Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Gage

24 S. Michigan Ave, Chicago IL 60603

The Gage is a gastro-pub across from Grant Park. I ordered "The Regular" burger, medium rare with bacon and blue cheese. It was really good, and quite pink (almost but not quite cooked to the correct temperature.) My notes say, "quite good, though not in the running for BBE." That stands for Best Burger Ever, in case you were wondering.

The patty was pre-formed, but the meat was very tasty. They also had "The Gage" USDA prime burger on the menu, for an additional $6. The regular burger, was good, but the Gage was better-I stole a bite of someone else's. Higher quality beef just taste's better. I don't know if it was worth extra $6, but it was definitely good.

As for the accompaniments, the bun was fine, though a little too buttery, and a little too big. I ate the whole burger, but left some bun on the plate. The fries were fine, and came with some sort of curry sauce. Enjoyable, but not memorable.

I doubt this is the best burger in the Windy City, but it is probably up there.


Washington DC

Disclaimer--I did not seek this one out. I was out in DC with my brother, Kevin, we'd had several beers, and no dinner, and I succumbed to a moment of weakness. I think there was a lot of nostalgia at play, since I was out with my brother, and we used to beg our parents to take us to Fuddruckers when we were kids.

So, I ordered my bacon cheddar burger medium rare. As I was waiting for it to come out, I started to get really worried. Looking around Fuddruckers in Dupont Circle or wherever we were, at 11pm on a Friday night, I all of a sudden realized I didn’t want my burger to come out that pink. I was praying they would mess the order up. Lesson learned—don’t order a burger medium rare if you are worried about the beef. Really, the lesson should be, just don’t order a burger.

In the end, the burger came out totally predictably mediocre. The bun was too buttery and overwhelming. But it actually wasn’t really a detractor, because the burger was so average. The beef was actually OK. Nothing to write home about, but better than I was expecting. And the patty was uniformly pink, all the way through, which was nice. Medium pink, not medium rare pink. I probably should have taken it off the bun, and then I would have been able to enjoy the burger more. Maybe. I don’t think I will be going back for another burger at Fuddruckers anytime soon. And I can’t really tell why Kevin still likes them so much…

The James's Gate

5 McBride St. Jamaica Plain MA 02130

I have to be honest, I was not all that impressed with this burger.

I ordered it medium rare, with cheddar. It came out way overdone. More like medium, medium well. The patty seemed almost pre-made, but not quite. The beef seemed like it could have been good, but there was so much pepper in there, it was hard to really tell. It made me question it, because I would only put that much ground pepper in a burger if I was trying to hide something. Overall, mediocre.

The fries, on the other hand, were delicious! Lots of fries cut from the actual potato, so you could see and taste the skin. If it's any indicator, I ate all the fries, even though I left some of the burger.

Bottomline, if this was my first burger here, I wouldn't go back, at least not for the burger. And it's worth noting, word on the street is that the burgers here have gone way downhill over the past couple of years. But, as a neighborhood bar, it is great. And as the burger at your neighborhood bar, it'll satisfy a craving if needed. I've had other burgers here. Never earth shattering, but definitely better. Not a burger to seek out, but not one you need to avoid, either.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Dogwood Cafe

3712 Washington St.
Jamaica Plain MA 02130

First, let’s start with the basics. My burger came out medium rare, and my friend’s was medium. Both what we ordered, and we were impressed after the first bite with that. The burger itself was fair. There were some spices mixed into the meat, which were tasty, but I felt like maybe they were masking the fact that the ground beef was only OK. The patty is also pre-formed, which always makes me think that it is inferior ground beef. I have been told that that is not always the case, but that is my bias, and I can’t quite get over it. The burger was quite moist, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say juicy. There are grill marks on the outside, so I think it was cooked on a grill, but it isn’t grilled crispy on the outside. This may go back to my squishing theory—they squish it flat during the cooking, and so some of the juices drip out. The whole thing is a little soft, but not as juicy. I couldn’t actually see the kitchen, though, and I didn’t ask, so this is just my theory. I will ask some questions next time.

I ordered the Gorgonzola Burger, with gorgonzola and roasted red pepper. Those flavors were quite delicious, and this was another great bun—held up the burger, but I barely knew it was there. I actually opted for the side salad, instead of fries. I figure if I am going to eat burgers like it’s my job, I should throw some salads in there to counterbalance my cholesterol or whatever. And it was actually quite good. I really like simple salads, with really good greens, and maybe one or two other ingredients, and this hit the nail on the head. Good mesclun green mix, and a good balsamic vinaigrette on the side. I did make sure to taste the fries, though, and they were good too—of the standard, shoestring variety. I’d say they were skinny for fries overall, but on the fatter side of shoestrings.

Overall, I’d say the Dogwood Burger is better than average, to be sure. It is not spectacular, but still pretty damn good. I would definitely order it again, but I wouldn’t go out of my way for it. Which from me, is a pretty big compliment. I am on the quest for the best burger in the world. So, I tend to stick to my favorites, or the great unknown. But if I found myself at the Dogwood, with a hankering for a burger, I’d order one, and know I would leave happy.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

R.F. O'Sullivan's

282 Beacon St. Somerville MA

You can tell that I am really enjoying my burger when I pick it up for the first bite and never put it down because I just can’t stop eating it, even for a minute. O’Sullivan’s is the kind of burger that I never put down, and then while I sit there and eat my fries, I eye everyone else at the table, wondering if they might not finish, and I might get a few more bites. Sometimes I even think about ordering a second burger, and I've even tried to convince someone to split it with me on more than one occasion. I like this burger.

So what makes it so good? First, it is always cooked medium rare (which is how I order it.) They actually brag on the menu about the fact that they will serve it rare, because their beef is so good. And, I don’t quite know how to describe or evaluate the quality of the beef, but I know it is good. I can taste that much. Another key selling point of O’Sullivan’s, in my book, is that it is more of a ball than a burger. I like to call it a burger ball. That is fun to say, but the real reason it is so important is because I actually think it tastes better as a result of getting cooked this way. Basically, they hand form a ball of ground beef, and then they put it on the grill, and let it cook. I think they must roll it around or something on the grill (it’s hard to imagine “flipping” this burger) but they definitely never squish it. In fact, I don’t even think they have a spatula back there. All I have ever seen are the tongs they use to transfer the burger from grill to plate. I think the cooking method is key, because the burger ends up nice and grilled, and even a little crisp on the outside, but all the juices are sealed inside. Nothing drips out onto the fire, just on your plate, and in your mouth.

If they brought me a plate with nothing but a burger ball on it, I’d be happy. But, it doesn’t end there. I think the bun is sort of perfect. I couldn’t tell you a thing about it, because it does its job perfectly—it is substantial enough to hold up under the weight and juices of the burger, but not overwhelming or distracting in any way. There are also plenty of toppings to choose from. My favorite is the Out of the Blu burger. It is stuffed with blue cheese INSIDE the burger, and then there is bacon and creamy blue cheese on top. You have to ask for the bacon, since it is not standard issue on this burger, but you definitely should. I had never heard of putting the cheese inside the burger until I went to O’Sullivan’s, but I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t do this every time. It is amazing. Other favorites of mine are the Creamy Blue Cheese (cheese and bacon on top,) the Smoked Gouda, and the Cape Codder (with avocado!) Friends of mine with a spicier palate have also enjoyed the Black and Blue (burger rolled in crushed black pepper before grilled, with blue cheese on top) and the JD burger, which is basted in barbecue sauce.

A few other things to note—the French fries are really more like potato wedges. They aren’t even fried. But they are delicious. They also have pretty good onion rings, or you can go half and half. All three are good side options. I typically forgo the lettuce/tomato/onion option—with a burger this good, I find the iceburg lettuce distracting. But it is available if you want it.

In case you can’t tell, I love this burger. It is my standard bearer, which is why I went back here for my first review. I still think it’s possible that there is a better burger out there, and if there is, I want to find it. But it is going to be hard to live up to this.