By John Garland
Photos by Daniel Murphy
In just two years, Luke Shimp has grown a simple burger concept into a bona fide powerhouse chain. But how will the newest Red Cow fare in the star-studded North Loop?
As the dining identity of the Twin Cities grows ever-more confident, it’s about time we made a painful, if necessary, admission: the jucy lucy is our most overrated food. It’s a novelty; it’s edible kitsch. Mostly, it’s a downright shame that two overcooked patties mangled into a cheese volcano is such a primary gauge on our local burger barometer.
Of course, some are quite delicious. But rarely can even the best jucy lucy approach the glory of the perfect medium rare patty with just the right proportion of high-quality toppings. In the words of Red Cow owner Luke Shimp, when you think of burgers, you should think of simplicity.
“There are so many great burger restaurants in town, The Nook, 5-8, Blue Door, places that have been around a while,” says Shimp. “But no one was doing it like we’re doing it now—high-end ingredients, linens, nice glassware, no baskets and paper plates. It’s a different style, not better, just different.”
A former partner in the Blue Plate Group, Shimp opened the first Red Cow in Minneapolis’ Fulton neighborhood in February 2013 and a second on Cathedral Hill in St. Paul last June. Now, its third location is slated to open February 10 in the North Loop, and in that short span they’ve developed loyal neighborhood followings.
“I’ve been so humbled by the response, it’s been amazing,” says Shimp, who set out to build what he calls a 21st century tavern. “The real definition of a tavern is a public space. It was where the neighbors gathered. So we blended in the old and new, tin ceilings and dark wood, mixed in with some lighter colors. We’re looking for that warmth.”