Review #14: Abbey Road (Cary)

  • Joint: Abbey Road
  • Burger: George Burger
  • Category: Classic Rocks

John’s Review

Abbey Road to Nowhere

With a Little Help from My Friends, I was encouraged to give Abbey Road another try. I’d been there before, but had no plans to ever Get Back. The burger had not lived up to the hype, and I was content to just Let it Be. Nevertheless, I walked into Abbey Road recently for the second time, filled with hope and repeatedly sending out a telepathic message: Please Please Me.

Before I offer my professional opinion of this burger, a message for the proprietors of Abbey Road: I Want to Be Your Man. I do. I want to give you All My Lovin’. Love Me Do the concept of your establishment, and when I first heard from some dilettante burger-likin’ acquaintances of mine  the pitch about your theme, the beers, and the basic building blocks of your burgers, I thought to myself, Got to Get You into My Life! Well, In My Life, I’ve given you two tries now, and I have to say, because of one maddeningly foolish mistake, I have to say Hello, Goodbye. (The good news is, We Can Work it Out. Just change one thing—well maybe two things—and I’ll be there Eight Days a Week. Until then, you’re going Nowhere Man!)

Not a Second Time! I Should Have Known Better. Whether it was at the prodding of my “friends,” or someone simply slipped me a Yellow Submarine, I found myself Back in the USSR. The waitresses, Sexy Sadie, Lovely Rita, and Michelle, were friendly enough, but moved like Eleanor Rigby. That said, they’re not the real maddening problem here. No, the Yoko in this situation is the Day Tripper that decided to choose a bun made of Norwegian Wood as the wrapper for the otherwise lovely ingredients of this 4-plus-potential burger. I don’t care how freshly baked it is, if a bun is too thick, dense, and dry to allow all members of the burger orchestra to Come Together, be heard and to blend into blissful harmony, it’s a jackleg mistake of the highest order, and it makes me want to get my Revolver.

So, to Abbey Road I say, while I Want to Hold Your Hand, you’ve got to get rid of that bun first. That #$%&!@*&^%$#!@! bun! You’d be better off buying one at the grocery store. Take my keys; you can Drive My Car.

Burger: 3.0, objectively. Factor in my frustration at that Yoko Ono of a Kaiser roll and the slow service, and it’s a 2.5.

Can this burger Carry That Weight? No.

Michael’s Review

When I get home from a burger outing, I make notes of my first impressions in an old-school notebook. Then, I put them away and don’t look at them again for a few days. When I looked back at my notes on Abbey Road, I decided I didn’t need to change them much.

Scott’s Review

Abbey Road on Urbanspoon

Ask the Burgiatrist

Wary in Weehawken

DEAR DR. BLUMENTHAL: I don’t believe that “burgiatry” is an actual field of study. In fact, I don’t believe that any self-respecting educational institution would include it in its course offerings. Sorry. –LEONARD HOUCEK, WEEHAWKEN, NJ

DEAR LEONARD: Heed these words and heed them well, you lily-livered man-worm: I will squash you. I will bludgeon you with busts of my burgiatric forebears. I will offer your innards in sacrifice to Burgos. I will marinate you in McRib sauce and feed you to Grimace. –SCOTT BLUMENTHAL, PH.B, LICENSED BURGIATRIST

P.S. Your mother eats veggie burgers.

On the Hunt(‘s) for Good Ketchup

DEAR DR. BLUMENTHAL: Can you give me a good recipe for homemade ketchup? I just can’t seem to get it right. –BETH CANTERBURY, NORTHAMPTON, MA

DEAR BETH: My pleasure. Pull together 4 quarts of peeled tomatoes, 2 quarts of vinegar, 6 chopped red peppers (a must!), four tablespoons of salt, and a pinch of allspice. Boil everything in a kettle for 4 hours until thickened. Voilà! Best of luck, Beth!

Review #13: Buns (Chapel Hill)

  • Joint: Buns
  • Burger: Double Stack (various toppings)
  • Category: Classic Rocks

John’s Review

I’m a sensitive man, and I’m proud of it. Many a time have I found myself overwhelmed by a sudden revelation of sheer varicolored beauty, in rich chiaroscuro and in salient relief to the fundamental grayness of this world and our lives within it. When I’m blessed with such revelations, I absorb them instantly, completely, and make no effort to abate my tears of joy. This time, it was captured for posterity.

Look at the deep saturation of natural color in the image above. Witness the wondrous interplay of the fluorescent light upon the curved surface of the freshly baked bun, verdant lettuce, and healthy tomato, with the deep shadows of the perfectly charred ground chuck and sautéed mushrooms. Behold in this moving burgiatric composition not only the colors and textures of the fresh ingredients, but how the elements relate. The vision comes to magical fruition and bespeaks a talented artist who creates with love and passion.

Buns is owned and operated by a man who loves and understands a great burger. I know this from eating one of his creations and from listening to him share not only his own burgologic values, but his sincere appreciation for the offerings of other gifted peers. Rather than dive into exposition on each ingredient of this burger, I’ll let the image above and my emotion within it do the talking. Buns is recommended with a strong 4.5. I hold back on giving a perfect 5 because the delicious ground chuck patties were capable of a bit more juiciness (though I checked with our proprietor and he assured me that no patty-pressing occurs under his roof….Thus, it is a mystery). Perhaps on my next visit, which will certainly be soon.

Michael’s Review

This is The Straight Beef’s 13th official review, but I urge all triskaidekaphobics to set aside your superstitions for a moment.

I eschewed the typical toppings for my Buns burger, going with sautéed mushrooms, Brie, and pesto mayonnaise. Going without lettuce or tomato was almost exotic. Made for a burger that was earthy in aesthetic and flavor. It was a welcome change of pace from the usual American cheese, lettuce, and tomato. Not for the novice, though.

At first taste, the burger seemed a little dry, like it might have been left on the grill a little long. I thought it might have been because there wasn’t quite enough mayo. When I went to ask for more, the owner (George, more on him later) said he had originally thought the cook used too much and had him scrape it off. The fact that he cared enough to make that adjustment speaks volumes about his burger philosophy.

In Buns we trust.

After a lengthy conversation with George Ash, Buns’ owner, about a wide range of burgiatric topics, I decided to confer upon him an honorary Doctor of Letters for his tireless work in the field of burgiatry. As for my burger, I confer upon it a 4.75.

Scott’s Review

A disclaimer: It has been suggested by a reader that The Straight Beef was preordained to review Buns, Chapel Hill’s popular new burger joint. After all, averred the shrewd observer, both parties have names that are “more than slightly suggestive.” Rather than deign to respond, I will simply dismiss this suggestion is ludicrous, unseemly, and more than slightly rude. But because this is a family site, and because I recognize that the confluence of the two names in question might result in an inappropriate—albeit unintentional—implication, I will place my review on a separate page, to ensure that minors be shielded from any erroneous turn of phrase.

Yes, I am over 18.

I am not over 18.

Nice tomato.

Buns on Urbanspoon

Review #12: The Raleigh Times (Raleigh)

Scott’s Review (Classic Rocks)

THIS JUST IN: Researchers Call Raleigh Times Burger “Weak-Ass”

According to a recent report by the National Burgiatric Institute (NBI), a federally funded research and development center established to determine the merit and edibility of U.S. hamburgers, the burger at the downtown Raleigh eatery The Raleigh Times Bar is “weak-ass.”

“Dude, the burger was like…charred. I mean seriously,” said Eric Zuckerberg, renowned burgologist and NBI’s lead researcher. “And don’t even talk to me about the bun. It wasn’t even that good.  It was like…dry. I mean c’mon.”

Zuckerberg, whose landmark study “Eukaryotic Cellular Mitosis in Patty Melts” brought national attention to the post-modernist burgiatry movement, said that he was “totally surprised because everyone is always like, dude, you have to go to The Raleigh Times and check out their burger.” Zuckerberg added, “Whatever, dude.”

The NBI rating was “weak-ass,” just above “lame-ass” and just below “s’alright” on the NBI Fleischner-Cerrano Burgery Scale.

Scott’s rating: 2.25 out of 5.

Michael’s Review (Look at Me!)

A Comparative Study of Expectations Versus Experience: The Raleigh Times

By Michael Marino, PhB

Abstract: The burger at The Raleigh Times Bar was recommended by a number of people. This study will evaluate the expectation generated by those recommendations and the actual burger experience.

Method: My colleagues and I defined our expectations (E) as a unit of measure that is consistent with our rating system, which assesses burger quality on a scale of 1 to 5. Given the high expectations established by our readers, we set our expectation rating in this case as E = 4. I will focus here on my own experience (R).

Experience: I ordered the salami brie burger, medium rare. The option to order the burger at a preparedness level less than medium—the standard minimum at most restaurants—increased E to 4.5. The build of my burger was simple: burger, salami, Brie, caramelized onions, tomato, mayo. The salami was grilled, the Brie was melted but maintained its form, and the onions were pleasantly pungent. The overall presentation was good, a vital determinant of R >= E. Unfortunately, the flavor of char was so strong that it overpowered the delicate flavor of the Brie. (Char is an interesting phenomenon. If used correctly, it can give the burger a deep smoky flavor and add a satisfying firmness to the chewing experience. In this case, however, it tasted as if the burger were burned on a grill that wasn’t fully cleaned.) The inside was indeed medium rare, but the surface diminished the experience overall.

Conclusions: The Raleigh Times scores points for originality of ingredients. However, the quality of the patty itself detracted significantly from the overall experience. Though we burgiatrists do not allow expectation to color experience, for the layperson E will usually negatively affect R. My recommendations are to temper E, as to not be disappointed.

In the case of The Raleigh Times, E > R, and R = 3.

John’s Review (Classic Rocks)

An Epicurean Burger Axiom

(one that is important for Raleigh Times—and all the no-palate dilettantes who claimed their burger was good—to understand)

It is easy to make a burger look good, but there is little correlation between burger appearance and burger bliss.

It’s not enough to buy good-quality beef, cook it up, melt some cheese on it and then present it on an open, toasted bun. Even if all of the elements of the burger are of adequate quality and look colorful and fresh arranged so prettily on the plate, burger bliss will only be achieved if each ingredient was selected, prepared and assembled with the love and alchemy of a talented and devoted burger chef. One who understands what it takes to bring to fruition the full flavor potential of the patty and to conduct, as if with the elements of an orchestra, the complete harmony of the ingredients. A thesis, as only an introduction to a full education, could follow here on tools (such as a seasoned flat-grill), techniques and theories on the mysterious influence of the burger cosmos, but for that, I refer you to the Universität Müenster in Hamburg, Germany.

Which brings me to the much-touted burger at Raleigh Times. There was no love, no magic, no mystery to this burger. It was simply a decent patty, cooked poorly and laid out prettily upon an open bun (an affectation of presentation that annoys a true burgiatrist, as it serves no purpose but to release heat and hinder the ability of the ingredients to balance their temperature and meld their flavors prior to the first bite. Exhibit A: McDonalds’ McDLT). The bun looked good, but was utterly dry and flavorless. The tomato was red but mushy, and also flavorless. The patty was cooked through and the char on the outside had the caustic flavor of burnt gristle, rather than the pleasant undertone of salty sizzled beef fat. For what little it’s worth, the lettuce was okay.

This burger came out looking pretty on the plate, and between that and the reputation that preceded it, I was optimistic. It was served without mayo, so after I waited quite a while for it, assembled my own burger and waited just a minute for the flavors and temperatures to come together, I took a bite and was instantly disappointed. It was not cooked to temperature, the truth of the colorful individual ingredients was revealed, and—most disappointingly—there was absolutely no magic, no harmony, no burger bliss.

Raleigh Times was a cool place with a great vibe. I was rooting for it, but the burger, and the service let me down (a smile would be nice, mayo can be retrieved in less than five minutes, and the bartender can probably confirm whether you have a particular libation before you tell your customer you don’t). With the ingredients involved, this will never be a great burger, but with the touch of a true burger chef who could apply a little love and magic, it had the potential to reach a 3.5. However, it comes in at a lowly 2.5. If it’s a great burger you’re after, don’t waste your Raleigh Time.

Raleigh Times Bar on Urbanspoon

Renegade Review: B&D Burgers (Salt Lake City, UT)

I was in a cheap hotel near the Salt Lake City International Airport, a little tired and a lot hungry. I consulted Urbanspoon’s iPhone app for the ideal burger joint to cure what ailed me, but it was a Sunday; every place I called was closed. Clearly, God was attempting to thwart my efforts to find a great Salt Lake City burger. I had no choice but to beseech the heavens. “Oh, Lord,” I quoth, “must you punish your humble servant by leaving me nothing but Chili’s?”

But alas, my prayers were answered in the form of B&D Burgers near the University of Utah. And, according to Urbanspoon, they had recently added a TV (!).

B&D was a cozy place with just two employees but many burger choices. My belly beckoned me to the Big Bernie, essentially B&D’s version of the Big Mac. Three bun slices with two patties, lettuce, Thousand Island dressing, and American cheese (my choice).

It was better than the McDonald’s standby, which isn’t saying much. Solid but not outstanding. Given the scarcity of quality burger joints available for Salt Lake City folks, I’d say the Runnin’ Utes are lucky to have B&D’s this close to campus. I give the burger a 3.5.

B & D Burgers on Urbanspoon

Reviews #10 and #11: Bonefish Grill (Cary) and Cheesecake Factory (Raleigh)

John’s Reviews:

A Kind of Kobe Komparison


Preface: Let me speak for the TSB faculty and state for the record—for anyone who may look upon the comparative review that follows with a measure of cockeyed scrutiny—that we are simply not for sale. Our pledged allegiance is to the documentation of burger truth, as we see it, for the benefit of our constituents and fellow burger lovers across the globe. Though we did indeed accept a request from Bonefish Grill to sample their new Kobe burger creation and compare it to a Kobe burger at any restaurant of our choosing, and though we did accept a small subsidy to do so and may accept similar subsidies in the future (hint, hint), the flattery of an invitation, royal treatment upon arrival, and even the commonly corruptible power of the almighty dollar will never have the slightest impact on our collective objectivity and the unimpeachable veracity of our reviews. Again, I say, our allegiance is, and will always be, to you, and to burger truth. Amen. (Also, in light of the fact that we found ourselves at Bonefish Grill and The Cheesecake Factory to review these burgers, we have reignited our internal debate over whether to open the door to reviewing chains. My argument is that, burger truth is where you find it, and that it only makes sense that we should walk into the light, so to speak. Even if that light leads us into a Five Guys. Stay tuned for a future announcement, following our internal soul-searching and spirited discussion of this matter.)

Bonefish Grill Kobe* Burger

I like Bonefish Grill—not for the smoky flavor of their grilled fish (which I do not favor), but because I’m a sucker for the Bonefish Bang Bang Shrimp, as are most who’ve been there. However, I was more than skeptical of finding burger truth and bliss at a seafood chain, even if they did use high-quality beef. For one thing, I didn’t expect them to have the proper respect for the medium. I expected them to come through on the high-quality beef, but to then ruin it on the grill and put little to no love and care into the other ingredients and the build. I must tell you that I was pleasantly surprised overall.

There was care and love put into this burger. There were some novice mistakes in the standard ingredients (“special sauce,” for example) and the order of the build (veggies under the patty), but correct some of those when you order and you will enjoy what I consider to be a formidable gourmet burger in the Snooty Beauty classification. A rather lofty, puffy-looking fresh-baked bun looked as if it would be too much bread for the build but turned out to be satisfyingly soft and steamy. It compressed effortlessly, had a wonderful, yeasty flavor and was in perfect proportion to the other ingredients. The patty, which I was unable to order to temperature, came out a bit under-cooked, resulting in the perfect medium-rare of my strong preference, and its “Kobe” quality and rich flavor fulfilled the mouth-watering promise of the brand. My tomato was red and delicious, and the lettuce fresh and green. Cheddar cheese is a good choice for this burger, and its sharp flavor and oils blended and balanced nicely with the lush tastes of the other high-quality ingredients.

Aside from the my disagreement with the standard ingredients for this burger, the annoying affectation of having the order of the build inverted, and that a proprietary seasoning mix on the patty that was unnecessary for such high-quality beef, making the last couple of bites just a little too rich, this was one heck of a Snooty Beauty, an uplifting hymnal of burger truth, and I sing its praises. A VERY strong 4.5.

Cheesecake Factory Kobe* Burger

I’ll brief here (imagine that!). I was equally skeptical of finding burger truth at The Cheesecake Factory. I must report that I did find a small amount, but it will suffice to say that it was only in the quality of the beef. The bun, veggies, cheese, loud and unappetizingly gaudy atmosphere, and our rickety table were all a bit of a disappointment, and I decline to expound, as I am a highly skilled and respected burgiatrist, and my time is valuable. Burger: 3.5, but you can get one cheaper elsewhere. (Cheesecake: 4.5!)

*Technically speaking, neither burger is Kobe but rather American Wagyu. To its credit, Bonefish refers to “American Kobe” in its menu. (True Kobe is can only be bred in Japan. This guy explains further:

Michael’s Reviews:

Forget About the Build


The Bonefish Grill

I was surprised when the people at Bonefish Grill contacted us review their burger. I didn’t even know they had one. Their instructions were do review theirs and a burger someplace else, then compare the two. We thought that the ambiance and quality of the Cheesecake Factory were similar to those of Bonefish, so we set our sights on a Bonefish vs. Cheesecake challenge.

Bonefish Grill has one burger on their menu, a basic “American Style” Kobe Beef burger that comes with cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion, and “special sauce” (roughly mayo, ketchup, and relish). I chose to add avocado to mine.

The bun was grilled exactly the way I like it—just enough to keep the juices in check, but not too much that it crumbled. The order of the build was almost completely contrary to classic burgologic tradition. From the top down, it went: sauce, lettuce, tomato, onion, burger, cheese, avocado. My first bite, however, made me forget about the build.

The flavor and consistency of the patty was out of this world. Wagyu (American-style Kobe beef) is heavily marbled, and the distinctive and delicious flavor was apparent with each bite. The one strike against it was the “Bonefish seasoning,” a proprietary blend of spices, which was pleasant but a little too salty. A surprisingly great burger experience from a seafood place. My rating: 4.25.

The Cheesecake Factory

The Cheesecake Factory has a Kobe burger on their expansive menu, which allowed us to do a more apples-to-apples comparison. We asked if we could substitute the Kobe patty on any of their specialty burgers, which they did without hesitation. I ordered mine with bacon and blue cheese.

From the moment it was placed before me, I knew I would be disappointed. The bun had barely spent any time on the grill. The lettuce, tomato, and onion were underneath the patty. Plus, the lettuce and tomato were on the white side—definitely not fresh, and virtually tasteless. The bacon was in an X pattern on top of the patty, with a blob of blue cheese at the intersection. If I wanted consistent flavor throughout the burger, I’d basically had to tear it down and rebuild it. The patty itself had very good flavor and was the saving grace of the experience. My rating: 3.5.

Scott’s Review:

No, Seriously…A Fish Place


Year: 2052

Station: President Miley Cyrus Commemorative Moonbase

Location: Family pod of Scott “Grandpa Fixins” Blumenthal, burgrarian (ret.)

“Okay, kids, gather ‘round. It’s time for tonight’s burger tale, Bonefish and the Cheesecake.”

“But Grandpa Fixins, we heard this one already.”

“Maybe so, Steve34-2f,” said Grandpa Fixins, “but we mustn’t forget our history, lest we eat a bad burger and be doomed to repeat it.”

“Oh Grandpa Fixins,” said little Phyllis38-4a. “Do tell us the story again, won’t you?”

“All right, children,” said Grandpa Fixins, mussing little Phyllis38-4a’s hair. “Long ago, in the year 2010, The Bonefish Grill came to The Straight Beef with fifty dollars an a challenge: Try their new ‘American Style’ Kobe Beef burger, then have a burger someplace else, then write a review comparing the two.”

“Bonefish? You mean the eating station that serves Bang Bang Shrimpfood Delta?”

“That’s right, Frank11-3g.”

Come to Bonefish,” sang Frank11-3g, the other grandchildren joining him in the jingle, “for the best non-extinct seameat in the universe. Bonefish!

“But Grandpa Fixins,” asked Phil 19-5g, “doesn’t Bonefish serve only seameat? How good can a Bonefish burger really be?”

“That, wise Phil 19-5g, is why this story is so remarkable. You see, I too had little doubt upon entering Bonefish that the burger would be anything but middling. After all, what would a fish restaurant, as they were called in those days, know about the fine art of burgery? But heed these words, children, and let them be for you a seal upon your heart: From the moment I bit into the Bonefish burger, with its soft brioche bun, Thousand Island-esque house sauce, crisp lettuce, juicy tomato, and succulent, quality cheddar cheese, I knew that I had bitten upon something special. After two bites, The Straight Beef agreed that this burger was of exceptional quality. After three bites, we agreed it was easily in the top five burgers we’ve reviewed. After four, it cracked the top three. It truly was, children, one of the greatest burgers I’ve ever had.”

“But Grandpa Fixins,” asked Frank 11-3g, “you said that the story was Bonefish and the Cheesecake. Did you have cheesecake for dessert?”

“Not quite, Frank 11 3g,” said Grandpa Fixins, “the ‘cheesecake’ part of the story refers to the Cheesecake Factory, where we went for our comparison.”

“But what’s the Cheesecake Factory? And why would they have hamburgers?”

“The Cheesecake Factory was an eating station that was popular in the early twenty-first century. It served not only cheesecake but every other possible permutation of edible thing. Sadly,” said Grandpa Fixins, looking down, “the chain went under when the ad-laden menu became too heavy for humans to lift.”

“So how was their burger?” asked Phil 19-5g.

“Yes, Grandpa Fixins,” echoed little Phyllis38-4a. “Do tell us.”

“Well,” said Grandpa Fixins, rubbing his chin, “they served a decent burger. A respectable burger. I liked it. Phenomenal cheesecake, though.”

“But?” asked the children, leaning forward.

“But,” said Grandpa Fixins with no small measure of profundity, “it just didn’t hold a candle to the Bonefish burger.”

“What’s a candle, Grandpa Fixins?” asked little Phyllis 38-4a.

“That,” said Grandpa Fixins, “is a story for another time. Now, who’s up for Jupiter burgers, made from real Kobe beef DNA?”

Scott’s Bonefish Grill Review: 4.5

Scott’s Cheesecake Factory Review: 3.5

Bonefish Grill on Urbanspoon Cheesecake Factory on Urbanspoon

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