Review #6: Carolina Brewery (Chapel Hill)

  • Joint: Carolina Brewery
  • Burger: SW Scorcher (Michael), Brewery Burger (Scott), Build Your Own (John)
  • Burger Category: Look At Me! (Michael), Classic Rocks (John and Scott)

John’s Review

One nice thing about writing a TSB Burger review is that we don’t require ourselves to do it the evening of the meal. If that were the case, I would be giving the burger at Carolina Brewery a solid 4, for there were not-so-subtle influences at play that night as to put me in a favorable mood and a mode of flattery and conciliation. As it is, however, I sit down to write my review with enough time between me and that burger and that night to have found my journalistic objectivity—the kind I owe my faithful constituents in this noble vocation. It would be egregious of me to let distracting influences blur my focus on the burger itself and skew my evaluation…influences like the powerful and sweet nostalgia of being back on Franklin Street for the first time since a distant epoch of collegial mirth and mayhem with my Tarheel freunds and fräuleins; like the intoxicating spring air that was fragrant and warm upon my skin and in my lungs as we strolled across the street to Carolina Brewery at dusk; like the liveliness of the street with its cruising cars and the sidewalks that seemed to vibrate and move all of the students and young couples amusingly along them at different speeds and in different directions, like the tiny plastic players on an old electric football field I had when I was young; like the two smooth Carolina Brewery custom brews that drained counter-clockwise down my throat before our burgers even arrived; like the easy feeling I always have as I join my fellow Burgiatrists in a cozy booth to share some good beer, beef and bombast for an hour or two.

If I were not so professional as to require a state of complete objectivity before issuing my evaluation and recommendation to you, I would give undue weight to the fact that the overcooked patty was still quite moist and flavorful, or that the dry-looking Kaiser roll was actually fresh and soft when I took that first bite. I might focus a bit too much on the order of the build (which was perfectly in order).  And I might surround those accurate facts about the burger itself with friendly fluff that simply isn’t useful to you in your own search for burger bliss (e.g., reminiscences about the general location of the restaurant, or pretty prose about the weather that night). However, with my professionalism and objectivity about me, I report to you that the burger you’ll find at Carolina Brewery—the burger itself—is a 3.5. Not bad at all, really, but not great. It goes well with your beer (which is delicious) and gets the job done as you sit in a very pleasant atmosphere among pleasant people on a pleasant night. Regarding any negative aspects of the burger…my mother always said that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all (so I won’t tell you that you can’t really get your burger cooked to temperature, or that the lettuce was less than fresh, or that my tomato slices were pinkish and flavorless with crystalline meat, as are those that are genetically manipulated to stay fresh for over a year). Carolina Brewery “Build Your Own” burger: 3.5. Carolina Brewery itself: 4.

Scott’s Review

I’ve always thought there should be a word for the concoction created by the simple combination of ketchup and mustard. Ketchard? Mustup? Yellow-red burgonaise?

There should also be a word, I think, for a burger that’s just plain good—not unpleasant in any way, not so outstanding that you’re ready to run down West Franklin Street singing a burger-themed paean.

That’s what the Brewery Burger was to me—a solid, tasty, respectable hamburger. Forty years from now, when I’m sitting around the Straight Beef office complex, reflecting on our jaunt to the Carolina Brewery in Chapel Hill, I’ll remember the outstanding signature brews fresh from the giant in-house copper cauldrons, the burlap bags of hops stacked nearby, and the insanely spicy Thai chili wings. Will I be able to describe the emotions that the Brewery Burger inspired in me? Mayhaps. Perchibly. Possiburger.

My rating: 3.25.

Michael’s Review

It was a perfect Carolina spring evening, and stars were aligned for a fine evening of handcrafted beer and burgers. Where else to go but the Carolina Brewery in Chapel Hill?

I kicked off the meal with a Sky Blue Golden Ale (silver medal at the World Beer Championships), along with “hot & spicy” and “Thai chili” wings. The hot & spicy were meaty and of the standard Buffalo ilk. The Thai chili were low on flavor but ridiculously hot. I wouldn’t recommend those except on a bet.

Lately, I’m emerging as the one who orders the burger no one else will try. (See my review of the Salem Street Pub’s My Wife Said It Wouldn’t Sell). True to form, I ordered the SW Scorcher, a spring special, “dusted with a Mexican rub, topped with jalapeños tossed in habanero sauce, melted jack cheese,” and, of course, “lime cured cabbage.”

In all my years as holistic burgologist, I had never experienced a burger-related burn quite like this one. The habanero sauce and freshly cut jalapeños completely covered the burger, promising a wallop in every bite. I can cross an intense burning sensation on the roof of my mouth off my bucket list.

The build was perfect: burger, cheese, habanero sauce, jalapeños, tomato, lettuce. The bun was perhaps a little too toasted, but it easily maintained the burger. Not a single rogue jalapeño escaped as I was eating.

The biggest drawback was the beef itself: way overdone, despite my request for the rare side of medium. Scott’s was medium well, as requested, but mine was left on the grill just long enough to cook the flavor away. That aside, the outstanding toppings might have brought the burger to a solid 4, perhaps even flirting with a 4.5. As it was, though, I give it a 3.5.

Carolina Brewery on Urbanspoon