In my entry on Town Hall Tap last week, the basic story line there was that I accidentally went into that place when I was looking to go into Adrian's Tavern which is situated right next door on Chicago Ave. I was told by a local that the cheese-stuffed Juicy Lucy burgers (or Jucy Lucy, depending upon which tavern you favor) were among the best in town. I had probably been past Adrian's many times in my travels to Minneapolis as it is just down the street from one of my favorite Mexican restaurants, Pepitos (see my entry on Pepito's here). The day after I had gone to Town Hall Tap, I went to Adrian's for a Juicy Lucy for dinner.
Adrian's Tavern had been a long time destination for tons of Twin Citians for 80 years. The South Minneapolis location opened in 1931 as a steakhouse. After Prohibition ended, the place turned into a beer bar selling 3.2 beer and food. It had gone through a number of owners and in 1963 it was renamed Adrian's Tavern, after, presumeably, some guy or family named Adrian.
The tavern eventually ended up in the hands of Jim and Karen Pratt who turned it into a family friendly neighborhood tavern with a dozen different burgers on their menu, along with a turkey burger, brats, chicken and pork tenderloins. Unfortunately, and sadly, Karen Pratt passed away in July of last year leaving her husband, four children and 19 grandchildren. Jim Pratt continues to run Adrian's today.
It was around 7:30 when I got to the 48th and Chicago neighborhood in South Minneapolis (see map) and was able to find a place to park on 48th around the corner from Adrian's. This time walking PAST the Town Hall Tap, I went into the open door on the front side of Adrian's. There were seats open at the bar. The back bar area was somewhat cluttered and a large picture of Karen Pratt stood on a shelf. A Minnesota Twins baseball game was playing on a television tucked away up in the corner of the bar area.
The restrooms are downstairs at Adrian's, and a word of warning - the men's restroom may have been the most despicable public restroom I've ever seen in a restaurant/bar. It appears they hadn't updated the restroom since the original owners opened in 1931. They had taken an apron to put over the men's urinal so people wouldn't use it. The floor was grimy and there was rust on the metal shelving over the heating elements. Even for me, it was pretty disgusting. Maybe only Booches in Columbia, MO makes the bathroom at Adrian's look clean. But, then again, Booches has great burgers, so that could be a common theme for these old places.
It had been a long, long day and I was interested in getting a couple beers and some food in me and then heading back to my hotel in Bloomington. I looked over the menu and saw that they did have their version of the Juicy Lucy. The guy who told me about Adrian's Tavern also told me their onion rings were pretty good. So that's what I ordered. The waitress/bartender said, "It will be about 20 minutes on the Juicy Lucy. We cook 'em slow so we don't overcook the meat while making sure the cheese inside melts between the two patties." I told her that as long as there was a beer in front of me and a baseball game on the television, I was fine with that.
The grill at Adrian's is a small flat grill that is situated in a pretty small kitchen off to the side of the bar. A number of people were in the place that evening and there were a slew of burgers and a couple three Juicy Lucy's cooking up along side onions and toasting buns. I was trying to figure out how in the world this could have housed a steak house back in the 30's with such a small kitchen. It was obvious why the menu was so limited to burgers and a few other items. They couldn't make anything else that would fit in the kitchen area.
The bartender/waitress was correct - it was a full 20 minutes before my Juicy Lucy burger came out along with the onion rings. Quite honestly, I had a lot of food in front of me and I was sort of worried that I'd leave a good portion of the large basket of rings. The rings did look good, though. And I was sort of surprised to see a side of chips (with dill pickle slices) with my burger. And another surprise that I've never seen on a Juicy Lucy-type burger in the Twin Cities - they put a slice of cheese on top of the burger in addition to the cheese inside.
The problem with Juicy Lucy burgers is that the cheese inside can be as hot as molten lava. Many places caution you to wait a few moments before biting into the burger as you can get second degree burns in your mouth from the stuffed cheese. I waited a few moments before biting in to my burger. And when I did...
Ka-BOOM! Hot cheese splattered everywhere. On my shirt, my pants, down on my shoes. I've had cheese explode in my mouth and burn the living crap out my tongue, but I'd never had a Juicy Lucy that had just exploded with such a vicious velocity on the first bite that spewed cheese everywhere. I had cheese down my hand and arm. It was a mess. Thankfully, there were tons of napkins and I did my best to clean up what I could. I had to go back down to the dingy bathroom to try and clean some of the gooey cheese off of me before I could continue. Looking back, it was probably a good thing I didn't go there the day before because if the burger would have spewed cheese on me like it did that particular evening, I would have had to go all the way back to the hotel to change clothes before going on to my next appointment. Since I was done for the day, I could handle having some stains on me.
When I got back to the bar, the cheeseburger had cooled down sufficiently. And I can say that the burger was just OK. You have to cook the living crap out of a Juicy Lucy to melt the cheese inside and the only thing that is usually juicy is just the cheese. Even though the cook at Adrian's cooked it low and slow, it was still overdone to my liking. I realized right then and there that my quest to find the best Juicy Lucy in the Twin Cities had ended. The Blue Door Pub was number one and The Nook was a close number two. (The Nook recently reopened after a devastating fire last December.) Even the more famous stalwarts of the Juicy Lucy (Jucy Lucy) - Matt's Bar and the 5-8 Club - aren't as good as those two places.
The onion rings at Adrian's Tavern were good, not outstanding, but good. And as I thought, I knew that I wouldn't have been able to finish them all and I didn't. After what amounts to a double cheeseburger with a load of cheese in me and on me, I was definitely full.
Still, I wouldn't mind going back to Adrian's Tavern just to try a regular cheese burger at some point in time. I'm afraid, though, that I'd probably go past Adrian's and head right into the Town Hall Tap to get a burger there. That was an outstanding burger at Town Hall Tap. But I did like the atmosphere at Adrian's and the place did hold a lot of history. Being in business for 80 years is nothing to sneeze at and just for that, Adrian's deserves another chance at some point.