Review #60: Elevation Burger (Raleigh)

ELEVATION: THE SOY LATTE OF HAMBURGERS

Elevation Venn graphic

Do you drive a Prius? Do you own a recumbent bike? Have you ever organized a protest? If you answered yes to any one of these, have we got a burger place for you!

Do you love hamburgers? Well…

Elevation Burger, one of the latest boutique burger chains to tackle the Triangle, talks a lot about sustainability, about organic and grass fed and free range. What it doesn’t talk much about is the delicious flavor of its burgers. There’s a reason for that.

An Elevation burger is a burger you eat on principle. Because you want to feel good about where your food comes from. Because you like companies that respect the environment. Because it’s the right thing to do. And because if you find yourself thinking, “Gee, this isn’t very good,” you can always console yourself with the printed menu, which depicts—in cheery graphics—how other burger chains hate cows and the Earth and are doing their best to destroy them.

Free-range, grass-fed beef can be a wonderful thing. However, in its zeal to appeal to the suburban soy-latte demographic, Elevation Burger placed fat—and hence flavor—too low on its checklist.

Elevation Burger’s vision is to be “much more than just a burger restaurant.” However, it might need to tackle the “burger” part before striving for the “much more.” That’s what we’d call sustainable.

dcconvo

“You going to eat that?” “No.” “Me neither.”

Chad’s Review: 2.25 (though the fries are truly excellent)

The aftermath tells the tale. Four hungry and adventurous burger eaters sat down at the table. Three of us left our burgers unfinished. I picked through the remains of mine trying to salvage a dab of mustard or a leftover pickle, desperate for anything with some moisture or flavor.

chad5bw chad4bw chad3bw chad2c chad1bw

Don’s Review: 2.25

What I appreciate about Elevation Burger is that they know what’s best for you. If you order grilled onions and they don’t put them on the burger, as was the case with mine, it’s because you don’t need them. To me, it’s the burger you order on principle, and the one you don’t finish—on principle.

don5bw don4bw don3bw don2 don1bw

Michael’s Review: 2.50

I’m guessing that the calorie count on the menu assumes—correctly—that you’ll leave a quarter of the burger on your plate.

image001BW image004BW 2halfmikehigh 2halfmikelow image013BW

Scott’s Review: 3.25

My overall review was more positive than that of my colleagues. Though I did use an obscene amount of ketchup. (Seriously, Scott was nearly wrist-deep in ketchup by the time he finished his burger.)

image003BW image006BW image009 image012BW image015BW

Overall ranking: 54 out of 60

Guest Review: Nu-Way Lounge, A Classic Dive Bar Burger in Spartanburg, SC

Southern lifestyle magazine Garden & Gun recently published a paean to a quintessential dive bar: Our Kind of Place: Nu-Way Lounge & Restaurant

Nu-Way-Lounge-and-Restaurant-620

Photo spread from Garden & Gun article on Nu-Way Lounge & Restaurant. Click to read.

I said to Becky, the owner who worked the grill on this particular day, “I want a Redneck burger, and I need a plain burger with nothing on it for my dog.”

She said, “Your dog’s outside?” I nodded. She said, “You got a leash? You can bring him in.”

I said, “Yeah, I do. How nice,” and got Dooley out of the Jeep.

I don’t want to get all existential and dog-whispering about this, but when I brought Dooley in I pretty much felt him saying, “Wow! Thanks. Can we play that bowling game?” (George Singleton, Garden & Gun, Aug/Sep 2014)

This place sounded too good to miss. Luckily Spartanburg designer and artist Jane Beckler Bird is an old friend and a fan of classic cheeseburgers. She quickly was sworn in as Adjunct Burgiatrist and guest reviewer. Here’s what she had to say.

“Despite being a resident of Spartanburg, South Carolina, for a decade I had visited only two of the three known “burger dives” in this town – The Beacon and Ike’s Korner Grille. At last, I made it to Nu-Way Restaurant and Lounge, a renowned player in this heavenly trifecta. The White Trash Burger did not disappoint…

Nu-Way is truly a burger dive with no frills – just a row of barstools, a handful of tables and a fully stocked bar (complete with the usuals as well as local craft beer). Friendly staff, who seem to know everyone in the place, are eager to please. Clever menu items make selection tough (they all sound great) with Redneck Cheeseburger, Trailer Park Burger and such, but I settled upon a favorite there: The White Trash Cheeseburger.

Nu-Way White Trash Burger

Nu-Way White Trash Burger: hand pattied beef, homemade slaw, mustard, pickles, onions, chili, jalapenos, and American cheese

The White Trash features a sizeable angus patty grilled to taste and includes American cheese, pickles, onions, jalapeno chiles, slaw, mustard and whatever else you wish added for that matter. It’s served on a classic sesame seed bun that perfectly soaks in all the ingredients’ deliciousness. Yeah… a good ol’ messy burger you only eat around those you really love! Paired with some crispy shoestring fries, this burger really hit the spot. It was so filling I elected to take half home for later, and trust me, this is one burger that does leftover very well. It was even amazing the next day!

I am not a well versed foodie or writer of reviews, but I do know a great burger when I find one. Nu-Way’s White Trash Cheeseburger is a must if you’re in downtown Spartanburg. It has close rivalry, but that’s for another writeup another time. Enjoy!” Jane Beckler Bird

NuWay Pet Friendly

Photo borrowed from the Nu-Way Facebook page. Looks like they really are pet friendly.

Notes from the Burger Underground: Media Roundup

This month’s edition of Notes from the Burger Underground is an overview of burger news and reviews that have appeared in major media outlets. Enjoy.

Roman Burger

The Roman Burger. Photo by NPR.

This is the Roman Burger from M Burger in Chicago, which uses grilled cheese sandwiches for buns. The fearless correspondents at NPR’s Sandwich Monday give it a (gut) glowing review.

Southern Burger

The pimento cheeseburger from Southside Smokehouse. Photo by Michael Stern.

Jane and Michael Stern of Road Food fame declare the pimento cheeseburger at Southside Smokehouse in Landrum, SC, the ultimate southern cheeseburger.

Disappering Burger

NY’s The Gander only sells this sweet baby during the day. Photo: Paul Wagtouicz

Grub Street laments the disappearing burger, a loss leader in NY restaurants that have proven so popular that chefs limit access to their meaty goodness. “More top New York chefs limit their burgers by selling them in very small quantities, or only at lunch, or only for the first 30 minutes their restaurant is open, or maybe just to the people sitting at the bar but not in the dining room, or possibly only on Mondays.”

grinding-meat

Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman

Author Michael Ruhlman reminds us that if we want to make the best burgers we need to grind our own meat. Why?

First and foremost: taste and texture. When you grind your own, you can regulate the amount of fat you include; your hamburger should contain 20 to 30 percent fat for a juicy, succulent burger. I can season the diced meat before grinding it so that the burger is seasoned uniformly throughout. And I can use the large die so that it’s got real bite to it.

Importantly to me, when I grind my own, I know it hasn’t been contaminated by any of the bad bugs that can get into ground meat these days at big processing facilities, or even through carelessness in the meat department of my grocery store. Provided I give the whole muscle a thorough rinse and pat it dry, I can eat the ground meat as tartare or serve it to my kids as rare as they want it.

And finally, the NY Times’s Sam Sifton deconstructs the perfect burger, dividing the universe into diner-style griddled burgers and thick pub-style. The trick? “Cook on heavy, cast-iron pans and griddles. Cook outside if you like, heating the pan over the fire of a grill, but never on the grill itself. The point is to allow rendering beef fat to gather around the patties as they cook, like a primitive high-heat confit.”

Renegade Review: Crush Street Food (Prague, Czech Republic)

Czech burger truck

As I travel this crazy burger-loving world, it becomes increasingly obvious that burgers are attaining their rightful status as a national meal. It warms this burgiatrist’s heart.

My burgiatric travels recently took me to Prague, where I learned about a new burger venture called Crush Street Food (www.crush.cz). Jan Picha, the brains behind Crush, was driven to burger greatness. In order to get his burger to the people, he retro-fitted an old Citroën truck into a burger-making machine. I discovered this silver beast among a throng of food vendors—a veritable olfactory celebration—in the Andel area of the city.

Jan explained to me that today he was serving the Hovezi Burger—a beef burger topped with grilled red peppers, pickled red onions, tzatziki sauce, lettuce, cheddar cheese, and chipotle ketchup.

Czech burger

Quite simply, the burger was great. Fresh, hot, juicy, and very tasty—the burger grand slam. The patty was nicely charred, the bun was toasted perfectly, and the toppings did not overpower the perfectly seasoned patty.

Well played, Crush. Well played. And yes, I’ll take the easy pun: You crushed it.

Don’s score: 4.75 out of 5.0

Review #53 — Rally Point Sport Grill (Cary)

Strip Mall Surprise: A Recipe

skeptical-burgiatrist

The skeptical burgiatrist at work. An original watercolor.

Ingredients:

  • 3 skeptical burgiatrists
  • 1 generic strip mall sports bar
  • 3 burgers
  • 2 orders of hot wings

Preparation:
Receive an email about yet another “best burger in the Triangle!!!” with too many exclamation points and questionable source data from Rally Point Sport Grill in Cary.

Review painfully slow website. Preheat snark to medium.

Arrive at generic strip mall sports bar. Note the Skee ball machines and clusters of patrons at the bar—and the virtually empty dining room—and lower expectations to simmer.

Order wings and beers. Note with mild surprise the tastiness of the wings while lamenting the skimpiness of the beer menu. (Remember that too much lamenting this early in the recipe can lead to some bitterness.)

Order three half-pound burgers: one Carolina burger with chili and coleslaw, one Cheddar burger, and—taking one for the team—one Mac & Cheese burger, piled high with “homemade” macaroni & cheese that looks homemade only if your home is a blue box with “Kraft” emblazoned across it. Raise snark to high.

Take a bite.

Note the well-toasted, locally baked bun. Note the near-perfect sear and proper seasoning level on the patty. Reduce snark back to medium, raise expectations slightly. Chew thoughtfully. Take another bite.

Discuss quality of the burger with tablemates. Dial snark down to low. Remark on the high quality of the burger—with or without extraneous toppings—and completely rethink the experience.

Peel away previous bias and enjoy. Voilà! Strip Mall Surprise!

Tasters’ Notes:

  mac and cheese burger
Chad: I ordered the Mac & Cheese burger. The underlying hamburger patty was excellent, and the bun was perfectly toasted. They also get bonus points for house-cut fries. The mac & cheese provided nothing more than bulk and starch and took away from the experience of the burger itself. This is a well-deserved 4.0 for the burger alone.

Carolina burger

Scott: For a slightly spicier version of the recipe, add pinball machines, 70s-style paneling, and an unremarkable-looking joint serving an unexpectedly remarkable burger. I’m going all the way to 4.0-town for the Carolina burger.

Cheddar burger

Don: Cheddar Burger- Cheddar Cheese: I went with one of the most basic burgers listed and was struck by the nice char on the burger as well. The bun was great and perfectly toasted. My biggest complaint is with the amount of cheese that was used. It was lost on the burger. I don’t know if I actually tasted it in retrospect. All in all a very solid 4.0.

Overall rating:4.0, putting Rally Point Sport Grill at 22 out of 53.

RallyPoint Sport Grill on Urbanspoon

Review #51 – King’s Sandwich Shop (Durham, NC)

We Three Kings of Burgiatry Are

Art by Will Fernandez

Art by Will Fernandez

 
We three kings of burgiatry are
Bearing hunger we traverse afar
To Geer & Foster, getting lost-er
Following yonder char
 
Refrain
Oh, burger wonder, beefy delight
Patty cooked perfectly right
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to burger insight

The good book tells us that the Three Kings traveled in one accord, which must have gotten pretty crowded, what with all the frankincense and such. We three kings, however, traveled in a roomy and stylish Nissan Maxima. In the course of our research, we did come across the fact that “myrrh” is the ancient Aramaic word for “special sauce,” so maybe we have more in common with our kingly predecessors than we realized.

However, we came not bearing gifts but seeking one, the gift of a well prepared burger.

King's-2-web

King’s Sandwich Shop has been a Durham institution since 1942. It closed in 2007, but after a long-overdue rehab (and some unnecessary regulatory BS) opened again in 2010 under new owners. The neighborhood near the Durham Athletic Park has seen quite a bit of rehab as well, with Geer St. Garden, Manbites Dog Theater, Fullsteam Brewery and Motorco Music Hall all within a very short walk.

King's-1-web

Kings is an archetypal walk-up burger joint with limited outdoor seating. Order at the window in the front, pick up your food at the window on the side. They offer burgers, hot dogs, pulled pork, a reportedly excellent fried shrimp po’boy, and even vegetarian hot dogs and black bean burgers for those whose, um, tastes, run that way. So, yes, you can even take your patchouli-wearing hippie friends and introduce them to some classic Americana.

King's-3-web

Each of us ordered a variation on the King Burger combo. The Reverend Corey supplemented his burger with a milkshake. We were not disappointed. This was the 1950s on a plate, a flat-top griddled burger with a lightly seared exterior on a butter toasted bun. The flavor was rich and beefy and the patties expertly cooked. The milkshake was excellent as well. If you like Char-Grill, you’ll love King’s Sandwich Shop.

King's-5-web

Reverend Corey 4 Classic Burger Babes

4-BurgerBabes

Chad Ward 4 Classic Burger Babes

4-BurgerBabes

Dr. Marino 3.75 Classic Burger Babes

375-BurgerBabes

Overall score, 3.9

King's Sandwich Shop on Urbanspoon

Notes from the Burger Underground: Five the Hard Way

Five the Hard Way

A Guide to Burger Best Practices

The Straight Beef just celebrated its fourth year and 50th official review. Over that time we have compiled some burgiatric wisdom. Restaurateurs and burger joint owners take note, this is the hard earned truth coming your way. These are my (Chad’s) opinions, not the consensus of The Straight Beef, but we agree on many of them.

corbettpimento

Even excellent burgers get soggy when wrapped in foil

1) No foil! Do NOT wrap your burgers in foil. Just don’t. I don’t care if you were told that foil will keep the burger hot on the way to the table or in the customer’s car on the way home. The truth is that wrapping a burger in foil simply steams it. The bun becomes soggy, and toppings like pimento cheese or chili just turn into soup. Your perfectly cooked patty turns into a grey, flavorless puck molecularly welded to a soft goo formed from what was once the bun. If the customer made the mistake of ordering a chili cheeseburger, they now have to eat it with a spoon. There is a very good reason that In ‘n’ Out and other lauded chains use the “burger diaper” wrap. It works. Here’s a tutorial on how to wrap burgers in the parchment available from any restaurant supply.670px-Tuck-each-triangle-under-the-burger-one-at-a-tim-7

2) No Kaiser Roll! Unless your burger is greater than a half pound, you have no need of the structural support of a kaiser roll. A kaiser roll is too bready, too chewy, too much for most burgers. It overwhelms and completely buries the flavor of the patty. The proper burger to bun ratio has the burger patty slightly overhanging the bun. If the patty is completely enclosed in the bun you have too much bread. The traditional bun for a flat-top-cooked, diner-style burger is the potato roll. Even better is the brioche bun. If you want to see it done perfectly, order the burger at Buns in Chapel Hill with a brioche bun from 9th St. Bakery. That’s what it’s like when a perfect bun and a perfectly cooked burger come together. The only exception to the No Kaiser rule is for pub-style burgers of more than 8–10 ounces. A flame-kissed burger that’s more than half to three-quarters of a pound might actually need the hefty, juice-absorbing foundation that a kaiser roll offers.

No-Kaiser

No Kaiser Rolls!

3) No Gimmick Burgers! We used to make a point of ordering whatever “signature burger” a place offered, figuring that was where the chef or owner really wanted to shine and would put his or her best efforts. In the spiraling arms race of burger weirdness, those signature burgers have become freak shows. The happy surprises — like the “My Wife Said It Wouldn’t Sell” burger at Salem St. Pub in Apex, a peanut butter and honey burger that is absolutely delicious — gave way to monstrous concoctions of buttermilk Ranch bacon burgers dipped in desperation and deep fried on a donut. If you feel the need to create a Tex-Mex by Way of India burger with queso, masa harina and ghost chiles … Resist. Just don’t. If your signature burger comes with a warning, a waiver, or gets the eater’s photo on the wall, you have left the true path of burger wisdom and gone over to the dark side.

carrottop-gym

If your signature burger was a person, who would it be?

4) DO offer your burgers in a variety of sizes. While a 5.5oz (1/3lb) patty is just about perfect, anything from 5oz to 8oz works. Al’s Burger Shack in Chapel Hill offers its burgers in 3oz, 6oz and 9oz patties, allowing the diner to pick a portion that suits his appetite. Most places offer a double for those looking for a little more fulfillment. Borrowing from the Freakburger theme of #3 above, your 16oz “Enormity Burger” is a sideshow, not a meal. Keep it manageable. If I have to unhinge my jaws like a python to take a bite, you have failed.

5) Pay attention to the little things. House cut fries score major points. They let me know you care. I can tell freshly cut potatoes from the crap that came out of a Sysco bag. Unless you are buying the same frozen fries that chef Thomas Keller developed for Bouchon, you are better off investing the $50 in a french fry cutter and learning to properly double fry. IT MAKES A DIFFERENCE. So do toppings. Shred your lettuce. It’s a small thing, but shredded lettuce is so much better than the bun sliding around against a wilted leaf of iceberg. Oh, and tomatoes are seasonal. If they don’t taste like summer, leave them off. You’re just making the bun soggy.

I have exhausted my allotment of exclamation points for the month. These are some of the things that separate an average burger place from a spectacular burger place. You’ve still got to get the basics right. Use excellent beef. Grind it fresh every day. Buy your buns locally or make them in-house. Learn to cook to temp. After that, these five hard lessons should help keep  you on the path to greatness.

Review #50 – Burger Five-0! Umstead Hotel Bar (Cary, NC)

(cue horns and surf guitars)

Book ‘em, Danno. Burger One.

It’s not every day that The Straight Beef conducts its 50th official review. Assuming that no one would recognize us if we disguised ourselves as upstanding citizens of means,  we duded up and headed to the swankiest Triangle-area joint with the word “burger” on the menu: The Umstead Hotel & Spa.

The Umstead is Cary’s luxury resort hotel. The hotel’s restaurant, Herons, is a five-star, five-diamond establishment – the kind of place where your tie is expected to wear a tie.

While we clean up well, we’re not five-diamond material. Five tater tots, maybe. Diamonds, not so much. We opted for the bar. The bar menu is more casual, and, more importantly, features a hamburger which Scott (Dr. Blumenthal, taking the place of Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett) had tried previously and raved about.

Umstead burger

The Umstead Burger: Vine Ripe Tomatoes, House Pickles, Choice of Cheese, Herbed Fries $18

We were in a great mood. We were celebrating a milestone in The Straight Beef and wanted to cap off our 50th review with a great score. The service was impeccable, the sides were well executed, the drinks paired up nicely. We had a great time, great conversation, and great drinks. The burgers . . . well, witness testimony varies.

Four undercover burgiatrists ordered four cheeseburgers, three medium rare and one medium. We received two medium rare burgers, one that was on the medium-well side of medium and one that was decidedly – frighteningly – rare. It wasn’t quite, “Oh my god, is it still pulsing?” rare, but it was close. Close enough that an experienced and adventurous eater felt the need to send it back.

Condiments

The Umstead does not skimp on condiments, though they are not house made

Don (the Reverend Corey, founder of Transcendental Burgiatry) said, “the Umstead was good, not great. I had to return my burger, and though the meat had great texture, I still thought it lacked a little flavor. The build was sloppy. The brioche bun was nice, but not as good as 9th Street Bakery brioche at Buns in Chapel Hill, and the tomato could have been more ripe. Overall it was around a 3.75 (especially when factoring in the re-burger).”

Michael (Dr. Marino, master of condiments) added, “I found the patty perfect in flavor and texture. As we discussed, I like the beef ground multiple times. The Umstead’s had a silky consistency that was a pleasure to eat. The fault was in the build. The bun was average as well. I gave it a 4.25.”

Don & Michael

The Reverend Don Corey and Dr. Michael Marino

Chad (former burgiatry supervillain) retorted testily, “Yes, the beef was truly excellent. If I were reviewing the patty alone I would have rated it much higher, but the bun slid around on a piece of wilted lettuce and a flavorless tomato. I give it a begrudging 4.0. It was a good burger, but if we took price into consideration the score would be lower. The value to flavor ratio is just not there unless you are on an expense account.”

Off season produce

Wilted lettuce and flavorless, out-of-season tomatoes detracted from an otherwise excellent burger

Scott (Dr. Blumenthal, international burger historian) countered, “I’m giving it a 4.5. My two prior experiences were a solid 5.0. Chad, you are giving it a 4.0 (a recommendable burger), and it looks like Michael’s review is also very high. So if anything, it seems that the conclusion should be, ‘Oh sh*t that was good.’ We knew going in that it’s a nationally recognized joint with high prices. We can’t really ding them for that.”

Scott & Chad

Dr. Scott Blumenthal, renowned burger historian and Chad Ward, former international burgiatry supervillian

The renowned Dr. Blumenthal is correct. While by Generally Accepted Accounting Practices, the Umstead cheeseburger should come with a quart of high-octane champagne and a foot massage from a bevy of showgirls, we deliberately chose a special occasion venue for our special occasion and will not factor price into consideration of our rating. While we would have loved to give the Umstead a 5.0 on our Five-0, we give it a 4.125.

Overall ranking 17 out of 50.

2013: The Year in Burgiatry

As the waiter takes the check and we brush the final crumbs of 2013 from our clothes, it is time for a bit of reflection, a moment’s pause to consider the highs and lows of the 2013 year in burgiatry.

  • The Straight Beef closed the books on the year’s reviews on the highest of notes. Al’s Burger Shack in Chapel Hill completely floored all four reviewers in the waning days of December. Despite the restaurant only being open a short while, the burgers there were rated the best of the year and among the top five hamburgers The Straight Beef has encountered in its four year history.

    Super. Thanks for asking.

    Super. Thanks for asking.

  • The Al’s review also garnered the most attention of any Straight Beef post in 2013, with a huge number of page views and more than 500 Facebook shares. Al’s Burger Shack continued an emerging trend – Chapel Hill, NC, is rapidly becoming burger Mecca. Al’s joins Buns of Chapel Hill and Top This to score a hat trick, a trifecta of great hamburgers within a square mile of one another.
  • 2013 also saw catastrophic lows, a hamburger so horrifying that the Reverend Corey not only could not finish it, but swore off hamburgers for nearly a month before having his faith (and appetite) renewed in a Dante-esque moment at Top This.

    This picture is not out of focus. The burger was so bad it was blurry.

    This picture is not out of focus. The burger was so bad it was blurry.

  • 2013 saw expansions – both technological and geographic – in the reach of professional burgiatry. The Straight Beef launched its podcast series, bringing burgiatric wisdom to those who would otherwise not have access to the depth of knowledge that The Straight Beef offers.
  • We also published our second international review. The first was Dr. Blumenthal’s 2011 video review of Café Chappe in Paris, while the latest was Reverend Corey’s glowing and redemptive review of the hamburger at Dish in Prague, Czech Republic.
  • This year saw a nationwide explosion of bizarre gimmick hamburgers, starting with a $380,000 vat-grown burger. We used to refer to these as “Look at Me!”burgers. Now we think of them as “Look at me – and run away!” burgers. Hamburgers with fried macaroni & cheese buns, hamburgers with ramen buns, triple-patty monstrosities with battered, buttermilk fried bacon (no, we’re not kidding), and 7-layer burgers made the national news. Where we formerly gleefully ordered whatever hamburger an establishment called its “signature burger,” we have learned through rueful experience that these are overwrought, overthought, and definitely overbought. Stay away.

    SteaknShake_7x7Burger

    Steak & Shake 7×7 Burger

  • The greatest story of the year, however, the one worthy of the Bob Costas-with-a-tear-in-his-eye-at-the-Olympics moment, has to be the redemption of Straight Beef burgiatrist emeritus Dr. John McManus. Dr. McManus suffered a shocking breakdown that estranged him from his colleagues and removed him from the field of serious burgiatric inquiry. Early in 2013, despite all odds, Dr. McManus made a miraculous recovery and is once again at the forefront of hamburger research, having finally attained the Holy Grail of hamburgers – a five star burger at GAS in Florida.

    JM Gas 1

    Welcome back, Dr. McManus!

This closes the fourth year of The Straight Beef, our first year as the new four-man lineup, and the first year of the Reverend Corey’s Reverend Rants and Chad’s Notes from the Burger Underground in addition to the enduring features the Tao of Cow and Ask the Burgiatrist.

Stay tuned fearless readers, 2014 promises even more burger news and reviews, starting with The Straight Beef’s 50TH review! (yes, it deserves an exclamation point!)

Review #48 – Village Draft House (Raleigh): The Straight Beef and NC Beer Guys Join Forces

Podcast Super Combo

Man, podcast #9—featuring our buds Glenn and Dave, the NC Beer Guys—is a good one, frothing with craft beer wisdom aplenty. Download it from iTunes or directly from our Libsyn feed.

As a special holiday bonus, here’s some stuff that doesn’t appear the podcast (including our verdict on the Village Draft House). It’s just like the podcast, except the content is completely different, and it’s less about the listening and more about the…you know…looking.

The Beers

Glenn and Dave introduced us to Deep River Brewing’s 40-42 Stout, a rich, creamy stout with hints of chocolate and a bit of residual sweetness. A huge hit with everyone at the table.

For Chad’s Maxmillian burger (with bleu cheese and bacon), Glenn and Dave recommended an IPA to cut the richness. The Maxmillian also paired very nicely with Highland Gaelic Ale.

Devil’s Tramping Ground Tripel from Aviator Brewing in Fuquay-Varina drew mixed reviews. Glenn gave it high marks, while Chad—not a fan of the bubblegum and clove flavors found in some Belgian beers—was less enthusiastic.

The Burgers

Feeling nostalgic for 80s techno-rap, Michael, Scott, and Dave opted for the Der Kommissar Burger, which featured dark ale mustard and sauerkraut on grilled rye. Scott reported that his was well balanced, while the other two felt overwhelmed by sauerkraut. All three agreed that the massive rye slices made the burgers too bready. All in all, a good burger that would be better with more consistent construction and a better burger-to-bread ratio. Scott gave his a 4.0 on the five-point scale, while Michael and Dave both ended up in 3.5-town.

image003BW image006 image009BW image012BW image015BW

 

image001BW 3halfmikelow 3halfmikehigh image010BW image013BW

Glenn opted for the Chicago Burger, a classic pub-style cheeseburger with bourbon-cured bacon. He gave it 3.75.

Chad’s Maxmillian burger delivered salty hot goodness in the form of bleu cheese, Frank’s Red Hot sauce, and bourbon-cured bacon. Glenn was skeptical of the burger’s pretzel roll, but Chad appreciated the flavor and structure it brought to the burger. Chad scored the Maxmillian at 3.75.

chad5bw chad35high chad35low chad2bw chad1bw

We were very pleasantly surprised when the manager of Village Draft House, upon learning of the presence of the state-renowned NC Beer Guys, comped our meals. Good beer and no bill? Now that’s a pairing.*

ChicagoBurger-homepage

Chicago Burger — photo courtesy of Village Draft House

 

The Verdict

On the beers: An excellent array of craft beers, with NC breweries making up a good portion of the tap list.

On the burgers: Solid renditions of pub-style burgers, both classic and inventive. With a TSB score of 3.75, the Village Draft House ranks 23 out of our 48 official reviews.

And by the way…

Podcast listeners know that Hot Pistol—the NC Beer Guys’ brew that won Best in Show at the Top of the Hops pro-am competition—was headed to Denver for an exclusive debut at the Denver Rare Beer Tasting. So how’d it go? Sounds like the chocolate raspberry habanero stout was extremely well received. And while there is nothing definite yet, the brewers at NoDa have hinted that it may return to the lineup as a seasonal offering next year.

 

*Faithful readers know that we have never asked for — nor will we ever ask for — anything for free. It was a very kind gesture on the part of the manager. We will always be absolutely transparent when something like this occurs.
1 2 3