Review #64 – Mason Jar Tavern (Holly Springs, NC)

We rolled up separately in our suburban dad-mobiles so as to avoid unwanted attention. Our wily prey had taken great pains to conceal itself among the pedestrian surroundings of an infill shopping center, a generic collection of national retail outlets, tire stores and chain restaurants. We were there to investigate the Mason Jar Tavern, not blow its cover.

Chad adopted his truly awful Crocodile Hunter accent, “Crikey, you’d never find it if you didn’t know it was here!” “You’re a sneaky one, aren’t you?, he said, as Michael and Don pretended not to know him

The Mason Jar Tavern’s suburban camouflage is nearly perfect. It is the only independent restaurant (or independent anything, for that matter) in the new(ish) Holly Springs Towne Center on 55 in Holly Springs. Even after you are seated, you would be forgiven for thinking you were in a Five Guys, Chipotle or just about any strip mall sports bar in America. The little touches – like the large photographs of Mason jars in various rustic settings – register, but it’s not until you take a good look at the menu that the true nature of the restaurant begins to reveal itself.

The menu is upscale southern comfort food. While the pulled pork tacos were an excellent appetizer, we would not be swayed from our mission of discovering the quality of the burger at this potential diamond in the rough. We quickly ordered three of the house specialty burgers.

Chad opted for the pimento cheeseburger with regular bacon and a fried green tomato. Don chose the bacon cheeseburger with candied bacon. Michael went for the BBQ burger with candied bacon and fried onions.

Michael fell into a trance-like state while eating. He didn’t say a word until there was nothing left but the memory of the burger.

“Candied bacon. Let me repeat that. Candied. Bacon. I am not one for gimmicky bacon accoutrements. However, I didn’t care what else was on this burger after I saw those words. Fried onions? OK. BBQ sauce? What-evs.

Candied. Bacon.

Candied. Bacon.

The patty was well-seasoned. The barbecue sauce was under the patty which made the bottom bun somewhat soggy by the time I was halfway through. Yeah, yeah, whatever.

Candied. Bacon.  4.0”

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Chad remarked that it was a very good burger, but not transcendent, and not in the same ballpark as Chuck’s, Only Burger or the even the Island Burger he had eaten at Salem Street Pub just days before, but still a damn fine burger. “The pimento cheese was an excellent addition, he said, struggling to maintain his atrocious Australian accent. “It added a bit of tanginess to the overall flavor, but  the fried green tomato was a no-show. It didn’t even register on my palate (even though I could see it in there).” Nonetheless, he gave the burger a solid four on The Straight Beef’s five-point scale. 4.0

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Don’s burger was good enough to send him into a flashback: “In Tijuana blah blah blah back in 1963 blah blah blah them crazy hippies blah blah blah no effect on me.” We deciphered the Reverends ramblings to figure he gave it a 4.0.

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Chad attempted one last “crikey,” but the others glared him into silence.

The Straight Beef guys added this note, “We generally do not include side dishes or deserts in our reviews, but the peanut butter pie and s’mores in a jar? Dayum!”

Aggregate score, 4.0, making Mason Jar Tavern number 26 out of 64 on our list.

 

The TSB app is now live.

If you love TSB’s content but need an easier way to access its content, then you need to download the official TSB app. It is available for iOS and Android.

The app does have a feature the site does not. It has an interactive map of every burger place we have reviewed including the renegade reviews.

The app is free to download and ad-free. If we do have ads in the future (this stuff ain’t free,) we will not use a generic ad network. We’re still working that out.

 

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Renegade Review: Burger 21 (Tampa, FL)

I found myself with my family in Tampa, FL, hankering for a burger. My brother-in-law suggested heading to Burger 21, another contender in the “fast casual” boutique burger category. What I didn’t realize at the time is that there is a location in Cary. Perhaps The Straight Beef will hit it for an official review.

Burger 21 is essentially The Loop Pizza Grill except its focus is on burgers instead of pizza. Granted The Loop serves decent burgers, but I digress.

I ordered The Bacon Cheesy, a standard bacon cheeseburger on a brioche bun. I was pretty impressed with the outcome. The machine pressed patty was nicely seasoned without being peppery. It was also cooked to a perfect medium. Cooking burgers to medium is a fairly uncommon thing even amongst supposed fine burger purveyors. Getting it in a chain burger joint was a very pleasant surprise. The bacon was evenly spread and melted within the cheese, a nice touch which showed care in the creation. If only they had shown as much care with the rest of the burger build.

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Tomato? Come on out. It’s OK. Don’t hide. I won’t bite. Wait…

Proper burger architecture is critical. With this burger, however, the lettuce, tomato, and red onion were wedged in between the patty and the bottom bun, a fatal flaw. The poor construction wilted the lettuce and kept the onions and tomato far away from the generously applied mayo on the top bun. This made for a slimy mess of a bottom bun by the time I was done, dragging down what was otherwise a fine burger.  There is a reason lettuce, tomato, onions, etc. are called toppings and not bottomings.

With that caution in mind, and if you don’t mind rebuilding your burger, head to a nearby Burger 21. The small chain is a welcome addition to the boutique burger category and worthy of a full Straight Beef review in the near future. — MM

The TSB app

Tom Petty had it right. It is the hardest part.

Tom Petty had it right. It is the hardest part.

We have been hard at work developing an app for burger connoisseurs on the go. All of the information you have come to love about The Straight Beef will be found in our new app. The coolest feature is a list of our reviews plotted on a map, so you can find a burger where ever you are. We’re still awaiting approval on the iOS and Google Play app stores.

The app will be free to download and free from any ads for now. We’ll be sure to let everyone know when it is available.

The Straight Beef Podcast #23

In this, the 23rd episode of The Straight Beef Podcast, Scott and Michael finish up their discussion of the perfect grind. Which combination of meats give you the best burger? Skirt steak? Brisket? Flap meat? Find out by subscribing to the podcast in iTunes or downloading directly from our Libsyn feed.

Link referenced in this podcast:

The Burger Lab: Mastering the Art of Burger Blending with Eight Cuts of Beef

Review #63 – Jimmy V’s Steakhouse (Cary, NC)

[Editor’s Note: Before you read this review, please take time to donate to The V Foundation for Cancer Research. We’ll make it easy for you. Just click here.]

Listen, Baby, when Jimmy V was coaching the Wolfpack, he knew the thrill of finding of a hidden gem … a diamond in the rough … a hidden … seriously, where is this place? I’ve driven through hotel parking lots and traffic circles and strip malls … is Jimmy V’s still in Cary?

Assuming you do eventually find it, there’s plenty of reasons to be excited about Jimmy V’s. It has all the ingredients to be Awesome, Baby, with a capital A. We arrived fully expecting the V Burger to light up our scoreboard.

Turns out, nothing is lit up at Jimmy V’s. As burger guys, we’re not used to fine dining and the complete and utter lack of ambient light associated with it. It was tough for us to find an open look all night.

Then the food came, and our table was rocking, baby. Are you kidding me with these wings? They’re All Appetizer in my book. They have size, the taste has strenth (basketball speak for “strength”).

And then there’s the burger. It’s packed with talent—Jimmy V brought in some blue chippers with house-ground Angus beef and chuck, pecan-smoked bacon, fresh tomatoes and lettuce. It has all the ingredients to be a prime time player in the burger big dance.

Jimmy V's has a Burger with a Capital B, baby!

Jimmy V’s has a burger with a Capital B, baby!

Speaking of being blue about chips, we were excited at the prospect of “cottage fries,” which was a diaper dandy on the All Mystery team. What were they? Hash browns? Waffle fries? No one knew. Turns out they’re basically Lay’s potato chips, Baby.

The burger game is a team game, though, and all the talent in the world doesn’t matter if it can’t come together and execute. Meat, bun, condiments and vegetables need to set each other up.

Instead, while the components were supremely talented, the V Burger was a group of individuals. Even with its hefty $16.50 price tag, the V Burger couldn’t bring home a championship. Instead, it rode the individual game of each of the team members and saw its run end with a Final Four—out of five, that is—from each of us.

Michael’s Rating: 4 out of 5

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Don’s Rating: 4 out of 5

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Scott’s Rating: 4 out of 5

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Shawn’s Rating: 4 out of 5

Score 5 Score 4 Score 3 Score 1 Score 2

Overall Rating: 23 out of 63

 

Things are going to change around here

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We have been doing The Straight Beef for over five years and think it is time to freshen things up a bit. Over the next few weeks, we are going to change the design. These won’t solely be aesthetic changes. We want to make it easier for you to find burgiatric information you need.

If it were the early 2000s, we would plaster the site with animated construction GIFs. As it is 2015, we humbly ask for your patience as we make changes. We think you’re going to like it.

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