Neighborhood Crawl: Juicy Lucy Loop

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Burn Your Mouth For Fun

Forgive the title of this dive bar crawl as the alliteration was a bit too irresistible to pass up, much like a Juicy Lucy, or “Jucy Lucy” as we’ll come to discuss. On rare but wonderful occasion, the worlds of dive bar authenticity and tourist destination can overlap. Food tourism in Minneapolis could be built around a lot of the region’s Upper Midwest classics, but the discussion almost universally centers on the Juicy Lucy, a hamburger patty molded to encase a molten cheese center. Done right, and allowed to cool so as not to induce third-degree burns, oozing melty cheese pouring out of a well-cooked burger is pretty hard to beat.

There are two dueling originators of the delicacy, 5-8 Club and Matt’s Bar. The stories conflict, but perhaps the more material difference today is that Matt’s Bar offers a “Jucy Lucy” one way where the 5-8 Club allows for some modification of burger toppings. 5-8 Club feels a bit more like a diner that happens to have a bar in back. Matt’s Bar is a proper dive bar that happens to have a grill in front. The experiences are different, amazing and worth the trip.

But like any great phenomenon, it has not been contained to its originators and countless bars and restaurants offer a juicy hamburger of some variety throughout the city. This is certainly a driving endeavor rather than a walking dive bar crawl, and some serious timing is going to be required to hit them all in any reasonable time period but were our stomachs made of steel and our car at the ready, these are our favorite Juicy Lucy destinations.

The Stops

1. 5-8 Club

5800 Cedar Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55417
As far as Juicy Lucy pilgrimages go, there is no wrong answer between starting at either 5-8 Club or Matt’s Bar. The only mistake would be to choose just one. The history and lore of the Juicy Lucy, 5-8 Club, Matt’s and the many televised debates about the better burger are well documented elsewhere.

This is about the atmosphere itself and the 5-8 Club is the larger of the two establishments, offers a full range of food items for those non-Juicy Lucy lovers in your life and, crucially for those visiting, sits only a few minutes from the airport. Booth seating rings an active front room, a small dive bar-like area in back and a handful of servers well-used to steady streams of Lucy seekers. Primary distinction here is the diversity of the menu, where the Juicy Lucy is more a blank canvas that can be shaped and modified in multiple ways to create combinations atop the molten cheese within. Classic location, diner feel, multiple options, more space, that’s 5-8 Club.

2. Matt's Bar

3500 Cedar Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55407
If 5-8 Club is the diner with the bar in back, Matt’s is the dive bar with a flat top grill that has cranked out patty after patty for decades. Of the two originating locations, Matt’s Bar is more likely to have a line given its much smaller footprint. There is a long bar area inside and a handful of tables and booths to match it, but be prepared for intimate quarters among the eaters and drinkers congregating here. Though there are other menu items (a chicken sandwich!), there is a single Jucy Lucy on offer. That kind of standardization may seem limiting, but the repetition of the model has created something delicious, a perfected burger. And the spelling here is intentional, owing to the origin story of the burger at Matt’s, making it a badge of honor and point of distinction between those discussing the finer horizontal cheese volcano.

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3. Casper & Runyon's The Hook

492 Hamline Ave S, St Paul, MN 55116
Casper’s & Runyon’s Nook lays no claim to the origination of the Juicy Lucy, but has over the years claimed top honors for best offering in the area. Calling their version a stuffed burger rather than a Juicy Lucy, multiple versions of the concoction are available, playing on the themes of both what’s on top of the burger and what type of cheese is inside. As a dive bar-Juicy Lucy one-two punch, The Nook is hard to beat with the neighboring, subterranean dive bar bowling alley underneath the main dining area. The Ranham Bowling Center doesn’t only offer dollar bill-covered walls to drink among, a dumbwaiter connects the bar to the kitchen upstairs, meaning visitors can have their dive bar and eat their Juicy Lucy too.

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4. Hell's Kitchen

80 S 9th St, Minneapolis, MN 55402
Downtown Minneapolis is a fascinating exercise in urban planning, where the region’s cold weather has prompted the city to adopt a vast network of skyways that allow downtown visitors to traverse great portions of the city without ever stepping foot outside. The phenomenon can sometimes make the city streets feel a little empty in colder weather as pedestrians shelter in the skyways, but the marquee outside Hell’s Kitchen certainly breaks the visual sameness. The restaurant’s independent nature and dive bar-like slogan (“unique but not fancy, interesting but not fussy”) make it interesting. The fact that it sits underground makes it compelling, aided by the presence of the Juicy Lucifer on the menu (get it). Red pepper jelly is the condiment of distinction here, but as downtown dining options go, Hell’s Kitchen provides a unique experience and a Juicy Lucy to boot.

5. Groveland Tap

1834 St Clair Ave, St Paul, MN 55105
On this list because of its feel as part neighborhood pub, part dive bar, part Juicy Lucy diner, Groveland Tap walks the line of gastropub menu without the stuffiness that can sometimes spoil a gastropub’s atmosphere. Multiple Juicy Lucy options are available, including a cajun variety with pepperjack cheese inside, among other typical bar favorites. At first glance, this may seem the most plain of the destinations on the list, but Groveland Tap strikes a balance unique to this list, the kind of combination where even the picky among your party will be happy with the choice.

Honorable Mentions

Blue Door
Blue Door is one of the newer kids on the block, but its reputation as a Juicy Lucy destination has grown quickly. The signature offering is, you guessed it, a Juicy Lucy with blue cheese at its center.

Bennett’s Chop & Railhouse
Think of Bennett’s as a steakhouse crossed with a hipster, in a good way. Classic steakhouse offerings are available here in stylish surroundings with a Juicy Lucy that comes highly recommended.

Peppers & Fries
On name of establishment alone, Peppers and Fries would likely make the mix, but the reviews of its Juicy Lucy are glowing and the sign above the door is dive bar-caliber great.

Pillbox Tavern
Some people like modern presentation with their cheese-infused hamburgers and Pillbox Tavern serves that purpose on this list. There’s no hint of dive bar or neighborhood pub here, instead an upscale offering in St. Paul.

Crooked Pint
If Hell’s Kitchen is the Juicy Lucy king of downtown Minneapolis, Crooked Pint is the pub-like cousin a few blocks away. This is the craft beer, big booth, urban location variety of restaurant that houses both Juicy Lucy’s and pot pies on its menu.

Reviews Along This Route

Pete's Bar - Jacksonville Dive Bar - Neon Sign

Matt's Bar

Minneapolis, Minnesota
Molten cheese mecca.
Ginger's Place - Jacksonville Dive Bar - Outside

Casper's & Runyon's The Nook

St. Paul, Minnesota
Bowling meets juicy lucy.

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