State Fairs are often an afterthought. A relic of times past when most of us lived in rural areas and guessing the weight of a pumpkin was the best entertainment of the month. They offer variations on the same rides, foods and entertainment that you find at your local Memorial Day Carnival or County Fair and, I mean, how many people even go to those? But the Minnesota State Fair is so far from an afterthought that it seems to be on the minds of Minnesotans for the 50 weeks of the year in which it is not in operation. Plans are made, new foods are devised and longed after; then, just like that, it’s over again. This year, however, the Unvegan paid a visit to see how it would all stack up.
While the Twin Cities are certainly renowned for the Jucy (or Juicy) Lucy, they are not without other culinary creations. I stumbled upon one of these accidentally when ordering from Broadway Pizza. You see, this is a pizza and sandwich place, but one item on the menu was a combination of the two, calling itself the Pizza Sandwich. My curiosity got the best of me and I ordered it.
In the grand scheme of the genius of humanity, the Juicy Lucy (a burger stuffed with cheese) must fall somewhere on the spectrum of wonder and destruction as the atomic bomb. Unlike the atomic bomb, however, there can never be too many and there is a bit of confusion about who invented the thing. I already reviewed Matt’s Bar, which spells it without the “i” and with a recent visit to Minneapolis I decided I had to try the 5-8 Club, the other claimant to the origin.
When in the Twin Cities, I almost always feel the need to get a Jucy Lucy. Or, I just avoid burgers entirely. Yet, on this trip my path led me to Freehouse, a microbrewery that is so incredibly popular that we had to wait longer for a table than the hostess had told us initially. Seriously. Fortunately, we were able to get things started with a couple of beers and some cheese curds before taking our seats.
In the Twin Cities for a whirlwind couple of days, I found myself at Butcher and the Boar in Minneapolis. As a James Beard Semi-Finalist last year, I was expecting some good things. After seeing they had Take the Back on tap, I knew I was in for something good. Since I was with a couple of other people that supported my unvegan needs and the menu seemed made for sharing, we decided to go in on a few things together.
2014 is here, but my 2013 may have been the best year of eating in the history of the world, so it’s time for another Unvegan Best of. The past year included a honeymoon, an epic month-long road trip and a move from Los Angeles to Pittsburgh, so my list has broadened beyond LA and narrowing down the awesome was quite the process. Nonetheless, I encourage you all to go back through my Reviews section to see what didn’t quite make the cut. Remember that the list only includes places new to The Unvegan and bear in mind that Honorable Nods this year would probably be winners any other year. Without further ado:
Apparently, the Twin Cities are about more than just Jucy Lucys. And while some may question that, Black Sheep in St. Paul gives reason to believe in life beyond cheese-stuffed burgers. A coal-fired pizza place, Black Sheep still relies on cheese, but in quite a different manner. Walking in to the below-ground-level spot, I was immediately inundated with the scent of garlic, a smell that signaled good things ahead, as well as a scent that would remain with me for the rest of the day.
There are few regional food items that become so popular that they take on a life of their own outside of said region. And I’m not talking about Mexican food leaving Mexico or pizza making its way into the US from Italy. No, I’m talking Buffalo Wings, New England Clam Chowder and Chicago-Style Deep Dish. Now, there’s a new one that seems poised to join that elite club: the Jucy Lucy. This creation has gone as far to inspire a restaurant dedicated to the Jucy Lucy in LA called Juicy Lucy (note the different spelling) and Jucy Lucy’s can be found on restaurant menus all around the nation. So it may be surprising that the Jucy Lucy, a cheese-stuffed burger, came from a little dive bar called Matt’s in Minneapolis.
Out in the suburbs of Minneapolis is a place called St. Louis Park. Within that park is the West End, a mall containing, well, you know what malls have. This one, though, had a restaurant called Rojo. Mexican in theme, the place was slightly upscale and was kind of what is expected from Mexican restaurants so far from the border. Nothing was particular creative or exciting-looking, but this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
The Twin Cities may have a few claims to their name, but none so big as the Jucy Lucy. This burger stuffed with cheese may have originated at Matt’s Bar, but many other Lucy spots have grown from there and tried to make improvements to an already incredible creation. Despite my desire’s to visit Matt’s Bar, I was convinced by a lawyer (typical) to head to Blue Door instead, as Blue Door is one of those places that supposedly took the Jucy Lucy to the next level.