Five Questions For... Ed Kohler of Jucy Lucy Restaurants.com
If you're ever searching for a Twin Cities expert on Jucy Lucys, Ed Kohler may be the guy. Kohler runs Jucy Lucy Restaurants.com, an online clearinghouse for all things related to the South Minneapolis hamburgers with molten cores.
When not writing about burgers, Kohler is a local web strategist and blogger at TechnologyEvangelist.com and TheDeets.com. He's also president of a new startup speed consulting firm, LunchTalks.com. He lives in Minneapolis' Cooper Neighborhood, which puts him within biking distance of close to a dozen Jucy Lucy restaurants.
What is it about the Jucy Lucy that's so compelling to you why take the time and energy to maintain a website in its honor?
KOHLER: My frequent Jucy Lucy dining companion, Kirk Walztoni, deserves credit for coming up with the idea for a website dedicated to the Jucy Lucy. He called me out of frustration while trying to find a site with a complete list of Jucy Lucy locations. Hours later, JucyLucyRestaurants.com was born.
I travel a lot and enjoy trying regional foods wherever I visit. While Minneapolis is home of the Jucy Lucy, information about this local favorite was poorly organized, including a lack of a directory of places serving the delicious burger. I consider it to be a public service to help shine the light on our community's contribution to the evolution of the hamburger.
As far as you can tell, what's the best way to define a "classic" or "true" Jucy Lucy, and what local establishment comes closest to serving it?
KOHLER: This is about more than a burger but a dining experience. A classic Jucy Lucy will be served with American cheese by a server who reminds you that the cheese is hot inside. It should have a cheap bun and the only vegetables that should come near it are pickle slices or onions. It should be paired with a domestic beverage (beer or pop) served in pitchers. At least one pitcher should be gone before your Lucy's are served. Matt's Bar is the benchmark, but Adrian's Tavern, The Nook, and 5-8 Club have the format down, too.
What's your take on restaurants that play with the concept playing with upscale cheeses or even losing the bun as in the case of Common Roots, which substitutes foccaccia?
KOHLER: Nothing creates more online restaurant buzz in the Twin Cities than the addition of a Jucy Lucy to a restaurant menu. For example, the Rootsy Lucy at Common Roots Cafe has received 271 online mentions in the month since introducing it to their menu. I expect more restaurants to exploit this media potential with their own twists on the burger.
Is going upscale bad? Not at all. Restaurants should serve food that's consistent with their menus. I wouldn't expect to see a Matt's style Lucy on the menu at Manny's, for example. However, I'm going to stick with traditional locations when introducing people to their first Jucy Lucy experience.
Who was first, Matt's or 5-8, and does it matter? If so, why?
KOHLER: It matters who's first so you make the right choice for out of town guests who are only going to get one shot at eating a Lucy. I don't have a definitive answer on who's first, but I'm leaning toward Matt's since the 5-8 Club includes a history of their bar on their menus with no mention of how their Juicy Lucy was born. If they were the first, they'd champion it. Matt's Bar's vibe tells you they were first.
What's the best Jucy you ever ate and what made it so damned good?
KOHLER: While Minneapolis is home of the Jucy Lucy, my best Lucy to date was at The Nook in St. Paul. All ingredients were very fresh and cooked to perfection. My undiagnosed ADD friend from Duluth suffered a blow-out that sent molten cheese oozing down his forearm only seconds after being warned about risk. That made for a highly memorable meal.
Visit Jucy Lucy Restaurants at jucylucyrestaurants.com
And read this week's City Pages roundup of five different Jucy Lucy contenders.