Guest Burgiatrist Review – Chuck’s (Raleigh, NC)

Budding Burgiatrist Breathes Cy of Relief

The Straight Beef was recently contacted by Duke School student Cy Neff, who chose food criticism—burger reviewing in particular—as the subject for his eighth grade project. Cy impressed us immediately, from his interest in condiment placement to his mention of the “ongoing crusade against kaiser rolls” to his assertion that “the only thing better than eating a burger is intelligently eating a burger.” The young man was clearly wise beyond his years.

We had the pleasure of meeting with Cy and teaching him some burgiatric ropes. A few weeks later, he sent us the review below—his own take on TSB’s highest-ranked burger joint, Chuck’s (downtown Raleigh). Remember Cy’s name. You’ll want to say you knew him when.

Review of Chuck’s

by Cy Neff, guest burgiatrist

This review has been a painful experience for me. Why? Because Chuck’s was quite the opposite.

The first time I went to Chuck’s, it was because of all the glowing reviews, all of the great things I’d heard about it. I was not disappointed. I boldly declared to my teachers that this was the restaurant I’d review for my project, and that I’d go back as soon as possible. As soon as I said it, I realized my mistake. My mistake? Chuck’s makes one of the best burgers—if not the best burger—I’ve had in my life. But there was my dilemma. Who likes writing a positive review when criticizing a bad one is so much more fun?

So I hoped and hoped that maybe my first Chuck’s experience was a fluke. Maybe it was pure luck and coincidence that my burger was perfectly cooked. It was probably also a fluke that the chocolate cake milkshake was as good as advertised, if not better. And the fact that everyone else seemed to have a great burger there? Obviously coincidence.

On my return trip to Chuck’s, I was once again disappointed. Once again, the unnaturally comfortable wooden chairs and the seamless blend of black, red, and white colors with the music in the background created a frustratingly well-fitting atmosphere. Once again, the milkshake was outstanding. The half-pound Belgian fries were the only thing that didn’t warrant a 10 out of 10, but even they were saved by their sauces (a variety of aiolis, mayos, and mustards), which were an 11. My last hope for even some mediocrity was the burger.

I opted for a classic, with pickles, onions, tomatoes—all the stuff that usually comes with one. The burger arrived. My hopes for anything less than perfection were ripped out, stomped into the ground, and steamrolled. The middle of the meat was a perfect pink, its flavor not drowned out by the toppings. Aside from being the best burger I’ve ever had, it left me with one question: Chuck’s burgers are perfectly charred on the entire outside. Not just the top, not just the bottom, the same level of perfect char all around. How do they manage that? I don’t know, but does it really matter? The burger is a picture of perfection, so I’ll definitely be back.

    

Renegade Review: Murphy House Restaurant

Guest Renegade Reviewer: Scott Bridgeman

Scott Bridgeman is an inchoate Burgiatrist, currently completing his PhB at Dr. McManus’ alma mater, the Universitat Muenster in Hamburg, Germany. Bridgeman has been a burger lover since early childhood, but it was a profound experience in his late teens that inspired his pursuit of this vocation. He was auspiciously dining at burger joint in the triangle on evening before heading off to a high school pep rally, and he happened to be seated in the adjacent booth we TSB burgiatrists sat down for a review. He overheard every pithy, erudite morsel of analysis and critique, and eavesdropped with complete wonder and awe. When we had completed the meal and our analysis, paid our bill, and taken our last sips of draft, we stood and walked away, passing through a long foyer to the thick wooden doors of the pub. Dr.s Marino and McManus had already exited and Dr. Blumenthal was still holding the door, when the young Bridgeman, who had followed us from the table, appeared in the foyer and called after him.

“Are you…”

Dr. Blumenthal turned. “Pardon me?”

“Sorry, sir, but are you and your friends famous burger critics?”

Blumenthal smiled, “Yes, son. But more importantly, we’re Burgiatrists. It’s a highly noble pursuit. Now, I’m very sorry, but we have a schedule to keep and I have to go.”

“Oh,” the boy said, looking down. “Okay.”

Blumenthal let the door close behind him, but looked back through the sidelight of the door to witness the dejected young man shuffling slowly back toward his table.

A few moments later, Blumenthal re-entered the dining room, with a TheStraightBeef.com T-Shirt wadded tightly in his right hand.

“Hey kid,” he said. “Catch!”

And so, when this ambitious young man contacted us years later with a submission for a guest review and on the cusp of achieving his PhB, we decided to give him a break, and publish his first work. Without further adieu, our first guest review, by Scott Bridgeman, future Burgiatrist…

Murphy House Restaurant, North Carolina State Fair

Category: Krispy Kreme Burger (It belongs in a category of its own!)

Let me first start by saying what an honor it is to author a renegade review for TSB, being an amateur burgiatrist myself and having spent the last three years working toward an advance certificate in molecular burgology. I am not sure my qualifications are quite as meaty as those of the staff here at TSB, so please bear with me…

It always starts innocently enough. The fair comes to town, you head to the fairgrounds, and the lunchtime conversations turn to football and laughing about the deep-fried coke or the funnel bacakonator. Then you find yourself joking about the Krispy Kreme burger. Who would ever eat one of those?!

Suddenly, you find yourself getting curious. You start wondering about it. Before you know it, you walk up to the booth and ask, “How much?” At that point, you know it’s too late. You know that you’re going to do it. The proprietor of this culinary treat has engaged you; they’ve invested time, so you wonder if there’s a commitment. But then you start having other thoughts, like “Wow, six dollars for lunch at the fair really isn’t that bad, is it?” or “What will my friends think if I don’t order it?” and before you know it, the words have already left your mouth. “Sure, I’ll take one. But hold the lettuce and tomato.”

Now, I will be the first to admit that the first bite is a little scary. All eyes are on you, and before you know it, you’ve done it. You’ve taken the first bite and you realize wow—this thing is really good. Yes, I said it: The Krispy Kreme burger is good.

The breakdown of the burger is odd, but it does work. They combine high-quality ingredients (namely two Krispy Kreme doughnuts, of course, which serve as the bun) and mix them with lower-end ingredients (namely a pre-cooked low-quality hamburger patty, American cheese, and thinly sliced pre-cooked bacon). Lettuce and tomato are also offered, but I am a purist and passed on those. What happens when these flavors are combined is nothing short of Wylie Dufresne’s latest molecular gastronomical concoction. The sweetness of the doughnut melds with the juiciness of the burger and accentuates the smoky maple flavors of the bacon, which are balanced out by the cheese. All of these flavors conspire to deliver one treat of a burger.

See you in a year, Krispy Kreme burger.

My rating: 3.5

    

Renegade Review: Jake’s Steaks (St. Louis, MO)

The ribs at Jake’s Steaks are probably the best I’ve ever had. The dry rub was tangy, and the meat melted in my mouth. The wait staff at Jake’s did a great job with our large party. Our server made sure our glasses were always full. A great time was had by all.

What is that, you say? Why would an esteemed burgiatrist focus so much on ribs and service? I’ll tell you why: because the burger I had was the worst piece of garbage I have ever eaten. I ordered the Fried Burger. Billed as cheese pressed between two 5-oz patties all lightly breaded and fried. I expected a juicy, gooey, yummy burger. I mean, how could it be bad? Everyone who has been to the fair knows that everything is better when it’s fried.

Avert your eyes!

My first bite crunched so loudly that the person sitting next to me asked if I was OK. I figured it must have just been the edge of the patty and that I ate mostly fried batter. Things did not improve with the second bite. Four or five bites in, I cut my burger in half to see if I would ever come across cheese. Nope. Either the cook forgot to put it in there, or it was left in the fryer too long, vaporizing it. The whole thing was a burned, crunchy mess.

The only reason I am not giving this burger a zero is because it didn’t make me sick. This ranks up there as one of the worst things I have ever eaten. For your own sake, if you go to Jake’s Steaks, get the ribs. My rating: 0.25 out of 5.

    

Jake's Steaks 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

Renegade Review: The Varsity (Atlanta, GA)

It’s been contrary to the Straight Beef credo to visit fast food joints, but The Varsity in Atlanta is a notable exception. It’s beyond fast food. It’s trans-fast. It’s supra-fast, if you will.

According to its website, the original Varsity was opened in 1928 by Frank Gordy, a man with $2,000 and “million-dollar taste buds.” Today, the original Varsity is a two-story “Lunching Pad” (with six Atlanta-area sister locations), boasting the world’s largest drive-in, capable of accommodating 600 cars. Inside, the restaurant can hold no fewer than 800 burger-munching souls. On days when the Georgia Tech Yellowjackets are playing at home, over 30,000 people visit The Varsity.

And I can understand why.

The Varsity cheeseburger was greasy goodness from start to end—a fine lesson in burgiatric simplicity. From its unpretentious bun to its unassuming stack of lettuce, tomato, and mayo to its unaffected beefy innards, the burger was what fast food should be: fast and delicious, but without the robotic, overly processed, I-wish-I hadn’t-eaten-that-rock-in-my-belly after-feeling.

My review: 4 out of 5.

The Varsity on Urbanspoon

Renegade Review: No Name Saloon and Grill (Park City, UT)

My journey to Park City was long, and the stale, re-circulated airplane air had taken its toll. Wanting nothing more than some grub to satiate my hunger, I got out of the hotel’s Escalade in front of the No Name Saloon, the home of the orneriest burgers in the West.

Once there, I stepped out of the car and raised my hand to shield my eyes from the bright Utah sun. I pushed my way through the doorway, knocked the dust from my Cole Haan loafers, and bellied up to the bar.

“Barkeep,” I said, “my journey was long, and I am weary.”

“What you need, stranger, is the Saloon Burger. A half-pound of ground buffalo with grilled onions, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, and mayo.”

“Buffalo?” I asked, careful not to betray my trepidation. “I’ll take it.”

“The Saloon is one of my favorites,” offered the visibly inebriated gentleman next to me. He and a compatriot had clearly been there for some time. “I would also suggest the Zesty Red Bull Burger.”

“I am only here for the weekend,” I said, careful not to rile him. “I probably won’t have a chance to come back for another.”

My inebriated friend’s compatriot cocked his head. “You’re only ordering one?” he asked. “We all eat multiple burgers here in Utah.”

“Multiple burgers?”

“Sure. Sometimes three, four, five at a time. It’s just the way things are done around here.”

“The other burgers don’t mind?”

“Of course not. They consider it a privilege to share a plate with the other burgers.”

I had read about the practice of polyburgiatry, but I’d always known it wasn’t for me; I’m a one-burger man.

And I have no regrets. The Saloon Burger was juicy and delicious, with sweet onions and cheese melted to perfection. The lettuce and tomato were crisp and fresh. The buffalo patty was pleasantly flavorful. Only the fact that the burger arrived medium-well, despite my order of medium, kept the Saloon—the only non-cow offering on the site thus far—from a 5.

If the locals did have to choose only one, I’d recommend the Saloon Burger. I give it a 4.5 out of 5.

No Name Saloon on Urbanspoon

1 2 3