Sunday, November 17, 2013

Bravissimo Cafe and Pizzeria--Santa Monica, CA

2400-D Main Street
Santa Monica, CA 90405
Website address withheld so that this awful place does not benefit from any traffic from this site.

It really came out looking like this.
The Bravissimo Cafe and Pizzeria's website proclaimed, "The Ferrara tradition continues."  While this may be a fact, I must, in good conscience, state publicly and for the record that this was not a good thing.

It all started last week when I walked past the window of this joint and saw a sign advertising the following.
Now appearing: 
The world's greatest burger
Eat Love
"The Bravissimo Burger"

I was foolish not to assume that "Bravissimo" meant anything other than over-priced, incompetent, and bland--I was naive, and I wanted to believe....but I have skipped ahead a bit.

Happy Meal and I decided to minimize the risk at the outset of this ill-fated adventure. He ordered a slice of pizza, and I ordered the World's Greatest Burger. From there it all just went terribly, terribly wrong.
Issue 1--The counter staff was clueless as to what went into the burger, where the bun came from, etc. This was not her fault. The blame for this was all on the management for forcing an employee to be incompetent.
Issue 2--Happy Meal received and finished his slice before my burger ever left the griddle.
Issue 3--The burger that I ordered Med-Well arrived DEAD RAW after an 18-minute wait.
Issue 4--The second attempt was Medium. I just gave up and went with that version. 30 minutes was long enough to wait for what was clearly destined to be inadequate chow.
Issue 5--The fries from the first attempt were re-cooked and used for the second attempt, so they were bleak and dry.
The raw blend of mystery ingredients on the 1st try
Issue 6--The Romaine lettuce on the burger was limp and dead.
Issue 7--The top of the bun was scorched. 
Issue 8--The bacon on the burger was cool to the touch.
Issue 9--The burger patty was charred.
These things were all clear before I took a single bite from this burger.

The Burger Breakdown...

The Beef: The menu claimed that the Chuck was ground fresh daily--neat. The 8-ounce meatball was bland--as bland as water. The beef was oily to the point of giving Happy Meal and myself stomach aches from the 4 ounces that we each consumed. The only flavor evident was char, and bitter is not the sort of flavor that a burger should lead with, let alone be the only notable flavor.

The Seasoning: There was NONE. The kitchen at Bravissimo Cafe and Pizzeria failed to use any seasonings in the ground Chuck or on the surface of the comically bland patty to add any flavor. Now, the raw patty, that I sent back, was full of all manner of mystery items (see scary photo). The Medium patty, that I ate, contained none of those ingredients. I am uncertain if I dodged a bullet or missed out on something awesome due to the incompetence and the inconsistency of the kitchen staff.
The Sear: There was a charred patch at the bottom of my burger patty--does that count?

The Preparation: Haphazard, shoddy, careless, diffident, weak, poor--these are all words that come to mind. 

The Cheese: The cheeseburger at Bravissimo Cafe and Pizzeria came with a little bland Cheddar and a dash of Bleu cheese, but these cheeses were lost in the bland, greasy, charred sphere of weakness that compressed the bun like a sweaty, sumo wrestler on a down pillow.

The Bun: Aside from being charred on the outside, the bun was only nominally toasted on the inner surfaces. It seemed that 30 minutes was too short a time to properly toast a burger bun. The bun itself was soft and fresh. It was also very bland. 

The Meat To Bun Ratio: The bland, oily wad of burned Chuck overpowered, soaked through, and flattened the bland, scorched bun at Bravissimo Cafe and Pizzeria.

The Toppings: More of the same. The bacon was cool to the touch. The "caramelized"onions promised on the menu--not so much. The slivers of raw, red onion were scattered under the assembled burger--huh? The Romaine lettuce leaf was wilted and sad. 
The vastly different ingredients in the 2nd attempt at Med-Well

The Fries: The over-cooked, peel-off, steak fries were scorched, bitter, and dry. They were barely seasoned.

The Value: Bravissimo Cafe and Pizzeria appeared to be in the One And Done business of bilking tourists with $12 burgers. There was clearly no interest in repeat customers. Not once did the counter staff check in to see if the burger was satisfactory. I assumed this was because they were keenly aware that they were serving up crap, and they didn't need for me to confirm this.

Happy Meal put it best, "That's what you get for ordering a burger at a pizza place, Dad."

A more appetizing presentation of an unpleasant burger
Burger Review : Bravissimo Cafe and Pizzeria served up a shoddy, over-priced, bland cheeseburger. Terrible, just terrible. I walked in hungry. I walked out with a stomach ache. This adventure was a complete waste of time and 20 bucks.

Rating...2 Bites (rounded up from 1.5 Bites)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

El Burger Luchador--Los Angeles, CA

Food Truck based out of San Pedro, CA.

El Burger Luchador was parked downstairs from my office. Since I was clearly meant to sample this burger, I obliged fate and ordered a burger. A standard cheeseburger with fries was $8.00. My meal was ready in about 7 minutes. The naming convention was used in the menu, but I wanted something a little more over the top. It seemed like a gimmick they could have had more fun with.

The Burger Breakdown...

The Beef: El Burger Luchador used 8 ounces of 80:20 Chuck to create the base for their burgers. The Chuck was beefy and juicy. It was not complex, but it was relatively satisfying. Judging by the flat sides and nearly perfect roundness of the patties, I guessed that the patties came pre-formed from the meat supplier.

The Seasoning: My burger patty was well-seasoned with a blend of salt and pepper. I noted a dusting of Cotija cheese (sort of a Mexican Parmesan), and this added a hint of iron to the burger.

The Sear: What sear? Either the burger was steamed on a too cool griddle, or it had been precooked. Either way, the sear was non-existent. This was a case where a hearty sear would have truly made this burger pop.

The Preparation: The burger patty was completely cooked through to Well-Done. It was a juicy and beefy Well-Done with no hint of chewiness. The beef was ground at a medium setting and cooked on a too cool, gas-fired, flat-top griddle. 

The Cheese: El Burger Luchador topped my cheeseburger with a slice of American cheese. The cheese was well-melted, but there was not enough of it to stand up to the thick Brioche bun. The cheese faded into the scenery and was as notable and memorable as a background dancer. Remember K Fed's work? Exactly.

The Bun: The bun was a thick, fresh, moist, sweet Brioche. The skin was on the leathery side, but otherwise the bun was fine. It was not toasted to a meaningful degree, so the bun added no crispness to the burger.

The Fries: El Burger Luchador provided peel-on wedges. The potato wedges were crisp, nicely browned, well-seasoned, and boasted creamy centers.

The Value: 8 bucks for a full meal was average. I ate half of my cheeseburger and took the rest home to Happy Meal.

I wouldn't go out of my way tracking down the El Burger Luchador truck, but I wouldn't flip them off in traffic. El Burger Luchador prepared an average burger at an average price, and this was just fine.

Burger Review : That'll do, El Burger Luchador, that'll do.

Rating...3 Bites

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Not A Burger Stand -- Burbank, CA

1221 W Riverside Dr
Burbank California 91506

As a burger reviewer, upon reading the name "Not A Burger Stand," I was ethically obligated/compelled to see if they had a burger on the menu. There was burger, so off to Burbank on a Saturday afternoon with Happy Meal. Parking was available at no charge in the attached lot of the small 13 tables (inside and out) establishment. We ordered a couple of the 7 Oz Beef Burgers, a side of fries, an order of chili cheese fries, and a soda. This came to about $25. Our order arrived at our table in about 15 minutes. The chili cheese fries arrived first, and that was appropriate, since they were an appetizer.

The Burger Breakdown...

The Beef: This was plain old Chuck. I noted the 10-pound, clear ,plastic tube of ground beef on the counter of the cramped kitchen, so I did not kid myself about stellar quality. The fat content was 30%, so we ordered our burgers Med-Well to render off some of the copious fat--we wanted to live to eat on another day. The beef in the cheeseburger at Not A Burger Stand was unremarkable in terms of both texture and flavor. The flavor was beefy, and that was it. The burger was not juicy. There were no notes of iron, funk, etc. This was a very basic burger.

The Seasoning: The exterior of the burger patty was liberally salted, and this maximized the beefiness of the patty.

The Sear: Not A Burger Stand grilled the burgers on cast iron grates, and these imparted reasonable grill marks on the patty. The hash marks on the patty demonstrated that the patty was turned too many times, and this accounted for the relative dryness of the bite. The sear, while not crisp, did carry a bit of char, and this gave the burger a backyard BBQ flavor. It was fine.

The Preparation: The burger at Not A Burger Stand was prepared competently but from the most average of ingredients. The result was an average cheeseburger.

The Cheese: Meh. This was a mild Cheddar. While the Cheddar carried a hint of iron, the slice was too thin to truly create an impact in terms of flavor, texture, or moisture. The cheese was properly melted.

The Bun: Not A Burger Stand employed an eggy and savory brioche. The brioche was not sweet, buttery, or light. It was a glorified Kaiser roll. The bun was reasonably fresh. It was semi-toasted on the grill, but this imparted no crispness to the bite.

The Meat To Bun Ratio: This was fine, but I did eat the second half of the burger without the bun, since savory on savory was a waste of calories.

The Toppings: The tomato slice was hard, bland, and under-ripe. The Iceberg lettuce was just fine.

The Chili Cheese Fries: Not A Burger Stand's idea of chili was raw, diced tomato mixed with lightly salted ground beef nuggets, some unseasoned beans from a can, and a bit of cheese. There was no trace of chili powder, heat, or the creaminess that one associates with chili fries. The result was fries made lank from the beef juice and rendered bland. This side was an absolute flop.

The Fries: The fries were perfectly fine. Food service bagged, frozen, peel-off, par-cooked, shoestring fries. The fries were crisp and properly seasoned. The fries were the best part of the meal, and that is generally a bad sign.

The Value: $5.75 for a 7-ounce burger would have been OK, but 30% of that 7 ounces was rendered off in the cooking process. $25 for a lackluster meal dragged the value down to an average rating.

Not A Burger Stand lived up to its name. In fairness, nothing coming out of the kitchen looked better than average.

Burger Review : Meh.

Rating...3 Bites

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Mad Dogz and Burgers--Culver City, CA

9418 Venice Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232

I had been meaning to try Mad Dogz and Burgers for some time, and with Happy Meal sick with a cold, and me needing lunch, this seemed like a fine time. Metered parking was plentiful on the street, but I took my chances (gambled and won) and parked in the medical office parking next door to the tiny establishment. I ordered my cheeseburger from the disinterested and dismissive counter attendant--she had the personality and customer service skills of a stick. When I walked up, she was sitting on a counter, and she was in no rush to take my order. Beyond that she didn't bother to inform me of any choices that I had, up-sell me on a beverage, offer me some water, or do anything other than getting back to parking her butt back on that counter. My order of cheeseburger and fries ($7.50 before wasting money on a tip) was up in about 5 minutes.

The Burger Breakdown...

The Beef: Mad Dogz and Burgers used "Angus-grade" Chuck. I don't know what that meant, but I assumed it just meant Angus Chuck. The sliver of a patty was about 2.5 ounces and about a 1/4 of an inch thick. The flavor was beefy, and that was about it. It was clear that the burger patty had been mechanically created and stamped out. The grind was fine, and this resulted a somewhat chewy bite. The burger was neither juicy or dry. The beef was just below average.

The Seasoning: The burger patty was aggressively salted. If it hadn't been for the relatively massive bun, this would have been a deal killer. As it was, it was barely tolerable.

The Sear: Mad Dogz and Burgers got a nice sear onto the meager patty. The sear was imparted by a blazing hot flat top. This was the highlight of the meal.

The Preparation: Meh. A good sear on an over-salted, preformed patty with rubbery fries did not speak to any attention to standards in that kitchen.

The Cheese: I had a number of choices, and I went with American. I only became aware of the cheese choices after taking a fresh look at the menu board. This should have been a question that came up in the ordering process...but I digress.

The Bun: The bun, while daunting in size compared to the wee burger patty, was fresh, moist, and sweet. It was moderately and unevenly toasted.

The Meat To Bun Ratio: The bun at Mad Dogz and Burgers simply dwarfed the miniscule burger patty.

The Toppings: The Iceberg lettuce was fresh and crisp, however, the "leaves" that I got were from the center of the head, so they where pale and bitter. The tomato slice was tough and under-ripe. Consistency!

The Fries: Frozen, peel-off, par-cooked, and properly salted. Sadly, the fries were rubbery since they were under-cooked. Also, the fries were lukewarm since the fries were put up in the pass window 3 minutes before the burger was ready, and there was no heating element to maintain the temperature....sloppy but consistently sloppy.

The Value: $7.50 for poor quality service and preparation was a lousy value.

On the day that I paid a visit, Mad Dogz was consistent...consistently weak.  The staff was clearly not interested in turning out a quality product or in serving customers in any way.

Burger Review : Move along folks--nothing to see here.

Rating...2 Bites (2 generous bites)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Eat That Burger--North Hollywood, CA

11142 Burbank Blvd.
North Hollywood, CA 91601

Another day, another Groupon. This time I had to drag The Marinater all the way out to North Hollywood, which was a lot like going to another country. Los Angeles is a huge place. Parking was free, and Eat That Burger was located in the same strip mall as a Mexican bakery, so I was able to bring some baked treats home to Happy Meal. The Groupon was for $25, and it was a challenge to spend that much. We ordered a couple of the generous Back To Back burgers--double meat and double cheese ($3.99), fries, and some sodas. Our meals were ready in about 10 minutes. I did not have high expectations of my cheeseburger. I was pleasantly surprised.

The Burger Breakdown...

The Beef: The burger patties were in the 3.5-ounce range. The cut was an 80/20 Chuck sourced from Restaurant Depot. The beef was fresh and not frozen. The burger was strongly beefy and it was juicy. It was an uncomplicated patty in terms of flavor, but it was fresh and it was served hot. No funk, no aging, no blood. The mouth feel was firm without being chewy. For the price, the beef was a winner.

The Seasoning: I detected just the right amount of salt on my burger patties at Eat That Burger.

The Sear: They nailed it. The irregular patties were nicely seared on a very hot griddle. The sear complemented the hearty beef and savory notes.

The Preparation: The burgers were cooked to a piping hot and juicy Well-Done. The burger patties were formed loosely by hand during the morning prep shift.

The Cheese: The cheese choices at Eat That Burger were American and........just American, and that was fine with me. American cheese was exactly right for this unassuming cheeseburger. The American cheese was gooey, savory, creamy, and provided just the right amount of iron to the bite. The cheese worked its way into every bite, and it was welcomed there.

The Bun: The bun was a standard, seeded, sweet, yeasty, hamburger bun. It was moist, and it stood up to the burger just enough to contain the juices and the cheese but without contributing any breadiness. The bun was well-toasted, and it provided a little crunch to go along with the sear on the burger patties.

The Meat To Bun Ratio: This was simply perfect.

The Fries: The fries at Eat That Burger were the frozen, par-cooked, peel-off, and bagged variety. The fries were just fine. They were nicely crisped and well-seasoned. $1.99 for an endless portion was just a lot more fries than anyone needs, but the value was there.

The Toppings: The tomato slice was on the green side. The Romaine lettuce leaf was fresh and crisp. Eat That Burger provided a couple of sauces. The one for the fries was mayo, garlic, tomato, and parsley. This sauce was curiously fresh and refreshing. It was perfect on my cheeseburger.

The Value: The value was pretty ridiculous. With the Groupon, the value was just embarrassing. For 25 bucks, I got 3 big cheeseburgers, several orders of fries, a couple of drinks, and some jalapeno/cheeseburger in a tortilla, which was fantastic.

Eat That Burger?  You're darn right you should go to Eat That Burger. At the time of this review, they had been open for just over a year, and their quality and standards were rock solid. The value was huge, and the flavors were good.

Burger Review : A darn fine cheeseburger for an amazing price at Eat That Burger.

Rating...4 Bites

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Mandy's Family Restaurant--El Segundo, CA

241 Main Street
El Segundo, CA 90245

It was Sunday evening, and Happy Meal and I had another Groupon to use. I had purchased one for Mandy's Family Restaurant due to the numerous mentions of burgers in the offer. We made our way down to El Segundo, where the living was easy, and the street parking was free. Finding free parking was the absolute highlight of our visit.

Mandy's was understaffed with a single waitress for the 10 tables. The owner wandered in and out, but was largely invisible. We ordered a couple of cheeseburgers and an appetizer. About 20 minutes later, 2 cheese-free burgers arrived. I mentioned that we had ordered an appetizer and that we wished to cancel that part of the order, since it no longer made an sense. Naturally, the server brought out that plate immediately. I reiterated that I was no longer interested in  the appetizer, since it was arriving after the main course. Her reply was a huff and a surly eye roll. It was only then that I realized that "cheeseburger" was a misnomer for what I had ordered. I summoned the manager over, and he trotted the plates back to get some cheese on the burgers. The kitchen was so sloppy, that the barely melted cheese on my burger had a fry trapped underneath it. So.....bang up start.

The Burger Breakdown...

The Beef: The beef at Mandy's Family Restaurant was of a grade that could best be termed "3rd World Industrial." The beef in this burger had me pining away for airline food. The patty weighed in at around 2 ounces. It had the texture, thickness, and general culinary appeal of an athletic shoe's insole, but it had less flavor. The patty was bowed like a murky contact lens. The grind was intensely fine, and the vulcanized patty was so dry that it was like beef jerky with none of the beef flavor. The burger was bland to the point of tasting watery. The highly processed, machine-formed, previously-frozen frisbee of  a patty still had clear conveyor belt marks on it from whatever factory is was shipped in from. Epic fail.

The Seasoning: There was none.

The Sear: A hearty yet utterly pointless sear was applied to part of one side of the burger patty. The sear further contributed to the dessicated nature of this burger.

The Preparation: In terms of heat and pressure, the burger at Mandy's Family Restaurant was well its the way to being turned into a diamond. The lukewarm fries, unmelted cheese, untoasted bun, and otherwise shoddy preparation spoke to a level of incompetence in the kitchen that made me question the wisdom of allowing Happy Meal to take another bite. He made that decision on his own and set aside the dry disc of shame and despair after a few bites. My son is ordinarily a bit of a human garbage disposal, but Mandy's served up a meal that even my sturdy and ravenous lad couldn't choke down.

The Cheese: The unmelted slice of American cheese was just that. It was lost in the blandness of inferior, stale-tasting ingredients.

The Bun: This was an over-sized, stale, cool, barely toasted industrial grade bit of nonsense. The cook had slid/wiped the bun halves across the griddle so that the grease had built up on and soaked into the leading edges. The bun was bland and dry.

The Meat To Bun Ratio: The dry, stale bun overpowered the thin, dry, chewy, bland burger patty. It was like eating a piece of furniture from Ikea.

The Toppings: Who cares? It was all bad at Mandy's Family Restaurant.

The Fries: Lukewarm, bland, unseasoned, and just plain not good. Sadly, the fries were the best thing on the plate.

The Value: We spent $7 for $14 worth of unpalatable, inedible garbage. This was a sinful waste of 7 bucks.

The cheeseburgers at Mandy's Family Restaurant were the sort of thing that would cause prisoners to riot. There was simply nothing redeeming about the burgers. The service matched the food. The surly twerp of a  waitress failed to check in with us at any point after taking our order.

Burger Review : The worst burger in the Los Angeles area can be found at Mandy's Family Restaurant. Never again--not even on a dare.

Rating...1 Bite (rounded up from 1/2 Bite)

Burgerim (CLOSED)--West Hollywood, CA

8593 Santa Monica Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069

Happy Meal and I had a hankering for cheeseburgers, and we had an about-to-expire Groupon for Burgerim. Game on!

Burgerim is Hebrew for "multiple burgers." There were more than 70 locations of Burgerim in Israel. This was the only US location of the popular franchise. Burgerim had opened up shop atop the ashes of the ill-fated, underwhelming, and mercifully defunct O'Burger.  O'Burger had distinguished itself a few years ago by serving up one of the worst burgers in Los Angeles. It was only up from there.

Here's an excerpt from the website of the US outpost of Burgerim: "...Our savory mini-burgers are infused with Mediterranean flare and served with a variety of gourmet toppings, so you can customize to your taste bud’s delight!

Want natural? We’ve got natural. Our all natural, hormone-free meat and veggie patties are snuggled between light and fluffy, egg washed French buns. We use 100% all natural preservative free fresh buns that are delivered daily, hot out of the oven..."

While Happy Meal and I were dubious at the prospect of a mini-burger being anything better than mediocre, we were willing to try. We ordered an assortment of burgers: Signature, Mergez, and Kobe. The menu offered 9 kinds of burgers including chicken, tuna, beef, lamb, and veggie. I would be about 4 bucks/burger, if you were paying full boat. We settled in for a brief wait. Our burgers were delivered to our table in about 10 minutes.

The Burger Breakdown...

The Beef: The 3.25-ounce burgers were sourced from a mystery purveyor, but they were hormone-free. The Kobe beef was grass-fed. I presumed that cut of beef was Chuck. The Signature Burger and the Kobe Burger were virtually identical in terms of flavor and other characteristics, while the Mergez Burger was like a dryish Mediterranean (beef and lamb) meatloaf. The Kobe beef was a little denser than the Signature beef, but that was about it. I would pass on the Mergez and stick with the traditional choices, because the traditional burgers were exceptional. The beef in the proportionally thick mini-burger patties was surprisingly juicy. There was a strong punch of beef followed up with a hint of minerality. There was no funk, but this was fine in the case of Burgerim. The fat content in the medium/coarsely grind beef was 20%. The beef was a real standout, and really quite surprising.

The Seasoning: The kitchen nailed this with a dusting of something savory. The seasoning was just right.

The Sear: Burgerim did what they could. The super hot, gas-fired grill got competent, dark, and deep char marks on the burger patties. The mild char flavor was a welcome addition to the bite.

The Preparation: The burgers were tender enough on the palate to suggest that the patties were formed by hand on the premises. Presumably, this was done during the prep cycle, since it would have been cumbersome to form up tons of small patties during the rush. The burgers were cooked to a juicy Med-Rare.

The Cheese: Our choices were Pepper Jack and Cheddar. We went with the Cheddar. It was a solid choice! The Cheddar was bold, sharp, and savory. Furthermore, the Cheddar added a strong iron note to the burger along with some gooeyness. The cheese was a winner.

The Bun: While the website suggested a French bun of some sort, the counter staff informed us that the bun at this Burgerim was a locally sourced Challah bun. Regardless, the bun was fluffy, moist, fresh, and it managed to stay out of the way of the delicious meat and cheese. The unseeded bun was lightly toasted.

The Meat To Bun Ratio: This was perfect. It was surprisingly spot on considering the fact that the burger patties were not a standard size.

The Toppings: I tried the Harisa. I hear this is what passes for hot sauce in other parts of the world. This was so mild that I would suggest rubbing it on minor scrapes and burns. The shredded lettuce was fresh, and the tomato slices were rich, ripe, and juicy.

The Fries: The fries, while not cut in house, were just fine. These were peel-on, par-cooked, and properly crisped shoestring fries. The seasoning on the fries led me to believe that they were cooked in rice bran oil, but I was informed that Burgerim used plain old vegetable oil. I had to fight Happy Meal to get my share of the fries.

The Value: With the Groupon, Happy Meal and I got fries, a drink, and 5 mini burgers for $11. This would have ordinarily cost us 2 bucks. With the discount, the value was stellar. Without the discount, the value was just fine. $22 for really good cheeseburgers and fries made sense.

Burgerim eclipsed the former tenant of the West Hollywood space by providing exceptionally good cheeseburgers at a really fair price. I bought another Groupon for Burgerim today at Happy Meal's strong insistence. We generally don't return to a place that we have sampled, but Burgerim was just that good.

Burger Review : Burgerim served one of the best burgers in Los Angeles. Go there, and go there soon.

Rating...5 Bites (rounded up from 4.5 Bites)

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Great American Burger Truck--Los Angeles, CA


From the Great American Burger website. "...Try us and you'll be convinced! Our recipes are authentic and time-tested. The ingredients are always fresh; meat is never frozen.  The result? A burger that bursts with flavor...."

The Great American Burger truck was parked outside of my office at lunchtime, so this review truly amounts to me blundering into an attractive nuisance.  

I ordered a Great American Burger ($8.50....what?), and I passed on the fries. It was nice that they used Square rather requiring me to pay with cash. My burger was ready in about 5 minutes.

The Burger Breakdown...

The Beef: The wispy, thin, 3-ounce patty was cooked to a slightly chewy Well-Done. The beef was plenty beefy, and it was properly seasoned,. Beyond that, it was nothing special. The 100% Angus Chuck was fresh. The burger patty was a on the dry side, and the coarsely ground beef provided no complexity to the bite. The beef was perfectly average and about one might expect of a truck-sourced burger.

The Seasoning: Great American Burger liberally applied salt and pepper to the patty of my cheeseburger. This was a welcome addition to the otherwise tame beef.

The Sear: The kitchen got a surprisingly good sear on the thin burger patty. While the sear was not crisp, it did serve to amplify the beefiness of the dish.

The Preparation: The burger patty was uniformly round and thin. I assumed that Great American Burger took delivery of pre-formed patties. The burgers were seared on a very hot, gas-fired flat-top to a dryish Well-Done. 

The Cheese: My burger arrived with a slice of nicely melted American cheese. The gooey cheese rescued the burger from being too dry. The cheese also served to add a little complexity to the flat flavor profile.

The Bun: The Brioche-style bun at Great American was a big, bready, yeasty, and slightly sweet affair. It lacked any buttery notes, so it looked like a Brioche, but it did not taste like a Brioche. The bun was a little on the dry side, and that was where the cheese barely saved the day. The bun was only toasted along the edges.

The Meat To Bun Ratio: The weakly toasted bun simply dwarfed the burger patty at Great American Burger. Maybe a triple cheeseburger...fully loaded with toppings and sauces would have made sense with that bun. The meager, single beef patty was no match, and the resulting bite was overly bready.

The Toppings: The Romaine lettuce leaf was fresh and crisp. The Roma tomato slice was ripe and juicy.

The Value: WEAK. $8.50 for a very meager portion of beef was a bad surprise.

I popped over to the Great American Burger truck due to it's convenient proximity to my office. I shall not make the trip twice.

Burger Review : The Great American Burger truck served up a perfectly average cheeseburger at an above-average price. Pass

Rating...3 Bites (rounded up from 2.5 Bites)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Dolce Isola--Los Angeles, CA

2869 S Robertson Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90034

 Dolce Isola was within walking distance for Happy Meal and myself, and I noticed during my research for a decent slice of Key Lime Pie that they served up a burger. Dolce Isola was the bakery for the iconic Ivy restaurants in Los Angeles. There was ample, metered, street parking. Happy Meal and I were quickly seated by the friendly staff. The tables were tiny and seemed better suited for coffee and pastries rather than a sit-down meal. We ordered a couple of the India's Hamburgers ($11.75). After a 20-minute wait, the first attempt at properly cooked burgers and fries arrived.

The Burger Breakdown...

The Beef: The beef at Dolce Isola was ground Sirloin from Niman Ranch. The beef was 100% Organic and Grass-Fed. On the initial attempt, my burger was cooked to Well-Done, but I had requested Med-Rare. I sent that cheeseburger back. On the second attempt, the beef was marvelous. The burger boasted strong notes of beef, a hint of aged funk, steaky minerality, and just enough blood to remind me that I was eating meat. The burger was downright juicy with  a fat content of 20%. The mouth feel was moist and tender.

The Seasoning: The kitchen at Dolce Isola hit the exterior with just enough salt and pepper to bring out the absolute best in the juicy, burger patty.

The Sear: My burger was seared nicely on a properly hot griddle. The sear was thorough, and it provided a crisp texture to showcase the juicy, tender interior of the burger patty.

The Preparation: Dolce Isola took delivery of pre-ground, (coarse) Niman Ranch beef. The 8-ounce burger patties were formed by hand during morning prep. The burgers were cooked, and not pressed, on a very hot, gas-fired griddle.

The Cheese: The only cheese choice was a French Brie. In true soft cheese fashion, the Brie melted away leaving only bitter rind atop my burger patty. Brie and/or Camembert are bleak choices for cheeseburger toppings. On the initial attempt the Brie was unmelted, but that was because the over-cooked burger had been allowed to cool...presumably as the first batch of fries were being over-cooked. Yikes.

The Bun: Dolce Isola employed a house-baked, hearty, sun-dried tomato Brioche as the burger bun. The Brioche was fresh, moist, firm, and savory. The bun was properly toasted, and it provided crunch in every bite that involved the edges.

The Meat To Bun Ratio: This was perfect. The bun held up to the very juicy patty with distinction.

The Toppings: The Niman Ranch bacon was savory, smokey, and crisp. The fried basil was unduly oily...the kitchen had failed to blot it prior to assembling the cheeseburger. I was glad that I ordered this on the side. The creamy pesto was fine, but I did not put in on my burger.

The Fries: The first attempt at fries yielded bitter, over-cooked sticks of sadness. It also resulted in a frustrating encounter with my server who argued that the fries were just fine. The manager set things right by replacing my order with a properly cooked order of fries and a Med-Rare cheeseburger. My server was in need of a hospitality refresher course...and so it goes. On the second attempt, the house-cut, peel-off, par-cooked, properly salted fries were perfect. They were crisp, hot, and savory.

The Value: $11.75 for a half-pound, high-quality burger on a house-baked bun with hand-cut fries was right in the wheelhouse. The value at Dolce Isola, in spite of numerous quality control issues, was just fine. I will note that my burger was comped due to the preparation issues. The manager sent us off with a nice bag of cookies, as well. The cookies were delicious.

Dolce Isola served up a really, really good burger. High-quality, fresh ingredients were combined to create a terrific cheeseburger. It took two tries, but it was completely worth the wait. The bacon was the cherry on the sundae.

Burger Review : Really good beef and generous portions provided at a fair price.

Rating...4 Bites

Friday, July 12, 2013

Landry's Seafood House--Las Vegas, NV

2610 W Sahara Avenue
Las Vegas, NV 89102

Day 5 of the 2nd round of Las Vegas burgers for Happy Meal and I took us to Landry's Seafood House. A lovely cocktail waitress had a strong opinion about the best cheeseburger in Las Vegas. She lit up when describing this particular burger. Her passion moved me to the point that I made Landry's our next trip. Besides, we weren't having a lot of luck finding burger greatness on this trip, and were becoming disheartened by a string of over-priced and under-delivering cheeseburgers.

Landry's was across from the Palace Station Casino. It offered free parking in the attached lot. We were quickly seated. Our server brought out the chef once the questions started coming. We order a couple of the Landry's Gold Burgers. Our food arrived in about 15 minutes.

The Burger Breakdown...

The Beef: Landry's Seafood House burger were comprised of 8 ounces of Certified Angus Chuck. Unlike P.J. Clarke's, where the Chuck was on the bland side, the Chuck in the Landry's Gold Burger was flavorful. the burger boasted strong, nearly heavy, beef notes. There was a satisfying note of funk from an aging process. The 80:20 burger meat was juicy to the point of nearly overwhelming the bun. The grind was medium, and the bite was firm yet yielding.

The Seasoning: Yes! The kitchen at Landry's Seafood House hit the exterior of the uniform burger patties with a generous amount of salt and pepper. This seasoning caused the rich, beefy flavor to really pop. The result was a richly satisfying bite of beef.

The Sear: The sear on the Landry's Gold Burger was not especially impressive on the non-cheese covered side, but it did provide a nice crunch around the edges of the patty. That coupled with the savory seasoning created a bacony effect...and everything is better with bacon.

The Preparation: We ordered Medium--we got Medium. The burgers were seared on a properly hot, gas-fired grill. The patties were only turned once while cooking, and this allowed them to remain perfectly juicy. The 8-ounce patties were formed during the prep cycle. The beef was not over-manipulated during this process.

The Cheese: Landry's topped our cheeseburgers with a generous portion of shredded, sharp, savory, Cheddar cheese. The shredded Cheddar was nicely melted. It added depth and complexity to the bite with its creaminess along with the notes of iron, salt, and tartness.

The Bun: The bun was a generic, unseeded, standard burger bun. It was moderately sweet, fresh, a little  yeasty, moist, and nicely toasted around the edges. The bun compressed perfectly. The bottom bun soaked up the copious burger juices with no capacity to spare.

The Meat To Bun Ratio: This was perfect. The bun barely managed to contain the juicy patty.

The Toppings: The shredded Iceberg lettuce was fresh and sweet. The tomato slice was hearty and ripe.

The Fries: The peel-on fries were a frozen Sysco Foods product, but they were really quite good. The fries were crisp, perfectly salted, nicely browned, and rich with potato flavor. The fries were cooked in the same oil as the breaded shrimp, and this imparted a pleasant shrimp flavor. This was a good surprise!

The Value: $9.99 for a 1/2-pound burger with a side of fries was a fair value considering the fact that Landry's Seafood House really delivered in terms of flavor and quality of preparation.

The Landry's Gold Burger was the best burger that Happy Meal and I had sampled in Las Vegas on this trip. Landry's restored our faith in Las Vegas burgers.

Burger Review : A really good and very cheesy cheeseburger at a fair price was enjoyed at Landry's Seafood House.

Rating...5 Bites (rounded up from 4.5 Bites)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Heart Attack Grill--Las Vegas, NV

450 Fremont Street
Las Vegas, NV 89101

Our 4th burger to try on this trip to Las Vegas was the recently relocated Heart Attack Grill. Heart Attack Grill, located in Old Las Vegas (Freemont Street), was originally a Chandler, AZ establishment, and it had been uprooted to find a new home in NV. Parking was available at a nearby public lot, and a quick walk through a less glamorous (sanitary) part of Las Vegas got us to the front door. At the front door there was a massive scale for incoming patrons to step on in the event that they wished to show the outside crowd how much they weighed. A similar scale was available inside. Heart Attack Grill offered free meals to patrons over 350 pounds. Happy Meal and I watched in stunned amazement when a massive human weighed in at 402 pounds. A siren went off, and the place burst into applause. It was like the Biggest Loser in reverse. 

Beyond that, patrons that failed to clean their plates were paddled (hard) by the staff. The staff was women in tight nurse uniforms. The customers were dressed in hospital gowns upon entering the establishment. There was even a blood pressure machine with a Hall of Fame list of the highest recorded systolic and diastolic pressures. I ran mine for kicks. My heart rate was 53, and the machine could not register my BP (it's usually 100/60). The machine displayed an error message--I think I broke it!

Happy Meal and I, being little fellas, ordered a couple of Single Bypass Burgers, fries, and water. Each patty at Heart Attack Grill weighed in at 8 ounces, so the Quadruple Bypass Burger would have been 2 pounds of meat. The fries were cooked in lard, so we went with a single order. We passed on soft drinks, since the only sodas that were offered were of the full-sugar variety. Oh, Heart Attack Grill was cash-only, and there was a low-fee ATM on-site.

The Burger Breakdown...

The Beef: Heart Attack Grill took delivery of their pre-ground Chuck from Larry's Great Western Meats. The Chuck was strongly beefy. It was neither juicy nor dry. The fat content was 20%. The cheeseburger had a nice flavor of funk from a little aging. The 8-ounce patty was hand-formed, irregular, and about a 1/2 inch in thickness. The beef was firm without being chewy. The beef was coarsely ground to deliver a hearty mouth feel. The beef was above average.

The Seasoning: There was none. This was forgivable in the case of Heart Attack Grill. They typically only served their burgers with tomato, onion, cheese, and chili. They were kind enough to indulge us with an exception to this rule. The chili was flavorful enough to compensate for the lack of salt and pepper on the cheeseburger.

The Sear: The sear on the burger patties was average. Heart Attack Grill used a gas-fired, roller grill--a tunnel of love for ground beef. This imparted a moderate but not crisp sear.

The Preparation: There wasn't much to it. The patties were cooked automatically. They arrive a perfect Well-Done, and for that I was grateful. I wanted as much of the fat to render off as possible.

The Cheese: The thick slices of American cheese was perfectly melted over the burger patty. The cheese provided a creamy, gooey texture. It also delivered iron and salt to the bite.

The Bun: This was a potato bun from Great Buns Bakery of Las Vegas, NV.  The bun was on the dry side, and it was barely toasted. Again, the fully dressed burger would have compensated for this. The bun was very mild. It was really just a way to deliver calories.

The Meat To Bun Ratio: This was perfect. I imagined that the bun may have been a little challenged has I tried to eat the fully dressed burger.

The Fries: The lard cooked fries were strongly reminiscent of Five Guys. The fries were cut in house. The fries were par-cooked and peel-on. The fries were a little lank, but they were properly seasoned.

The Toppings: The Heart Attack Grill chili was creamy, savory, and laden with orange grease. It was delicious. The tomato slice was fresh and ripe. The bacon was crisp and salty.

The Value: $8.33 for a 1/2-pound cheeseburger with chili was a fine price. Happy Meal and I were barely able to finish our meals. Frankly, the prospect of a paddling spurred us both to polish off the largish burgers. The food value at Heart Attack Grill was solid. The entertainment value was huge.

Heart Attack Grill was a tongue-in-cheek celebration of culinary excess. Desserts included candy cigarettes and butterfat milkshakes. They also held the record for the most caloric burger.  This from Wikipedia: The Quadruple Bypass Burger with 9,982 calories has been identified as one of the "world's worst junk foods." It consisted of four half-pound beef patties, twenty strips of bacon, eight slices of American cheese, a whole tomato, and half an onion served in a bun coated with lard." I put in a 200-story stairs climbing workout the following morning to bun the excess calories that I had consumed.

Burger Review : Schtick aside, Heart Attack Grill served up a pretty good burger for a pretty good price. I would go again.

Rating...4 Bites

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