They sell chicken sandwiches, but please don't get one.
Of course, to review Matt’s Bar without inherently reviewing Minneapolis’ signature food offering, the Juicy Lucy, is impossible. On food merits alone, Matt’s Bar is an easy destination to recommend as one of the must-visit locations in Minneapolis. But as far as Minneapolis dive bars go, Matt’s Bar would be an easy recommend even in the absence of molten cheese-infused meat patties, owing to the vintage look of this classic neighborhood corner dive bar.
Those familiar with the Juicy Lucy will know that there is some debate on its origins, the 5-8 Club claiming itself the originator, Matt’s Bar proclaiming the opposite. The fight goes so far as to invoke grammar, Matt’s Bar using “Jucy Lucy” as its moniker, 5-8 Club adding the ‘i’ back into “Juicy.” Either way, it’s difficult to be too upset with a hamburger stuffed with cheese no matter the historical nature of its existence. Matt’s Bar clearly has the process down to a science, likely thanks to the fact that burgers have been dispensed here since 1954.
Matt’s Bar is not a case of the famous restaurant growing fat on its fame and straying from the delicious origins of the signature dish. Though excellent versions of the Juicy Lucy can be found at the 5-8 Club and The Nook among other spots throughout the city, Matt’s claim as purest offering features a lot of support. For a location so famous and so prolific in the sale of hamburgers, the grill itself is shockingly small. And though the capacity fits the small footprint of the building itself, the sheer sight of a flat top crammed with grilled beef is heart warming and mouth watering.
All of this meat talk aside, the footprint is exactly what a Minneapolis dive bar footprint should be, a neighborhood plot with an open floor plan and nicely dim lighting augmented by a little bit of beer sign neon. Crammed during high traffic hours, there may be no choice on where to sit, but the options include a line of booths along one wall that stretch the length of the space. The opposite wall holds the bar itself, a straightforward L-shaped version that gives way to limited seating in the back of the building. A slanted wooden “roof” of sorts covers the bar area, Christmas rope lights adorning it to create that perfect Minneapolis dive bar glow.
In contrast to the vertical wood paneling that comes with the dive bar starter pack, Matt’s Bar goes the extra mile with some wallpaper along one wall, the perfect contrast to the wide array of framed news clippings discussing the merits of cheese-stuffed meat patties. Articles are complemented with framed pictures of the bar itself, an array of available merchandise and even a handful of wooden ducks, because why not.
The only real issue with Matt’s Bar is the ability to experience it on a low-traffic day and time, allowing for a little more of a dive bar experience proper rather than a food mecca for out of towners. But while some such tourist destinations can fail to deliver on the food that made them famous, Matt’s Bar has this Jucy Lucy thing well covered, cheese pleasingly oozing out of meat in the perfect neighborhood dive bar surroundings.