Review #5: Salem Street Pub (Apex)
- Joint: Salem Street Pub
- Burger: My Wife…(Michael), All American (John), and Island (Scott)
- Burger Category: Classic Rocks (John), Look At Me! (Michael and Scott)
To this point in my career as a burger reviewer, I had never ordered a burger that appeared in the menu with quotation marks around it. The quotes dared me to eat it. The ingredients triple-dog dared me.
The burger had the most interesting mélange of components: a half-pound of beef (normal), cheddar cheese (standard), bacon (typical), peanut butter (huh?), and honey (what the?!). My Straight Beef brethren were skeptical, but I was a moth to the flame. Peanut butter on a burger? I could barely wrap my brain around the concept.
But after a few cleansing breaths, I handed the menu to the waitress and ordered the My Wife Told Me It Wouldn’t Sell burger.
While we were waiting, we enjoyed the atmosphere. A guy strummed and sang cover tunes. TVs dotted the walls around the dining room and behind the bar. I can’t put my finger on it, but the place had a great vibe. I could already see myself going back.
The burgers arrived in black baskets with black-and-white checkerboard paper, which matched the décor. I can’t comment on the build of my burger because it didn’t really have one. This is not a negative. The toppings simply did not lend themselves to any traditional stacking order. The beef was handmade and was perfectly cooked. The bacon was chopped into the melted cheddar, which was different but pleasant. The peanut butter was liberally spread on the patty, as was the honey.
I had my doubts at first, but I must say that I loved it. The peanut butter was warm and added an unusual texture and flavor to the experience. The bacon was crunchy and salty, which was cut with just enough honey-sweetness. I could taste each ingredient in every bite, the mark of fine burger architecture.
I feel I missed a lot of the nuance of this burger because I was so surprised by how good it was. It was like following a complex movie plot; you want to go back and see what you missed. I want another one.
After careful reflection, I give this burger a 4.5.
Looking back at TSB reviews to date, Mojoe’s holds the top honors. In retrospect, it’s clear that the ratings this panel of cow-centric epicureans gave to Mojoe’s were based almost solely on the quality of the burger itself, bearing little reflection on the experience of eating there. There is almost no comment in those reviews on the ambiance, service, et cetera at Mojoe’s, all of which were just okay. It’s also clear that the ratings we gave Tyler’s Taproom took many trans-burger factors into account, with only our positive review of its beer selection saving from an all-out invective (though we were pretty snarky).
So let me state up front that The Salem Street Pub is getting an extra half-point from me due to the experience of eating a burger there, which featured parking directly in front of the pub on the nostalgic storefront street in downtown Apex; entering a cozy dark pub-and grill atmosphere reminiscent of “The Gunder,” featured in the latest “Pen and the Prod”; a young folk-dude playing acoustic guitar and crooning in the corner well enough to make you tap your toes and sing along; great service from friendly and attentive servers; and some wicked-hot hot wings.
That said, our focus here is to bring our experience, acumen, and exquisitely refined palates to recommending the very best burgers to our loyal constituents. So without further adieu, I tell you that Salem Street serves a great burger. A solid 4 (out of 5), based on a surprisingly high-quality patty, a surprisingly soft and moist Kaiser roll (I thought sure that thing was going to take a couple of Pepsis to wash down), and very fresh vegetables. Cooked perfectly to a medium temperature, this was simply a very good burger, one that “came together,” as we burgiatrists say, with the flavors merging to create that endorphin-releasing burger magic we all seek. It won’t exactly make you weak in the knees, but it will make you feel warm and happy, sitting in a warm and happy place with good friends. For reasons previously stated, I hereby recommend The Salem Street Pub—and their solid 4 burger—with a 4.5.
The Salem Street Pub’s menu calls it a “long-time dream [to be] the kind of place where you are always greeted by smiling and familiar faces; where good friends meet to share good times; where you feel at home whether it’s your first visit or your 100th.”
Well, one successful visit to SSP down, ninety-nine to go.
Of our Triangle-area burger jaunts thus far, SSP was for me the most enjoyable overall. Cozy, warm atmosphere, homey service, and a general warmth that permeated the place, from the Beatles-strummin’ guitarist at the front to the bounteous bar along the back. From the moment I walked in, I had every intention of staying awhile. After an hour and a half that featured a fine burger, ten crazy-hot wings, two beers, and easily 100 fries, my intention had been realized.
In my Oxford days I took a doctoral-level survey called “Ketchup and Mayonnaise: What Can’t They Do Together?” So naturally, I was drawn to the SSP’s Island Burger, featuring a tasty 1000 Island dressing. The customary lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and pickles came along for the ride. All in all, quite delicious. Flavorful patty, crisp and cold veggies, a hamburger tastefully prepared and presented.
On the one hand, the burger seemed so utterly woven into the general grooviness of the SSP experience that it’s tough to assign it an appropriate rating. On the other hand, the burger was seriously good.
My rating: 4 of 5.
Special note: Hats off to my colleague Michael for ordering the My Wife Said It Wouldn’t Sell burger, peanut butter and all, which I asserted could be little more than revolting. Man, was I wrong. Michael found it in his heart to share a bite, and I will never again question his burgiatric sanity.