Review #41 – Geer Street Garden (Durham, NC)

Geer Street Garden (Durham)

Durham’s popular Geer Street Garden—spitting distance from Duke Tower—offers one burger, infinite ways. The third of its three listed toppings—bacon, cheese, and “What-Have-You”—summoned the inner Seuss in each of us…


The What-Have-You
©Paul Friedrich

Chad’s Review

The What-Have-You

Is a mystery ingredient

Any topping from the menu

Exotic or expedient


To keep my burger

From going commando

I asked the server

For bacon and pimento


Good bun, excellent patty

Pimento cheese a little bland

But the bacon made me happy

Truly, it was grand



I give it a four

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Don’s Review

We had a quest,

A burger to find,

To fill our stomachs

And make happy our minds


Geer Street Garden our target,

And studying the menu

Found a short burger listing,

Could this be a snafu?


There in the print options

To top off the ground moo

Were listed not many

One option: “What-Have-You”


Oh! The confusion it caused

To be given such choices

As many as you could think

As many as there are voices


The What-Have-You I imaged

Was simple to please

Bacon, fried egg,

Grilled onions, and cheese


I took the first bite

And was greeted by pleasure

The egg yolk had broken

With simple biting pressure


The burger was good,

With a slight over-cook

But that did not keep it

From 4.25 in my book

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Michael’s Review

With the What-Have-You in plain view

And so much to choose from

My mind was racing

With quite a conundrum


Do I go classic

Or try something daring?

I had to choose soon

The server was staring


I scanned the menu,

And something caught my eye

I thought, “Do I dare

Or will they think me high?”


With conviction in my mind

And resolve in my voice,

“Mashed potatoes and bacon

That will be my choice”


Tempted by the What-Have-You

I didn’t know what was in store

It turned out quite tasty

I give it a four

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Scott’s Review

Time for a burger!

Today is your day

You’re off to Geer Street Garden

You’re off and away!

Your stomach is growlin’

You’re ready to feed

One burg on the menu?

Just follow its lead!


And now to choose condiments

There sure are a lot

Gruyere, “srirachanaise,”

And peppers so hot


But what’s this you see?

A topping that’s new?

It could be just anything!

Its name? The “What-Have-You”


You say you’ll go simple

Garlic aioli and bleu

The combo so right

It makes you say “ooh”


“The score will be high!”

Says this burger reporter

For Geer Street’s What-Have-You

It’s a four and a quarter!

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Geer Street Garden on Urbanspoon

Review #39 – Bad Daddy Burger Bar (Raleigh, NC)

Review compiled from email exchange following burgers at BDBB’s:

Scott: What did you guys think of Bad Daddy’s last night? The beef-based Cantina Burger was decent. I’ll go as far as “acceptable.”


The pinnacle of average.

Michael: I think if they were striving for mediocrity with the Frenchie Burger, they nailed it.

Chad: The Classic Southern burger was…okay. Too much Classic Southern and not enough burger. But not offensive.


Scott: My score is somewhere in Three-town. Maybe a 3.25. The tater tots were good. What’s up with Don?

Michael: I’m with you, Scott. I think a perfectly average burger deserves a 3.25. Not sure about Don. Too much Bad Daddy’s Sauce?

Chad: It’s always a tough call whether to go with the mathematically correct 2.5 as the midpoint between 1 and 5 or the bell curve 3 for a burger that is average. I’m hovering on 3. The tots were pretty darn good.

This picture is not out of focus. The burger was so bad it was blurry.

This picture is not out of focus. The burger was so bad it was blurry.


Scott: Did I mention that the tots were good?

Michael: The pickle chips were tasty.

Chad: What was that thing on Don’s plate, by the way? I’m not sure if he was supposed to eat it or perform an exorcism.


Scott’s rating: 3.25/5

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Michael’s rating: 3.25/5

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Chad’s rating: 3/5

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Don’s rating: 1/5

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Bad Daddy's Burger Bar on Urbanspoon

Notes from the Burger Underground

 I want fries with that!


There are two key tomes in the canon of hamburger lore, both published in 2005. It was a banner year for hamburger research. George Motz produced his highly regarded documentary and accompanying book, Hamburger America, and John T. Edge published Hamburgers & Fries: an American story.

Edge is the director of the Southern Foodways Alliance and a regular contributor to several food magazines. Hamburgers & Fries is a journey across America to discover the hamburger in all its glorious manifestations. It is also a response to the times. While part of the nation was damning fast food and its effect on society, haute restaurants were in an ever escalating war to create the most outrageous and expensive hamburgers imaginable.

But hamburgers are neither industrial death machine nor conspicuous extravagance. They are a uniquely American creation, inexpensive and egalitarian, and, for the last 100 years, a reflection of the times and places that shape them. As the Charles Kuralt quote that opens the book says, “You can find your way across this country using burger joints the way a navigator uses stars.”

Edge is ecumenical, with a broad definition that takes in nearly every regional expression of a hamburger. Along with the usual White Castles and pimento burgers, we discover the onion burgers of Oklahoma and the slug burgers (soy) and dough burgers (flour) of Mississippi, Depression-era efforts to extend expensive beef with cheaper ingredients. Edge delves the mysteries of the “loose meat” sandwiches in Iowa and Kansas and the steamed burgers of Connecticut. I will admit that “loose meat” is disturbing to contemplate, much less type. He explores the bean burgers of San Antonio, replete with Fritos and Cheez Whiz; Minnesota’s Jucy Lucy, two patties with molten cheese sealed in the middle; and Miami’s Cuban frita, a spiced patty topped with crispy shoestring fries. It is a voyage reminiscent of Calvin Trillan’s Tummy Trilogy or Anthony Bourdain’s A Cook’s Tour, less a travelogue than a reflection on food and place.

There are two areas where the book falls down. While Edge explores some of the standard origin stories of Hamburg steak and trots out a solid half-dozen claimants to first placing it on a bun, he doesn’t come to any conclusions. He just says, “Screw it, let’s go have a burger,” and leaves it at that. It’s unsatisfying.

His greater sin is the short shrift he gives to French fries. Despite the title, Hamburgers & Fries, fries barely make an appearance. Again, this is a controversial topic in burgiatry. How much weight should be given to the fries when assessing the quality of a hamburger joint? But if you are going to call your book Hamburgers & Fries, you’d better damn well write about fries.

Hamburgers & Fries is a fun ride, and John T. Edge is a strong writer, though a little florid now and again. With the book on the bargain tables for $4 or $5, Hamburgers & Fries should be on the shelves of every burger enthusiast, even if it doesn’t properly acknowledge the importance of the fry.

Review #35 – Cameron Bar and Grill (Raleigh, NC)

(This review was originally posted at WRAL Out and About.)

For this review, The Straight Beef was joined by the legendary Paul Friedrich, artist and author of the Eisner Award-nominated graphic novel “Onion Head Monster.” Paul is also the creator of the award-winning “Cup of Awesome” comic strip and animation for the Carolina Hurricanes. Visit Paul at,, and

Paul’s Review

I’m a believer in Applebee’s. I like how they’ve spent NASA amounts of money to develop the perfectly average burger. A touch more flavor would make it above average, a pinch less salt would take it below. But when you order it, you know you’re going to get a hamburger. The Memphis burger at Cameron Bar and Grill (“bbq sauce, cheddar, bacon”) aims to be an Applebee’s burger.

The Memphis, hearty in size, looks good when served. Had I been a fireman that was suddenly called away for an emergency before eating it, my memories would have been good ones. Two strips of bacon criss-crossed the patty like an X marking the spot of a treasure. But there was no treasure tonight. The barbeque sauce, which could have been any of at least 9,000 barbeque sauces known to man, chose to be that of Burger King’s Western Burger. A sauce for people who think ketchup is too spicy.

The bun held the burger in place and allowed proper plate-to-mouth movement, but was too stiff to absorb the burger’s juices. The patty itself was gritty in texture, with little flavor. It wasn’t until halfway through the meal that I recalled the “cheddar” part of the burger’s description. Placed on the hamburger too early during grilling, the cheese had all but disappeared. Oh Cheddar cheese, I barely got to know you!

By the end, I knew that if someone asked me the next day what I had for dinner the night before, I would have to pause before remembering that I had eaten a hamburger.

Paul’s rating: 2.5 out of 5.


Michael’s Review

This is what I imagine our waiter was saying to himself before he brought my burger out:

You have your work cut out for you, Kevin.

C’mon, Kevin. Get ready. That world-renowned burgiatrist out there is waiting for his Baltimore burger. It’s time to be the best waiter you can.

I can’t procrastinate any longer—he polished off those wings. Too bad he didn’t get the hot wings to dull his taste buds. Our burgers’ patties are bland and dry, and the crumbly kaiser roll will fall apart before he is halfway done. The Baltimore’s crab dip and goat cheese will hide that, though, right? Sure it will. Good thing the volume of the toppings is greater than that of the patty itself. You know—just to be sure.

Be the best waiter you can, Kevin. The best waiter you can.

Michael’s rating: 2.5 out of 5.


Scott’s review

The following lines are excerpted from Thomas Jefferson’s letter to John Harvie Shadwell, Jan. 14, 1760.

I mean, c’mon people.

I have been to dine at Cameron Pub in the Colonie of North Carolina about a Fortnight ago, and was desirous I should try the Sandwich “Baltimore meat patty betwixt two breads.” For common right dictates that all comestibles with “creamy crab & goat cheese dip” are by their nature pleasing and instructive. Alas, in the case of the Baltimore Sandwich, common right was taking a Snooze. The dip was fair, but the patty had the disposition of George III after a few too many whistle bellies—and not in a good way. I mean, c’mon people.


Scott’s rating: 2.25 out of 5.


Cameron Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

A Quick Tour Of The Straight Beef’s 20 Reviews

A Quick Tour Of The Straight Beef’s 20—Count ‘Em, 20—Reviews

We’ve recently posted our 20th official Straight Beef review. In honor of this round but otherwise arbitrary number, we present collection of excerpts from all of them, in ascending order of our patented 1-5 ratings, from most the most meh burger to the most transcendent. It’s kind of like one of those sitcom episodes from the 70s, when they’d just piece together bits of past shows and try to pawn it off as something new—except with far less Squiggy.

Asterisk denotes a tie.

20. RALEIGH TIMES (Raleigh) Score: 2.58

“The bun looked good, but was utterly dry and flavorless. The tomato was red but mushy, and also flavorless. The patty was cooked through and the char on the outside had the caustic flavor of burnt gristle, rather than the pleasant undertone of salty sizzled beef fat. For what little it’s worth, the lettuce was okay…There was absolutely no magic, no harmony, no burger bliss.” (John)

18*. TYLER’S TAPROOM (Apex) Score: 2.67

“Dear Tyler’s Taproom: This is hard to write. I like you a lot, and I don’t want to hurt you. It’s just that at this point in our relationship I think we should break it off be completely honest with each other…Tyler’s, I think you’re super. You have a great personality, and I really enjoy spending time with you…Right now in my life, though, Tyler’s, what I really need is a good burger, and I just don’t think you can give that to me.” (Scott)

18*. SPIRITS PUB AND GRUB (Cary) Score: 2.67

“While in the moment, sharing a meal with my Straight Beef brethren, I thought the burger a three out of five. After serious meditation, however, I imagined myself trekking to a monastery in the Himalayas for quiet reflection, in an effort to erase the Surfer Burger experience from my memory.” (Michael)

17. ABBEY ROAD (Cary) Score: 2.83

“With a Little Help from My Friends, I was encouraged to give Abbey Road another try. I’d been there before, but had no plans to ever Get Back. The burger had not lived up to the hype, and I was content to just Let It Be. Nevertheless, I walked into Abbey Road recently for the second time, filled with hope and repeatedly sending out a telepathic message: Please Please Me.” [Later, after the burger:] “Not a Second Time! I Should Have Known Better.” (John)

16. TRIBECA TAVERN (Cary) Score: 3.00

“The [ingredients of] the Land and Sea burger, with Angus beef, lump crab, fried mashed potatoes, roasted garlic, and rosemary hollandaise…combined to create and thrillingly different burger that was, in a word, bland. The thrill was gone, baby. What remained was to finish this thing in a state of mild disappointment.” (John)

15. MACGREGOR DRAFT HOUSE (Cary) Score: 3.08

“Imagine Ferris Bueller’s economics teacher. Go ahead. That’s it. The dullness, the drabness, the lethargy. That’s the California burger at MacGregor Draft House…If you want a place to watch the game while you are eating, I’ll recommend the MacGregor Draft House. As for the burger, well…Bueller? Bueller?” (Michael)

14. MY WAY (Holly Springs) Score: 3.33

“Honestly, I’m finding it hard these days wax poetic about the latest slightly-better-than-average burger. There are so damn many of them!” (John)


13. CAROLINA BREWERY (Chapel Hill) Score: 3.42

“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.” (Scott)

11*. CITY BEVERAGE (Durham) Score: 3.50

“I’ve have had my share of burgers that have had odd toppings, but those ingredients had purpose. The City Beverage Fuego Diablo burger, on the other hand, seemed like they took a standard burger and threw ingredients onto it until it sounded Mexican enough.” (Michael)

11*. THE CHEESECAKE FACTORY (Raleigh, elsewhere) Score: 3.50

“A decent burger. A respectable burger. I liked it. Phenomenal cheesecake, though.” (Scott)

10. CRABTREE TAVERN (Raleigh) Score: 3.92

“Imagine coming home from work. The house is relatively quiet, dinner is on the stove, and nothing to attend to but a spot in a comfy recliner. That’s what the Classic Tavern burger is. Nice build, crisp lettuce, juicy tomato, flavorful patty, perfectly melted cheese. It is simply an easy burger to enjoy.” (Michael)

9. PLAYERS RETREAT (Raleigh) Score: 4.08

“Remember your first kiss? How your body flushed, your eyelids fluttered, and your knees wobbled? The PR’s Bernie Burger wasn’t quite that, but there was a definite weakness in my right knee.” (John)


“The pretzel roll was soft and steamy and made a uniquely delicious and functional vehicle for everything in between. And in between was pretty special as well: fresh Angus beef, as promised, cooked to temperature and blessed with melted cheese and fresh vegetables so happily in the proper build order…There was surprisingly significant burger pleasure here, bordering on bliss.” (John)

7. THE SALEM STREET PUB (Apex) Score: 4.33

“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.” (John)

6. BONEFISH (Cary, elsewhere) Score: 4.42

“Heed these words, children, and let them be for you a seal upon your heart: From the moment I bit into the Bonefish burger, with its soft brioche bun, Thousand Island-esque house sauce, crisp lettuce, juicy tomato, and succulent, quality cheddar cheese, I knew that I had bitten upon something special.” (Scott)

5. JOHNSON’S (Siler City) Score: 4.50

“Do yourself a favor, my friends. Go to Johnson’s soon. Get there early. Get that classic, humble, beautiful, delicious, American, quintessential cheeseburger and wash it down with a Pepsi. Savor the melted Velveeta. Then drive back to the Triangle among the pastures and fields along Highway 64. Get yourself one of these 4.5s and live the American dream. I implore you.” (John)

4. DRAFT (Raleigh) Score: 4.58

A haiku: The Blazin’ Asian / Draft approaches perfection / Rating four point five (Michael)

2*. BUNS (Chapel Hill) Score: 4.67

“I suspected that the burger would be good, just not this good. Every bite of the exquisite Buns burger was a Dionysian commingling of flavors and juices that rang bells of delight through the hallowed annals of burgiatry, elevating me to a level of burgiatric pleasure seldom imagined. It was, simply, a celebration of life.” (Scott)


2*. BREWMASTERS BAR AND GRILL (Raleigh) Score: 4.67

“This burger—a shockingly delicious ménage of bleu cheese crumbles and cherry ‘beermalade’ on a truly fine patty (ringing with notes of rosemary and Worchester)—[drew me] to the corner of Martin and Dawson Streets yet again, mouth open, like a baby chick squeaking for more.” (Scott)

1. MOJOE’S (Raleigh) Score: 4.83

“Wow. Yum. Man, that’s a good burger. Wow. Is this burger amazing, or is it just me? Yum num num. [Sigh.] Whew. Man, there’s just not a lot wrong with this burger. Yum num num. Yum num num num num. This has got to be a five. I mean, if this isn’t a five, what is? Yum.” (Scott)


Review #19: My Way Tavern (Holly Springs, NC)

Michael’s Review

Made “My Way,” with provolone, grilled onions, banana peppers, pepperoni (Look At Me!)

As I was trying to write my review, my mind kept going back to My Way as sung by Frank Sinatra. So, I went with it.

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"We might have been meant for each other. To be or not to be. Let our hearts discover." Alas, it was not to be.

Michael’s Rating: 3.5 out of 5

John’s Review

Red Wine sauce & sauteed portabella mushrooms (Snooty Beauty)

At My Way, I broke from a long stretch of Classic Rocks burgers to try a Snooty Beauty. What can I say? It was just okay. Honestly, I’m finding it hard these days wax poetic about the latest slightly-better-than-average burger. There are so damn many of them! Good enough, but nothing special.

What the hell is that on my screen? I’m always cleaning this thing and it’s never clean! Then you try to scrape off a little speck with a fingernail and you leave a big fingerprint on there. Geez! And my keyboard is a dust trap, look at that.

Oh, right. My Way. Sorry. Okay, so this thing had red wine sauce and portabella mushrooms. Came on another &#!@$%*@#&#& Kaiser roll, but as least it was on the more moist and less flaky end of the Kaiser spectrum. It tasted okay, but no burger magic. No endorphins. I just wish.

Sweet! Jaws is coming on! Welp, I know what I’ll be doing for the next couple of hours. What a flick! Just kind of takes you away, you know? Kids are napping, dear wife’s on the Triangle Mommies chattin’ away, and we’ve got beer and chili cheese Fritos! This is the first one, of course. All of the sequels should be burned, deleted, erased, eradicated. But the first one! Shhh. Sssshhhhh. SHARK! Can’t beat the characters, the dialogue, the menacing and surprising plot iterations of calm, chaos, consternation, camaraderie. The wonderful crescendo to calamity! Then, of course, ultimate victory, if at a price, and the denouement to our two heroes kicking ashore in the distance on a couple of yellow buoys tied to a deck board. So cool how they step ashore as the very last credit rolls. Quint! “Farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish ladies…” “Here’s to swimmin’ with bow-legged women!” “Not a bad record for this here vicinity!” The inimitable Robert Shaw, and the ONLY man who could’ve played that part. Jaws is high art, and that’s final.

That's no candy-gram. You're that land shark, aren't you?

Huh? Burger? Sorry. Another 3.25

Scott’s Review

Made “My Way,” with cheddar, lettuce, tomato, bacon (Classic Rocks)


Scott’s Rating: 3.25/5

My Way Tavern on Urbanspoon

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