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Food & Drink

I Waited 1.5 Hours Outside of a Gun Shop for the Buzziest Burger in Town

"There’s literally a cult" forming around the smash burgers from the Station No. 6 Food Truck.

Jay Boller|

My god…

I never anticipated spending almost two hours standing in the parking lot of The Modern Sportsman, a Burnsville gun shop and shooting range. But, last Friday, that's where I ended up, scrolling my phone solo in line while waiting for the buzziest burger in the Twin Cities.

If you're anything like me or 19,722 other Minnesotans, you belong to the MSP Burgers Facebook group. The premise is simple: Local burger enthusiasts post photos and reviews, many of which happen to be of the Station No. 6 Food Truck and its gooey, juicy, highly in-demand smash burgers.

Its owner, south Minneapolis native Josh Matthews, grew up cooking barbeque alongside his Mississippi-born dad. His parents ran a daycare biz, and each year the family would host a sendoff cookout for the graduating kiddos. "Seeing how happy it made people, eating good food, it struck a chord with me that’s still there," he says.

But employment in the Twin Cities restaurant industry from 2008 to 2015 didn't make Matthews happy. He worked his way up to the role of kitchen manager at a local burger bar, where the constant demands and lack of appreciation took a toll.

“I basically got disgruntled, upset," reports Matthews, 38. "They’re paying me $32,000 per year, I’m banging 50-, 60-hour weeks. I was coming home and wasn’t in a good place—I was always nervous the phone was going to ring when I’m trying to enjoy myself with my family."

In 2015, right before he offered an ultimatum to his bosses, Matthews purchased a food truck.

“I saw the money that can be made, and I was tired of busting my ass for someone else," he says. "When I got fired, I went full throttle.”

Matthews got to work building out the truck into a full scratch kitchen, one he'd use for smoked meats applied to tacos, nachos, and other BBQ riffs. He launched May 1 of 2020, an era that, as you surely recall, wasn't marked by certainty. But the pandemic proved “advantageous," as Matthews began establishing a Station No. 6 customer base that craved smoked meats at safe, outdoor distances. “We were going hard in the paint, second year was better than the first year," reports the owner/chef.

In the summer of 2021, Matthews discovered the MSP Burger page. Amused, he read the rules, saw nothing outlawing self-promotion, and then decided to share a photo of his "big, sloppy double smash burger." The post changed his life forever.

"Twenty minutes later the line started. It hasn’t stopped. It’s been insane, just insane," he says. "Every time that I’m going out, slinging burgers, people are throwing posts on the page. Literally every single day since that day. Still. It’s insane. I didn’t know it was going to open up this Pandora’s Box. I know people like their burgers… but I didn’t think it was this culty. There’s literally a cult.”

All that cultish attention is directed at an uncomplicated burger: 5-oz. smashed patties made from a proprietary chuck blend, seasoned onions cooked in butter, American cheese, and a house-made aioli, all packed between fresh brioche buns from Denny's 5th Avenue Bakery. The inspiration? The humble and delicious bacon cheeseburger from treasured, departed south Minneapolis dive Adrian's Tavern, Matthews says. “I’m a true believer in getting the simplest burger from a burger joint; if the basic burger is fire, everything else is going to top tier," he says. Today, the entire Station No. 6 menu is dominated by six variations of its smash burger. No fries, no beverages, no time for anything but the main attraction.

Was it worth an hour-and-half wait last Friday outside the ol' shooting range? Incredibly, yes. It sounds so stupid to admit that, but, god help me, yes.

My order—a double O.G. Smash Burger ($16) and a double Spicy Boi ($17)—was acquired before I connected with Matthews, thus assuring impartiality. Each featured a decadent avalanche of beef, edges cooked crisp and centers exploding with deep flavor and ample grease. The umami combo-punch of that rich, thick aioli and those butter-cooked onions left me dizzied as I chomped away inside my 2006 Hyundai Elantra, mind racing in an attempt to remember a superior burger experience. I came up blank.

Matthews was apologetic upon learning how long I waited. He was training a new cook that day, a hire that expanded the operation beyond just him. (He bought out his biz partner last year.) 

“I’m just doing what I love," he says, assuring me that 30 minutes would've been shaved off the wait if it hadn't been training day. "I love seeing people give me a thumbs up or tell me it’s the best burger they’ve ever had. I just want to make good food and make people happy.”

Matthews is well aware he's captured lightning in a bottle; he knows he can seize on the momentum and take it in any number of directions. While he has been charting his next move for Station No. 6, he's not ready to share it with this burger reporter.

“Any logical person would say expand, but I’m trying to expand in a way that maintains quality, customer service, and transparency," Matthews says. "I can’t say too much about where this is going… but it’s going to be awesome. You’re going to want to talk to me in another eight weeks.”

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