Renegade Review: Wahlburgers (Myrtle Beach, SC)

The writing was on the wall (pun not intended) about this burger. Right there on the menu it had a schematic of the Our Burger. I will quote from the menu, “Paul strategically stacked the Our Burger from the bottom up to deliver maximum taste & happiness.”
No. No. No.
If you want to deliver maximum happiness with a burger, how about having the burger be what you taste the most. They need to take a page out of Smashburger’s book and put the main flavor on the bottom. The only thing between the bottom bun and the patty is the seasoning. The theory is that the seasoning will touch the tongue first, and that will be the dominant flavor.
With the Our Burger, you get sauce (good), lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, then the patty. This build is just wicked wrong.
It’s a shame, too, because the patty was excellent. Excellent balance of char and flavor. I highly recommend heading to Wahlburgers if you have one near you. Just be prepared to take it apart and build it properly.

YAY!

BOO!

My rating is a 3.75. It would have been a 4.75 if the build hadn’t been upside down.

Renegade Review: Tailend Restaurant (St. Andrews, Scotland, UK)

My wife and I found ourselves in St. Andrews, Scotland, UK. Our tour guide told us to go to Tailend if we wanted fish and chips. Tailend was listed by the National Fish and Chip Awards (yes, that is a thing) as one of the top 10 places in the UK to get fish and chips. I stared at the menu with a genuine dilemma. Here I am in Scotland. Who knows when I will be able to get back here? The haddock used in the fish and chips was probably caught in the North Sea which was about 300 yards from this restaurant. Yet, there it was, staring at me from the menu.

6OZ BEEF BURGER W ONION RINGS & BBQ SAUCE

Scotland's famous burger and chips.

Scotland’s famous burger and chips.

Do I order a burger and give up the chance at eating what would probably be the best fish and chips I would have ever eaten? Thankfully, my clear-headed wife came to my rescue. She could see my struggle. “Let’s get the large order of fish and chips and the burger. Then, we can split both.”

I knew I married her for a reason.

The medium well patty sat atop arugula and fine onion straws. What I thought was ketchup for the chips was actually the BBQ sauce. The Scots may make tremendous fish and chips, but they don’t know shite about barbecue sauce. At any rate, once I rebuilt the burger with the toppings actually on top and slathered the bun with the spiced ketchup, it was solid. The meat was tasty and fresh but nothing special. I give it a 3.5.

If you find yourself at the Tailend, get the fish and chips.

 

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

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

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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.

Asheville’s Battle of the Burger

Hero Burgiatrist Eats 10 Sliders in One Hour at Asheville’s Battle of the Burger

Our own burgiatrist Michael Marino recently served as a judge at the WNC Battle of the Burger in Asheville, NC. The Battle wasn’t just a great way to benefit western NC’s Eblen Charities—it was also an official qualifying event of the World Burger Championship in Las Vegas. So it was kind of a big deal. Thanks to our buds the NC Beer Guys for helping to get us involved in this fantastic event.

Here’s Michael’s report:

Local bands played as 10 western NC burger purveyors—all hoping for a chance at the big prize—grilled and griddled thousands of burger samples. Pepsi of Asheville, Sierra Nevada, and Pisgah Brewing kept things cold while the competition got hot. Finally, it was time to taste.


 

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King James Public House. Hands down my favorite. Really nice combination of smoked gouda, fried onions, and an especially delicious patty of ground chuck, short rib, brisket, and lardo (an Italian charcuterie that’s cured for a month, then hung for another two). Honestly, one of the most flavorful patties I’ve ever had. If TSB’s current number 1, Chuck’s, used this patty, it would probably be the best burger in the universe.

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All kneel before the King (James) of Burgers.

Rankin Vault. This was the winner of the competition—topped with bacon, white cheddar, arugula, red onion in a house-made vinaigrette, and spicy Duke’s mayo. The peppery arugula and onions were an interesting choice and made for an overall savory experience. I thought it was exceptional, but its patty couldn’t match King James’.

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Viva Las Vegas!

Ambrozia served a simple pimento cheeseburger with a twist: bacon jam instead of bacon. It mixed well with the tangy pimento cheese. I’m not a pimento cheese connoisseur like my colleague Chad, but I think he’d approve. It was firm and not soupy, and I wasn’t a mess by the time I finished.

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Food of the gods.

 


 

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Mojo Kitchen and Lounge. Mojo went sweet instead of savory, topping its burger with mozzarella cheese, caramelized onions, sweet plantains, and chimichurri. I might have gone with Brie over mozzarella, but that’s nitpicking an otherwise fine burger. In this rarified air, quibbles make all the difference.

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All the sorority girls are clamoring for the plantains, Lois.

Farm Burger gets a boost because it impressed my daughter, who’s tough to please burger-wise. She went back for seconds on this goat cheese, microgreens, heirloom tomato, and basil pesto-topped creation.

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These five were solid, but not quite ready for the big leagues:

Creekside Taphouse tried hard to be different, using a dollop of bacon jam on the cheese and floating a sunny-side-up quail egg on that. A neat effect, and the presentation was great—looking like a tiny toy burger—but its taste was nothing special. Solid, but not outstanding.

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Farm to Fender represented the Battle’s lone food truck. Fender served my personal favorite type of bun—the poppyseed sesame similar to what’s used at Ray’s Hell Burger—but the chipotle pimento-smothered concoction was the saltiest thing I’ve ever eaten.

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If you’re going deer hunting, bring along one of these babies.

Buffalo Nickel, like Creekside, tried to gimmick themselves apart, using creamy white cheddar with a whipped cream dispenser. It was neat—and the cheese was akin to high end Cheez Whiz—but the burger was so-so.

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The Social was the Battle’s previous champ. But either its fellow Asheville burger purveyors significantly raised their game, or The Social was having an off day. The fried pickle chipotle burger was nothing special.

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Ben’s Tune Up. Its chopped skirt steak and bacon sandwich, topped with tomato jam and miso slaw on a baguette, fits better in a “loose meat” category. Nice flavor, but a little chewy—and just not really a burger.

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How did this sandwich sneak into a burger competition?


 

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Though the organization of the WNC Battle of the Burger was a bit chaotic—and the first tables had an advantage over the last few, which people reach when they were stuffed—overall the event was lots of fun, and the opportunity to eat 10 heavy sliders in an hour was truly an honor.

But really, people: Enough with chipotle seasoning already. We went through this with the equally meaningless “applewood smoked bacon.” It’s played out. What about cumin? Cumin’s nice.

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

Reader Submitted Review – The Wild Turkey Lounge (at Angus Barn) – Raleigh, NC

In what he describes as his “ongoing search for the perfect ground cow,” associate burgiatrist Brian Kachel brings us his review of Angus Barn’s Wild Turkey Lounge.

Most people consider Angus Barn a place for after-work business meetings, birthday celebrations, and people with deep pockets dressed in serious clothing. Well, that’s mostly true. But climb a set of creaky stairs to find The Wild Turkey Lounge, where you’ll find the Barn’s burger—“16 oz. patty [yes—a pound] of our Angus Barn beef, ground by our butchers”—for a measly $17. The staff will gladly explain how the burger can be spruced up with just about anything they’ve got in the kitchen, from the basic toppings to béarnaise sauce and crab. I personally stand by my faithful favorite formation: bacon and cheddar, medium rare, with a side of mayo.

The burger arrives on a large plate surrounded by a buttered, toasted bun, with massive, charred edges, melted shredded cheddar, and three pieces of crispy, curly bacon on top. I’ll admit I’m not a huge fan of the AB bacon. I prefer thick slices on my burgers, but AB puts the little curly crispy guys on theirs. I take a massive first bite to look back and see a pink inside while juice drips down the sides and onto my hands.

Closer to the center I find a warm, deeper pink—almost red—core. The beef is soft and moist on the inside, with a crisp shell from an open flame, with a unique flavor that I can only associate with the seasoned grills of AB. I quickly find my inner peace in this perfectly cooked medium rare patty from heaven.

Brian’s review: 4.5 out of 5.0

Renegade Review – Dish (Prague, Czech Republic)

Brothers and sisters, sometimes a spiritual journey is required in order to test one’s convictions, to exorcise one’s demons—you know, to shake things up. The need for such a pilgrimage led me to Prague, the capital city of the Czech Republic. For two weeks, I searched and searched, looking for burger enlightenment. As I grew accustomed to gorging myself on stuffed chicken breasts, wood-fired pizza, and kobassa and beer, my focus was less and less on burgers. I was losing my way. That was until I was saved—yes, saved, brothers and sisters!—by the holy site that is Dish. (www.Dish.cz)

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This looks good, but where’s the buttermilk fried bacon?

Dish was a spiritual oasis in a desert of heavy, often overly sauced, foods. Dish just makes burgers—and they make them well. Their menu might be simple, but the flavor of their burgers are complex. I gave witness to the burger they call “Savory,” topped with their homemade ketchup, a Portobello mushroom, caramelized onions, a baked tomato, and parmesan cheese chips. The beef was perfectly flavored and cooked to a perfect medium rare. Customer can see the chef prepare the burgers, and it’s clear that he cares that the build is organized and presented well. The bun was a bit of a letdown, as it overpowered some of the complex flavors, thus keeping this angel earthbound.

But still I left with my faith restored, my pilgrimage complete.

Don’s review: 4.5 out of 5

This Just In: McManus Has Gas, Is Redeemed

By John McManus, Burgiatrist Emeritus

Grab a box of tissues.

This isn’t just a review of an extremely rare and beautiful cheeseburger; it is an emotional story of regret, awakening, and redemption.

I was once at the top of my field, recognized and esteemed by my peers. My accomplishments, along with the considerable rewards and respect they garnered, were accumulated with relative ease, thanks to my limitless passion for fine cheeseburgers and the practice of burgiatry. I was a leading academic, critic, philosopher, poet, and practitioner, contributing something noble to my fellow man: a deeper understanding of—and propensity for—burger bliss. With two of my beloved Ivy League burgiatric colleagues, Doctors Scott Blumenthal and Michael Marino, TheStraightBeef.com was founded, and we began to reach and better the lives of millions of people through our work.

Our vocational passion flared, and we accelerated our efforts, consuming and reviewing burgers with an unprecedented fervor. Simple erudite culinary criticism could not satiate our urge to share our burger love, and so we found release in more creative self-expression, in the forms of haiku, an advice column, and burger prose. I was honored by our academic community with the title of Poet Laureate of Burgiatry. And in these early days, we were lucky, happening upon such beefessence and bovinatious derivations as to pique our palates and inspire our industriousness. We drove hard together, with joy and fulfillment.

But by the third year, despite our continued success and ever-growing fame, I had become spiritless and utterly demotivated as a burgiatrist. I hid it deftly and painfully from my beloved TSB partners. The causes were myriad: the Wagyu/Kobe  farce; the Facebook-esque ascent of the dry-ass Kaiser roll; the topsy-turvy build-order fad, with burgers sliding completely off their foundations of wet lettuce, sometimes traveling clear off the plate and onto my best gabardine, if not the checkered tile below. Primarily, though, my fall from grace was precipitated by the combination of an inordinate string of “3-town” (or lower) burgers on the rating scale, and the culmination of my personal despair at not having discovered an elusive 5.

I wanted to give a 5. But more than that, I wanted desperately to eat one. I knew they existed, as I had experienced the perfect burger once or twice before in my life, though I could not quite recall the details of the wheres and the whens to prove it. Rose-colored glasses and the temptation to round a strong 4.5 up would fool no one, least of all me, and I couldn’t do that to our loyal followers in good conscience! By this time, Doctors Blumenthal and Marino had each bestowed fives, which made me jealous and even more desperate…desperate enough to start sneaking out on solo recon missions to hasten my own discovery, which only led to more bad burgers and more frustration, resentment, and, eventually, a pitiful state of self-loathing.

That’s what led to the veggie burgers and the infamous paparazzi shots of me in the bushes with a mouthful of produce and Merita bun.

Thank you, sir. May I have another?

Thank you, sir. May I have another?

It was not, I declare to you, a secret love of veggie burgers. It was self-flagellation…punishment for who and what I had become. For having lost my passion, lied to my friends and family, and for feeling like a failure and a fool.

When the pictures came out, I did not blame the world of burgiatry and my beloved colleagues for expelling me. I moved my family out of state and, for these many months, continued to punish myself with veggie burgers while staring longingly out to sea for answers.

Then came Gas. No, no…not from the veggie burgers, but a restaurant in my new hometown of Saint Augustine, Florida, by the name of Gas, named for the building’s humble history as a gas station. Shortly after we arrived, I began to heard rumblings and whispers of a phenomenal classic cheeseburger there. At once I would take note and immediately remind myself that I had no interest in such things. As I continued to overhear more effusions and extolations of this burger, the self-reminders grew increasingly delayed and less convincing, until one day they didn’t come at all.

I placed my order and sat at my table, stoic and bewildered by where I was and what I was doing. My Diet Pepsi sat untouched as I waited, its white straw still floating high and leaning precariously to the right upon the edge of the dewy glass.

The waitress had given me the pitch: local grass-fed ground chuck, house-made bun, yada yada yada. In one ear and out the other. But when, behind me, she finally stepped out of the kitchen and into the cozy little dining area, I smelled of it, and something deep within me stirred. She placed it before me and, upon seeing a beautiful, house-made potato bun of perfect proportion, picturesque tomato and lettuce rich with color and in the proper build order, two juicy patties cooked to absolute medium perfection and dripping with juices and melted cheese, I freed my soul to hope again and bristled with anticipation of the first bite.

And with that first bite, my brain was awash in endorphins, and I swooned with that long-forgotten burger bliss. Inconceivably, it was the COMPLETE burger bliss that had been eluding me all those years. A FIVE! A unicorn! The Sasquatch of burgers! I was sitting greasy-faced and grinning on the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!

Tears. Uncontrollable laughter. Loud groans of pleasure. It was a shameless spectacle of satisfaction and celebration that nearly cleared the dining area of its uncomfortable witnesses.

In that restaurant, on that chilly late-winter evening, I awoke from months of a destructive fugue, not able to recall all that happened in it, but crystal clear on how lost I was, how I got there, who I had been before it, and overjoyed at who I would be again! I was Ebenezer Scrooge on his glorious and fateful Christmas morning!

I kissed my wife and children and immediately called my TSB brothers, who have since told me it was like hearing clear speech and lucidity from a loved one tragically lost to the great grips of insanity. More tears! More laughter! God Bless Us! God Bless Us, Everyone! God bless the miraculous and sometimes magical cheeseburger, and God bless Gas Restaurant in Saint Augustine, Florida, for bringing this burgiatrist back from the dead.

Burgiatrist: John McManus

Burger: Classic Rocks

Rating: 5

The film version of this article is slated for nationwide release fall 2013. Starring Bradley Cooper, script by Nicholas Sparks, directed by Ron Howard.

JM Gas 1

Welcome back, brother.

Renegade Review: Farm Burger (Buckhead, GA)

John, Paul, George, and Ringo didn’t become the Beatles by just dabbling in music. Chipper Jones didn’t become a baseball legend by just occasionally taking grounders. And Gallagher didn’t become a world-renowned comedian by just casually smashing watermelons in his free time. These people worked relentlessly at their craft. They struggled, they honed, and they sacrificed. They committed themselves.

Stay your Sledge-O-Matic! (photo credit https://www.facebook.com/FarmBurgerBuckheadGA?fref=ts)

Stay your Sledge-O-Matic!
(photo credit https://www.facebook.com/FarmBurgerBuckheadGA?fref=ts)

The same principle holds true for burgiatrists.

To create a truly great burger, you’ve got to make it your life. You’ve got to get all the basic stuff right—from grass-fed and freshly ground beef to fresh and varied toppings to well-trained and personally invested staff—and then perfect it. You’ve got to have the first sentence on your website be something like, “[We want] you to think about your burger.” And you’ve got to—as the three Atlanta-area Farm Burger locations do—fully dedicate yourself to making a damn good hamburger.

Farm Burger doesn’t just dabble in burgiatry. It’s committed to it.

My review: 4.75 out of 5.00

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Farm Burger on Urbanspoon

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