pregame for Thanksgiving.

We finished our meal with mini churros and a rich dark chocolate ganache for dipping. The bitterness of the chocolate was the perfect match for the sugar-coated pastries and it was a wonderful way to wrap up our meat extravaganza.

The Rating

Cheeseburger: 80/100

Pros: butter, textures, gooey cheese

Cons: soggy bun bottom, lack of bacon

Saint Dinette is located at 261 East 5th Street in Saint Paul

Victory 44 – “The Perfect Burger”

Today my friends Rachel, Carl and I kicked off a new initiative we call MSP Meatventure. MSP Meatventure involves compiling a master list of all the “Best Burgers in the Twin Cities” lists and then trying most, if not all, of them. We opted to start at Victory 44 in north Minneapolis as, according to their menu, they serve “The Perfect Burger.”

Their burger is pretty classic as far as burgers go: beef patty, american cheese, pickles, bacon and aioli.

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The 3-Day Barb Kellner Detox, or How to Eat Pizza for Nine Consecutive Meals

I’m pleased to announce that this past week, I set a S.M.A.R.T. goal for myself and achieved it: I resolved to complete what I now call the Barb Kellner Detox and I did just that. I’m not one for diets, detoxes, or really any eating rules, but this one was actually quite nice as it involved 90% pizza. Read on for the chronology of my Barb Kellner detox! Maybe you’ll try it someday, too.

Disclaimer: this detox most likely does not have any positive health benefits.

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Brewer’s Table at Surly

Last night I had the pleasure of dining at the new Brewer’s Table restaurant at Surly’s new(ish) brewery in Prospect Park. Brewer’s Table, as we learned from our server/beer advisor, is one of only two restaurants in the country that specialize in beer pairings with meals. I’ve been drinking Surly for ages but never thought of it as part of a culinary experience – it’s usually more of a thirst-quencher alongside my Buffalo Tots at Blue Door. However, the inventive and creative dishes at Brewer’s Table made me forget my usual beer accompaniments (curds) and shed a new light on the gourmet side of beer.

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Afro Deli

Last Friday I had the joy of dining at Afro Deli, a bright little gem in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. (There’s also a St. Paul location, but if you’re still in St. Paul after 5 on a Friday you’re doing it wrong.)


Somali Steak Sandwich at Afro Deli in Minneapolis

Yelp reviews made it clear that I had to try both the Somali Steak Sandwich and the made-to-order sambusas, so that’s what I ordered. Continue reading