On Wednesday afternoon I met up with reader “lefty” for lunch at the Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant on Nicollet Ave in Minneapolis for lunch. My specific mission was to try the Cobb Salad Burger, a burger which another reader, “Michael M”, noted is the, “best burger in town.” A pretty big statement knowing the competition but with Minnesota Monthly backing him up in their 2008 Burger Kings article which highlighted the best burgers in Minnesota, I figured he had to be on to something.
We arrived at noon and asked to be seated on the Dakota’s beautiful Nicollet patio. Our server took our drink orders right away and then came back to take our food orders. lefty was being pokey and asked for a few more minutes. Unfortunately our server has a different understanding of “a few” from the rest of us, especially those of us on our lunch break, and gave us nearly 15 minutes more to think over the menu. Eventually she arrived after I poured my second water into the glass which at one point held soda/lime and she took our orders. I went with the Cobb Salad Burger described as, “8 ounce natural ground beef, classic cobb salad style, house barbeque sauce,” for $12.95 and lefty with a Half Note Lunch Plate (a pick two combination) which included a salad of mixed greens and half of a quesadilla for $7.95.
The server never came back to refresh our drinks or check on us during the additional 20 minutes which passed between her taking our orders and when the food finally arrived. Nevertheless, once it did she refreshed my soda/lime and we were presented with our lunch entrees. lefty’s Half Note Lunch Plate was unimpressive to say the least. A simple bunch of greens propped up next to a very thin quesadilla, which he remarked included a meat he couldn’t discern, and topped with more salad fixings such as thinly sliced fresh jalapeno and radish. After eating some of it he passed on the “lefty stamp of approval” and provided a pretty cold note of disapproval.
My burger, the entire reason for this trip down Nicollet Ave, was described by reader Michael M. as, “Real gourmet thing, great beef, cooked perfectly…it’s a real treat,” and as mentioned above it was backed up by Minnesota Monthly which noted, “If you want to know how five-star chefs make burgers for other five-star chefs, look no further.”
As with any recommendation provided by someone I don’t know very well and backed up by a publication which I find to be hilariously weak at best, I went in with a cautious but open mind. In my mind’s eye I envisioned a towering inferno of awesome but in reality what came out was a charred and muddied mess:
The Cobb Salad Burger is exactly what it says…a burger on top of a salad. While Michael M., noted it was open faced, little did I know that this meant it was going to appear as if someone had knocked it over between the kitchen and the table and let everything lie exactly as it fell. The, “thinly cut Bibb lettuce leaves,” as described by Minnesota Monthly were more like wilted shredded lettuce from Burger King rather than the number three Minnesota Burger Kings restaurant of 2008. The, “gorgeously charred patty…rested on a slab of grilled Pugliese bread,” was actually a charcoal briquette which would have given only Kingsford a run for its money sitting atop a tasteless styrofoamish piece of cheap toast. In fact, just for reference, the 1/3 of the burger which was the most charcoal-like was hard enough that I couldn’t easily poke my fork through the crusty exterior into the slightly less crusty interior. The entire patty, suffering from severe overcooking, was grey and tasteless. The house BBQ sauce was there and added a nice touch of nothing as I picked hunks of overdone sugar and meat from my molars while crying to the burger gods to allow for this dish to somehow be passable.
However my wish was not granted in any way, shape, or form. The crispy and tasteless onion rings on top were ice cold and the cobb salad, which was supposed to include smoked bacon, egg, and some sort of house-made pico de gallo was actually nothing even close. The overcooked and dry bacon pieces, tiny bits of egg whites, a couple of tomatoes which were too red to be fresh this early in the season, and some pedestrian bleu cheese which was clearly tailored to the Minnesota cheese palate instead of the five-star chefs Minnesota Monthly claims, were disappointing to say the least. When the server came to ask us how everything was she quickly turned tail when I alerted her to the fact that I’ve had better.
News flash Dakota: if someone says their burger, something no one could possibly screw up, is not good then you ask why and you try to fix it so that the lofty words of praise provided by others are lived up to. Unfortunately none of that happened today and the $29+ lunch along Nicollet Ave was ruined by something which was so poorly executed that perhaps it’s time for the Dakota to rethink their lunch-time strategy and close up shop unless there is some live music playing inside. Because honestly, what we were served would have been better and cheaper at a 1 year old’s birthday party for 65 than a business lunch for two. Shame on you Dakota Jazz Club for what we were served today. You should be embarrassed that a piece of overcooked Kingsford left your kitchen yesterday. Boo.
Have you ever eaten at the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis? What did you think? Have you had the Cobb Salad Burger? If so what was your experience like? Do you think that a “burger” should be served atop a salad? Do you think that if it was it would be worth $13? Whatever you have to say about the Dakota Jazz’s Cobb Salad Burger failing to live up to its pedigree go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your own thoughts on this one.
Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant
1010 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN 55403
See all the pictures from Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant on Flickr here.