Review #24: Chuck’s (Raleigh, NC)

Scott’s Review: The Spirit Animal (Snooty Beauty)

Chuck’s Cubed:

A Review of Chuck’s Burgers & Freits in Three Vignettes

I: Michael’s Reaction

My wife bounded into the room, telephone extended. “Scott, it’s Michael. He says it’s an emergency.”

“Michael, what’s the matter? Is everyone okay?”

“I just had a burger at Chuck’s—Ashley Christensen’s new place.” The solemnity in his voice moved me to sit down. My wife’s eyes widened as she mouthed oh my God.


“We have to get there for an official review as soon as possible.” Michael is a man who knows his burgers, and he wouldn’t make a call like this unless it was vital. “It was a five.”

“You’re joking.”

“Oh my God,” my wife said aloud, now covering her mouth with her hands.

“I kid you not,” Michael continued. “We have to go as soon as possible. What are you doing tomorrow night?”

“What’s the matter?” my wife demanded, still covering her mouth. “Are the kids okay?”

“Michael’s calling for an emergency burger outing,” I said, trying with my eyes to convey the seriousness of it.

My wife dropped her hands, placed them on her hips, and glared at me.

“Yes—as soon as possible,” I said, looking down to avoid seeing how determinedly my wife was shaking her head. “I’ll just need to clear it with my wife first.”

II: John’s Reaction

Of the three of us, the toughest critic is John. Of our 23 previous official reviews, his average rating is 3.60 (Michael’s is 3.79, mine 3.74), with exactly zero 5s. He gave only one 4.75 (to Draft, in downtown Raleigh) and was so moved that he wrote a song, “Almost a Five,” in the burger’s honor. John’s generally the one who can identify a burger’s technical flaws, almost on a molecular level, and it’s usually those flaws we hear about during those initial bites, the poor burger’s rating dropping with every offense. Not that we ever know John’s rating right away; it’s usually when he pens his review that we hear his verdict.

So imagine John’s skepticism upon entering Chuck’s, knowing Michael’s prophecy—the first time that one of us made a ratings prediction—that he was on a one-way flight to Fivetown.

For the first time in TSB history, John was speechless (save for a few approving grunts). For the first time in TSB history, John announced his review right there at the table, during the meal. And for the first time in TSB history, John gave a 5.

III: My Reaction

I won’t spend time trying to explain why the burgers at Chuck’s Burgers & Freits are excellent (descriptions here). Perhaps a mention of the Holy Grail-like achievement of perfect external char and uniform internal pinkness. Perhaps a word about the masterful combination of ingredients that commingled in Beatle-esque harmony, casting interrogation lights on the efforts of impostors, known to pile edibles between buns, seemingly for its own sake.

Rather, I’ll say this:

Though not formally recognized in burgiatric circles as a legitimate determinant in burger criticism, we can often determine the quality of a burger by how much fun we have at the joint, the level of banter and revelry often a fair measure of how content we are in our persnickety choice of once-a-month outings. (In her feature on TSB, Andrea Weigl of The News & Observer called them man dates. Given our sacred obligation to disseminate burger wisdom, we respectfully prefer mandates.)

As it turned out, we so enjoyed our experience at Chuck’s that we weren’t quite willing for it to end. Plus, Ashley Christensen had also just opened another restaurant—Beasley’s Chicken + Honey—right next door (visit all of the renowned chef’s Raleigh digs here)—and, now having absolute faith in Ms. Christensen’s culinary expertise, we did what at least this burgiatrist has never done before in his life: finish dinner in one restaurant, leave said restaurant, relocate immediately to another restaurant, and eat another full dinner. Though I was too full to fully appreciate (or even taste, really) what I hear is Beasley’s delicious fried chicken, I will say that our presence there—the level of banter and revelry still high—spoke volumes for the burgers next door.

Scott’s review: 5 out of 5.


Michael’s Review: The Hill + The Valley (Snooty Beauty)

Buddhists on the path to enlightenment must pursue the Four Noble Truths. It can be very time-consuming. I suggest that those in search of enlightenment simply visit Chuck’s, where four other, easier noble truths are posted on the menu:

1.      Half pound 100% chuck

2.      House ground

3.      Flat top seared

4.      On a potato roll

Yea though I walk through the valley of death, as long as I have this burger, I'll be all right.

I have been burned by many a Snooty Beauty (the most rare of Straight Beef categories) in the past. However, The High + The Valley, with its crushed avocado, bacon-onion jam, and “blistered red peppers” was sublime. It was cooked to perfection, and each bite was consistent because of the precise build.

Three ingredients combined atop a burger led this burgiatrist to true enlightenment. I give it a 5 out of 5.


John’s Review: Bear in Heaven (Classic Rocks, with Snooty Beauty quality)

(To read with the one you love…)

I love you deeply. More remarkable is that you so love me. This miracle we share—it is that rarest of symmetries that has always been responsible for the brightest lights of human poetic, musical, and visual expression, and the most majestic sensations that flood the heart, whirl the mind, and satiate the body.

How grateful I am to have found you! To know what it’s like to be overcome by you, and to delight in longing to be overcome by you again. I know, and I celebrate, that I will again pull you close to me, and that when you touch my lips I will instantly be awash in a harmony of the sweetest sensations of warmth, dizziness, soul-shuddering pleasure, and a giddy, childlike mirth. My eyes will fall closed, my skin will flush, and my heart will nearly stop for a moment then swell again and resume beating in the deliberate, languid rhythm of love just proved.

Oh, to think of you now is to give in to my passion! The allure of your shape, your beading freshness and firm, youthful texture, your penetrating scent and the musky heat of the steam that rises from your flesh at the height of our passion! I can wait no longer. I HUNGER for you, my love. I must see you again soon. Let’s meet again at our place. At Chuck’s.



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