The Cheeseburger at Lake & Irving: “And if you want beef then bring the ruckus”

Lake & Irving Cheeseburger.2I used my ten-cup Chemex to brew one, single goddamn 5-oz cup of coffee, which is ridiculous, but that’s all the beans I had, and no other way of brewing a small amount of coffee. And I needed fucking coffee.

I drink coffee every day, mostly because I drink coffee every fucking day and don’t take away my fucking coffee. Since I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t bat an eyelash at $14 burgers, I get excellent fucking coffee from Dogwood at Calhoun Square.

There’s two burger spots on the list at Calhoun Square, and I was literally walking toward one, then stopping and turning around and walking toward the other, then going back, then going forth, mumbling to myself the entire time, still wearing my bike helmet to complete the psychopath pastiche until I ditched Calhoun Square entirely and went to Lake & Irving.

Executive Chef Chris Ikeda trained at the CIA (the food one, not the spy one), before cooking in Hawaii for a few years. He brought Hawaiian influences back to Minnesota when he opened his modern American restaurant with his brother, Andrew — also a non-spy CIA alum. Lake & Irving has been open since Fall 2013 in Uptown Minneapolis at [joke about the name of the restaurant and the intersection].

I got a Rush River Bubblejack IPA, because I’m transitioning out of shitty cheap beer season, and I hadn’t noticed that Bells Two Hearted is $4 all the time. Bubblejack is a fantastic beer, but $4 for Two Hearted is the kind of dumb on their part that I’m surprised that they’re able to sell any other beer to people other than inattentive burger bloggers. And I ordered the cheeseburger. It’s two Pat LaFrieda patties on a Patisserie 46 brioche bun with Wisconsin Cheddar and a “secret sauce”, and for $2 I, obviously, got it with Duroc bacon, because bacon, obviously.

This burger, though, is all about the beef — to their credit — but not without issues. First and foremost, this is good fucking beef. To my knowledge, by which I mean since I gave a shit and since I knew a damn thing, this is my first LaFrieda burger, and the famous butcher knows how to blend a patty. It had an unexpected sweetness on top of excellent beef flavor with fat content that kept it juicy. Unfortunately, it was underseasoned, and I really had to seek that flavor out. You really gotta salt the fuck out of a burger, people. It was super-well cooked, though: excellent sear, hot pink center. Two patties means twice the sear, which was good, but if you’re gonna use awesome beef, showcase that shit! Big fat patty, keep up the good sear, but beef beef beef. Double patties also means double cheese, but I’m not sure about cheddar. I’m trying not to be too evangelical about my religious devotion to American cheese, but I just love the way it feels, and how it pairs with beef with an excellent not overwhelming cheesiness. Cheddar’s too sharp, and it melts, but congeals too quickly so it sits on the patty rather than enveloping it. And the brioche bun was just too much. I want a bun to carry the flavors, but not be a flavor. I like a bit of butter on the bun, and, fuck, I love a butter burger, but having a butter-based bread makes it stand out where it shouldn’t. The bacon was crispy, and tasty, and I liked how it contributed in both flavor and texture. Secret sauce was a nice hint of flavor, not too strong, that lent just a little sauciness. It had me wishing the rest of the flavors were as subtle and complementary. It’s such good beef, I wished this burger was even more beef-forward.

The most confusing part of the burger was that old-school inclusion of the lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle on the side. It’s a carry-over from a bygone era of burgers put on a menu as a formality rather than a chance to shine. I don’t know what to do with them at this point; put ’em on or leave ’em out, but don’t leave it up to me. I ended up putting a pickle on halfway through, but it was too sweet of a pickle and threw off the balance. I want a show-me-what-you-got burger. If they want me to eat tomato, they should put a fucking tomato on it.

In the past couple of years, chefs have applied all of their skills, their experience, techniques to making very straightforward, but precisely designed burgers, and Lake & Irving is part of that movement. I appreciate and respect how much thought they put into it, even if I don’t agree with all of their choices. It wasn’t bad, it just felt like it was trying too hard. It seemed overthought, combining elements I dig with ones I don’t with ones I usually dig but didn’t in this case. It was ahead of its time two years ago. Double patties were revolutionary; everyone’s doubling up now. But in today’s burger culture it mostly just tastes like a pretty good burger.

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