As you can see from all of the other Twin Cities postings, earlier this month I was visiting Minnesota. The reason for my visits was than I was an invited guest speaker at the University of Minnesota Mechanical Engineering Department (where I got my PhD, for those that don’t know about my ‘day job’ as an engineer). After my seminar, several professors from the department took me to Caffe Biaggio in St Paul for dinner.
A few years ago I did a review of Toscanini’s Ice Cream in Cambridge, MA, in which I mentioned that their burnt caramel ice cream is my second favorite ice cream ever, losing out to my favorite ice cream, the salted caramel from Izzy’s in St Paul, MN. However, I recently went to go point someone to my review of Izzy’s, and I realized that I’ve never actually written them up. Well, last week’s trip to the Twin Cities gave me another opportunity to visit Izzy’s, and this time I figured I should actually write them up.
Last week’s schedule had me flying to the Twin Cities to give a guest lecture at the University of Minnesota (anyone want a lecture on radioisotope power supplies for space exploration?), and my flight arrived at lunchtime, so I decided to check out one of the area’s better-regarded Jucy Lucy joints; the Nook. First of all, some background for those not familiar, a “Jucy Lucy” is a hamburger with a layer of cheese crimped between two patties. Done right, it’s a nice combination of cheese, crispiness, and juice, albeit with more than a bit of a hazard of hot cheese burns on one’s lips. As you can read over on my review of another Twin Cities stalwart, Matt’s Bar, there’s always the perennial question of who makes the best Jucy Lucy in the Twin Cities. When I lived in the Twin Cities, there were always two places that claimed supremacy and had their followers, the abovementioned Matt’s Bar, and the 5-8 Club located a few miles south on Cedar Ave. But since I left the cities in 2001, the Jucy Lucy phenomenon has spread greatly, with over a dozen places selling them (and the trend is even national, I noticed a “Juicy Lucy” is on the menu at Richard Blais’ place now). The Nook is a relative newcomer to the Jucy Lucy scene in the Twin Cities, opening in 2000, but in the last few years, their Nookie Burger (their variant of the venerable Jucy Lucy) is now frequently mentioned in Jucy Lucy supremacy discussions, so I figured it was worth dropping by.
On my recent trip to Minnesota, we had several opportunities to dine out by ourselves, or with our hosts. As a result, we had several fine breakfasts at local establishments, many of which (Maria’s Cafe, for example, or better yet, the venerable Al’s Breakfast) I’ve already reviewed on this blog. However, this time we dined at several new establishments as well. Two of them I’ll review today, and I can combine the reviews since both places (Longfellow Grill in Minneapolis, and Highland Grill in St Paul) are sister restaurants operated by the same company, and indeed, have approximately 90% overlap in their menus.