Burgers

Dutch Boy Burger

Posted in Burgers on January 25th, 2016 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

It's been ages since I've reviewed a burger. But I'm living in NYC again, where I first started my burger reviews, and the other day, my friend Jenn asked if I didn't have a blog "dedicated to reviewing hamburgers at one point?" I figure those two things alone ought to get me reviewing again.

With that garbage intro to this post aside, I can transition rapidly to the garbage burger I had on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. It's been my tradition for over a decade to drink a milkshake on MLK day, and this year I had to find one in Crown Heights. Dutch Boy Burger was recommended by trusted friends, new friends that I met only days earlier, and by the internet. So clearly, it was the best option (also the closest).

And I gotta say, it was a delicious shake. I did a chocolate/vanilla mix, partially because that's "in the spirit of the holiday," but mostly because I love that combo in a shake. And it delivered. Creamy and thick, this was clearly made with high quality ice cream, whole milk, and care, right there seconds before it was delivered to me in a diner-style glass. It was fantastic.

Unlike the burger. I got a "Bacon Blue Burger," complete with thick-cut bacon (this was good), bleu cheese (also good), and, after I asked for it, mayonnaise. The burger itself? A major letdown. Poor meat quality, thin, inconsistently cooked (I like medium rare, but this was charred darkly on the outside as though well done, but cold on the inside as though rare), bland, and overall weak.

I was disappointed in the burger, but I'll probably return for the shake. Even if this place felt strongly like it was home to an angel heralding the four horsemen of gentrification (and the prices certainly reflected that), it's hard to find a shake that good. I'll just have to eat elsewhere.

The Original db Burger

Posted in Burgers on October 15th, 2014 by Nathan – 1 Comment

I did not take this picture - this is direct from db themselves. Note the construction is very segmented.When I heard about the "Original db Burger" at db Bistro Moderne in Manhattan, and fairly close to my work, I knew I had to try it. Just look at this description:

THE ORIGINAL DB BURGER
Sirloin Burger filled with Braised Short Ribs, Foie Gras & Black Truffle
Parmesan Bun, Pommes Frites
35.

Sirloin, okay sounds reasonable enough.

Braised Short Ribs, yeah, I'm following you.

Foie Gras & Black Truffle? Now you have my attention.

Now, with this weighing in at $35, I was justifiably a bit hesitant. But ultimately, I knew, I had to try this burger. So, one recent Saturday, before hopping a train to Elmsford, NY (home of Captain Lawrence Brewing Company, where a sour beer fest awaited me), I stopped in to db and ordered a burger.

I found myself nearly alone in the front dining room. Two ladies-who-lunch sat at the corner table next to me, perusing the menu and gossiping about friends, drama, celebrities, some recent social event, their mimosas, the waitstaff… Off in another corner sat another woman, awaiting a date who would turn up some twenty minutes later, the lateness apparently expected by the woman who had wisely spent the time reading a book and who seemed completely unperturbed. The rest of the room was empty.

When my burger arrived, it was already cut in half, so that I could see the short rib as well as the large portion of foie gras that had been completely encased by the sirloin burger. This fact was not lost on the ladies-who-lunch, who also noticed the burger and felt that it was time to make their presence known to me:

Would you like to give us the name of your cardiologist so we can call him after you finish?

The burger itself was quite tall, which made for a wonderful spectacle, but served to cause problems when I attempted to compress it to take a bite. The foie gras, you see, is more of "seated" inside the patty and thus began to slip out, meaning I would have to eat it earlier than I would have preferred. Not the biggest deal, but by the time I had prevented that havoc, the burger now resembled a much more pedestrian-not-worth-$35 burger.

And this is only where the dismay began. The short rib, darker than the surrounding components, was positioned on both sides of the foie gras, rather than worked into the composition of the beef as ground short rib. This served the purpose of proving that in fact short rib had been part of the composition, but it also made the rather bland sirloin stand alone, as the most substantive part – and only remaining part after a brief period – of the burger.

The black truffle may have been non-existent entirely for all it contributed to the flavor. And the pommes frites? Well yeah, they were fries. Calling something French does not, as I've sadly noted in the past, actually make that thing taste any better. These fries were mediocre at best.

This burger was a novelty. It was pretty. It was,to borrow from Aristotle's Poetics, all spectacle and no story. Sure, it will elicit a reaction from nearby ladies-who-lunch, and sure, it is probably as haute cuisine as you can get in the burger world, but frankly, it was just average at best.

Rockwell Tavern

Posted in Burgers on May 21st, 2014 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

I've been far out to Rockwell Tavern a few times now but haven't put my thoughts on their burgers here yet. So here goes.

Basically this is a great burger. I've tried a few of their burgers now and my favorite is easily the Sunburn, topped with all manners of heat: pepper jack, jalapeno bacon, chipotle mayo, and their "house hot sauce." I cannot verify the implied claim that it's made in house, it honestly doesn't seem so. But that doesn't matter: the burger is excellent. The meat is fresh and tasty, a good blend of beef that speaks for itself. (This is especially evident if you order the Vintage, a simple bacon cheeseburger.) It's juicy and oozes magnificently, but the sweet cheddar jalapeno bun (standard on every burger) easily stands up to the challenge.

The heat is not overpowering, and the chipotle mayo and jalapeno bacon complement each other to provide a little bit of extra flavor in contrast to the spice-only taste of the "house hot sauce." And to add to that, the hand-cut french fries, though not the best I've ever had, are pretty good, and are easily washed down with any of a very good selection of craft beers.

My only major complaint with Rockwell is the location. Oh and the hours: I find it very strange that a bar closes at 9 pm (and thus frequently empties/cleans earlier than that) on a Thursday night. If you find yourself in Cypress, hungry early in the evening, stop by Rockwell. Get a burger and fries. And enjoy.

Line & Lariat Burger

Posted in Burgers on June 6th, 2013 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

Line & Lariat, recently called out in the Houston Press as a "top ten downtown restaurant," is only a few blocks from my office. So when they received the accolade and I then found out they offered a burger on their lunch menu, I had to check it out. Sadly, it didn't live up to expectations.

It's taken me a while to get around to writing this post because I wasn't sure how I could stretch it out or make it that good. Finally I just decided to write it and not worry about the size or quality. Which is a surprisingly good parallel to the attitude that must have gone into producing the L&L burger.

It was small. Certainly no more than 6 ounces of meat, even though our waiter claimed "it's very big."

It was weak. Low quality ground chuck with no flavor of its own surrounded by condiments that were a disappointment considering the high ceiling promised by their description: green chili onion rajas, Gruyère cheese. I'm all over Gruyère. I love that stuff with a love that borders on unhealthy obsession. You put Gruyère on something, I'm immediately going to rate it higher than it deserves on its own. And yet, somehow this burger even disappointed on the Gruyère. The thinnest slice of a cheese that was furthest from the normal hint-of-sweetness I love in my Gruyère while still being able to (I guess) claim the name. Sad. And as for the green chili onion rajas: two small slices of mild green chili. Sadder.

It was expensive. Twelve dollars should get me a lot more. But perhaps I'm being too harsh: after all, it came with fries. Frozen fries, that even though I was told would be hand-cut were certainly not. And by the time they got to the table, they were already returning to their original state, as somehow it took quite a while to get there, and I guess the fries were cooked earlier in the day.

All in all, L&L was a real letdown for the burger. I anticipate that it may be a better dinner restaurant and that lunch just isn't their thing, but I hate that that has to even be a caveat. If you don't do lunch well, either don't offer lunch, or do it better. And if you don't do burgers well, in a downtown that contains the Burger Guys (whose Tejas burger does the rajas thing much better) and Hubcap Grill, please, just don't offer a burger.

Burger at Damian’s Cucina Italiana

Posted in Burgers on February 12th, 2013 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

Damian’s, a staple of the Houston restaurant scene, turns thirty this year, which is an amazing milestone. As someone else put it (though I cannot remember who), that’s like 120 in restaurant years. Truly impressive.

Their Italian cuisine is well-regarded throughout Houston, and I’m sad to say I’ve never had it. See, until last week, I’d never visited Damian’s, even though it’s in Midtown, and is probably my mother’s favorite restaurant. Last week, however, I had a reason that could not keep me away: a secret burger.

My mother frequents Damian’s so often that she has developed a relationship both with the chef and her favorite waiter (and now friend), Ruben. So when she found out that there’s an off-the-menu burger that the chef makes, she invited me along to come try it.

The catch with the burger is that it has to be ordered at least twenty-four hours in advance, as the chef prepares the meat ahead of time. And frankly, it shows. Though atop a rather boring bun (which is not unexpected since this is not a burger establishment) and accompanied by the usual salad fixings, this is not a bland burger by any stretch. The meat mixture is complex, well-seasoned, cooked to perfection, and straight-up fantastic.

It’s not an oozy burger, and it’s not gourmet. And because of that, it doesn’t fall prey to the many downfalls that can plague the modern burger. It simply does one thing, and it does it well. I’m glad I had a chance to try it, and I’m glad that Damian’s has survived thirty years. Here’s to many more.

Witchcraft Tavern & Provision Co

Posted in Burgers on December 21st, 2012 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

There's a whole rock-and-roll theme going on in Witchcraft and it's pretty neat. Makes for great ambiance.The other night, Rebecca and I journeyed to the Heights to check out the newly-opened Witchcraft Tavern & Provision Co, replacing Dragon Bowl, a Chinese place we had enjoyed in the past. The owners and team are the same, but the concept is different, so we were excited to check it out.

Beer and burgers is basically a concept that I can sign up for without even blinking. And since that’s the concept behind Witchcraft, the place had been on my list since it was first announced.

Twenty taps adorn the wall, under a chalkboard proclaiming the beers available. (Or rather, the beers that were available at the last writing of the chalkboard – our visit showed a match of only eighteen out of twenty.) These twenty taps are all craft, with one cider, and all quite impressive. Locals as well as mainstays from out of state. Not anything too rare, nor anything you can’t find anywhere else, but a great selection with good variety sure to please everyone.

For food, Witchcraft has a good menu of sandwiches, burgers, and appetizers, including two that were held over from Dragon Bowl. Both Rebecca and I went for burgers. Mine, the Andouille, was a mixture of Andouille sausage and beef with bacon jam and chipotle cheese. And frankly, it was delicious.

The toppings only served to highlight the burger, and the bun was strong enough to hold together with ease, so there’s no worries there. But it was the burger itself that really stood out. The sausage-mixed beef was tasty, juicy, and great on every bite. And on top of that, it was cooked to perfection, exactly how I ordered it.

I’d recommend checking out Witchcraft. It’s a nice spot, and a good replacement for Dragon Bowl. I definitely know I’ll be back more often than I frequented Dragon Bowl, because it’s hard for me to say no to good beer and good burgers.

Don’t bother getting a burger in London

Posted in Burgers on November 16th, 2012 by Nathan – 2 Comments

Meh.I spent the week of Guy Fawkes Day in London, (remember remember) and while I was there enjoyed quite a bit of food that is special to the country we (thankfully) once broke away from so many years ago.

While there, I enjoyed curry at an Indian place, curry at a Japanese place, and curry at a British place. They’re very big on curry there. And I can see why: it does a fantastic job of drowning out the otherwise bland flavors and poor ingredients they have to make use of.

I also had a beef-and-porter pie at a pub, fish and chips, and sticky toffee pudding. I had cod and scallops at a Gordon Ramsay establishment (Bread Street Kitchen), roast duck and butternut squash soup at Canary Wharf’s finest upscale fifth-floor establishment, lamb stew at Jamie Oliver’s Italian place, and some steak and frites at Le Relais, a restaurant famous for providing only one thing: steak and frites. And I had a burger.

The pie was fantastic. I had it at Porterhouse, a beer bar that apparently was carved out of a copper quarry or mine or whatever you get copper from. Seriously, I read that there was £2,000,000 of copper in this place and after seeing it in person, I’m willing to concede that that’s an understatement. Also the beer was good, including an Irish Red that easily takes the title for best of that style I’ve ever had.

The fish and chips were good. The sticky toffee pudding was a serious letdown since I was expecting something close to the awesomeness of Feast, where the sticky toffee pudding still holds the title of “greatest thing I’ve ever eaten.” Instead, it was a cakey mess with a bit of toffee flavor and some sticky but really nothing special.

The cod and scallops at Gordon Ramsay’s BSK were overly-salty. I mean, really really salty. And the accompanying cocktail was pretty good but not nearly as good as I expected when the bartender claimed he would “make something special for me.” The roast duck and soup were actually quite excellent (the restaurant is called Plateau and I recommend it heartily for lunch).

Jamie’s lamb stew was a bit fatty, which was surprising because:
a) It’s lamb stew, a not-usually-very-fatty dish, and
b) This is the same Jamie Oliver who comes to our country and endlessly attacks our cuisine (especially in school lunch rooms) as being unhealthy.
So it was a bit surprising that his lamb stew was not so healthy itself. Nor that great. I’ve, no joke, had better lamb stew in a school lunch room. (A college, but still.)

And the steak and frites at Le Relais? Pretty good. Not worth the £25.00 they cost, but not bad. Possibly the only part of London where they are capable of cooking “medium” or “rare.” The green sauce on top wasn’t bad either. It rather reminded me of the omnipresent curry elsewhere. My curry experiences were equally “pretty good” – if you can only have one meal in London, then curry is probably your bet. Wagamama, the Japanese place, put curry on all their dishes, but it was Mango Tree, near the London Bridge, that had truly good curry.

And then there’s the burger. My burger, called the ‘Taxi Driver’ from Gourmet Burger Kitchen was aptly named, as it encouraged me to find the nearest cab toward Heathrow airport. I chose Gourmet Burger Kitchen because multiple Londoners informed me it was the best burger available.

The pretty standard bun (which they tried to pass off as Brioche – psh) was topped with a burger covered with American cheese, an onion ring, “Cajun” relish, “dill” pickle, lettuce, tomato, and “chili” mayo. Those quotation marks are not from the menu. They are quotes I added to emphasize that GBK’s understanding of such adjectives is clearly different than my own.

The relish and the mayo, I couldn’t tell apart, not because of texture, but because of flavor. Apparently Cajun and chili mean the same thing in London. Not sure why I’m shocked, as really, what the heck do they know of Cajuns? I mean, the closest they’ve ever come is having their navy embarrassed by Jean Lafitte back in 1815. And chili? Well curry, they can do, but otherwise if you’re looking for spice, look elsewhere.

And the “dill” pickle was sweet. Whatever.

My real complaint is with the meat. It was bland. It was flavorless. It was overcooked. It was completely without merit. They didn’t just choose cattle that apparently had no redeeming qualities, they then took the worst cuts of meat and cooked out any excitement that may have somehow made it through the corn-centric diet’s destruction of any joy these cows may have felt in their obviously sad and painful lives.

I say “sad and painful lives” because this was made obvious by the beyond-the-grave vengeance that these cows exacted upon the otherwise unsuspecting patrons of Gourmet Burger Kitchen, myself included. On behalf of the human race, I would like to apologize to these cattle for the horrible lives they were made to lead.

And on behalf of America, I would like to warn my fellow countrymen against ordering a burger in London. If this is the best that England has to offer, I’d like to thank my lucky stars I didn’t try “mediocre.”