Judkins St. Cafe: Where Your Dead Grandma Would Go to Taste Her Own Comfort Food

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The Very Special Episode about how the Judkins St. Cafe won the Great Chili Cookoff won several Emmy Awards in 1986.
Did you ever wish you could bring your dead grandmother back to life, just so you could taste her home cooking one more time? Well, if you did wish for something like that, I hope you're prepared to burn in Hell, heretic, since the desire to resurrect the dead is clearly evil. On your way down to an eternity spent slow-roasting in the Inferno, be sure to stop off at the Judkins St. Café.

The menu is mainly comfort food designed to comfort you in a comforting manner. It's caloric as fuck, but that after all is the point. Tim's Chips, cookies, fresh apples and oranges, and Le Fournil croissants are available behind the counter. And there is also beer: A pint of PBR is $3, a price which neither shocks nor surprises me.

Judkins St. serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Breakfast is (mostly) available all day, except for a few key items such as the Brioche French Toast ($4.50), which was the one thing I wanted more than bringing my dead grandma back to life. Sadly, I could not have either. A cup of potato and leek soup was pretty good, though; $3.50 fetched a gigantic cauldron of soup, silken and sweet, dotted with a constellation of tiny bacon bits and black pepper. Judkins St. really took liberties with the word "cup." They might as well have called this "A cauldron of soup big enough to drown a fetus," because that's what it really was.

A house salad ($4) was really big too, but in this case that's not a good thing because it sucked. A leafy bale of romaine and green leaf lettuce came with chunky streamers of raw red cabbage, julienned carrots, diced tomatoes, and a couple rings of raw onion. The riot of shapes involved--leaves and bales and streamers, cubes, and rings--made the salad look visually interesting like a vegetal Mondrian, but the accompanying balsamic vinaigrette didn't do the produce any favors, and in fact it tasted like a premade grocery-store salad.

A cup of chili ($4) was hearty enough: Cobblestoned with lots of beans and ground beef, it was topped with a melted crosshatch of cheddar. Unfortunately, the flavors lacked depth. Here's how to improve the Judkins St. Café's chili: Write a television screenplay about a clumsy Judkins St. employee who accidentally spilled a whole jar of chili powder into a pot of simmering chili. He had no time to cook another batch, but they reluctantly entered it into the Big Chili Cookoff, because he didn't want to set a bad example for his little brother. But lo and behold, the judge, played by Alain Ducasse as himself, was so impressed by what he called "an audacious exploration of the very limits of chili cookery" that he awarded them first prize! Then Special Guest Brett Favre said, "That chili is as spicy as all those text messages I sent!" Then the studio audience laughs and the screen freezes and the Embassy Television logo appears. If you could make life imitate art, the chili would be better.

The Judkins Burger, on the other hand, is a thing of beauty, served on a sesame-seed bun with lettuce, tomatoes, and onion. The patty itself was shaggy and loosely packed, with an admirable charred slag on the outside. Inside it was an unapologetic medium-rare. I chose to add Swiss cheese ($1). When they grilled it, the cheese dripped down and got all crusty on the bottom and tasted like raclette. The Judkins Burger was almost the opposite of the worst burger I've ever had. The WORST hamburger I ever had was on an American Airlines flight; I got it only because I didn't think they could fuck a hamburger up. After all, could it possibly be worse than McDonald's? Well, somehow it was: A spongy gray round of tired beef had been slapped between two smashed, sweaty buns, draped in a shitty orange vinyl burial shroud of waxy American cheese. It smelled like how I always imagined Richard Simmons smells.

The Judkins Burger is far superior: It pisses in that American Airline burger's coffee. The Judkins Burger tastes like a homemade hamburger you'd get at a Memorial Day barbecue. If the Judkins Burger made any misstep, it was with the tomato, a pink, mealy Frisbee of depressing wintery sadness. Tomatoes have seasonal affective disorder--they're total losers nine months of the year. I've always said that in winter, if you can't offer the juicy, erotic, blushing tomatoes of late summer, then DON'T EVEN PUT THEM ON THE MENU. People won't throw a hissy fit if they can't get a tomato on their burger in February. So don't even try!

A big slab of macaroni and cheese came with a side salad for $8.This was that same grocery-store salad, but the mac and cheese was great. Tender tubes of penne were mortared together with cheese sauce. More cheese was melted on top and dusted in a delicate bread-crumb crust. A sprinkling of minced thyme and parsley graced the surface. The serving was the size and shape of a brick; if you wanted to start some sort of delicious riot, just hurl it through the mayor's window. Insurrection was never so tasty!

Judkins St. Café is interesting. The food is sometimes very good, but other times ill-conceived. It's reasonably priced. If you can't stand the uppityness of nearby Madrona funhole St. Clouds, why not give Judkins St. Café a shot? After all, now that your grandmother is dead and Brett Favre has stopped texting you, you've got nothing left to lose.

Rating: 7 dead grandmas out of 10.

Judkins St. Café is located at 2608 S. Judkins St.

To place an order call 322-1091.

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