Ju(i)cy Lucy

5-8 Club, 5800 Cedar Avenue

Matt’s Bar, 3500 Cedar Avenue

About 15 years ago I jumped in my friend’s Buick and was transported from my sheltered collegiate existence in St. Paul to the big city to have something called a “Jucy Lucy.”  It was quite the adventure for somebody that grew up in rural North Mankato.  The experience stuck with me, Matt’s became a regular weekend destination for me when I moved to Minneapolis.  Once on a Gophers-Wisconsin football Saturday, Matt’s was full of Badgers fans so we journeyed down Cedar Avenue to it’s rival, the 5-8 Club for Juicy Lucys.

I don’t recall my first 5-8 experience so recently I went there again, and ordered my Matt’s usual: Juicy Lucy with fried onions, fries, and a Grain Belt.

Here are my observations about both restaurants:

Matt’s pros: beautifully molten cheese between two patties, perfectly fried onions placed with the right quantity on the burger, tasty fries.

Matt’s cons: longer wait, slower service, strict serving etiquette (no ranch on the side, no ice in the water).

5-8 pros: shorter wait, mutiple locations, faster service, parking lot, patio, more diverse menu (more options for vegetarians), choice of cheese filling (classic American, Blue Cheese, Pepperjack or Swiss).

5-8 cons: cheese not totally melted, bun soaked with grease, fried onions sloppily cooked and placed on burger.

According to their website and menu, the 5-8 Club was originally a speakeasy, opening in 1928, a year after the former Richfield neighborhood became part of Minneapolis.  The speakeasy was in a house with a secret underground garage where the liquor could be brought in.  The top of the house was cut off later and another structure was added in 1934.  The timeline on the website says the Juicy Lucy was born in the 1950s. At the end of Prohibition in 1935, a bar operated by Serene Wagner was located at 5800 Cedar Avenue.

The building occupied by Matt’s Bar was built in 1915, it was originally a grocery store. Matt’s claims the Jucy Lucy was born in 1954 when a regular asked the cook to seal up some cheese between two patties.  The patron exclaimed, “that’s one juicy lucy!”  Matt’s has been serving them every since, with a creative spelling change.  A bar was first opened at 3500 Cedar Avenue in 1941, operated by Carl Laudenslager.  Minnesota Historical Society has some photos of the bar when it was know as Nib’s.