Burger Paradox Added to Duluth Grill Family of Restaurants

Mike Busche


The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a paradox as “...having seemingly contradictory qualities or phases.”

This is undoubtedly the case for Burger Paradox – the newest culinary addition to the Duluth Grill Family of Restaurants. “The paradox comes from the fact that we wanted people to come in expecting a dive bar and be pleasantly surprised,” General Manager Kevin Ilenda states, “Surprised not just with our food quality, but also our service and cool artwork.”

Patrons might be tempted to judge a book by its cover, as the restaurant is (intentionally) covered with graffiti. However, guests may be surprised to learn that Burger Paradox offers delicious, chef-created burgers, wings, Phillies, and artfully crafted cocktails, wine, and craft brews.

The venue’s elegant, twinkly lights contrast the gritty urban graffiti art featured throughout. And the service is next-level good.

Please join us for this edition of Eat & Drink Duluth, where we experience all the strategic contradictions of this unique paradox … a Burger Paradox!


Burger Paradox – which opened May 21, 2023 – is the latest installment in the Duluth Grill Family of Restaurants. It follows Duluth Grill, OMC, and Corktown Deli & Brews in Tom Hanson’s ever-growing portfolio of restaurants and other businesses.

Located at 2113 West Superior Street, Burger Paradox is the former home to Coach’s, Spoon’s, and before that, Mitch’s Bar & Grill. Yet again, Hanson opted to house his latest endeavor in the heart of the Lincoln Park Craft District, providing additional value and appeal to the neighborhood.

Intentionally made to appear as a "dive bar", Burger Paradox's food is first-class.

While Hanson owns the restaurant, Dan LeFebvre is its managing partner. LeFebvre is expected to take over ownership upon Hanson’s eventual retirement.


The Vibe at BP is urban, gritty, and cool. As noted, the interior and exterior are decked out in bright, colorful graffiti (more on the talented artist later), including several depictions of the restaurant’s unofficial mascot: the Burger Monster.

Mela Nguyen is the Burger Paradox brand "graffiti" artist.

The restaurant features exposed bricks and ductwork. Bright accent walls – in neon green and teal – provide some nice pops of color.

There is a “restaurant side” and a “bar side,” with a semi-open concept connecting the two. Booths and high-top tables are available, along with plenty of spaces to belly up to the bar. Soft yellow twinkly lights and purple icicle lights hang above the bar, providing a moody ambiance.

Our fellow patrons included just about every demographic: couples, groups, families with young children, and seniors. We arrived at 4 pm on a Friday, and while it was initially pretty quiet, things kicked into high gear at about 5 and got busy enough for a waiting list.

Mike’s been on a bit of a wine kick, but he didn’t see any on the menu. So, he asked! And, yes, Burger Paradox offers wine. The Quadrum is a blended red from Spain. It was rich and full-bodied. There is also a Quadrum white wine available.

I chose to sample a craft cocktail: the Prickly Pear Mojito. It features Don Q Cristal Rum, mint, lime, prickly pear, and simple soda. The drink is a beautiful purple color, contrasting nicely with the mint and lime green. It had a sweet-tart flavor and packed a nice punch.

Mike enjoys the Quandrum red wine, while Andrea sips the Prickly Pear Mojito cocktail.


A variety of “munchies” (appetizers), wings, and Phillies are also available. Drinks include cocktails, hard malts, tall boys, draft beer, and wine … although the wine isn’t on the menu, you just have to ask. Local breweries Bent Paddle and Castle Danger are well-represented. And, every table comes well-equipped with an “aioli caddy,” featuring four delicious ailois that taste amazing with fries.

We sampled the "Bacon Brunch Wings,” featuring Tom and Jerry sauce, bacon, and Fresno syrup. They are created to taste like French toast with a hint of spice. Sweet and spicy: indeed a paradox!

Bacon Brunch Wings are paradoxically sweet and spicy.

It probably comes as no surprise that Burger Paradox specializes in burgers. But at BP, they refer to them as “smashies.” Each hearty burger features three giant patties with plenty of unique fixings.

Our server, Mela Nguyen, explained that two of the most popular smashies include the Paul B’Onion (All-beef patties, cheese, Top the Tater, potato chips and pickled red onions on a pretzel roll), and the Big Mac-inspired McDowell, which features BP’s own “special sauce.” A vegan patty is also available.

Mike decided to go with a classic: the Royale with Cheese.

From the menu: All-beef patties, American cheese, pickles, onion on a grilled brioche bun.

Burger Paradox's "Smashies" are three thin, perfectly seared burgers.

Mike is a dairy-free guy, so he opted for just the meat, pickles, and ketchup.

Served on a soft, shiny, Turano-brand bun, this burger is most definitely a monster. Three giant, flavorful patties provided tons of protein. The edges of the patties and the bun were well-crisped. The dill pickle slices provided a yummy crunch and flavor.

I chose to try a Philly. There are three varieties; I opted for the Classic Dunk.

From the menu:

Shaved beef, house-made cheese sauce, onions, peppers, on a hoagie roll, served with beef au jus.

The Classic Dunk Philly pretty much requires a knife and fork.

This was definitely a “knife and fork” sandwich, and half was more than enough for me. (I enjoyed the rest for the next day’s lunch). The cheese sauce had a delicious kick, and the green peppers and onions were finely diced. The hoagie, sourced from Great Harvest Bread, was soft and slightly chewy. The au jus was rich and salty.

Sides for both sandwiches include a choice of house-cut beef fat fries, Peruvian cauliflower, chips with Top the Tater, or Korean Brussels sprouts. We both opted for the fries, which were medium-thick and arrived hot and fresh.


We were so fortunate to be assisted by server Mela Nguyen, who also happens to be the amazing artist responsible for all the cool graffiti at BP!

There is no paradox between Burger Paradox's food and staff. Both are excellent. From left to right Bill (Assistant Kitchen Manager), Mela Nguyen (server and artist), Cory (Operations Manager), and Kevin Ilenda (General Manager)

Mela has a degree in graphic design, and together with her boyfriend, Kevin Ballecer (who also works as a server at BP), handled all the graffiti art found both inside and outside. Her art is also featured on all the BP merch, including t-shirts, hoodies, and hats, all available for purchase at the restaurant.

Mela was incredibly generous with her time. In addition to talking about the menu, she shared many details about her art. The art on the “restaurant side” was completed with spray paint. And for the bar, she used acrylic paint, applied with a brush.

Back to the service … Mela is incredibly sweet and friendly and offered her opinions and advice about the menu when asked. She is very well-versed in every menu option available at Burger Paradox.


Burger Paradox is indeed … well, a paradox. At first glance, the dichotomy of a “classy dive” might seem like two disparate worlds colliding, but somehow it just works. The food is delicious, and the service is wonderful.

If you’re in the mood for a decadent “comfort meal” served up in a cool, urban setting, consider giving Burger Paradox a try.

For more information, please visit burgerparadox.com, or find them on Facebook or on Instagram @burger.paradox.

About Andrea Busche,
Editor, Eat & Drink Duluth

Andrea Busche is a Duluth and regional freelance writer credited with over 1,000 bylines in local print and digital publications. Her food column, Local Pairings, was first featured in Duluth.com magazine, and later published in the Duluth News Tribune from 2016-2018.


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