Two Minneapolis Restaurants, a Cheese-Stuffed Burger, and One Subtle Distinction
Every iconic food has an origin story—or two or three. For years, diehards have debated the origins of everything from the mai tai to the Coney-style hot dog. The Juicy Lucy (or is it Jucy Lucy?) is no exception. Two Minneapolis restaurants claim to have invented the city’s ubiquitous cheese-stuffed burger, but who’s telling the truth?
On the same street in South Minneapolis, you’ll find both “original” iterations of the Juicy Lucy. But before we get into the specific of which is the real Juicy Lucy, let’s talk about what that might look like. One thing’s for sure: with the Juicy Lucy, however you spell it, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.
Inside this famous burger, you’ll find melted, molten american cheese—and lots of it. If you don’t want a burned mouth, it’s generally a good idea to give it a minute before biting in. When you do take that first glorious bite, the gooey cheese will rush out and everything in your life will start to make vivid sense. Now that you’re up to speed on the anatomy of a Juicy Lucy, it’s time to meet the contenders.
At Matt’s, where it’s known as the Jucy Lucy, the legend begins sometime during the 1950s. According to lore, a customer walked in one day and requested a double cheeseburger—with one slight alteration. This wild and reckless man wanted his cheese in between the patties. The legend goes on to state that this rule-breaker then remarked, “That’s one juicy Lucy!” Thus, an iconic burger was born.
Or was it?
The folks at another Minneapolis institution would beg to differ. At the 5-8 Club, where the standard spelling is embraced, the staff will vehemently argue that their Juicy Lucy is the first and most faithful iteration of the famous cheeseburger. So are they right? Well, they sort of have time on their side, but the details are a bit murky.
Opened in 1928, the 5-8 Club initially functioned as a speakeasy that served light fare. Sometime during the 1950s (sound familiar?), american cheese shimmied down off the patty and right into the midst of things, and the 5-8’s very own version of the Juicy Lucy was born. Since then, it’s been scarfed down by Adam Richman on Travel Channel’s Man v. Food and even made a bucket list of “50 Things to Do in the Twin Cities Before You Die.” In 2008, the cooks set the world record for creating the largest Juicy Lucy ever made—it comprised more than 80 pounds of beef and 30 pounds of american cheese.
The Winner Is …
We may never know who was responsible for the first Juicy Lucy, but the cheese-stuffed burger has since become a staple at some of the best restaurants in Minneapolis, and that’s certainly something we can get behind. At times like these, it’s best not to think of things in terms of who’s right and who’s wrong. When it comes to the Juicy Lucy, pretty much everyone wins.
Photo: courtesy of the 5-8 Club's Facebook page
A native of the city of big shoulders, Lisa is a small-shouldered books and booze enthusiast living on Chicago's Northwest side with a large cat, a tiny bar, and a medium-sized library.