Lake Minnetonka's Best Burgers and Brews

A gourmand's guide to the grill and what to pair it with.
The Narrows' Black and Bleu burger pairs perfectly with a glass of Three Philosophers.

The classic hamburger has its place in our hearts and our stomachs. But as the old adage goes, variety is the spice of life. For a fun take on a traditional staple, follow the advice of five local grill masters who know burgers best and whip up something new next time you’re cooking al fresco.


Plaza Burger, Snuffy’s

Accoutrements: Swiss cheese, fried onions, sour cream and chives

Beer pairing: Youngs Double Chocolate Stout

“It can be hard to wrap your taste buds around this burger,” says Bryan Bach of Snuffy’s with a laugh. Indeed, the only similarity this burger shares with a traditional hamburger is that both depend on a meat patty. But while a standard burger comes with lettuce, tomato and pickle on a white or wheat bun, the Plaza Burger is adorned with sour cream and chives, fried onions and Swiss cheese atop a rye bun. Intrigued? So are Snuffy’s customers. Bach says the Plaza Burger has been popular since it appeared on the menu a decade ago.

For a unique taste, he recommends steaming the cheese onto the burger. Near the end of the grilling process, Bach adds fried onions and a slice of Swiss cheese. Then he adds a dash of water to the cheese and patty, and shuts the cover of the grill. “This zaps the cheese rather than requiring the heat of the burger,” says Bach. “It allows the cheese to really melt, so it becomes almost liquid-y.”

To make the most of your Plaza Burger, Youngs Double Chocolate Stout can easily take the place of the chocolate malt you’d normally order at Snuffy’s, says Tyler Melton, manager at The Wine Shop.  “This beer has copious amounts of roasted chocolate malt and a lactose sugar addition that turns this stout into a creamy wonderland of malty indulgence.”

 Plaza burgers with Youngs Double Chocolate Stout

Firehouse Burger, Champps

Accoutrements: Red onion, red bell peppers, green bell peppers, yellow bell peppers, poblano peppers, green chiles, Tabasco Chipotle Sauce, jalapenos and pepper jack cheese

Beer pairing: Saison Dupont Belgian Farmouse Ale

Can’t get enough of the heat? Neither can Bobby Warren, executive kitchen manager at Champps. He recommends their Firehouse Burger to satiate your heat cravings, thanks to a heaping pile of red onion; red, green and yellow peppers; and poblano peppers, all sautéed with green chiles. “It’s a spicy, flavorful burger,” says Warren. “People really like the fresh peppers.” He also smothers his burger with Tabasco Chipotle Sauce and jalapenos, with a slice of pepper jack cheese to seal the deal.

Even with its entourage of peppers, Warren recommends this burger for a crowd. “If everyone likes the heat,” he says, “it’s good for all.” The staples—lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle—can be great on this burger, too.

If you need to cool off a bit, Melton suggests the Saison Dupont Belgian Farmouse Ale. “Crisp and dry with a wonderfully fruity bouquet, this brew is both thirst quenching and palate cleansing,” says Melton.


Juicy Lucy Burger, Haskells

Accoutrements: French Onion Soup mix and onions (in the meat), Velveeta or Brie cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, sliced jalapeno peppers and red onion

Beer pairing: Weihenstephaner Original Lager

It wouldn’t be a local burger round-up without a Juicy Lucy. Start by mixing fresh ground beef with French Onion Soup mix and onions, says Haskells’ Eddie Lundgren. Let the burger refrigerate overnight before making ½-inch patties. Then, place 2 ounces of soft cheese, like Velveeta or Brie, in between two patties. “Pinch the ends together or they will fall apart,” says Lundgren. Grill the patties and enjoy “the works” on your Lucy, which for Lundgren means bacon, lettuce, tomato, sliced jalapenos and red onion.

The key to a successful Juicy Lucy is using soft cheese. A hard cheese, like Swiss, may require longer cooking time, leaving you with a well-done burger. The softer the cheese, the more likely you are to avoid burning your tongue on boiling cheese, too.

Melton suggests a lager, like the Weihenstephaner Original Lager, for this Juicy Lucy. “These guys are one of the oldest breweries in the world and their lager is world-renowned as one of the finest produced,” says Melton.

Frisco Sourdough Burger, Scotty B’s

Accoutrements: “Real” Swiss cheese (not American Swiss), bacon and tomato

Beer pairing: Southern Tier Un Earthly

When it comes to a good hamburger, grill prep is as important as the grill itself. Scott Bjorlin of Scotty B’s starts his hamburgers off as meatballs. “Roll the hamburger into a giant meatball, either 1/3-pound or ½-pound,” says Bjorlin. “Then use a plate or the flat bottom of a pan to smash the meatball into a hamburger shape.” Using this method as opposed to a pre-pattied frozen burger yields a much juicier end result. Bjorlin places his pattied burgers on a pre-heated grill and flips them only once during the cooking process.

While the burgers are sizzling, Bjorlin butters and grills two slices of sourdough bread. To complete the meal, adorn it with real Swiss cheese (“as opposed to American Swiss cheese,” Bjrolin warns), two strips of bacon and two slices of tomato. “Our Frisco Sourdough Burger is best with our seasoned waffle fries, but at home, it’s nice with chips and coleslaw,” says Bjorlin.

Melton advises that the Southern Tier Un Earthly would pair wonderfully with this burger. “This double IPA has been infused with hops in every way possible, leading to a highly aromatic and enormously bitter offering.”

Frisco sourdough burger with Southern Tier Un Earthly

Black and Bleu Burger, The Narrows

Accoutrements: Huntsman cheese (mix of crumbled bleu and cheddar cheese), onion, tomato, romaine lettuce and chunky bleu cheese dressing

Beer pairing: Ommegang’s Three Philosophers

The Narrows’ Jim Anderst is quick to point out that the Black and Bleu Burger is one of their most popular menu options. So what makes it so special? The secret may lie in his choice of cheese: Huntsman, a mix of crumbled bleu and cheddar cheeses. Rather than aiming to melt the cheese entirely, Anderst leaves some of the crumbles intact, which gives some additional texture to the overall burger. For the ultimate in perfection, serve this on a toasted sourdough onion bun with onion, tomato and leaf romaine, and a side of chunky bleu cheese dressing.

Regardless of the style of hamburger, Anderst grills according to a strict code: “We like to grill our burgers to medium or medium-well. A little pink keeps it nice and juicy.” Also, Anderst avoids cutting the burger open to check on its cooking progress as that lets the juices out. “They’re the best part!” he says.

Pair this burger with Ommegang’s Three Philosophers, says Melton. “Weighing in at 9.8 percent ABV, this monster’s malty sweetness combined with the sour cherry nose makes it a great combination with the intense savory flavors of bleu cheese.”


You can pick up any of the aforementioned beers at The Wine Shop, 17521 Minnetonka Blvd., Minnetonka; 952.988.9463