Review #69: Burger 21 (Cary, NC)

Meh

In 2015, the Oxford English Dictionary, the definitive record of the English language, added the word Meh, an interjection expressing indifference or lack of enthusiasm. It is interesting to note that all three Straight Beef reviewers used the word in their notes on Burger 21.

In many ways, Burger 21 is perfectly suited to the town of Cary. It is bland, innocuous, and fiercely determined not to stand out in any way. It is the Little Burger that Could–ish. Mostly. You root for it. You want to see it succeed, but it never quite makes it all the way up the hill.

Let’s put it this way, like the little league team that doesn’t play particularly well but still shows up and puts out a modicum of effort, Burger 21 gets a Participation Trophy.

Within the somewhat Spartan strip mall decor, the walls are decorated with various slogans that emphasize the B in Burger 21, like “B different,” “B shaken,” and “B saucy.” What you don’t see is “B interesting,” or “B flavorful.”

B better!

B better!

As Carolyn noted, “Tellingly, I cannot at this point recall with specificity which burger I had (my magic eight ball thinks perhaps it was the Cinco) but what I do recall is that it wasn’t bad.  I remember I liked the bun but have no present recollection of the actual burger beyond generalizations. I remember the milkshake being super tasty and the fries being good with some moderately interesting dipping sauces, but I just don’t remember the burger! For a Tuesday night “crap, what am I going to do for dinner!?” emergency, swinging by Burger 21 (if it is on your way home) would be totally reasonable.  Driving out of your way for it?  Meh.  Like the DMV, if gets the job done but not prettily or quickly.

Carolyn’s rating: 2.5 out of 5

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Michael was more generous with his appraisal, “Upscale burger joints really need to stand out in order to attract customers. Failing that, they need to be in a great location and not be terrible. Burger 21 in Cary stands somewhere in between those. It is in a bustling shopping center in grease splatter distance of a huge apartment complex. My Bacon Cheesy was capably prepared. Don’t take that as damning with faint praise. It was solid and tried to be a great burger. It will keep the locals coming back, but I don’t know if I’d go out of my way to go again. My Burger 21 experience in Tampa was much better. I give Burger 21 in Cary a solid meh.

Michael’s rating: 3.5 out of 5

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As Chad noted, “With spectacular local options like Chuck’s, Only Burger or Al’s Burger Shack in the area, boutique chain burger places have to work pretty hard stand out. Five Guys, Smashburger, Burger Bach, Burgerfi, and Zinburger have all found success in the Triangle for good reason, they make a damn fine burger. However, Burger 21 reminds me a lot of Elevation Burger, a place with great potential but disappointing execution. My Bacon Cheesy burger was competently prepared, but nothing worth getting excited about or coming back for. It wasn’t bad, per se, just unremarkable. I’d rather go to Char-Grill. Another Meh from me.”

Chad’s rating: 3 out of 5

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Overall Rating: 3 out of 5, making Burger 21 54 out of 69.

Review #68 – Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers

Freddy’s is a throwback, a modern take on the 50’s-60’s diner. A drive in, but only with a drive thru window. It is so Middle America, you half expect to see Richie Cunningham saying “sit on it, Potsie” in the corner booth. So, our intrepid reviewers donned their white tees and poodle skirts and slicked backed their hair to experience Arnold’s, I mean, Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburger, first hand in technicolor in front of a live studio audience.

INTERIOR FREDDY’S (NIGHT)

The four Burger experts enter Freddy’s. Bright lights, a few family patrons scattered in the dining area. The mood is bright and festive. Chad, Mike and Reverend Don all sport white tees, rolled up jeans. Chad used enough Pomade to sink a battleship to perfect his pompadour. Carolyn sports a poodle skirt, a Pink Ladies-style satin jacket, and saddle shoes. (applause)

REV. DON

I have never been here – what’s the recommendation?

MICHAEL

For you, I suggest a lobotomy…. (Crowd laughs)

REV. DON

Sit on it, Mikey! I mean what are you going to order?

CHAD

Might I suggest, anything on the menu, this is straight Americana, Boys and Girls.

CAROLYN

Burgers and Sundae’s? Boy isn’t this place just dreamy.

MICHAEL

I think I will go with the Bacon and Cheese Double Steakburger.

AYYYYYYYYY!

REV. DON

Gee that sounds swell. I think I will go with the Double Steak Burger California Style because if it is California it must be cool, unlike you squares. (laughter) But hold the sauce- you know I don’t dig the sauces.

CHAD

If only you could hold your sauce (mimes someone drinking)… (laughter) I think I will hit up the Original Double.

CAROLYN

Since I’m a tried and true type of gal, I’m sticking with the original.

(After ordering the four sit down in a booth and proceed to get their food.)

CHAD

The double burger gets a double thumbs up and an “Ayyyyy!” There was a skirt of crunchy beef around the edge of the smashed patty, which was cooked to a perfect medium in the center. The ultra-thin, ultra-crispy bacon complemented the burger like a poodle skirt and bobby socks. I give this a solid 4.0 and with the addictive skinny fries, the whole experience was almost as good as a drive to Inspiration Point.

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MICHAEL

That’s the only thing that would be going up to Inspiration Point with you! (laughter) I. Found. My. Thrill. On. The bacon cheese double. It gets a 4.0 from me.

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CAROLYN

Boy-oh-boy does this burger hit the spot!  The double flattened patties with the perfect amount of mustard and long-sliced pickles are everything a Pink Lady could ask for and more.  Add some cheese and that burger is the bees knees!  I’d rather come here and grab a Freddy’s radioactive burger and fries with my Daddy-O rather than hit up that silly hand jive dance-off any day of the week.  4.0

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REV. DON

Yep Yep Yep, that was a good burger. As you said straight Americana. I give it a 4.0, and I give this Chocolate Brownie Delight Sundae my digits, it can call me anytime. I’ve still got it!

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Overall rating: 4.0 for 32 out of 68

Full resolution burger photos for Freddy’s can be found over at 500px.

Review #66 – Krafty’s Burgers and Brews (Garner, NC)

FADE IN:

FX:       Whirling newspaper that stops to reveal the headline “Krafty’s Burgers & Brews.”

SUPER:    Burgertone News Presents!

SOUND FX: Morse code telegraph sound -.- .-. .- ..-. – -.– .—-. …

ANNCR:    Dateline: Garner, North Carolina, a burg that knows a good burger!

Krafty’s Burger and Brews is a small restaurant and pub with big burger plans. Even before the official grand opening, Burgertone News! was there to bring you the exclusive.

There was a time in this great land where a man would be subject to ridicule if he ordered anything but mustard on his hamburger, and Krafty’s knows it, delivering the Old Fashioned, a hefty half pound of fresh Angus beef adorned with nothing but mustard and the cheese of your choice. This IS your father’s hamburger, and his father’s before that. This is the hamburger that fed the hardworking men and women of America and fueled the nation to greatness. Our reporter’s Old Fashioned burger was expertly cooked to a pink medium with a textbook perfect char on the exterior.

WARD:     “My Old Fashioned was truly excellent, so good that I started to speak like an old time radio announcer and now can type only in Courier font.”

ANNCR:    The Old Fashioned was marred only by a slightly dry potato roll, a complaint shared by our other correspondents.

Krafty's Old Fashioned is the bee's knees. It's the berries, I tell ya.

Krafty’s Old Fashioned is the bee’s knees. It’s the berries, I tell ya.

Eminent burgiatrist, Dr. Michael Marino eschewed the Old Fashioned and charged headlong into the future, ordering a hamburger topped with Irish bacon, Guinness barbecue sauce and three onion rings. He not only survived the ordeal but thrived on it.

MARINO:   “I know there was a potato famine, but that’s no reason to not use a moist potato bun. I needed a full Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda to wash it down. That being said, the Guiness BBQ Burger was a whiz-bang good burger.

ANNCR:    The Reverend Don Corey, a man of the cloth as well as a man of the bun, was equally generous in his praise.

COREY:    “That Slam Burger was a real ducky shincracker in my mouth, see. It almost doesn’t need the tots!

Michael’s rating 4.25

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Don’s rating 4.25

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Chad’s rating 4.25

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ANNCR:    There you have it, faithful Burgertone News! fans. You know that you’ll never get anything but The Straight Beef from our reporters. To learn more about Krafty’s Burger & Brews, tune to kraftysburgers.com on your internet dial.

Overall rating 4.25 – 17 out of 66

Guest Review: Nu-Way Lounge, A Classic Dive Bar Burger in Spartanburg, SC

Southern lifestyle magazine Garden & Gun recently published a paean to a quintessential dive bar: Our Kind of Place: Nu-Way Lounge & Restaurant

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Photo spread from Garden & Gun article on Nu-Way Lounge & Restaurant. Click to read.

I said to Becky, the owner who worked the grill on this particular day, “I want a Redneck burger, and I need a plain burger with nothing on it for my dog.”

She said, “Your dog’s outside?” I nodded. She said, “You got a leash? You can bring him in.”

I said, “Yeah, I do. How nice,” and got Dooley out of the Jeep.

I don’t want to get all existential and dog-whispering about this, but when I brought Dooley in I pretty much felt him saying, “Wow! Thanks. Can we play that bowling game?” (George Singleton, Garden & Gun, Aug/Sep 2014)

This place sounded too good to miss. Luckily Spartanburg designer and artist Jane Beckler Bird is an old friend and a fan of classic cheeseburgers. She quickly was sworn in as Adjunct Burgiatrist and guest reviewer. Here’s what she had to say.

“Despite being a resident of Spartanburg, South Carolina, for a decade I had visited only two of the three known “burger dives” in this town – The Beacon and Ike’s Korner Grille. At last, I made it to Nu-Way Restaurant and Lounge, a renowned player in this heavenly trifecta. The White Trash Burger did not disappoint…

Nu-Way is truly a burger dive with no frills – just a row of barstools, a handful of tables and a fully stocked bar (complete with the usuals as well as local craft beer). Friendly staff, who seem to know everyone in the place, are eager to please. Clever menu items make selection tough (they all sound great) with Redneck Cheeseburger, Trailer Park Burger and such, but I settled upon a favorite there: The White Trash Cheeseburger.

Nu-Way White Trash Burger

Nu-Way White Trash Burger: hand pattied beef, homemade slaw, mustard, pickles, onions, chili, jalapenos, and American cheese

The White Trash features a sizeable angus patty grilled to taste and includes American cheese, pickles, onions, jalapeno chiles, slaw, mustard and whatever else you wish added for that matter. It’s served on a classic sesame seed bun that perfectly soaks in all the ingredients’ deliciousness. Yeah… a good ol’ messy burger you only eat around those you really love! Paired with some crispy shoestring fries, this burger really hit the spot. It was so filling I elected to take half home for later, and trust me, this is one burger that does leftover very well. It was even amazing the next day!

I am not a well versed foodie or writer of reviews, but I do know a great burger when I find one. Nu-Way’s White Trash Cheeseburger is a must if you’re in downtown Spartanburg. It has close rivalry, but that’s for another writeup another time. Enjoy!” Jane Beckler Bird

NuWay Pet Friendly

Photo borrowed from the Nu-Way Facebook page. Looks like they really are pet friendly.

Renegade Review: Crush Street Food (Prague, Czech Republic)

Czech burger truck

As I travel this crazy burger-loving world, it becomes increasingly obvious that burgers are attaining their rightful status as a national meal. It warms this burgiatrist’s heart.

My burgiatric travels recently took me to Prague, where I learned about a new burger venture called Crush Street Food (www.crush.cz). Jan Picha, the brains behind Crush, was driven to burger greatness. In order to get his burger to the people, he retro-fitted an old Citroën truck into a burger-making machine. I discovered this silver beast among a throng of food vendors—a veritable olfactory celebration—in the Andel area of the city.

Jan explained to me that today he was serving the Hovezi Burger—a beef burger topped with grilled red peppers, pickled red onions, tzatziki sauce, lettuce, cheddar cheese, and chipotle ketchup.

Czech burger

Quite simply, the burger was great. Fresh, hot, juicy, and very tasty—the burger grand slam. The patty was nicely charred, the bun was toasted perfectly, and the toppings did not overpower the perfectly seasoned patty.

Well played, Crush. Well played. And yes, I’ll take the easy pun: You crushed it.

Don’s score: 4.75 out of 5.0

Review #53 — Rally Point Sport Grill (Cary)

Strip Mall Surprise: A Recipe

skeptical-burgiatrist

The skeptical burgiatrist at work. An original watercolor.

Ingredients:

  • 3 skeptical burgiatrists
  • 1 generic strip mall sports bar
  • 3 burgers
  • 2 orders of hot wings

Preparation:
Receive an email about yet another “best burger in the Triangle!!!” with too many exclamation points and questionable source data from Rally Point Sport Grill in Cary.

Review painfully slow website. Preheat snark to medium.

Arrive at generic strip mall sports bar. Note the Skee ball machines and clusters of patrons at the bar—and the virtually empty dining room—and lower expectations to simmer.

Order wings and beers. Note with mild surprise the tastiness of the wings while lamenting the skimpiness of the beer menu. (Remember that too much lamenting this early in the recipe can lead to some bitterness.)

Order three half-pound burgers: one Carolina burger with chili and coleslaw, one Cheddar burger, and—taking one for the team—one Mac & Cheese burger, piled high with “homemade” macaroni & cheese that looks homemade only if your home is a blue box with “Kraft” emblazoned across it. Raise snark to high.

Take a bite.

Note the well-toasted, locally baked bun. Note the near-perfect sear and proper seasoning level on the patty. Reduce snark back to medium, raise expectations slightly. Chew thoughtfully. Take another bite.

Discuss quality of the burger with tablemates. Dial snark down to low. Remark on the high quality of the burger—with or without extraneous toppings—and completely rethink the experience.

Peel away previous bias and enjoy. Voilà! Strip Mall Surprise!

Tasters’ Notes:

  mac and cheese burger
Chad: I ordered the Mac & Cheese burger. The underlying hamburger patty was excellent, and the bun was perfectly toasted. They also get bonus points for house-cut fries. The mac & cheese provided nothing more than bulk and starch and took away from the experience of the burger itself. This is a well-deserved 4.0 for the burger alone.

Carolina burger

Scott: For a slightly spicier version of the recipe, add pinball machines, 70s-style paneling, and an unremarkable-looking joint serving an unexpectedly remarkable burger. I’m going all the way to 4.0-town for the Carolina burger.

Cheddar burger

Don: Cheddar Burger- Cheddar Cheese: I went with one of the most basic burgers listed and was struck by the nice char on the burger as well. The bun was great and perfectly toasted. My biggest complaint is with the amount of cheese that was used. It was lost on the burger. I don’t know if I actually tasted it in retrospect. All in all a very solid 4.0.

Overall rating:4.0, putting Rally Point Sport Grill at 22 out of 53.

RallyPoint Sport Grill on Urbanspoon

Review #52: Carolina Ale House (Cary)

This review is meant to be enjoyed with a friend—Mad Libs style!

Mad:)Takes - free online Mad Libs™
Mad:)Take

SPORTS-THEMED CHAIN RESTAURANT…VERY POPULAR…LIKE 10-15 LOCATIONS…HELL, JUST SAY “CAROLINA ALE HOUSE”
WORD YOU WOULD USE TO DESCRIBE EVERY STING SOLO ALBUM
PREDICTABLE BURGER TOPPING
SLIGHTLY LESS PREDICTABLE BURGER TOPPING
TRYING-TOO-HARD BURGER TOPPING THAT MAKES YOU SAY “REALLY?”
CELEBRITY WHO IS EXTREMELY FAMOUS, BUT YOU DON’T KNOW WHY
EXACT NAME OF COLLEGE COURSE YOU FOUND SO BORING THAT YOU FORGOT ABOUT IT UNTIL NOW
THING YOU’D MOST LIKE TO BE DOING RIGHT NOW, ENDING IN –ING
THE MOST UNPLEASANT ACTIVITY YOU CAN THINK OF, ENDING WITH –ING
LEAST ATTRACTIVE SUPREME COURT JUSTICE

Scott’s review: 4.25

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Chad’s review: 3.25

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Michael’s review: 3.25

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Overall ranking: 27th out of 52.

Carolina Ale House on Urbanspoon

Review #50 – Burger Five-0! Umstead Hotel Bar (Cary, NC)

(cue horns and surf guitars)

Book ‘em, Danno. Burger One.

It’s not every day that The Straight Beef conducts its 50th official review. Assuming that no one would recognize us if we disguised ourselves as upstanding citizens of means,  we duded up and headed to the swankiest Triangle-area joint with the word “burger” on the menu: The Umstead Hotel & Spa.

The Umstead is Cary’s luxury resort hotel. The hotel’s restaurant, Herons, is a five-star, five-diamond establishment – the kind of place where your tie is expected to wear a tie.

While we clean up well, we’re not five-diamond material. Five tater tots, maybe. Diamonds, not so much. We opted for the bar. The bar menu is more casual, and, more importantly, features a hamburger which Scott (Dr. Blumenthal, taking the place of Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett) had tried previously and raved about.

Umstead burger

The Umstead Burger: Vine Ripe Tomatoes, House Pickles, Choice of Cheese, Herbed Fries $18

We were in a great mood. We were celebrating a milestone in The Straight Beef and wanted to cap off our 50th review with a great score. The service was impeccable, the sides were well executed, the drinks paired up nicely. We had a great time, great conversation, and great drinks. The burgers . . . well, witness testimony varies.

Four undercover burgiatrists ordered four cheeseburgers, three medium rare and one medium. We received two medium rare burgers, one that was on the medium-well side of medium and one that was decidedly – frighteningly – rare. It wasn’t quite, “Oh my god, is it still pulsing?” rare, but it was close. Close enough that an experienced and adventurous eater felt the need to send it back.

Condiments

The Umstead does not skimp on condiments, though they are not house made

Don (the Reverend Corey, founder of Transcendental Burgiatry) said, “the Umstead was good, not great. I had to return my burger, and though the meat had great texture, I still thought it lacked a little flavor. The build was sloppy. The brioche bun was nice, but not as good as 9th Street Bakery brioche at Buns in Chapel Hill, and the tomato could have been more ripe. Overall it was around a 3.75 (especially when factoring in the re-burger).”

Michael (Dr. Marino, master of condiments) added, “I found the patty perfect in flavor and texture. As we discussed, I like the beef ground multiple times. The Umstead’s had a silky consistency that was a pleasure to eat. The fault was in the build. The bun was average as well. I gave it a 4.25.”

Don & Michael

The Reverend Don Corey and Dr. Michael Marino

Chad (former burgiatry supervillain) retorted testily, “Yes, the beef was truly excellent. If I were reviewing the patty alone I would have rated it much higher, but the bun slid around on a piece of wilted lettuce and a flavorless tomato. I give it a begrudging 4.0. It was a good burger, but if we took price into consideration the score would be lower. The value to flavor ratio is just not there unless you are on an expense account.”

Off season produce

Wilted lettuce and flavorless, out-of-season tomatoes detracted from an otherwise excellent burger

Scott (Dr. Blumenthal, international burger historian) countered, “I’m giving it a 4.5. My two prior experiences were a solid 5.0. Chad, you are giving it a 4.0 (a recommendable burger), and it looks like Michael’s review is also very high. So if anything, it seems that the conclusion should be, ‘Oh sh*t that was good.’ We knew going in that it’s a nationally recognized joint with high prices. We can’t really ding them for that.”

Scott & Chad

Dr. Scott Blumenthal, renowned burger historian and Chad Ward, former international burgiatry supervillian

The renowned Dr. Blumenthal is correct. While by Generally Accepted Accounting Practices, the Umstead cheeseburger should come with a quart of high-octane champagne and a foot massage from a bevy of showgirls, we deliberately chose a special occasion venue for our special occasion and will not factor price into consideration of our rating. While we would have loved to give the Umstead a 5.0 on our Five-0, we give it a 4.125.

Overall ranking 17 out of 50.

Review #49 – Al’s Burger Shack (Chapel Hill, NC)

The four most renowned palates in burgiatry are gathered at the table.

They are at Al’s Burger Shack, a newly opened counter service and takeout restaurant in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The interior is tiny, with seating for fewer than 10 patrons. There are picnic tables outside with propane heaters to hold back the cool night air. The burgiatrists opt for outdoor seating. It is chilly but conducive to discussions on the arcana of burger reviewing, far from the prying ears of the public—and without the risk of revealing themselves to their unwitting host.

Super. Thanks for asking.

Super. Thanks for asking.

The owner, Al, is warm and knowledgeable. The restaurant is busy, but he remembers each name and order. He prides himself on local, pasture-raised beef, local craft beers, cheeses from area creameries, and locally made (or homemade) condiments.

The Straight Beef is here to put his hamburgers to the test.

The four burgiatrists are relaxed. The celebrated experts share surprisingly—sometimes shockingly—ribald humor between erudite observations. Dr. Michael Marino is the master of condiments. Dr. Scott Blumenthal is the esteemed burger historian. Reverend Donald Corey is the fiery orator and founder of spiritual burgiatry. Chad Ward is the former international outlaw burgiatrist who joined legitimate academia. They are gods in the burgiatric world. Bad burger joints worldwide speak of them in hushed tones as The Four Horsemen of the Burgocalypse. They are The Straight Beef. It was this reporter’s privilege to join them at one of their outings to observe their methods.

The laughter dies as their names are called and their hamburgers arrive. Good humor shifts to steely-eyed analysis. As though an unseen conductor has tapped his baton on the podium, the four bow over their burgers and begin prodding, sniffing, deconstructing, and, finally, tasting.

Mr. Ward and Dr. Marino lock eyes in a moment of surprise, chewing slowly. Dr. Blumenthal, enjoying his crinkle-cut fries with sea salt and rosemary before committing to his main course, notes his colleagues’ reaction and makes a more careful observation of his patty. Reverend Corey’s eyes are hooded, giving nothing away. One senses that he is skeptical, cynical, not ready to bestow honor before giving it deep thought.

“This is a perfectly cooked hamburger,” says Mr. Ward. Dr. Marino nods. “The first bite is exceptional,” he says.

The burgiatrists examine the interior of the patty. “Textbook,” says Dr. Marino. “I would use this to show my students what a flawless medium to medium rare burger looked like.”

Dr. Blumenthal takes his first bite and sits bolt upright, all outward movement stilled, his exterior awareness shutting down so that he can properly focus on his burger. “Wow,” he whispers. “Just wow.” He takes another bite, and then another. “This is a very good hamburger. An excellent hamburger.”

Reverend Corey does not bend. “It’s good. It’s very good. It may even be great. But there are…flaws.”

This is where the years of experience, the hours of trial and error, the thousands of experiments come into play as the members of The Straight Beef note their initial impressions and consult their internal grading scale. A good hamburger is easy to score. A great hamburger is trickier, but nothing to world-class burgiatrists such as these. Only when one encounters a truly exceptional hamburger do the fine gradations—and their associated agonies—come into play.

At the outer edges of the bell curve the atmosphere becomes rarified, the data points farther apart. It is but a modest jump from a 3.0 on their five-point scale to a 3.5. The leap to a 4.0 is longer but manageable. The distance between a 4.0 and a 4.5 is longer still, and the quarter point between 4.5 and 4.75 is as vast as a burgiatric Sahara. The gulf between a 4.75 to a 5.0 is nearly incalculable.

It is there that the minutiae reign.

Is the bun properly toasted? Is the patty cooked evenly from edge to edge, or is there a grey ring surrounding a pink center? Are the condiments properly applied, or are they too sloppy, perhaps contributing to a ramshackle architecture that causes the bun to slide? Is the bacon crisp? Was it cooked to order? Does the cheese contribute to the flavor, blending harmoniously as it should, or does it stand uncomfortably apart, undermined by its separateness?

“The shredded lettuce is a nice touch,” Dr. Blumenthal says. “You see that far too little. It makes a difference. I’m impressed.”

“The bacon is crisp and flavorful,” Reverend Corey adds, “but I’m not sure I taste ‘grass-fed’ beef. This is an excellent hamburger, but it isn’t significantly different from corn-fed beef in my mind.”

A discussion ensues. It is a fundamental question, and the discourse is heated. Does one judge a hamburger against a Platonic ideal, the perfect hamburger? Or does one judge the hamburger based on the restaurant’s intent? Does “grass fed” play into the equation, or should the hamburger be judged as a hamburger, regardless of modifiers?

“It’s also a little heavy,” Reverend Corey continues, inviting a chorus of disagreement, most notably from Dr. Marino, whose indignation outshines the others’.

“You ordered the 9-ounce burger. You had the option of the 6-ounce burger. You can’t blame that on the hamburger. If you feel that the burger is heavy, you have only yourself to blame. You cannot fault the burger for that.”

The burger experts continue to eat, evaluating every nuance, until Dr. Marino calls for consensus. “Gentlemen, it is time. Your verdict?”

“Five,” says Dr. Blumenthal. “Yes, the bun got a little squishy at the end. I don’t care. This was an amazing hamburger.”

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“Four point seven five,” says Ward. “The beef was rich and perfectly cooked, the accoutrements were exceptional. Even the ‘Al’s Sauce’ was head and shoulders above any house specialty sauce we’ve tried.”

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“Four point five,” says Reverend Corey. “It was an excellent hamburger, one of the best around, and the bacon was excellent, but I had those minor issues, which I voiced.”

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“Four point seven five,” says Dr. Marino. “The level of care, the attention to detail, the quality of ingredients—nearly perfect.”

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The Straight Beef discussed and bickered a bit longer, but the outcome was clear from the first or second bite. Al’s Burger Shack, a restaurant only open for a short period of time, had vaulted into the group’s top five hamburgers of all time.

TSB average score is 4.75, which is good for #4 out of 49.

Al's Burger Shack on Urbanspoon

Review #48 – Village Draft House (Raleigh): The Straight Beef and NC Beer Guys Join Forces

Podcast Super Combo

Man, podcast #9—featuring our buds Glenn and Dave, the NC Beer Guys—is a good one, frothing with craft beer wisdom aplenty. Download it from iTunes or directly from our Libsyn feed.

As a special holiday bonus, here’s some stuff that doesn’t appear the podcast (including our verdict on the Village Draft House). It’s just like the podcast, except the content is completely different, and it’s less about the listening and more about the…you know…looking.

The Beers

Glenn and Dave introduced us to Deep River Brewing’s 40-42 Stout, a rich, creamy stout with hints of chocolate and a bit of residual sweetness. A huge hit with everyone at the table.

For Chad’s Maxmillian burger (with bleu cheese and bacon), Glenn and Dave recommended an IPA to cut the richness. The Maxmillian also paired very nicely with Highland Gaelic Ale.

Devil’s Tramping Ground Tripel from Aviator Brewing in Fuquay-Varina drew mixed reviews. Glenn gave it high marks, while Chad—not a fan of the bubblegum and clove flavors found in some Belgian beers—was less enthusiastic.

The Burgers

Feeling nostalgic for 80s techno-rap, Michael, Scott, and Dave opted for the Der Kommissar Burger, which featured dark ale mustard and sauerkraut on grilled rye. Scott reported that his was well balanced, while the other two felt overwhelmed by sauerkraut. All three agreed that the massive rye slices made the burgers too bready. All in all, a good burger that would be better with more consistent construction and a better burger-to-bread ratio. Scott gave his a 4.0 on the five-point scale, while Michael and Dave both ended up in 3.5-town.

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Glenn opted for the Chicago Burger, a classic pub-style cheeseburger with bourbon-cured bacon. He gave it 3.75.

Chad’s Maxmillian burger delivered salty hot goodness in the form of bleu cheese, Frank’s Red Hot sauce, and bourbon-cured bacon. Glenn was skeptical of the burger’s pretzel roll, but Chad appreciated the flavor and structure it brought to the burger. Chad scored the Maxmillian at 3.75.

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We were very pleasantly surprised when the manager of Village Draft House, upon learning of the presence of the state-renowned NC Beer Guys, comped our meals. Good beer and no bill? Now that’s a pairing.*

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Chicago Burger — photo courtesy of Village Draft House

 

The Verdict

On the beers: An excellent array of craft beers, with NC breweries making up a good portion of the tap list.

On the burgers: Solid renditions of pub-style burgers, both classic and inventive. With a TSB score of 3.75, the Village Draft House ranks 23 out of our 48 official reviews.

And by the way…

Podcast listeners know that Hot Pistol—the NC Beer Guys’ brew that won Best in Show at the Top of the Hops pro-am competition—was headed to Denver for an exclusive debut at the Denver Rare Beer Tasting. So how’d it go? Sounds like the chocolate raspberry habanero stout was extremely well received. And while there is nothing definite yet, the brewers at NoDa have hinted that it may return to the lineup as a seasonal offering next year.

 

*Faithful readers know that we have never asked for — nor will we ever ask for — anything for free. It was a very kind gesture on the part of the manager. We will always be absolutely transparent when something like this occurs.
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