Review #15: MacGregor Draft House (Cary)

  • Joint: MacGregor Draft House
  • Burger: Kansas City Burger (Scott), Fromage a Trois (John), California Burger (Michael)
  • Category: Classic Rocks

Scott’s Review

Did this happen?

If you asked me to recall a meal from my childhood—let’s say something I ate 30 years ago—I’d do my best toremember. I’d close my eyes. I’d concentrate. I’d cull together every speck of memory that I could—tastes, smells, shapes—in an effort to provide you with as substantive a response as I was capable. I would recognize, however—and hope you would too—that my attempt would fall short, and that my recounting would be little more than invention, constructed, perhaps, from a single fossil of recall.

If you asked me about last week’s burger at MacGregor Draft House in Cary, my response would be equally as vague. I can hardly remember a thing about it. Still, I’d do my best to remember. I’d close my eyes. I’d concentrate. I’d cull together every speck of memory that I could. In the end, though, I’d come up with little more than shape-shifting memories that appear and disappear like smoke. Wispy words like “average” and “fair” and “meh.” Fuzzy phrases like “decent enough” and “not terrible.” Hazy sentences like “Given how long we’re waiting for our food, we should request a senior citizen discount.”

That’s not to say that the experience was bad per se—as I also have equally amorphous memories of a pleasant atmosphere, good beer selection, and tasty fried mushrooms—it’s just that I’m not prepared to commit one way or another. My memory of it just isn’t that good.

Scott’s review: 3 out of 5.

John’s Review

I’m growing tired and weary. No longer do I have the energy to educate and re-educate on how a burger made with fresh, decent quality ingredients can still fail to produce burger magic. Or why dry Kaiser rolls have no place in the burger world. Or why the order of the build is so important. We at TSB have been in a slump lately of suffering down the weak culinary attempts of dilettantes to deliver burger magic. Suffice to say that the ability to produce a top hat, stick, and rabbit does not a magician make. To the epicurean burger lovers out there I say, read no further and avoid the burger at Macgregor unless you have to kill time while your car’s in the shop at the autopark. To the rest of you out there who are perfectly satisfied to lose yourselves in knock-off music of a cover band, swill two-buck-chuck to stupidity with inordinate wonder and pleasure, or stare obdurately into the print instead of the painting, I say, “Bon Appétit!”

John’s Review: 3.0, or “Will do if your car’s in the shop.”


Michael’s Review

Imagine Ferris Bueller’s economics teacher. Go ahead. That’s it. The dullness, the drabness, the lethargy. That’s the California burger at MacGregor Draft House.

The California was your standard bacon cheeseburger, with a glob of guac to give MacGregor license to don it “California.” The bacon was carelessly placed, with the lettuce, tomato, and onion on the side. (A tip for all burger purveyors: Remember the McDLT? You know, “Keep the hot side hot and the cool side cool”? Well, it was discontinued. For a reason.) I had to rearrange the bacon, spread the guacamole, and construct the burger myself. I got the impression that the cook was just as bored making it as I was eating it. The burger’s saving grace was the patty itself. Tender and juicy, cooked just shy of medium.

The place itself was cozy with lots of TVs. The wings and fried mushrooms were very good. If you want a place to watch the game while you are eating, I’ll recommend the MacGregor Draft House. As for the burger, well…Bueller? Bueller?

Michael’s review: 3.25 out of 5.

Kansas City to California: 1600 miles or one glob of guacamole.

Macgregor Draft House on Urbanspoon

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

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