Blueprint Burgers and Melts in the Maplewood Mall food court (3001 White Bear Ave. N., Maplewood; facebook.com/BlueprintBurgers) is serving up some creative iterations, where Hmong pepper burgers and beef mac-and-cheese melts share a spot on the menu with classic combinations. We chatted recently with Sam Vang, 27, co-owner with Jenny Lee, about how he got his start and how Blueprint Burgers came to be.
What’s your first food memory? My mom has always been a home cook, too, and cooked traditional Hmong foods.
What did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be a mechanic at first. I was really into cars. I went to school to study welding and to become an auto mechanic.
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What was your first job in food? The family restaurants. My mom and my dad have owned restaurants for about 20 years now. Dad owned a steakhouse, and my mom picked up the Pretzel Maker stand here at Maplewood Mall.
How did you wind up opening Blueprint Burgers? I tried the whole school thing. I’m really close — I’ve done my generals and a lot of core classes and am probably a year away from getting my degree. I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do.
I didn’t want to be in debt, so I went back to my roots. We looked at places to open and learned the mall needed a burger place and we jumped on it. We opened Sept. 1, 2016. In addition to burgers, we have grilled cheese melts and finger foods including cheese curds that we batter ourselves.
What’s your favorite dish on your menu right now? The Sam’s special with added Hmong pepper in there. The Sam’s special has an over-easy egg, sauteed onions, mushrooms and bacon and is served with 80/20 Angus beef. I like to get that with the sauce from our Hmong pepper burger. That’s one of our most popular burgers, too. It comes with a sauce that has chili peppers we get from local Hmong farmers along with fish sauce, lime juice and cilantro.
What’s the last thing you cooked at home? My grandma has a small farm and she raises her own chickens. We made a traditional Hmong chicken soup with vegetables and herbs.
If you had to eat or drink only five things for the rest of your life, what would they be? Steak. Fettuccine Alfredo. There has to be pepper in there — sometimes I just eat pepper with rice. Pad Thai is my favorite dish. I like to drink a lot of water.
What’s next? I really want to open a bar and grill. It would be a burger and bar joint. We would have our traditional Asian foods on the menu as well.