Friday, March 29, 2013

Gordon Ramsay BurGR--Las Vegas, NV

3667 South Las Vegas Boulevard
Las Vegas, NV 89109

After sending back the uneaten and thoroughly abysmal cheeseburger at Postrio, Happy Meal and I were in need of sustenance. He got excited that Gordon Ramsay had a burger restaurant in Las Vegas. At our place, we refer to Gordon Ramsay shows like Hell's Kitchen as "cooking and yelling." We put our names on the list, and took a walk to kill time during the 45-minute wait for a table.

Our server, Lexie, was attentive and most knowledgeable about the food and the preparation. We ordered a couple of the $13 American Burgers from the11 burger menu and settled in for another 40+-minute wait. BurGR was packed, and the kitchen was not slacking. Happy Meal and did glorious thumb war battle. Later, I checked the underside of our table for gum....only one piece...pretty good for Las Vegas.

The Burger Breakdown...

The Beef: BurGR made the patties from a blend of 50% Chuck, 25% Short Rib, and 25% Brisket. This was one of the golden ratios for burger preparation. The beef was completely delicious. There were strong notes of beef and complex mineral notes. The Brisket lent a steak-like texture to the bite. There was no funk from aging. The beef was juicy. Like The Brindle Room in NYC, BurGR incorporated deckle fat into the blend. This amped up the fat content before cooking. That additional fat melted off during the cooking process. This left the burger in the non-heart stopping, 20% fat, range once it was prepared. The deckle imparted a creamy lushness to the burger. The resulting mouth feel was smooth and luxuriant. The lushness was never interrupted by any connective tissue. This showed that great care was being taken throughout the process in terms of quality...more on that later.

The Seasoning: There was a light dash of something savory on the exterior of my burger patty. This was one of those cases where a strong dose of salt and pepper would have created a distraction from the show-stopping beef.

The Sear: There was no sear to speak of. I assumed that the point of the burger was to deliver a smooth, easy bite. I would have preferred a hearty sear on the high-quality beef, but this version of the burger worked perfectly well.

The Preparation: Like BLT, BurGR had an on-site butcher that trimmed, ground, blended, and prepped the burger meat. The butcher staff was clearly skilled and incredibly meticulous in the trimming of the beef so that there was no trace of chewy sinew in the cheeseburgers. The 7-ounce patties were loosely formed on a  daily basis and delivered up to the bustling BurGR. My burger was grilled to a juicy Med-Rare, as requested. I never got a look at Happy Meal's Medium burger, because he inhaled his burger before I got to my second bite. Happy Meal strongly approved of his cheeseburger.

The Cheese: The American Burger came with American cheese. The cheese completed the picture with salt, iron, and additional creaminess. The cheese was perfectly melted.

The Bun: BurGR utilized the in-house bakery at the Paris Hotel and Casino. The bun was a pillowy, light, soft, fresh, buttery, yeasty, and heavily seeded brioche. The seeds on the bun provided some crunch. That texture was welcome. The brioche was not thoroughly toasted. However, the juicy beef would have soaked right through a seared bottom bun.

The Meat To Bun Ratio: BurGR got the portion sizes just right. The bun was competent but not overwhelming.

The Toppings: The tomato slices were perfectly ripe, and the Bibb lettuce was fresh and sweet. The fries came with a couple of house-made ketchups that were spectacular. The chipotle and curry ketchups didn't flirt with their namesake spices--they embraced and showcased them. This was refreshing. The standard ketchup was also prepared in-house. It was rich, hearty, and not overly green tasting, which is a flaw in many recipes.

The Fries: The fries at BurGR were thick and cut in house. These were peel-on, canola oil-fried, and properly seasoned. The fries were crisp on the outside and creamy in the center. The wide fries made it easy to scoop up more of those delicious ketchups.

The Value: $13 for 7-ounce burger made sense--the burger was perfectly prepared from really fantastic ingredients. The quality of the food and service was stellar.

Like the nearby BLT, the eponymous BurGR was an example of a celebrity chef restaurant that truly delivered more than a brand. BurGR delivered exceptional burgers at a fair price.

Burger Review : BurGR served up a nearly perfect cheeseburger at a fine value.

Rating...5 Bites

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Postrio--Las Vegas, NV

3377 South Las Vegas Boulevard
Las Vegas, NV 89109

Day three of the Spring Break Las Vegas burger crawl for me and Happy Meal. Postrio had been on tap for some time, and we were already at The Venetian checking out the eternally crepuscular Saint Mark's Square. Unfortunately, this Wolfgang Puck establishment delivered the culinary equivalent of "bad touch" from mom's new boyfriend. I should have known that everything was going to go terribly wrong from the painful interaction with the server..

Me: What are the cuts of beef in the burger?
She: Angus.
Me: That is a type of cow. I am more interested in the parts of the cow that the meat comes from so that I can order my burger cooked to a temperature that is most appropriate. Can you please go check?
She: *huff*
Me: Am not trying to be a pain; I am trying to order the burger correctly so that I can properly review it.


She: How would you like your burger cooked,
Me: Medium, please.
She: That will be pink throughout.
Me: Yes, that's what Medium means.
She: *huff*

I assumed that she was new or fussy or just plain bad at her job. I failed to take this as an omen. This was as good as it was going to get. It seemed that Postrio was Italian slang for "pig awful."  We ordered a couple of the $17 1/2 pound Angus burgers and settled in for a 20-minute wait. It takes 20 minutes to create something as thoroughly jacked up as what showed up at our table. Looking back, I should have noted that the restaurant was all but empty in the middle of the bustling St. Mark's Square.

The Burger Breakdown...

The Beef: The burger meat at Postrio was a blend of Sirloin and Chuck. The source of the beef remains a mystery--no one could seem to figure that out. The beef was flavorful and beefy. Sadly, it was over-cooked and rubbery. The burgers were formed during morning prep by someone that clearly had a beef with burger meat. The over-manipulation of the coarsely ground beef caused a great many unwelcome new protein bonds.This fresh bonds caused the burger to take on the shape and texture of a fist. Beyond that, the burger was peppered with connective tissue. Sloppy on all counts. This was unfortunate, because the flavor was there along with a trace of mineral flavors. The was no funk from aging.

The Seasoning: The burger's exterior tasted like an oniony salt. It was as if it had been dusted with onion soup mix. This was unpleasant.

The Sear: Ragged and half-assed are the words that come to mind. It wouldn't have mattered, though. Nothing could have saved the rawhide chew toy that was my over-worked and nearly solid burger patty.

The Preparation: The kitchen at Postrio phoned it in and subsequently dropped the ball. After I sent my meal back, there was no offer for a refire or a make-good of any sort. Apparently, that was their best effort.

The Cheese: The Vermont White Cheddar was spectacular. The Cheddar was well-aged with that wonderful granularity that comes from salt crystals and the creaminess from the fat. That Cheddar lent enough of an iron note to fill in for the beef. The cheese, however, could not carry the dish.

The Bun: I would have referred to this as a sh!tshow, but that would have insulted shows about sh!t the world over. The bun was stale and dry--incredibly dry and stale. The bun was burned to the point of tasting like carbon. The bun was toasted on a griddle, and the bottom of the bun had black grill marks, which imparted a nasty bitterness directly to the tongue when attempting to eat the dry, rubbery, over-cooked burger.

The Meat To Bun Ratio: The giant, stale, burned bun overwhelmed the dry, rubbery, gristly burger patty.

The Toppings: The onion marmalade was delicious and properly reduced. The pickle chips, lettuce, and tomato were all just right.

The Fries: The fries at Postrio were terrific. These were perfectly crisped and perfectly seasoned shoestring fries.

The Value: Say what? I was relatively certain that Postrio saw great value in charging me for two meals that could not be eaten. The manager, Luckas, agreed that the bun was burned and stale and that the burger was rubbery. I sent my plate back after a scant 3 bites. Happy Meal soldiered through a third of his before he gave up due to the strong flavor of charcoal. I was granted the "friends and family discount." That meant that our soft drinks were at no charge. So, Postrio only charged me $37 for that shameful mess. Looking back, Postrio did provide a certain value in terms of weight loss. The pricey, inedible food certainly reduced my caloric intake for the day. Can Wolfgang Puck make a burger...NO!

Caveat emptor. Postrio may have been good once. It may be good again some day. However, on the day that I visited, the quality of the burger and service was excremental, and that was being generous.

Burger Review : Don't. Just don't. Front and back of house were a well-oiled machine designed to lighten wallets and deliver awful food. Postrio earned the title of worst burger in Las Vegas.

Rating...1 Bite (1 generous bite)

07APR13--I did reach out to the Wolfgang Puck organization twice to communicate this experience to them...they have not yet replied.

 12APR13--The manager of Postrio reached out to me...he refunded the price of the meal.

Broadway Burger Bar and Grill--Las Vegas, NV

3790 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, NV 89109

The second burger for day 2 of Happy Meal's Spring Break in Las Vegas was Broadway Burger Bar and Grill. This was located the tidied up version of SOHO--Faux Ho. Honestly, Happy Meal and I preferred this version of NYC to the real thing. We were in NYC recently, and he mostly noted the crowds, unpleasant smells, chewing gum everywhere, and lots of trash blowing around. Apologies to my thicker-skinned NYC readers.

This is excerpted from their site, "...Broadway Burger Bar & Grill located inside the Village Streets at NYNY is not only the best tasting burger, but is one of the healthiest burgers you will ever try! Our burgers come straight from the Estancia Farm in Uruguay and are 100% Free-range, grass fed, Estancia beef. Our burgers are high in Omega 3 and Vitamins A&E. These all natural, no hormones, no antibiotics burgers aren't just good for you...they are delicious too!..."

We were seated promptly. We spoke with Shane, the manager, and he gave us the lowdown on the burgers. Happy Meal was in the mood for pizza, and the folks at Broadway Burger Bar and Grill were kind enough to allow him to bring in a slice while I tried a 1/2 pound burger. I ordered a plain burger withe American cheese and waited for a good long while. On the first attempt, the burger came out overdone. I sent it back, and on the second attempt, it came out a perfect Medium. They were kind enough to comp the burger due to the long wait time. During that wait, Happy Meal had a Chocolate Therapy shake that Broadway Burger Bar and Grill obtained from the nearby Ben and Jerry's. This shake was the highlight of his day!

The Burger Breakdown...

The Beef: Wow! The burger beef from Estancia was complex. While it was mostly Chuck, the funk and depth of flavor led me to believe that a fair amount of Rib meat made its way into the blend. That part of the cow is adjacent to the Shoulder/Chuck, so it seemed a fair guess. The beef was cooked to a perfect, pink, juicy, and tender Medium. The organic, grass-fed burger meat was rich with beef flavor, funk, and some mineral notes. This was a burger for adults, and Happy Meal wrinkled his nose when he sampled it. The strong flavors did not suit his palate, but I was a fan. The fat content was right about 20%. The burger was juicy to the point of almost being messy. I found it especially decadent that I was eating beef from Uruguay.

The Seasoning: There was a light dusting of salt on the exterior of the burger. In this case, the light salt made sense, because the savory notes of the cheese filled int.

The Sear: There was ring of sear on the burger. This was more impressive on the first attempt. I attributed this to a swamped kitchen where the grill was not holding its temperature. The big flavors from the beef and cheese made this an academic observation. The burger was delicious--an epic sear would have made it amazing.

The Preparation: The burgers were cooked on a gas-fired flat top. The uniformly-shaped, 1/2 pound patties were formed up during the day. The patties were not overworked, so the beef was not chewy.

The Cheese: There were a host of choices at Broadway Burger Bar and Grill, but I go with American whenever possible. This is to be consistent, and because American cheese just plain works on cheeseburgers. In this case the American cheese worked overtime. The cheese filled in perfectly with savory flavors, iron notes, and creaminess. This rounded out the complex beef to create a nearly perfect cascade of flavors.

The Bun: This was a simple brioche. It was sweet, fluffy, yeasty, fresh, and moist. The bun was nominally toasted. A little crunch would have been nice, but the strong flavors and tender beef made up for the lack of added texture.

The Meat To Bun Ratio:  This was just perfect.

The Fries: The fries at Broadway Burger Bar and Grill were the sort of hand-cut, peel-on, hearty fries that we have come to associate with Five Guys Burgers and Fries. The fries were strong with earthy flavors. They were nicely salted. I found myself longing for the malt vinegar that I apply at to my Five Guys fries. The fries were great, and I had to fight Happy Meal for them.

The Toppings: The Bibb lettuce was fresh and sweet. The tomato slices were ripe and flavorful.

The Value: Broadway Burger Bar and Grill charged $14.95 for a cheeseburger, fries, and a beverage. That was a fair price considering the superlative quality of the burger meat.

Broadway Burger Bar and Grill served up a surprisingly good burger. It was complex, juicy, fresh, and a fine value considering the quality of ingredients and service.

Burger Review : A nearly perfect union of textures and flavors was discovered in the burger at Broadway Burger Bar and Grill.

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

Grind Burger Bar and Lounge--Las Vegas, NV

360 East Tropicana Ave.
Las Vegas, NV 89169

Day two of our Spring Break burger tour in Las Vegas took Happy Meal and me to Grind Burger Bar & Lounge. Grind was a located in a strip mall, so parking was very convenient. Casino parking sometimes involves a lot of hunting and walking. It was a funny coincidence that the hostess at Grind also worked at Hash House A Go Go, where we had bumped into her the day before.

Aside from burgers, Grind served up pizza, a variety of inventive appetizers, and some salads. Chef Miguel had us sample the Thai Calamari, and it was a wonderful dish that combined sweet, sour, savory, and just a little bitter from the deep-fried lemon chips. I would return for the calamari and a turkey burger--more on that to come. We toured the kitchen, and it should be noted that if you fall catastrophically ill, do so at Grind Burger Bar & Lounge--emergency surgery could be safely performed in the kitchen with no advance notice and no risk of infection. The busy kitchen was immaculate. I checked hidden surfaces like door seals, behind handles, and the bottoms of shelves, and I couldn't locate any unclean spots. The floors were spotless. Clearly the restaurant mantra, "If you've got time to lean, you've got time to clean." was honored here. The flat top was gleaming without a trace of carbonized oil on the cooking surface. I explained to Happy Meal that this was the new standard for his room, which was in shocking disarray as always.

We discovered that the top selling burger was the towering Juicy Lucy. Before the staff was told to advise patrons to proceed with caution, Grind racked up quite a few cleaning bills after eager patrons pressed down too quickly on their burgers. The burgers were moist enough to squirt juices onto their clothing. 

We ordered a couple of single patty, 4-ounce cheeseburgers fro $7.49 each from the build your own menu, and we settled in for a brief wait.

The Burger Breakdown...

The Beef: The beef at Grind was source from Fulton Provision Company. The 25% fat Chuck was beefy, funky, and juicy. The grind was medium coarse. The bite was firm but not chewy. The beef was brought to Well-Done, but it was not an aggressive, joy killing Well Done. As a result, the beefiness from the fully denatured collagen really blossomed and the burger arrive hot and juicy. This wasn't house-ground, dry-aged Sirloin, but it was really quite good. The burger meat was terrific at Grind.

The Seasoning: Sea salt and pepper were applied in just the right amounts to maximize the impact of the strong beef flavors. Also, a small amount of Turbinado sugar was applied.

The Sear: The Turbinado sugar caramelized, and this couple with the browning of the burger's amino acids from the Malliard reaction to present a really nice sear. That spotless flat top wans't just for show. This was all about efficient and even heat transfer, control, and the ability to reduce any variations in flavor. The clean surface imparted as good a sear as one could get onto a 4-ounce patty.

The Preparation: The freezers contained no beef--only the refrigerators. I assumed from that, and the texture of the beef, that Grind Burger Bar & Lounge used only fresh (never frozen) beef. The burger patties were formed during morning prep. About 120 4-ounce patties and 100 7-ounce patties were created by a skilled and gentle hand.

The Cheese: Of the 6 cheese choices, we went with American and happily so. The melted American cheese combined with the savory seasonings and served to perfectly balance out the sweet bun.

The Bun: The bun at Grind was the same bun used at Bachi Burger, only the burgers at Grind were not celebrations of mediocrity. Don't blame the bun. The soft, sweet, moist, yeasty buns came from the same bakery in Las Vegas. I don't recall the name, but the bun is very similar to what a Chinese BBQ pork sandwich would arrive on. Sweet on the outside--pillowy and yeasty on the inside.

The Meat to Bun Ratio: This was just right.

The Toppings: The shredded Iceberg lettuce was fresh as was the tomato slice.

The Fries.The $3.00 order was large enough to share. The fries were previously frozen, par-cooked, and shoestring. The were nicely crisped in fresh canola oil. The fries were perfectly seasoned.

The Value: $10 for a really solid burger and fries. The prices were perfectly fair.

Other Notable Menu Items:  The veggie patty at Grind Burger Bar & Lounge was a chick pea patty. This was ground garbanzo beans blended with cumin, turmeric, lemon, and parsley. It was then fried and griddled. the result was a better version of falafel. 

The turkey patty was the thing that I wanted to return for. This was a juicy patty of chopped turkey breast. It was seared with cayenne flakes, sea salt, pepper, and a little Turbinado sugar. The turkey patty was spectacular, and putting cheese on that would have been a crime.

Grind Burger Bar & Lounge had to be was not located on the strip or in a casino, so it could not have survived on tourist churn. This establishment just served up great burgers and earned a loyal, local following.

Burger Review : There are no bad choices at Grind Burger Bar & Lounge. The burgers are cooked with great care and it shows.

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

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Hash House A Go Go--Las Vegas, NV

at The Quad (formerly Imperial Palace)
3535 Las Vegas Boulevard
Las Vegas, NV 89109

Hash House A Go Go came highly recommended, and it had been recently awarded a pile of praise from various sources. The San Diego-based chain had been expanding, and the count was 4 Las Vegas establishments at the time of this review. This particular Hash House A Go Go was at The Quad,and specifically it was in the former location of the former buffet of what once was the The Imperial Palace buffet As memory serves, this was one of the more unpleasant spots in Las Vegas. I had been coming to Las Vegas for over 2 decades, and much had changed.

Here's how Hash House A Go Go website described what to expect, "...We keep the fun in food while pulling from the experiences of farm fresh agriculture, live stock, and old recipes with a twist. We maintain a level of  excitement and entertainment within the dining experience, while ensuring excellent service each and every day..."

Happy Meal and I ordered up a couple of cheeseburgers. Happy Meal ordered a single cheeseburger from the kid's menu, and I ordered an embarrassing one-pound Stuffed Burger.  Our meals arrived in about 10 minutes.

The Burger Breakdown... 

The Beef: The burger was composed of two, big, flat, Well-Done patties. The patties outsized the bun by a long shot. The beef was 100% Certified Angus Chuck delivered pre-ground by Desert Meats. The beefiness was 5 on a scale of 1-10. The funk was present even though the Chuck was not aged. The beef was juicy and not overly oily. The fat content was about 20%. The beef was pressed hard and flat as it cooked.The result was a moderately chewy bite. Honestly, this burger was more of a dare than a meal. I got through 25% of it, and then my sense of self-preservation kicked in--the 10 dollar burger was HUGE. After the meal, I found it surprising that there was not queue of ambulances idling out front....Clear!

The Seasoning: I detected a dash of salt on the exterior of my burger patties.

The Sear: The sear was delivered courtesy of an Accutemp flat-top. This was the kind of kitchen device that made me believe in wizardry. The griddle sensed the material it was cooking, and it adjusted the heat automatically and only in the spot where the food was located.....Sorcery. The sear itself was nominal. I assumed that a grill weight had been employed. This would have accounted for the steamed appearance of the sear. A crisp, dark sear would have made a lot of sense here. Super Duper in San Francisco, CA pulled off a great sear with similar hardware.

The Preparation: Hash House A Go Go cooked the burger patties to Well-Done. The grind was coarse. The patties weren't really formed--they were smashed, and there was nothing wrong with that.

The Cheese: No American cheese was to be found in the cheese selection. The Cheddar choice was mild, so I went with the smoked Mozzarella. The deal at Hash House A Go Go was to stuff the various toppings between the patties. The melted Mozzarella was located at the geographical center of my burger, accordingly. The cheese was relatively mild, and there was a lot of it.

The Bun: The bun was a bespoke egg bun from an unnamed source. The bun was surprisingly bland. It was oiled on the top, which I hated. Mostly, it was bland. It was only nominally toasted, so the bun at Hash House A Go Go was simply a way to get beef to face.

The Meat To Bun Ratio: The bun never had a chance against the mass of ground beef and molten cheese.

The Toppings: The tomato and lettuce were both fresh and delicious.

The Fries: Perfect. The fries were perfectly coated with steak seasoning, and they were perfectly crisped in canola oil. The creamy centers were outstanding. The fries were a Sysco Foods product, and they arrived bagged, par-cooked, and frozen.

The Value: The value at Hash House A Go Go was stupendous. $9.95 for more burger that two people should consume in one sitting was more than generous.

Hash House A Go Go specialized in big (nutty) portions of classic Mid-Western fare. The cheeseburgers were not particularly exciting but they were true to the form.

Burger Review : Massive portions of above average chow at an amazing price.

Rating...4 Bites (4 Bites ratcheted up to 4.5 due to the strong value--4 bites in terms of flavor)

Steak 'n Shake 7x7--Las Vegas, NV

 At the South Point Hotel Casino   
9777 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89123

Happy Meal and I discovered, just before departing for Las Vegas (spring break), that Steak 'n Shake served a 7x7 cheeseburger on their Up All Night Menu. Sweet serendipity--we were staying at South Point, which is where the local (only Steak 'n Shake for 1,000 miles) was located.  While the Las Vegas location had limited hours, they were kind enough to oblige our obscene request. Yes, I was bucking for Father of the Year by taking my 10-year old son to Las Vegas for his vacation.

The burger was actually quite a bit smaller that I had anticipated. Happy Meal and I split the monster. At Steak 'n Shake, the thin burger patties were only about 2 ounces each, so the total burger weighed in at less that a pound.

How was it?  It had 7 slices of melted American cheese--it was damn delicious!  Steak 'n Shake applied a world-class sear to the thin patties, so the burger was 14 ounces of sear with melted cheese. That melted cheese worked its way through everything. It was creamy and savory. The beef was crumbly and dark. This really was a spectacular bite.

Shockingly, the meat to bun ratio was not shot to hell. The bun magically contained the stack of meat and cheese in this mighty cheeseburger.

Honestly, I was not impressed with the standard cheeseburger the last time that I visited this Steak 'n Shake location. On this visit, about two years later, the 7x7 was spectacular. The price was higher than the special menu cost of around 8 bucks, but even at the $10.29 that we paid, it was a tremendous value. We split the massive cheese burger, which came with fries, and we were both full but not grossly stuffed.

Rating....4 Bites

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Bad Daddy's Burger Bar--Charlotte, NC

5501 R C Josh Birmingham Pkwy 
Charlotte, NC 28208

Bad Daddy's Burger Bar had been making some of the regional "best of" lists, and I had a layover in Charlotte, NC. Conveniently, there was a Bad Daddy's in my terminal. Here's some spiel from the Bad Daddy's website: "...Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar is one bite away from becoming your favorite neighborhood spot. We are a chef driven burger joint that uses a mix of local and artisanal ingredients to make the most amazing burger you’ve ever had. We work hard to make sure anything we serve is the best possible product and make everything in our scratch kitchen..."  So, chef-driven, local, artisinal, amazing, and favorite was the bar that they had set in terms of expectations. I ordered a cheeseburger, and settled in for a 15-minute wait. Then I sent back that over-cooked cheeseburger and waited 5 more minutes. I had a long layover. The Basic Burger was $9.49, and cheese was $.95 extra....airport pricing galls me.

The Burger Breakdown...

The Beef: My server couldn't tell me much about the beef, so I had to rely on the menu. It did seem safe to assume that they were not grinding burger meat at the airport location, though. The burger patty was 7 ounces of medium ground Chuck. The menu promised Natural Angus--Hormone and Antibiotic Free and a Vegetarian Diet. The Bad Daddy's burger was juicy and beefy in flavor. There was no trace of funk or mineral notes. The beef was perfectly fine, but it was not exceptional in any way.

The Seasoning: The burger patty was lightly seasoned with salt.

The Sear: The sear on my burger was moderate, but it did not provide additional texture to the burger.

The Preparation: The flat, irregular patties appeared to have been formed during the prep cycle. The mouth feel was crumbly, so the beef was not manhandled. The burgers were cooked on a gas-fired flat top/griddle. I ordered a Medium burger, and I got just that...on the second try.

The Cheese: The American cheese that I went with was one of 10 cheese choices. The cheese was properly melted, and it did all of those things that I have come to appreciate about American cheese. It was gooey, savory, and it provided a note of iron.

The Bun: I selected the Traditional Bun from the 4 options. The bun was soft and sweet. It was heavily buttered and weakly toasted. The bun ended up being a flabby, compressed burger wrapper. It was fine.

The Meat To Bun Ratio: The meat dominated the weakly textured bun.

The Fries: The fries, while browned, were not crisp. I found this confusing, but it saved me from eating many of them. The fries were seasoned with garlic and salt. Had the fries been properly crisped, they would have been solid winners, since the centers were creamy, and the potato flavor was strong.

The Toppings: The tomato slice and the Romaine lettuce were fresh and crisp.

The Value: Meh. It was the airport, so the near $11.00 price tag for a  burger was in keeping with expectations.

Bad Daddy's Burger Bar was pretty much OK. It was not exceptional in any way, but it was fine, especially considering the this was an airport location.

Burger Review : An average burger at an average price at Bad Daddy's Burger Bar.

Rating...3 Bites

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Dear John's--Culver City, CA

11208 Culver Boulevard
Culver City, CA 90230

I've been to Dear John's before, but I hadn't gotten around to reviewing the burger until now. Dear John's could have been called retro, but it has always been that way. That would be like referring to a rock as retro...Dear John's was just old and unchanged. It was 100% old man bar. In defense of my Father of the Year award, I took Happy Meal along for the burger. We ordered a couple of the 1/2 Pound Gourmet Burgers and settled in for a 20-minute wait as our burgers cooked.

The Burger Breakdown...

The Beef: The menu announced that this would be 1/2 pound of ground Sirloin. The menu did not lie. The beef was a very nicely aged Sirloin. My burger was recklessly overcooked, but it was still quite good. The beef was juicy. The fat content was at about 15%. The burger had a strong funk from the aging (dry?). The flavor was beefy, funky, and steaky, with a solid hit of iron to back it up. The bite was firm and the beef remained on the palate well after the bun had moved along. I would have sent my burger back for a refire, but I didn't want to keep Happy Meal waiting another 20 minutes for a properly cooked burger.

The Seasoning: There was no seasoning applied to the cheeseburgers at Dear John's. A little salt and pepper would have gone a long way with the high-quality beef.

The Sear: I found the lack of sear puzzling. The kitchen managed to cook that thick, 1/2 pound patty all the way through, but they couldn't get a proper sear on the darn thing. First crop circles, and now this....we truly live in an age of wonders.

The Preparation: Dear John's cooked the burgers on a gas-fired grill rather than a flat top. The grill was far too cool to apply a proper sear. The staff formed the formidable beef patties during the morning prep cycle. The ground Sirloin arrived pre-ground. Discovering the source of the beef proved to be too challenging for my limited Spanish skills, because this was an ESL situation. The burgers were formed gently, and the resulting mouth feel was firm without being chewy.

The Cheese: Dear John's doubled up on the Cheddar for us. We could have gone with Bleu or Swiss, but we didn't want our burgers to, you know.....suck. The Cheddar was meek. It did provide a little gooeyness to the bite, but that was it.

The Bun: The bun was standard, food-service, lightly-seeded, fresh, moist, slightly sweet offering. It was squishy like a school lunch roll, and this was not at all unwelcome. The bun did its humble part of getting ground steak into our faces without soiling our hands. Sadly, the bun was barely toasted, so it lent nothing in terms of crunch. It seemed that 20 minutes was not long enough to toast a bun.

The Meat To Bun Ratio: The bun just barely contained the generous burger patty at Dear John's.

The Fries: The fries were thick, steak cut monsters. The fries were not cut in-house, but they were properly cooked and seasoned. The fries were just fine.

The Toppings: Everything here was perfectly fresh. The Romaine lettuce and the tomato slice were just right.

The Value: $12 for 1/2 pound of ground Sirloin and some fries was a great value. Where we got screwed was on the beverages. We spent $8 on Diet Coke. We were not informed that soda refills at Dear John's were not refills at all. 2 bucks for a Diet Coke was a thumb in the eye. 8 bucks was a knee to the groin. After tax and tip, we were out about 40 bucks. $40 for 2 cheeseburgers was nearly offensive.

Dear John's was a hipster hangout just waiting to happen. The cheeseburgers were on the verge of greatness. $12 was not too much to pay for a high-quality burger, but it was too much to pay for an over-cooked burger.

Burger Review : Dear John's served up terrific beef and large portions. If you go, beware the beverage prices, and really drive home with the wait staff how you want your burger prepared.

Rating...4 Bites

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