Today, I undertook a challenge that I’ve never done before. Today for dinner not only did I eat two hamburgers with fries, but I did it in two different establishments, and I did it within an hour of each other. Now, what, you might ask, would compel me to do something like this? It was for you my reader, and for the opportunity for me to establish which is the best of the best in Battle Juicy Lucy!

 
See, in Minneapolis, there are two establishments that serve a very unique hamburger known as the Juicy (or Jucy) Lucy. This burger is basically two quarter pound patties that have the cheese actually cooked inside of them. That’s right, a stuffed cheeseburger! The two establishments are Matt’s Bar and the 5-8 Club. Both are on Cedar Avenue in Minneapolis. Both claim to have invented the famous burger. Both have been featured on multiple Food Network and Travel Channel shows (most recently Man vs. Food and Food Wars). And, since I don’t know the next time I will be in Minneapolis, I thought today would be a great opportunity to try them both and offer my opinion.

 
I started my hamburger endeavor at Matt’s Bar. I chose to start there simply because it made the most sense for my loop to the airport. I was able to walk in and find a seat at the small bar in Matt’s. It definitely is not a big place, seating about 60 if everyone squishes. The whole thing sort of has a feel of “Grandma’s Basement”, but in a good way. There is golden wallpaper on the wall, older carpet on the ground, simple booths, an ATM in the corner (Matt’s doesn’t take plastic), and a couple of TVs on the wall. It is definitely the type of place that has seen its fair share of after softball revelers who come to drink one of the 6 beers on tap. The whole place is run by 3 people; the bartender, cook and waitress, and the menu is about 10 items up on the wall. Conversely, the 5-8 Club is a little more diner/bar. Originally it was started as a “Speakeasy” back in the days of prohibition, and has retained a little bit of that social club ambiance. There is a main dining area, a separate bar with both high tables and bar seating, and an outside deck. It is a little more open than Matt’s and a little brighter. There were quite a few more people working at Matt’s, with at least 5 servers that I could see, and I don’t know how many people in the kitchen. The menu was much bigger as well, like you would expect in a diner.

 
At both places, I ordered the same thing; a Juicy Lucy with fried onions, side of fries and one beer. {Interesting side note: at Matt’s it is spelled Jucy, a typo that was just never corrected, and now will never change}. At Matt’s, the Lucy only comes one way, with American cheese. At the 5-8 Club, you can mix it up, so I opted to go with Pepperjack. At both places, the wait for the burger was about the same; 20 minutes give or take. That’s because they are all cooked to order, nothing sitting around under a heat lamp at either of these places. The wait could have been longer at Matt’s if I’d arrived 20 minutes later as it filled up with people.

 

The Juicy Lucy is not a burger that you cut in half when you get it, so when I got my burger at Matt’s (see picture on the left), I just dove in. In the picture, it doesn’t look like much, but that’s because the goodies are on the inside. The interesting thing is in my first bite, I bit in just right that half of the cheese actually squirted out the back, fortunately landing on the wrapper. It ended up giving me a nice dipping sauce for the burger. Everything about the burger was simple, but good. The meat was definitely flavorful with the cheese really working to keep it moist even though it was cooked to medium well. The onions added a good amount of flavor, picking up some of the flavors from the burgers since they were prepared on the same flat top. But, they were very finely diced, almost like McDonald’s, which I really don’t like that much. Then there were a couple of pickles that add that nice crunch and acidity that balances very well with a burger. I did not end up adding any ketchup or anything like that to the burger, and they don’t come with any type of special sauce, though it really didn’t need any. The French fries were your basic shoestring variety, and good, though nothing super special.

 

Having finished that burger, I had a feeling that the 5-8 Club had its work cut out. So, I was excited when that burger came out, feeling like they were up to the challenge. It appeared that the Juicy at the 5-8 Club was actually a little bit bigger than the one at Matt’s. It came with the “fried” onions (in both cases these were actually caramelized) that were much more the style that I like; coarsely chopped. The fries were thicker cut, and had a nice amount of salt and crunch. Biting into the burger, it was cooked perfectly; medium and juicy. The cheese was melted like you would find in a cheese stick, not completely liquefied. It did not shoot out the back when I bit in, and I was definitely happy except for one thing; it seemed to be less flavorful. The beef just seemed a little more bland than what I had at Matt’s, and the onions definitely had less flavor (I’m guessing that they are cooked apart from the burgers). I did like the melted Pepperjack as part of the burger quite a bit, and I definitely finished the entire burger. 

 
5-8 Club Tavern & Grill on UrbanspoonMatt's Bar on UrbanspoonAt the end, each place had something that it did really well. I really enjoyed the ambiance of Matt’s, so much more a local watering hole where everyone knows everyone. At the 5-8 Club, I really enjoyed the opportunity to include different cheese in my Juicy, and the overall preparation was great. The 5-8 Club also had excellent fries. When the Travel Channel did the Food Wars head-to-head challenge, the winner was Matt’s Bar. And, I have to say, Deck On Food agrees with this verdict! It really came down to the taste of the burger, and there was just a little bit missing from the 5-8 Club burger; just slightly underseasoned. But that little bit was enough to give the victory to Matt’s (even though I wouldn’t mind trying the Blue Cheese Juicy Lucy next time I’m in Minneapolis).

Final Verdict (head-to-head):

  • Ambiance – Matt’s Bar
  • Selection – 5-8 Club (4 cheese options)
  • Technique – 5-8 Club 
  • Taste – Matt’s Bar

Overall – Matt’s Bar

 

Final Verdict (overall burger rating):

 

Matt’s Bar – 3.75 Stars (good burger, ok fries)
5-8 Club – 3 Stars (ok burger, good fries)

 
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4 Responses to “Deck on the Juicy Lucy – Matt’s Bar vs. the 5-8 Club – Minneapolis”

  1. Kathryn Johnson says:

    Deck,

    Good review. I could never figure out which one was better. Look forward to your next visit to MSP.

  2. Incredibly revealing appreciate it, I reckon your trusty followers will probably want even more articles along these lines continue the good effort.

  3. Mike Tierney says:

    A couple corrections. First Matt’s cannot use the Juicy name because it is a 5-8 trademark. Secondly there was no “winner” on the Food Wars challenge.
    I asked about these two points when I recently had dinner at the 5-8 Cedar location.
    I think the burgers are good at both locations but prefer the chicken wings at 5-8 over a burger.
    Good job on your research though. Thanks. Maybe the blue cheese burger will sway your vote to 5-8?

  4. admin says:

    I’m not opposed to trying it. One of the things I do like better about the 5-8 is the different cheese options. Variety is the spice of life :-)

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