Burger Paradox

Unlocking the full potential of National Hamburger Month

Ed Newman

The origins of the hamburger can be traced back to the late 19th century, with its exact birthplace still debated among historians. Whether it was invented in New Haven, Connecticut, or Seymour, Wisconsin, there's no denying that the hamburger has become deeply ingrained in American culture. 

Its simple yet versatile nature has allowed it to evolve through the years, adapting to different tastes and culinary trends while retaining its status as a classic American dish.  

This week we tracked down Dan LeFebvre, a co-owner of Burger Paradox, which opened last May in the Lincoln Park district. An offshoot of Duluth Grill, LeFebvre has been with the company since 2006. As the name implies, Burger Paradox is a unique, and tasty, addition to the Twin Ports burger scene. After grabbing a few photos for this week’s Burger Month spotlight we shared a scrumptious Smashburger and talked about the roots of Burger Paradox.  

The building originally housed the first Burger King in Duluth. That restaurant preceded the arrival of the Burger King franchise, which granted him the right to keep the name as well as expand it. A Mediterranean restaurant eventually replaced the Burger King here, which then yielded to the familiar Mitch’s, a classic dive bar/burger joint.  

Once the pandemic was in the rear-view mirror, the owners of Duluth Grill, Corktown and OMC saw the former Mitch’s as an opportunity to expand. Casting about for a name, they settled on Burger Paradox because of its hybrid character, a dive bar with class. Their mission: good food, good service and a clean environment.  

For National Hamburger Month LeFebvre dished up these suggestions for creating your own memorable burger experience.  

The Reader: What do you believe are the essential ingredients for a perfect hamburger patty?

Dan LeFebvre: I believe simplicity is best. Finding the right purveyors with clean ingredients.   

The Reader: Can you share any tips for selecting the best cuts of meat for hamburger patties?

DL: We like to use 100 percent chuck with a 75/25% fat ratio. Anything with a high fat content is best, chuck, brisket or short rib.  

The Reader: What cooking techniques do you use to ensure juicy and flavorful hamburgers?

DL: We like to keep it simple with salt, pepper and garlic.  

The Reader: Do you have any special seasoning blends or marinades that you like to use for hamburgers?

DL: More isn't better. Ensuring that each bite has each component and that the components compliment the beef rather than overtake it.  

The Reader: Are there any unconventional ingredients or flavor combinations that you've experimented with in hamburger recipes?

DL: We do have an Asian style burger that we mix garlic, ginger, cilantro, sriracha, sesame beef and pork into. Those have a few toppings like carrot daikon pickles, pickled ginger, fried wontons, wasabi aioli.  

The Reader: Can you share your preferred method for cooking hamburgers (grilling, pan-frying, broiling, etc.) and why you prefer it?

DL: We use flat top grills. At home I use a black stone grill to get the same result. I like them for the caramelization of the beef they provide and cooking them in its own fat.   

The Reader: How do you ensure consistency in flavor and quality when cooking hamburgers in a restaurant setting?

DL: We have a cook staff that only cooks burgers so they can focus on what's in front of them. The other guys in the kitchen have their own stations for toppings, fries etc.  We also invest in really high-quality equipment that gives us consistent cooking and grilling.   

The Reader: Are there any additional tips or tricks that you've learned for making outstanding burgers that you can share?

DL: When I was at Duluth Grill we had a hard time getting our burgers juicy because we were using lean grass-fed beef at the time so we used to shred cheese and mix it into the beef to give us a juicy and creamy burger. That burger ended up being featured in Midwest Magazine.    

The Reader: What are your recommendations for achieving the perfect texture and doneness in hamburger patties?

DL: For smash burgers you want your grill set to 400 degrees, the grill needs to be dry (no oil whatsoever). Press the patty into the grill and allow to cook 75% of the way on one side to give it a caramelized crispiness, flip then cheese and remove right away so they don't overcook. The average cook time for a patty at Paradox is 3 minutes.   

* Note to Reader readers: You don’t have to wait till Memorial Day to fire up the grill. Gather your friends and join in the festivities as we honor the mighty hamburger throughout the month of May.