Sunday, June 28, 2009

Minneapolis Jucy Lucy Burger Battle

For weeks, the Reese's team and I had been reminding each other of the highly anticipated event of the summer - Jucy Lucys. Mike had been watching Man vs. Food on the Travel Channel, where they highlighted these Minneapolis un-gourmet delicacies. One mention, and we were all in.

The thing is, though, there are TWO places in Minneapolis that claim to be the originator of the Jucy/Juicy Lucys. Matt's, where they spell it Jucy Lucy, and the 5-8 Club, where they call it the Juicy Lucy. There are two mottos. "If it's spelled correctly, you're at the wrong place," and "If it's spelled right, it's done right." And thus, the Jucy/Juicy Lucy Burger Battle.

We spent a sum total of a couple hours before the trip, strategizing on how we would get out of our candy focus groups and get over to do a burger battle. There was a moment when we thought about working the groups around our culinary needs, but thought the better of it, but not by much.

Late on a Thursday night, we skedaddled right out of the facility at precisely 9:15Pm, after listening to several hours of consumers talking about the perfect ratio of peanut butter and chocolate in the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, and headed right out to Matt's. Then we would slide down the street to the 5-8 club for Round 2.

Matt's turned out to be a bit of a biker bar and cop hangout all at the same time. It was narrow, dark, rustic, and entirely charming. We bussed a couple of tables to accommodate our group of 5 and reviewed one of two menus - a single dry erase board hanging on the wall, and the paper menu sandwiched between pieces of plexiglas on our table. The choices were few - but who cares? You're not going there for anything but a Jucy Lucy for $4.95. And do you know why it's so inexpensive? Because they don't give you plates, and they have no issue telling you so!

We each ordered a Jucy Lucy with onions and a basket of fries. In the meantime, I took a visit to watch Matt grill these bad boys. One guy, with a head full of dreadlocks gathered into a ponytail, manning a full grill. Sweet and simple.

When the burgers came, the sassy and fun server told us we should eat a few fries and let the burger cool down, and then to eat along the edges so that you didn't get a hot-cheese-burn in the mouth. I'm nodding my head and looking down at my burger, served on wax paper. I look up to grab a few fries - I follow directions to a fault - and watch Mike take a HUGE bite out of the burger. I mean, the burger looked like a horseshoe afterwards. I was like, hey, I might be able to watch a spit-out here! Alas, the cheese was apparently not that hot, because he looked up and started MMM-ing some accolades. I looked at the hubby, and he stared and Mike with a look of - great, I'm never gonna catch up.

I started nibbling on the edge, and finally got to the inner core of cheese-lava mixed with the fatty juices of the burger, which couldn't have been more than 80% lean. It was such a fascinating eat - if you squeezed the burger too hard, the stuff would ooze all over the place - down your hand, all over your wedding rings, down into the palm. Yes, it was messy. But it was, perhaps, the best burger I've ever had. And it didn't even have the works, like lettuce and tomatoes, that I like to put on my burger. There's not even a girly, pamby option for it. It comes two ways - with or without onions.

The funny thing about all of us wolfing down our burgers, was that earlier that evening, we had discussed that we should pace ourselves. We were going to be going to two burger joints that evening, for goodness sakes, and how gross would that be? Half here, half there? That sounds about right. Well, that went right out the door once we took the first bite, acknowledging that if the 5-8 club had a burger just as good, that we would just have to face the fact that we were gluttons. We all decided that we could sacrifice the average fries. Yeah, that's what we would do...

As we walked out of Matt's, we stopped to watch the man make his magic. He picked up one very thin patty, folded an American cheddar cheese slice in half, and sandwiched it with another patty, and worked to seal it all the way around, several times. So simple, and yet, so good.

Into the 5-8 club, and it's just a different vibe. Where it seems like Matt's had been around for centuries, and that the place was formed so that they could distribute the Jucy Lucy, the 5-8 club seems more like a Friendly's. There's a huge menu that goes with it, and it just wasn't as raw and real. We ordered the same, but added a basket of onion rings.

They came, and we could already tell they were different. The burger was so much thicker than Matt's. As we got working, I found that I couldn't even get to the cheese until the fourth bite. And then, it had the consistency of Velveeta. At any moment, it seemed that it would start congealing. The silence of evaluation was broken by Jeff, who said, "I hate to be the one to say this, but the ratio is wrong." I mean, really, we are the ones who would know something about perfect ratios.

5-8 club was so disappointing. Its only redeeming quality was that the onion rings were pretty darned good.

Matt's Jucy Lucy is hands down the winner. The question seems to be around who is the original, but if Matt's were ever validated to have been the second place to have served the Jucy Lucy, I won't care. I'd still go there - because when one is far superior to the other, why would I care?


Anonymous said...

Totally agree. We tried Matt's about a month ago and 5-8 today. At Matt's we actually sat at the bar by the grill and were fascinated by one burger-cheese-burger being lined up and grilled. 5-8 was very boring -- might as well go to your everyday restaurant. And Matt's Jucy Lucy was by far much fresher, jucy, and tasty. 5-8 was too thick, dry and tasteless. We'll be back to Matts!

Anonymous said...

Matt's is a crap hole and the food sucks. 5-8 is far better. No contest.

Anonymous said...

I heard they ripped off some burger place in Texas lol. Texas has the best burgers as i recall. I no longer eat meat tho since i dont want cancer.