Posts Tagged ‘Duluth Cheeseburgers’
The Fitger’s Brewing Company of Duluth, Minnesota, operated continuously from 1881 to 1972, making it Duluth’s oldest continuously operating business. Through astute business acumen, Fitger’s was one of the few breweries in the country that operated through the entire period of prohibition, manufacturing soft drinks, candy, and other products.
Times change, and owners did too.
Today the 10 building complex operates as a posh hotel, microbrewery, banquets facility with attached shops and restaurants, one of which is the Fitger’s Brewhouse.
Owned by local fitness guru and restaurateur Rod Raymond, the brewhouse cooks up microbrews and does the whole locavore thing to the point where they have purchased a small cattle operation to have a steady supply of premium beef.
Kawika and the Minnesota Burger Posse, along with their musician pal extraordinaire Todd Eckart, and sampled the Drunken Brewhouse Burger with Cowboy Sauce, a third pound of freshly ground beef, topped with bacon and onion straws. The sauce resembles a light BBQ.
They liked it, and in an age of ‘we’ll prepare it the way WE want’, the posse was impressed that the burgers were prepared exactly as ordered.
Here’s the Brewhouse menu.
Duluth’s devastating floods of a few months ago were put behind Grandma’s with their reopening at the Miller Hill Mall location.
Here’s what the restaurant looked like that fateful day in June.
But today, it’s bright and shiny once again (see pic below), and serving its full menu of old and new favorites.
Kawika and the Minnesota Burger Posse continued their search for Minnesota’s best pepper cheeseburger. For those of you not familiar with the term, the “pepper cheeseburger” (which really should be written out “pepper cheese” burger) is a seasoned meat patty, deep-fried, and topped with Pepper Jack cheese. (A derivative of Monterey Jack, tho seasoned with spices and herbs to provide “heat’).
Grandma’s version includes Italian seasonings, and it’s one of Kawika’s favorites.
More on Grandma’s, a Minnesota institution, here.
Grandma’s menu is online.
Once upon a time, in rural Duluth, there was the Idle Hour Inn. My family used to hit it up in the winter, with some of my parent’s friends, usually after skiing or hayrides. The building is still there, a gaggle of owners since, in its current incantation, it’s “Billy’s.” I don’t have a clear memory of whether or not the Idle Hour had a full bar back in the day, or was, what we call in Minnesota, a “tavern”, selling only 3.2 beer. 3.2 is a reduced alcohol beer (less alcohol than most “lite” beers), and several states allow its sale in limited serve establishments and groceries. In those states, liquor and “strong beer” are sold in regulated retail outlets.
Today, the bar is fully-stocked, and the menus include bar favorites, including specialty burgers and a wide-variety of fried sides. Billy’s special burger choices include the Western (bacon, cheese, bbq sauce, onion ring); a cashew Swiss burger; a deep-fried pepper cheese burger; and a chili cheese burger. Monday nites, burgers are half price.
Prices run from 6.50 – 8.95, served with a side of chips. Side upgrades for an additional cost include fries, rings, tots, buffalo or steak fries.
Kawika and the Minnesota Burger posse checked out Billy’s, they reported the burgers and sides freshly prepared, tasty, with affable service.
Also on the menu? Steaks, chops, seafood, ribs.
You’ll note on the exterior sign a reference to “On/Off Sale”. Another Minnesota quirk. It means you can drink there or purchase bottles to go.
(All photographs @ Kawikamedia).
Kawikamedia and the Minnesota Burger Posse have embarked on a mission of checking out “dive” bars in the area. This week, it was the Amnicon Bar s on the Corner of Tri Lake Road and County A out by Pattison Park. About 10 miles South of Superior, Wisconsin, on Amnicon Lake.
There are a number of lakes in the immediate area, Amnicon is reputed to be a hot bed for crappie, perch and muskie fishing. According to the DNR website, the muskies range from 30-50″.
But fish wasn’t on the Posse’s menu, they enjoyed the burgers and coney island style hot dogs.
The coneys were Hormel natural casings, and were reported to be excellent.
The Amnicon burger came topped with ham and cheese and a side of curly fries.
Minnesota Burger Reporter Kawikamedia checked out the Zeitgast Arts Cafe in, part of Zeitgeist Arts, a combination cafe, arts cinema and theater in the downtown neighborhood that is rapidly becoming Duluth’s “Art Sector”. He and his pals took in “The Skin I Live In” which he pronounced to be the strangest movie he had seen in a long time, and then popped into the cafe for a bite.
The cafe has a large bar, with windows overlooking Superior Street, with the splendor of the ediface of the former Hotel Duluth in view.
Kawikamedia had the grilled Angus burger, with melted cheddar, dressed with lettuce, tomato, onions, and mayo, plopped on toasted bun and accompanied by pommes frites. (I never knew there was anything “French” about Duluth, except for the founding father).
He pronounced the burger and fries as A-OK!
He started with the smoked fish appetizer, and said the whitefish was grand.
On to the burger. “The best burger I have had in a restaurant ever!” That’s pretty high praise.
They start with a 1/2 pound of local grind, sprinkle their own magic seasoning on it, and chargrill it to your order. Kawika went with the “Pacific Style”, which adds avocado, lettuce, tomato, shaved onion, and garlic mayo.
Photographs copyright 2012 Kawikamedia.
Spoiler alert: BurgerDogBoy H-A-T-E-S sports bars. There would have to be something REALLY spectacular inside to get me in one, like the woman of my dreams, or at least the burger of my dreams.
Such was not the case at Sneakers Sports Bar & Grill, inside the “Holiday Mall” downtown Duluth, MN. The “Holiday Mall” is basically a couple floors sitting underneath a Holiday Inn, which used to be the Normandy Inn, an offshoot of the Minneapolis hotel of the same name, which has been around since back in the day, and was always known for serving fresh, hot, popovers with every meal. (Whew, that was a long sentence).
I don’t think the Holiday Inn continued this practice. The Holiday Mall was also home to a large McDonalds, who apparently scooted due to either 1) economic reasons, or 2) getting bored with being the hangout of choice for the local street denizens.
Anyway….sports bars. Ho hum. Usually loud, usually obnoxious patrons, usually the same menu coast to coast…. your burgers..your wings…. your…blah blah. Why can’t a sports bar have at least a couple of screens on CNN? Or one of those lumberjack reality shows? Then I’d give them a passing glance.
But I didn’t have to go into Sneakers, tho I did once, and as previously hinted at, for one of my two only reasons….no, not the burger, but in hot pursuit of the woman of my dreams (ok, she was for that month).
Minnesota Burger Reporter Kawikamedia and the Minnesota Burger Posse were in sneakers the day of the press conference announcing whether or not that senior citizen footballer Brett Favre was going to return to the Vikings for another season. Most of the Posse thought the food was passable, but the discerning palate of Kawikamedia could tell the patty neath the slice of pepperjack was previously frozen, as were the fries. He and I both share the notion that frozen patties have a certain “taste”, which isn’t present in fresh ground meat. Neither of us could tell you what precisely that taste is, but it lingers and doesn’t make for all that pleasant of a hamburger experience.
Add that to blaring TVs, loud and occasionally obnoxious patrons, street people wandering the “mall”, and you have reason enough to sneak right past “Sneakers.”
(P.S. If you google “Duluth Holiday Inn”, the description says “on the waterfront”. It’s not. If you want an actual “waterfront” hotel, google “canal park hotels Duluth” and you will be offered a variety of choices).
(Food photography by Kawikiamedia).
Mickey Paulucci, spawn of Jeno Paulucci, self-described “peddler’ and ‘not a nice guy’, started the Grandma’s, restaurant empire over 30 years ago, in Canal Park, Duluth, MN, across the street from his father’s office.
The original Grandma’s became known for quality food, ample servings, and fun ambiance, and grew to be a statewide mini-chain, but eventually cutting back to concentrate on opening several other eateries in the hometown Duluth area.
One of the spin-offs is Little Angie’s Cantina and Grill, a Tex-Mex outlet within avocado throwing distance of the first Grandma’s in Canal Park. Little Angie’s puffery says “Little Angie’s Cantina is the kind of place where the food is so fresh it’s still sizzling at your table.”
Minnesota Burger Reporter Kawikamedia popped into Little Angie’s the other day and checked out the Cowboy Burger $7.99, a 1/3 pound all-beef patty topped with marinated lettuce (wtf?) tomato, mayo, add bacon and cheese for $2.09. The Cowboy is served on a toasted bun and comes w/ fries.
He said the burger looks much better than it tastes, overcooked, dry, no seasoning. The fries were “passable.”
In these days of boutique burger places, restaurants that offer burgers as just “one more item” need to try a little harder to upgrade their offerings. One has a number of dining choices in Canal Park, and some of them aren’t part of the Grandma’s group, even!
John Jacob Astor was the first billionaire in the US, amassing a fortune in fur trading, real estate, and exports to China. He also created the first trust. At the time of his death, he was the wealthiest person in the US, and, using 2010 dollars as an equivalent, he ranks as the 4th richest person in American history. Local legend in Duluth has him dying on the Titanic, which would have been a cool story, had he not died decades earlier.
Curt Carlson, founder of the Radisson Hotels, was also a billionaire, founding the Gold Bond Trading Stamp company after a stint at P&G. He bought the downtown Minneapolis Radisson Hotel in 1960, and started a second phase of his career which eventually included hotels, restaurants, and hospitality companies around the world. 10 years after his first hotel acquisition, he built the Radisson Duluth, which encompasses the cylindrical hotel design, so popular at the time, replicated at so many urban Holiday Inns, and taking its place in history forever with John Portman’s 4,000 foot tall (well it seems like it) Westin Peachtree (original name) in Atlanta.
These three elements come together in the relaunch of the Radisson Duluth’s rooftop revolving restaurant, JJ Astor’s, whose opening coincides with the complete refurbishment of the hotel, a modern updating using retro decorating and furniture, from top to bottom.
Time was, the Radisson revolving restaurant (where was the first one, anyway?) was the place for several things: the big date; mother’s and father’s days; engagements, anniversaries and birthdays. Now they hope to take a place in regular dining and lounge choices for Duluthians, and even shut off the “turntable” in the afternoons for Happy Hour. (kind, folks!).
Minnesota Burger Reporter and the Minnesota Burger Posse stopped by JJ Astor’s for lunch the other day, and reported a generally very positive experience. They like the house-made pickles which had a hint of garlic. Plates came with fresh cut fries, which were excellent, but not mentioned on the menu as a feature. Two of the posse enjoyed the cheeseburgers, one had the pan-fried Walleye sandwich, a common fixture on Duluth menus. The Walleye is a local fish, full name “Walleyed Pike,” but it actually isn’t a member of the pike family. Go figure!
Astor’s hot young chef brings a new twist to local favorites, employing the ‘simple is better’ technique so popular today.
The Radisson stands at 6th Avenue West and Superior St., near the site of the base of the formerly famous Duluth funicular. (Oh, look it up!).
It’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and the menu is online.
OK, follow the bouncing ball, as this story can be confusing! Once upon a time, in downtown Duluth, MN, there was a venerable institution called ” Mr. Nick’s Burger King” – (Home of the famous Char-burger). Nick’s operated for years, with that name, until an upstart franchise burger joint who currently has a very scary “king” character as a mascot comes along and wants to open in Duluth. They negotiate with the Mr. Nick’s family, and eventually, a compromise was reached (the details were as secret-like as a burger joint’s secret sauce), and Mr. Nick’s dropped the “Burger King” name, and a couple or six BK restaurants opened in Duluth, and the Mr. Nick’s family was somehow involved with those. (Please don’t trouble me for the facts, I am off my meds and it’s hard enough to concentrate – LOL).
Now, once a year, the family that operated Nick’s, dusts off their burger and onion ring recipe to benefit Twelve Holy Apostles Greek Orthodox, raising money to send local kids to camp, and for other youth activities. This event occurred yesterday in Duluth.
For a mere $10, you got a taste of nostalgia via a Mr. Nick’s Burger, Rings, and a drink, and take-outs were allowed.
Minnesota Burger Reporter Kawikamedia covered the event and said a good time was had by all. Photo credits to Kawikamedia, except exterior b/w of Mr. Nick’s restaurant found online, but uncredited. (“Little” Nick at the grill; Charburger and Onion Rings).