Saturday, March 27, 2010

All that hype...

So I took a visit down to California yesterday, and of course, as everyone should do in California, or so everyone says, is to visit probably the most hyped burger joint in the nation: In-N-Out. It's not that I've never had it before, but I've never had it during the short life of this blog, so it's a good excuse to go out and get my burger fix. I had a friend whose co-worker was saying that if it's my first real visit down to California in a while, then it's only appropriate that I get my fair share of In-N-Out before I leave, which I did. Now, from my perspective, the very first thing that I noticed when I went to In-N-Out (the actual first time I went) was that it lived up to the hype, it's one of those things that becomes legendary in the East Coast. You have conversations along the lines of:

"Oh, you went to California? Did you go to In-N-Out?"

"Oh yeah."

"How was it?"

"It was awesome."

I have to say, in my experience with In-N-Out, it is quite good. Even now, after dubbing myself "The Burger Snob" I must say, it is probably the best fast-food burger deal you'll find anywhere. The quality you get for your money is so worth it. Of course, there's also always the fun of ordering all the off-menu stuff.

Anyways, you're here to read about what I think about the burger, right? Well, at least I hope so. This one particular In-N-Out was one I used to frequent often, as it was the one closest to my apartment, it was rather crowded, and I'm not sure I got the best quality service that I've experienced at In-N-Out, either the demand has forced quality control to go down,or it was just an off day, I hope it's the latter. Overall, it's what you expect, the meat was generally a good quality, it's not quite as greasy as most other burger joints, but the quality is good enough that you do get away with it. The patties are on the smaller side, which is why I generally recommend a double-double. The bun is well toasted, nothing fancy, but it serves the job, well. The fixings are fresh and they really add a lot to the burger as a whole, generally speaking while you do need the lettuce, tomato, and cheese, what really adds to the burger are the optional fixings, i.e. grilled and/or raw onions and chopped chilis. Keep in mind though, if you try to be "healthier" and get extra lettuce and extra tomatoes on your burger, you may run the risk of overwhelming the burger with veggies. Of course, what's most renown I think about In-N-Out is the animal style sauce, which essentially is a fancy Thousand Island dressing with onions grilled inside. All-in-all, a very good burger, and honestly, it's cheaper than most burger places you can find, yes, that does include McDonald's. Now when I say cheaper, I don't mean that it's less expensive than if you shotgun order off the dollar menu, but if you're getting a value meal, In-N-Out has them all beat.

A quick blurb about the fries, they're good since they're literally just deep fried strips of potatoes (some fancy one from Idaho I hear). Apparently, you can get them "well-done" which means fried again, as the batch you normally get are still a little raw. I like them, but they're not my favorites.

Rating of the Burger:
Meat: A-
Bun: B
Fixings: A
Condiments: A+
Sides: B
Price: $3-$7
Overall Grade: A
Recommended Burger: Double-Double Animal Style with Chopped Chilis

Sunday, March 21, 2010

What's with Seattle and the color red?

The Jack Daniels BBQ Burger
Originally uploaded by jaceman4
Seriously... what's the deal? But I digress. I had actually heard about Red Door before, but as my forays into the Fremont area are rather sparse to begin with, I didn't really have an opportunity to go there. However, I managed to get out recently to meet up with a friend that worked in the area and grab some grub, 'twas good. The place looked like a good old-fashioned sports bar, a place where a lot of locals gathered to grab food and beverage and just enjoy a meal in a fairly chill atmosphere. The actually dining area being smaller than the 21-and-over bar area kind of gave me that sort of impression, that and the fact that it was relegated to the back corner of the establishment like the smoking sections of restaurants in the 1990s. Maybe that's not an entirely fair assessment, but it didn't really take away from the dining experience, so I won't make any more of a fuss about it, just go, you'll like it.

The menu was pretty typical of a typical American restaurant/sports bar type of establishment. Sandwiches, salads, appetizers and some burgers. Obviously, I came for the burgers. After a quick perusal of the selections, I decided to go for the Jack Daniels BBQ Burger, it sounded good from the menu. The menu boasted a 1/3 lb burger, but after seeing and experiencing the 1/3 lb post-cooked weight burgers at The Counter, I can't say I was exactly expecting a whole lot out of it, still, I suppose it's something I'll just have to get used to, as I'm pretty sure the only way I can something close is if I get a full pound burger somewhere else, I guess. Anyways...

The burger overall was good, though as expected, the patty wasn't all that big. The meat of the patty was good, it had a full beefy flavor. I really enjoyed also the fixings, of course you can't really go wrong when you have bacon. The lettuce didn't seem too fresh, but the tomatoes and onions were a good addition. The bun was also well managed, toasted but not too dry or tough, mixing well with the burger as a whole. Finally, I actually really enjoyed the BBQ sauce, but the problem was that it wasn't really well spread across the burger. My general impression of the burger was good, but the overall eating experience was... well, "uneven" for lack of a better term. What I mean by that is that there were parts of it where I was like, this is a good burger, but other parts where I wasn't really sure what to make of it, I wasn't sure what exactly I was eating. Like there were patches of the burger where I got a lot of bacon, parts where I felt like there was a fullness of onion flavor, a place where I thought I could taste some of the BBQ sauce, but it was inconsistent, there were parts where I wasn't really sure what I was eating, it was just kind of like, bun and stuff, since honestly, the meat while nice, is fairly nondescript.

That being said, the fries definitely had a very nice fresh cut and fried kind of flavor. That definitely adds to the experience.

Rating of the Burger:
Meat: B
Bun: A
Fixings: B
Condiments: B-
Sides: A
Price: $9-$11
Overall Grade: B+
Recommended Burger: Jack Daniel's BBQ Burger

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Let down...

Bayou Burger
Originally uploaded by jaceman4
Maybe it was just that my expectations were high, but unfortunately, my late foray to Red Robin was quite disappointing. I came originally expecting to be able to dub this place the "best burger originating in Seattle" and either nostalgia has fried my brain or quite simply they don't make these things with enough consistency for me to make such a broad sweeping proclamation. Alas and alack.

Part of it I think is the fact they are cycling through their menu, and perhaps part of my let down of the experience was the fact that they are phasing out my favorite burger on the menu, the A1 peppercorn burger. That being said, I quickly decided to get the bayou burger.  Though it was a rather hasty decision as I was still kind of reeling at the discontinuation of my burger of preference.  That's not to say that I'll boycott Red Robin from now on, but simply, it was a shock, not a good one either.

To be fair, it was a decent burger, but there's nothing I can say about it that was exceptional. The burger had a couple of slices of pepperjack cheese, some peppers, some grilled onions, and of all things I think like coleslaw, minus the mayo, and some kind of sauce, all on a kind of kaiser bun. Overall the meat flavor was pretty good, butt it seemed a little overcooked this time around, the fixings were pretty good, there was a good kick to it, subtle but complimenting the burger well, something I haven't really seen in a pepper burger in a while. The bun is something of a kaiser/hoagie like bun, overall, 'twas good, but didn't add anything outstanding to the burger. Overall, it's a pretty safe burger so to say, you won't be dissatisfied with it, and Red Robin is generally not a bad place to go if you're craving some decent burgers.  I may have to amend my review, come back another time, I hope this was an exception, not a trend.

Rating of the Burger:
Meat: B
Bun: B
Fixings: A-
Condiments: B+
Sides: A+
Price: $7-$10
Overall Grade: B+
Recommended Burger: Whisky River BBQ Burger

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Choose-Your-Own-Adventure, with burgers

So, I had actually been intending to try this place down in Palo Alto, needless to say, I was fairly surprised when I heard that there was one in Ballard. It's seemed a little out of the way as we wandered around in the dark driving towards the warehouse district by the water. I had heard good things about The Counter and how they were known for their ultra-customizable burgers, so needless to say, I was very much looking forward to it. I was honestly expecting more of a kind of fast-food joint, well, not fast-food in the conventional sense, but something like the local places I'd find around here, like Red Mill or something. So, I was a little surprised to see that it's something of a sit-down affair. I'm not one to talk much about ambiance, but I was struck at how it's kind of like an old '60s diner meets modern Japanese sushi club/joint, it's hard to describe, you kind of just have to experience it.

Anyways, we're here about the burger. If I were to describe the burger in one word, it would be: beef. Seriously, it is a beefy burger. My friend mentioned that they use a Oregon-raised beef, which I suppose is supposed to be of high quality, and it was. That was some good beef. Now, with that said, this isn't a burger for the faint of heart, it's hearty and honestly, I think those intimidated by a large quantity of meat in one sitting might find it a little overwhelming. The beef wasn't really seasoned in any special way, but the quality of the meat really is at a level where it's not really necessary. What is so outstanding about The Counter's burgers is simply this: the weight of the burger on the menu are POST-cooking. Yes, the burgers weight either 1/3 lbs, 2/3 lbs, or 1 lb AFTER they've been cooked. That means it's MORE beef than that before it's actually cooked. That's beefy.

In terms of the fixings, I'm a little peeved that you only get to pick four and that lettuce, tomatoes, and onions each count as one "topping", but that aside, everything is really fresh. They also have a really good selection of stuff to choose from. It's hard for me to really say a whole lot more about it, as the experience of each individual burger will not be lacking because of the quality of the ingredients. My main caveat with eating at a place like this is that you really need to have a pretty clear idea of what exactly you're looking for in terms of a burger, otherwise, you kind of just mix everything together and get a mess. If you go over the prescribed number of toppings and stuff, they do charge extra, and certain premium ingredients cost extra as well. They do have some pre-constructed burgers on the menu as well, but honestly, half the fun is in making your own burger.

There's also a good selection of condiments and the same kind of caveat applies as it does with the fixings, though you are limited to one condiment, not including ketchup, so I recommend trying something a little different. Most of the stuff there is sort a specialty kind of condiment anyway, it's served on the side, so you get to ration the flavor as you choose. In terms of the bun, it gets a little messy at 2/3 lbs, but the 1/3 lb burger seems relatively manageable. The bun is toasted well, but aside from that it's not really anything brag about. They do also offer options of English Muffin and a "Market Selection" specialty bun (when I went it was an artisan bun) but honestly, I personally would consider the normal hamburger bun to be the best option of those choices.

I know that I normally just talk about the burgers, but I do rate the sides as a component of the overall burger experience. I was a little disappointed in the fries and onion strings, and they actually don't come with the burger, they need to be ordered separately, making it a little more on the pricier side. Well, pricier in my book for burgers. The quality of the product wasn't bad, but it wasn't outstanding either. That being said, I regret not getting the sweet fries.

Rating of the Burger:
Meat: A+
Bun: B-
Fixings: A-
Condiments: A+
Sides: B-
Price: $8-$15
Overall Grade: A-
Recommended Burger: I really can't.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Unfortunately over-hyped...

Red Mill's Verde Burger
Originally uploaded by jaceman4
It's very unfortunate, it really is. Adam Richman from Man vs. Food has failed me, well, perhaps it's part of the experience, I can't really say for sure. Honestly though, if this is supposed to be the consensus best burger in Seattle, Seattle hates burgers. I'm not saying that it's bad, but it's nothing really special. I'm going to come out and say this out front right now: I know Seattle has better burgers. So if you're in Seattle, it's okay if you don't come here for a burger, even if Adam Richman says you must, I don't think you do, then again, maybe you don't want to take my word on it, don't.

Before I compromise my integrity as the "Burger Snob" any further, I suppose I should get on with the review. Red Mill Burger is a small shop that looks to be a former pharmacy. There's a Starbucks next to it too if you get thirsty. The menu is pretty straight forward, what you'd expect from a burger joint. A list of burgers, a list of chicken sandwiches, a list of veggie-burger alternatives, some sides, some beverages, etc... It gets pretty crowded but overall, nothing overly problematic for a burger place, I mean, you don't HAVE to eat it there. From all appearances, it's fairly unassuming, kind of quaint. If you go, I hope you're not claustrophobic.

I ordered the Verde Burger because I was intrigued since they stated that they peeled and roasted fresh Anaheim peppers daily, and the Verde Burger was the burger with Anaheim peppers. I've historically been a little disappointed with the lack of flavor of Anaheims and honestly this time I was kind of disappointed again. You get the tang of a peppery kick but it's really just a tease, there's nothing really more. Overall, I thought it was a fairly well balanced burger, the meat is good, but again I would say it's more on the nondescript side, so it's not really anything worth gushing about. The fixings are fresh, as I mentioned with the peppers, but honestly, again, they don't really make the burger stand out significantly. To be completely honest, the peppers take up too much of the burger, taking away actually from burger because they themselves are a little on the flavorless side. The bun was kind of like a large roll, it's different from the normal burger, it was toasted well, and was a good balance to the rest of the burger. In terms of condiments, the Mill Sauce is supposed to be the kind of thing that sets the burger apart. It was a subtle, smoky flavor, but I honestly would've liked a little more of it. In my opinion, it was a little too subtle, but maybe that was the point. I think I would've liked more Mill Sauce.

As a side note, the onion rings were good, but not exceptional. They're supposed to be good beer-battered ones, but it's nothing I'd go out of my way for.

So I'm going to do something unprecedented thusfar, I'm going to recommend a burger I haven't actually had.

Rating of the Burger:
Meat: A-
Bun: B+
Fixings: B+
Condiments: B
Sides: B+
Price: $6-$10
Overall Grade: B+
Recommended Burger: Red Mill Deluxe Cheeseburger