The Straight Beef Podcast #25

Don and Michael discuss how your burger got to your plate. They go back thousands of years to the beginnings of the domesticated cow.

Here are the links we refer to during the episode.

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or on Google Play. You can also download the episode directly from Libsyn.

Review #66 – Krafty’s Burgers and Brews (Garner, NC)


FX:       Whirling newspaper that stops to reveal the headline “Krafty’s Burgers & Brews.”

SUPER:    Burgertone News Presents!

SOUND FX: Morse code telegraph sound -.- .-. .- ..-. – -.– .—-. …

ANNCR:    Dateline: Garner, North Carolina, a burg that knows a good burger!

Krafty’s Burger and Brews is a small restaurant and pub with big burger plans. Even before the official grand opening, Burgertone News! was there to bring you the exclusive.

There was a time in this great land where a man would be subject to ridicule if he ordered anything but mustard on his hamburger, and Krafty’s knows it, delivering the Old Fashioned, a hefty half pound of fresh Angus beef adorned with nothing but mustard and the cheese of your choice. This IS your father’s hamburger, and his father’s before that. This is the hamburger that fed the hardworking men and women of America and fueled the nation to greatness. Our reporter’s Old Fashioned burger was expertly cooked to a pink medium with a textbook perfect char on the exterior.

WARD:     “My Old Fashioned was truly excellent, so good that I started to speak like an old time radio announcer and now can type only in Courier font.”

ANNCR:    The Old Fashioned was marred only by a slightly dry potato roll, a complaint shared by our other correspondents.

Krafty's Old Fashioned is the bee's knees. It's the berries, I tell ya.

Krafty’s Old Fashioned is the bee’s knees. It’s the berries, I tell ya.

Eminent burgiatrist, Dr. Michael Marino eschewed the Old Fashioned and charged headlong into the future, ordering a hamburger topped with Irish bacon, Guinness barbecue sauce and three onion rings. He not only survived the ordeal but thrived on it.

MARINO:   “I know there was a potato famine, but that’s no reason to not use a moist potato bun. I needed a full Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda to wash it down. That being said, the Guiness BBQ Burger was a whiz-bang good burger.

ANNCR:    The Reverend Don Corey, a man of the cloth as well as a man of the bun, was equally generous in his praise.

COREY:    “That Slam Burger was a real ducky shincracker in my mouth, see. It almost doesn’t need the tots!

Michael’s rating 4.25

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Don’s rating 4.25

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Chad’s rating 4.25

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ANNCR:    There you have it, faithful Burgertone News! fans. You know that you’ll never get anything but The Straight Beef from our reporters. To learn more about Krafty’s Burger & Brews, tune to on your internet dial.

Overall rating 4.25 – 17 out of 66

Review #65 – West Park Tavern (Cary, NC)

Please rise for the Honorable Judge and Burgiatrist in Residence Carolyn McLain.

Carolyn: We are here today to hear the arguments of Senior Burgiatrist Michael Marino and Burger Evangelist The Reverend Donald Corey. Before we started, we flipped a patty and Dr. Marino has the honor of presenting his case first. Dr. Marino?

Michael: Thank you, your honor. May it please the court. I present to the court that a burger must be made from the ground meat of a formerly living, breathing cow. Now, there are those that will say that chicken, turkey, or even bison are suitable substitutes for a cow burger.

Bison are described as more aggressive than the cow. They are wild shaggy creatures. The dirty, hulking hippies, if you will, of the bovine world. Is this the type of animal we want to feed our children? What kind of world is it we live in that we can grind up any meat or vegetable matter and call it a hamburger? I fear for our great nation if we hold the bison burger to the same ethereal level as the glorious cow burger. First it’s bison burgers. Before you know it, it’s Birkenstocks and patchouli.

Your honor, I cannot in good conscience call a ground bison sandwich a burger. It is your right as an American to eat whatever you wish. However, never call such a creation a hamburger.

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

Don: Your honor, allow me to present my rebuttal. My esteemed colleague is afraid to admit that the Bison is the noble elegant brother of the cow and, thus, a valid expression of the hamburger. This fear only lessens the chance for you and the world as a whole to experience the heavenly taste of blue skies and undulating fields of natural grasses. Dare I say, the taste of America.

Do they not both eat grass? Do they not both have four chambered stomachs? Do they not both chew their own cud? Do they not both travel in herds? And, most importantly, do they not both make great burgers?

Your honor, tear down this wall of prejudice and taste freedom. Recognize Bison as the equal to the cow.

Carolyn: I am going to retire to West Park Tavern to deliberate over this matter and enjoy an outstanding burger. A beast of a burger. Ten ounces of bison or moo-cow on a brioche bun. Whether it was mooing or grunting in its former life, the results are the same: taste buds getting trampled with flavor. A thick burger cooked to a perfect medium. Crispy bacon, pimento cheese that doesn’t overwhelm or cause structural build issues, a bun that is firm yet yielding.

I am still undecided whether a burger made of bison meat should be considered a burger. What I am sure of, though, is that I give the West Park Tavern burger a 4.5 out of 5.

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Court adjourned.

Michael’s review: 4.5 out of 5.

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Don’s Review: 4.5 out of 5.

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Overall rating: 4.5 10th out of 65

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.




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.


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

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