Reviews #90 and #91 – Shake Shack vs Square Burger

Shake Shack vs Fake Shack

Square Burger and Shake Shack are new entrants to the burger landscape of the Triangle. Shake Shack started in Madison Square in the early part of this century. They have decided to take their successful formula and branch out from its NYC environs and let people wait 45 minutes for a burger in other parts of the country. Shake Shack has a simple menu using simple ingredients, and they do it very well. Burgers, dogs, chicken sandwiches, fries, frozen custard, and various forms of those things. You may remember Michael’s Renegade Review from 2010. He ordered the same burger. Still fantastic. “Looking back at my original review, I may have been a little light on the rating.”

I probably should’ve gotten the beer with my meal.

Chad was a little skeptical that the NYC Shake Shack magic would transfer to NC. His skepticism was unfounded. “The double SmokeShack burger was perfectly seared and beefy, with the chopped cherry peppers adding a scintillating (but not overwhelming) bit of heat.”

Carolyn and Don felt the same as Michael. Carolyn brought up the good point of the giant leaf of lettuce. Cut that glorious green leaf into shreds, and it would be in contention for a 5.

Michael’s rating: 4.5 out of 5

Carolyn’s rating: 4.5 out of 5

Don’s rating: 4.5 out of 5

Chad’s rating: 4.75 out of 5

I would like to say that Square Burger has valiantly tried to ape the Shake Shack style. However, that would be giving them too much credit. The eponymous Square Burger was a quarter pound mess of lackluster ground beef. Chad likened his Square Burger to NuWay Burgers. “My burger fell apart as soon as I picked it up, with crumbles and bits falling away in an avalanche of underseasoned gray meat.”

I don’t think this was supposed to happen.

Michael said he had sloppy joes that held together better than this burger. The Square Sauce was a weak knock-off of ShackSauce. The people in the kitchen of Square Burger took zero care in putting this together. Don’s response when asked what he thought of his Square Burger, “Nope.”

The only thing this place has going for it is that it is in Moore Square. If you find yourself hanging out there and want something to eat, get a hot dog. Michael, Chad, and Don each gave it a 2 out of 5. Carolyn was spared from reviewing this burger.

Shake Shack: 4.56 for an overall rank of 12 out of 91

Square Burger: 2.00 for an overall rank of 89 out of 91

Review #89 – Local 22 (Durham, NC)

Michael: Damn!* 4.75

Carolyn: Daaayyuum!* 4.75

Don: Daaaaaaaammmnn!* 4.75

Chad: Lamb? Damn!** 4.75

Overall rating: 4.75 out of 5

Overall rank: 7 out of 89

*The overall consensus was that the build kept the burger from being a 5. The large leaf lettuce and the pickles speared to the top of the bun were dealbreakers.

** Holy crap, the lamb burger was good. The only thing that kept it from a rock solid 5 on the Straight Beef scale was a bun not quite capable of holding up to the wonderful juiciness of the burger.

Review #88 – Burger Boy (Wilson, NC)

Over the Memorial Day weekend, my family and I went to Wilson to see the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park. What do you do when you are in a city for the first time and find yourself hungry? You search Foursquare for the closest burger joint. I lucked upon a little place known as Burger Boy. It turns out 2019 is the 50th anniversary of Marion Boykin serving burgers and dogs to the people of Wilson. For the history of Burger Boy check out The Wilson Times. I’m here to talk about the burger.

Everything about Burger Boy screams classic — even the drink sizes. A small drink is 12 oz, medium is 20 oz, and large is 32 oz. I ordered the bacon double cheeseburger combo which included a large drink and fries. It arrived wrapped in paper on a foam plate with my fries. There were two (I’m guessing) 4-oz square patties with American cheese in between. Then came crisp bacon, tomato, then some of the whitest iceberg lettuce you have ever seen. Mayo was adequately slathered on the top bun. Bonus points for no toppings under the patties.

I like the fact that a place like Burger Boy exists. If you want a decent lunch, not spend a lot of money, and support a local business, this is the place to go in Wilson. I wanted it to be more, though. The patties were nice and salty but mostly dry. It could have used another slice of cheese to hold the bacon in place. The tomato was juicy, but that lettuce was pathetic. The only way to salvage that business would have been to shred it.
I really wanted my burger to be better. I was expecting Johnson’s. Unfortunately, I got a slightly better version of a Wendy’s double. It rates a 3.25.

Overall ranking: 62 of 88

Review #87 – Royale (Raleigh, NC)

Deconstructionism, the Royale burger, and Objective Burger Truth

Listen to The Straight Beef Podcast for more on the Royale and the topic of when a burger is not a burger

Oh those wacky French and their Deconstructionist philosophy. In theory, Deconstructionism questions traditional assumptions about certainty, identity, and truth; and challenges the idea that we can discover objective meaning outside our own biases and belief systems.

Yeah, we don’t get it either, but we suspect that the burgers at Royale in downtown Raleigh are the result. These burgers certainly make us question our firmly held beliefs about hamburgers, namely that patty+bun=hamburger. Even the much-loved patty melt was viewed with some skepticism. An open-faced burger? On toast? Pish posh.

Then we ate at Royale, an undeniably French restaurant that undeniably deconstructs its burgers and does so in spectacular fashion. Chad had the Royale Burger, which came on an over sized English muffin. Michael’s burger, Le Grand Garçon, had no bun at all! Sacré bleu! What were we to make of this?

We had to rethink our entire belief system in the course of one meal. Rationalization played a large part.

As Michael said, “We have railed against terrible buns like the kaiser and how it detracts from the experience. Even a decent bun simply gets out of the way. You would think that in order to appreciate the true essence of a burger, it makes sense to get rid of the bun. Why have something there that is neutral at best? But if a burger doesn’t have a bun, is it still a burger?

“Such was the dilemma I was presented with at Royale. The Plat du Jour each Tuesday is always a burger. Le Grand Garçon burger was a 6-oz patty, prosciutto, a sunny side up egg, and Bearnaise sauce served on a hash brown.”

No. Bun. Hash brown. Let that sink in for a moment.

But…but…where’s the bun?

The build was perfectly constructed. The hash brown served as a dense foundation for a perfectly-cooked peppery patty. Lightly crisped prosciutto served as an interesting departure from bacon. The Bearnaise sauce was artfully spooned around the yolk to drape over the egg white and everything else beneath. Micro chives dusted the entire creation.

Michael was wowed. “This burger was flavorful and rich. Sumptious, even. It was served with a tasty side salad, but it needed some arugula on top of everything. Something light to counterbalance the overall heaviness of the burger. I give it a 4.75. It just needed some greens to make it a 5. Usually a fine-dining restaurant such as this has a burger on the menu for the unwashed masses who are intimidated by fancy foods. Royale serves it proudly with care and with pride.”

You know what they call it? A royale with cheese.

Chad’s Royale Burger was the same 6-7ish ounce patty ground from short rib, brisket and chuck but served with gruyère and au poive aoili on a toasted English muffin. Again, the burger was extremely well prepared, the result of a chef and a well-trained staff turning their skills to re-think something as potentially mundane as a hamburger. The flavor was rich and beefy with a precise level of crispy char that highlighted the juiciness of the perfect pinkish-in-the-center patty. And, as Chad said, “Dammit, the English muffin just works. In this instance, it’s a great complement to the burger. I hate being so smug and so wrong. I want to give it a 4.75 for knocking my beliefs about objective burger truth for a loop, but this was an un-Deconstructed 5.0.”

Listen to The Straight Beef Podcast for more on this discussion.

Overall rating 4.88 out of 5.

Overall rank 2 out of 87.