The Uptown Burger at Uptown Diner: “Why’d you have to go and make things so complicated?”

Uptown Diner Uptown BurgerI’m worried.

I just posted the second story in a row of a burger I didn’t dig that other people raved about. I wanted this blog to be cheeky and dickish in tone, but at the end of the day burger-positive, and it fully sucks when I don’t like a burger. I want to like every burger. But I don’t. I hope I’m not overanalyzing things, or that I’m creating unrealistic expectations and standards. I’m literally trying to eat and talk about as many burgers as I can fit in my mouth — not at the same time — and I don’t think I’ve hit the wall yet but I’m worried I’m becoming a burger snob, when I really wanna be a burger slut.

So upon completion of writing my last post on the eve of publishing it, i went for a bike ride. I remembered a great article I saw on Thrillist and I locked up my bike and sat down to re-read it. David Blend gives a fantastic analysis of the unapologetic lack of pretense to be found in a diner burger. And that’s what I needed. With burgers getting too complicated and my brain going with it, I needed to simplify my brain with a simpler burger. But due to geography and time restrictions, I went to Uptown Diner.

There’s no chef to speak of, and its history can’t be found. It isn’t strictly a diner in the greasy spoon sense as much as a family restaurant whose bread and butter is the weekend brunch crowd, and whose 24-hour status on weekends has led me to stuff my drunk face post bar-close amongst likeminded Uptown Minneapolitans. I’ve literally seen someone puke here. They have a few other locations with the exact same menu and logo design under different names and no overt association between them for no apparent reason. I think they’re trying to establish each location as its own independent thing, but they’re lazy about any other aspect of branding or menu design. Their main “spin” on traditional diner fare is a few cajun-lite breakfast dishes — mostly the addition of cayenne pepper and andouille sausage to hollandaise-drenched hashbrowns and eggs. But I wasn’t there for breakfast.

At the Grandview Grill (don’t click this link unless you loooove when websites autoplay shitty music), it’s the Grandview Burger, at the Louisiana Cafe (don’t click here, either), it’s the Louisiana Burger, and at the Uptown Diner, it’s the Uptown Burger, but they’re all the same: half-pound patty with American and Swiss, applewood smoked bacon, tomato, lettuce, and mayo on sliced sourdough.

It’s a hot mess. The burger is very clearly obviously a prepackaged preformed perfectly round patty that was decently seasoned and seared, and they didn’t ask how I wanted it cooked — which I like — and it came out medium well — which I don’t. Swiss cheese was basically nonexistent under the dominant American, but double cheese means double-cheesiness. Bacon was nice and crispy and smoky. Mayo’s probably my favorite sauce option: smooth and creamy, fatty, mostly tasteless except for a slight egginess. It doesn’t overwhelm anything, and makes things saucy, which is all it needs to do. Romaine lettuce for crispiness, tomato slice for tomatoiness, and it came together to make a fairly tasty if basic burger except for the stupid sourdough.

Let’s talk about the bread for a second, because it’s second only to a well-seasoned patty in importance. Its role is to hold the burger together and sop up the juices and balance the meatiness with carbiness, and sliced sourdough is such a dumbshit choice. I mean, come on. Look at it! The surface area of the sourdough is roughly twice the size of the burger, and upon picking it up, the patty broke through the flimsy untoasted surface. Like, come the fuck on! What did you think would happen? It’s far too much bread hanging off the sides. Toasting the bun is all you can do to it, increasing flavor and texture and butter. It could have used a piece of lettuce between the bun and the patty to keep the bun dry so the damn thing didn’t fall through, and they could have toasted it — are you fucking kidding me right now? — but when it comes down to it, it really fucking needed a more properly-fitted, heartier bread choice, like Texas toast if you’re going for sliced bread, or — I don’t know — a fucking bun.

Waffle fries were frozen and fried and perfect in that overprocessed, properly seasoned, battered and spiced way. I’m not a french fry dude. If given the option, I usually go with option b, but waffle fries or curly fries are my goddamn well-seasoned mealy chewy battered-fry jam. A little ketchup for dipping and I’m set.

This burger did the job. It helped me get over the dumb feels I had about this blog by kind of sucking in a way that was pretty fun to talk about. It’s a burger I had just the lowest expectations for, and it did not disappoint on that front. It certainly isn’t redefining the burger, and in direct opposition to the article that inspired its consumption, it is nowhere near being better than “fancy” burgers that are redefining themselves already and becoming simpler and better in ways that bring them even closer to nostalgic ideals of burgers that keep us eating burgers. I didn’t learn anything new from this burger, but maybe I’m not supposed to. Maybe sometimes I just eat a shitty burger and it doesn’t have to mean something, and I carry on with a meaningful wonderful relationship with burgers at large that’s sometimes great and sometimes rough, but we’re working on it, and trying to do right by the other.

And unfortunately, that’s what love is to me.

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