Review #32: BurgerFi (Cary, NC)

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

This month, we were joined by guest reviewer and blogger-in-arms Becca Gomez Farrell. That’s right—“The Gourmez” herself. Once we accepted that there was a girl at the table (a first for us), a fine time was had by all.

Becca’s Review

I must declare that I’m typically more about the toppings than the patty. I often opt for a single or smaller-sized one when available. For me, it’s but one aspect of the burger build. In this case, however, a single is simply not enough for appreciating the glory that is the Burgerfi cheeseburger. Do yourself a favor and order a double instead. It’s a hand-shaped patty with the irregular edges to prove it, and you need two for that perfect meat-to-topping blend. Sticking with the free topping options, I ordered mayo, lettuce, tomato, grilled onions, and jalapenos. The bun was squishy in all the right ways yet avoided becoming a casualty of meat or tomato juices.

The American cheese melted into and over the patty’s crevices—perfection.

If forced to find faults, I would focus on the fiery bite of jalapeno—roasted would be a better option—and the fairly large proportion of white iceberg to green. Other than a need for more crunch to balance the textures, this was a fabulous burger. Additionally, the parmesan herb fries were fully coated and far exceeded my tater expectations.

Becca’s review: 4.25 out of 5.

    

Michael’s Review

Is it possible for a restaurant to recreate the backyard burger experience? After eating at BurgerFi, I say absolutely.

I ordered the Ultimate Cheeseburger, which features brisket instead of chuck. (Chuck, more common in burgers because it’s a fattier cut, comes from the chest of the steer; brisket comes from the shoulder.) Swiss and blue cheeses nicely complemented the flavorful cut. The order of the build was clever, with the pickles sealed to the underside of the top bun with Burgerfi’s special sauce. No toppings toppled off as I ate—big points right there. The downside of brisket is its tendency to be a little dry, which this burger seemed around the last bite or two. A minor quibble about an overall fine burger.

With thin, hand-made patties like BurgerFi’s, it’s easy to go from the realm of medium well into the realm of shoe leather. BurgerFi, however, did it right. With the quality soft bun, it achieved the classic backyard grill flavor that many burgiatrists consider the Holy Grail of burger joints.

Michael’s review: 4.0

    

Scott’s Review

I searched Merriam-Webster, but apparently there’s no word that means “the breathless anticipation one experiences prior to tasting a highly touted burger.” A few minutes with a Latin-to-English translator yielded spectocaro, loosely translated as “expectancy for a beef sandwich.” Sure—let’s go with it: spectocaro it is.

The spectocaro for BurgerFi was high. The buzz in burgiatry circles is that the Florida-native chain is something special, that there’s substance behind its all-natural, grass-fed, no-additives credo—that it also slings a tasty burger. The buzz was right. With that rare and esteemed combination of fresh, hand-made, and delicious—crafted, clearly, by lovers of all things burger—BurgerFi burgers enter the canon of quality Triangle burgiatric options.

Spectocaro high, rating high.

Scott’s review: 4.25

    

BurgerFi on Urbanspoon

Review #29: Hurricane Grill and Wings (Cary, NC) – CLOSED

This review was originally published on WRAL Out and About.

The Straight Beef: Hurricane Wings and Grill, Cary

Does Raleigh’s Biggest ‘Burb Have a New Best Burger?

Scott’s Review

In burgiatry school, we’re trained to be wary of burgers purveyed at joints specializing in something else (e.g., avoid the patty melt at Sushi Thai). Sure, you’ll occasionally stumble upon a great non-burger-joint burger like the one at Bonefish Grill (TSB rating = 4.42), which would move even the stodgiest classical burgiatrist to stand up and say “yum.” But that’s rare.

Well, it happened again—this time in grand fashion.

Hurricane Grill and Wings, a chain restaurant out of Florida that specializes in wings out the wazoo, has opened one other location in the Southeastern United States—and our fair Cary, North Carolina, wins big.

I’ll mention but not dwell on how good the wings were. My goodness they were good. My goodness.

For it was the Hurricane’s burger—a humble, traditional, flat-grill beauty with a quality, flavorful patty and a bun that knows when to stay out of the way—that’s the cause for a strong southeasterly gale around TSB headquarters. Hearkening us back to the pure, undiluted burger power of Mojoe’s and Johnson’s, two TSB favorites, Hurricane Wings and Grill offers one non-burger-joint burger that made these burgiatrists stand up and say, with no hint of shame, “yum.”

Scott’s Review: 4.5 out of 5.0

    

John’s Review

I seeeeee yooooou.

Though I could have guessed it by the formulaic beach-life tchotchke décor (which actually suits this surf bum quite well), the fact that Hurricane Wings and Grill was a chain was revealed to me only after the burger was consumed. The knowledge that it was a chain would not have dimmed my expectations (my maxim has always been “burger bliss is where you find it”); the fact that it was a non-burger-centric chain might have.

But that would have been unfair. Burgers are not the marquee item on Hurricane’s menu, but they should be—or perhaps at least share twin billing with the blockbuster wings.

Hurricane offers a very flavorful chuck patty cooked (in my case) a light medium, on a soft bun, with gooey melted American cheese. While my tomato was a little thin and crystalline, Hurricane got one major thing right with the veggies…drum roll, please…shredded iceberg lettuce! The only area where Hurricane went awry here was the order of the build, with the veggies on the bottom, the tomato longing to be in its rightful place next to the mayo. I pushed that frustration aside and opened my heart to this burger, and it filled me with warm, burger bliss.

John’s review: It’s a solid 4.5, folks.

    

Michael’s Review

Thirty. Two. Wing. Sauces. Thirty-two. Any of them can be added to a burger—or anything else between bread. If our oft-imagined fictional sister site thestraightwing.com actually existed, we’d discuss it there. Until then, you’ll just have to try them yourself. On to the burger. I ordered the bacon cheeseburger with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles—and the Thai ginger and garlic sauce.

The juicy patty was mildly seasoned and fully covered with cheese. The order of the build, however, was perplexing. The shredded lettuce, average tomato, and pickles were beneath the patty. Mind-boggling. Also, the bacon was tasteless and limp. It tasted like it was cooked in the microwave, or sitting in a warmer for awhile. The ginger glaze, though, elevated the overall burger experience. The soft, top-notch bun held everything together.

Overall, it was a great burger, but the unorthodox build and sub-par bacon keep me from rating it higher than a 4.

Michael’s review: 4.0 out of 5.0

    

Final note: Hurricane’s overall score (4.33) makes its burger a close second to our top-rated Cary burger, Barry’s Café (4.50)—but just barely.

Hurricane Grill & Wings on Urbanspoon

Review #28: Tobacco Road Sports Cafe (Raleigh, NC)

Ah, heck, we couldn’t help but defer to the classic method: three burgers, three voices. Here’s the latest one…

(This review was originally posted over on WRAL: Out and About.)

TOBACCO ROAD SPORTS CAFE IN RALEIGH:

TOO “ARROGANT”?

Scott’s Review

“Is everything going okay? I’m nervous.” Our server was clearly uneasy as she collected our plates; she knew that we were renowned burgiatrists.

“Did you cook the burgers?” Michael asked her.

“Me? No.”

“Then you’re fine.”

Truth be told, my less-than-effusive opinion of “The Arrogant” Burger at Tobacco Road Sports Cafe in Raleigh was partly a result of my own waywardness, as I broke a cardinal rule of burgiatry: “For each burger, a mind clear of expectations.” Though burger linguists have long debated the exact meaning of the original Latin (Te osculari volui, burger), the verse is generally taken to mean that we should ignore florid descriptions (“black pepper-crusted patty with Arrogant Bastard Ale mustard”), beguiling accoutrement (“your choice of side,” including “sweet potato mash”), and seductive come-hither website burger pics.

On the one hand, I stand guilty of the abovementioned trespass. On the other hand, the burger just wasn’t that good.

Scott’s review: 2.75 out of 5.

    

Michael’s Review

First, let me say that offering 3-ounce servings of draught beers for $1 each —especially with a beer list as sizable as Tobacco Road’s—is brilliant. That said…

mmmmm...beer

Despite having been burned by cheese-filled burgers in the past, I went with the Stuffed Burger—a patty crammed with cheese and topped with bacon, more cheese, and caramelized shallots. It is difficult to cook cheese inside a burger. If it’s not cooked enough, the burger falls apart. Too much, the cheese is cooked to tastelessness. Tobacco Road got it right. It was gooey goodness. Plus, the bacon was crispy and the shallots retained very good flavor through the caramelization. Problem was, the patty was bland—and, though saved by the cheese—a little dry. For that reason, the Stuffed Burger doesn’t quite make a four-rating in my book.

Overall, though Tobacco Road Sports Cafe was a great place, the service was excellent, and I can’t wait to sample the rest of the menu. I’ll be back.

Michael’s rating: 3.75 out of 5.

    

John’s Review

Dressed to the nines. Everything precisely in its place. In outline, she was stirringly well-proportioned. In fashion she was adorned in luxuriant, complementary colors and textures. The vision of her set my rods and cones into an electric hum. As she accompanied the waitress to our table, it was urgent that she join me and we begin the passionate love affair I was certain would ensue.

Maybe next time, sweetheart.

Suddenly, she was before me. I breathed her warm and satisfying air. Then, with no need or time for pointless banter, I brought her to my lips and discovered…that the Tobacco Road burger—just the basic this time—looks much better than it is. The bun (not a kaiser!—can I get an amen?) appeared house-baked and was good, but a little dry. The patty was overcooked and a bit bland. Leaf lettuce was a little soggy and had me pining for shredded iceberg. There was the promise of love and yet, though she was lovely, she lacked personality and depth. After a few dates, I will likely move on.

John’s review: 3.5 out of 5

    

 

Tobacco Road Sports Cafe on Urbanspoon

Review #27: Hayes Barton Café and Dessertery (Raleigh, NC)

(HBCD has one style of burger: “The Bogey Burger,” a cooked-to-order, name-your-toppings offering in the Classic Rocks category.)

A rare moment devoid of burgiatric gravitas.

Michael’s Review

I am not much of a cheesecake guy, but Hayes Barton is making me rethink that. Great pumpkin cheesecake pie. This is good. Pumpkin pie taste combined with that smooth, rich cheesecake consistency. Wow.

Oh yes—the burger? Right. Okay. I’ll get to that.

Mmm…lemon cake. Are you kidding me? This cake is bigger than my head. Light cake with lemon filling and fresh blueberries. An amazing mélange of textures and flavors.

Yes, yes—the burger. Almost forgot. Decent flavor, nothing outstanding. I got the feeling they threw it on the menu just to round it out.

This peanut butter mousse pie is amazing. Easily a hand tall and fluffy as a cloud. I can confidently say that this is one of the best desserts I have ever eaten.

Right—the burger review. Well, there are plenty of good reasons to go to Hayes Barton. Most of them are in the dessert case. I give the desserts a 5 out of 5. The burger gets a 3.25.

    

If that burger leaves the kitchen and you don't eat it, you'll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.

Scott’s Review

A disclaimer: Of the 2,900+ burger reviews I’ve written throughout my career, this is the first time I’m starting with a clear bias. The Hayes Barton Café & Dessertery is one of my favorite restaurants in the Triangle—maybe #1—and it’s just about impossible for me to judge a meal there without the myriad positive associations that preceded it: the succulent, homemade, best-meal-I’ve-had-in-months dishes; the 1940s nightclub-esque elegance, music, and décor; and, of course, the outstanding (and gargantuan) cakes and pies that—even without the exceptional entrées and setting—elevate HBCD to a level somewhere around Neptune. So if you find yourself halfway through my review questioning my objectivity, you’re on a one-way steamer to Right Town. I’m Hayes-Barton all the way, baby.

My review: The burger was very good. 4 out of 5.

    

John’s Review

I urge you to go to Hayes Barton for the flavor.

The burger was a decent-quality cookie-cutter mass-produced patty on a nothing-special bun with okay cheese and veggies and disappointing mayo (switch to Hellman’s or Duke’s, guys!), cooked and assembled well enough to eke out a 3.5. So that’s the burger.

But the flavor—this place is loaded with flavor!

Cozy cozy cozy atmosphere, with a WWII/AMC theme (think P52 Mustangs, Bogie and Bacall, and a black-and-white classic flick playing quietly up in a corner of the dining room). Low, dark ceilings, soft lighting, walls covered in framed pictures and nostalgia, and the front glass windows and door affording a safe and satisfying view of the chilly city street. Friendly proprietors and staff, a nice back story, a surprisingly solid menu (despite my burger rating), nearly perfect crinkle fries, and DIVINE, ETHEREAL, SUBLIME HOUSE-MADE DESSERTS.

If you don’t go for the burger, go for all of the other “flavors” I mentioned. If you go for only one reason (and you should), go for the desserts. I want to cry as I think of them now, they are so sweet and savory.

    

Hayes Barton Cafe & Dessertery on Urbanspoon

Review #26: Backyard Bistro (Raleigh, NC)

John’s Review

Build Your Own Burger (Classic Rocks)

I don’t know anyone with flat-screen TVs in all four corners of their backyard, much less the humendous (a word crafted by my three-year-old daughter; ginormous is so played) monster screens that you face while dining at Backyard Bistro, with football players looming and leaping literally larger than life. However, the name of this establishment certainly fits when you bite into its juicy grilled burger. It has a thick, high-quality patty that—when you sample a pure bite—is full of charred backyard flavor.

A little too full, if you ask me (and of course you do, by reading these lines).

When it comes to Classic Rocks burgers, I’m on the record as favoring the flat-grill over the open-flame grill. A flat grill imparts a pure charred flavor without the smokiness of an open flame. I could consume a good flat-grill Classic Rocks burger of at least a 4.0 rating every day of my life without tiring of it. I am occasionally in the mood for a good, smoky open-grill burger once in a while, but wouldn’t choose to partake more than once a week. Backyard Bistro’s patty is particularly strong on the open-grill smoky char, so perhaps no more than every two weeks on that one. Add to it the fact that it comes on another God-forsaken Kaiser roll and it’s perhaps every two and a half weeks. That said, when I am due for one, I will enjoy it, thanks to that quality patty, fresh vegetables, and a good job by the Grill Master in the back.

For my refined burgiatric sensibilities, it is a solid 3.5. For those of you with more of a palate for the open-flame smoky char when it comes to Classic Rocks, you’re likely in the realm of a 4.0 and will be quite pleased (though certainly a bit less refined).

    

Michael’s Review

Backyard Burger (Look at Me!)

Recently, I’ve begun to wonder why I am drawn to burgers in the “Look At Me!” category. Throughout my career, I’ve been a bacon cheeseburger burgiatrist, content in the basic goodness of a quality burger. Over the past two years, however, I’ve longed for more. Here’s a short list of burger toppings I’ve had in that time: sweet garlic mayo, bloody mary mayo, kimchee relish, bacon-onion jam, peanut butter, honey, lime-cured cabbage, port wine gravy, smoking hot chili relish, “queso fundido,” fried egg, sautéed garlic spinach, dirty fries, lump crab meat, chili, pepperoni, salami, short ribs, and a hot dog.

Has there been a void in my life that a simple Classic Rocks burger can’t fill?

Hi, I'm Michael, and I like Look At Me burgers.

At Backyard Bistro in Raleigh, I continued my journey down the rabbit hole. I ordered the Backyard Burger—an 8-ounce patty topped with pulled pork, slaw, and “western-style Q sauce.” (It was essentially the Carolina Burger from Tyler’s, with better execution.) The patty was well-contained in the bun, the pork was smoky and tender, and the patty was juicy, with decent flavor. Overall, the Backyard Burger was tasty, but not outstanding.

Did it fill a hole in my heart? No. But it did fill a hole in my belly.

Michael’s review: 3.75 out of 5.

    

Scott’s Review

Build Your Own Burger (Classic Rocks)

Words to describe the five hi-def TVs at Backyard Bistro in Raleigh:

Word to describe the burger at Backyard Bistro:

Designs created at wordle.net

Scott’s Review: 3.25 out of 5

    

Backyard Bistro on Urbanspoon

Review #25: Dain’s Place (Durham, NC)

Scott’s Review

8 oz. Angus Burger (Classic Rocks)

At the time of this writing, the U.S. Congress has yet to approve a Constitutional amendment requiring that burgers be rated by certified professionals. In fact, I know of no bill to this effect before any congress in any state.

This is a crime.

Warning: These statistics will shock you.

The absence of such legislation leaves us subject to everyone with a spatula claiming to have “the best burger in North Carolina.” Or “the best burger in the country.” Or, as at least one purveyor claims, “the best burger anywhere.” Sure—I get it. It sounds better than “arguably one of the better burgers in the vicinity” or “among the top 15 burgers in Pittsfield.” But c’mon, people, must we be so cavalier with our absolutes? Must we sling the word “best” like a drunken tailgater with a cornhole bag?

I say no.

Dain’s Place in Durham serves a fine burger. And yes, apparently it’s ranked #10 on the venerable list of “50 Best College Bars in America.” And yes, its 8-ounce Angus burger is respectable, even quite tasty. But does it really offer the “best burger in the Triangle,” as its website augurs? Until the fat cats in Washington get their priorities straight and illegalize such proclamations, we’ll never know.

Scott’s review: 3.25 out of 5.

    

Michael’s Review

The Defibrillator (Look at Me!)

“So, what are you guys in the mood for?” Scott asked.

“I’m going to go with something I love to do at home,” John said. “I’ll just cover it with ketchup and pepper. The essence of the patty will shine through.”

Scott turned from the temporarily insane John to me. “How about you?”

“I don’t know. Definitely not the Defibrillator.” It wasn’t going to get the restaurant’s signature burger, yet it called to me: An 8-ounce patty. With cole slaw. No, I can’t. And sweet chili. Sweet Jesus. And a hot dog. What?! I’ll just get a bacon cheeseburger. Definitely not the Defibrillator.

The waiter came to the table and sat next to Scott. “What can I get for you?”

While Scott ordered his standard and John ordered his ketchup concoction, I kept myself focused: Bacon cheeseburger, bacon cheeseburger, bacon cheeseburger. The waiter looked at me expectantly.

“The Defibrillator.”

What? I just ordered a burger with a chili dog and a side of slaw on it. What is wrong with me?

Hefty hefty hefty. Wimpy wimpy wimpy.

But once it arrived, all doubt was erased. The sweet chili, salty dog, and crispy slaw elevated the otherwise average patty to the centerpiece of an overall fine burger. If you don’t think you can stomach the full-on experience, split it with someone; Dain’s is really on to something with this burger. Make the trip to Durham and enjoy.

Michael’s review: 4 out of 5.

    

John’s Review

8 oz. Angus Burger (Classic Rocks; no cheese for a total focus on the patty I’d heard so much about)

This will be brief, as Dain’s warrants only a few words, despite what I had been led to believe about it. The patty was fresh but disappointingly bland (which would typically indicate low-grade ground chuck and an insufficiently seasoned flat grill). The bun was traditional and acceptable. I found the burger to be a 3.25 at best. I would be surprised if ever I Dain to eat another burger there again.

John’s Review: 3.25 out of 5

    

Dain's Place on Urbanspoon

Review #24: Chuck’s (Raleigh, NC)

Scott’s Review: The Spirit Animal (Snooty Beauty)

Chuck’s Cubed:

A Review of Chuck’s Burgers & Freits in Three Vignettes

I: Michael’s Reaction

My wife bounded into the room, telephone extended. “Scott, it’s Michael. He says it’s an emergency.”

“Michael, what’s the matter? Is everyone okay?”

“I just had a burger at Chuck’s—Ashley Christensen’s new place.” The solemnity in his voice moved me to sit down. My wife’s eyes widened as she mouthed oh my God.

“And?”

“We have to get there for an official review as soon as possible.” Michael is a man who knows his burgers, and he wouldn’t make a call like this unless it was vital. “It was a five.”

“You’re joking.”

“Oh my God,” my wife said aloud, now covering her mouth with her hands.

“I kid you not,” Michael continued. “We have to go as soon as possible. What are you doing tomorrow night?”

“What’s the matter?” my wife demanded, still covering her mouth. “Are the kids okay?”

“Michael’s calling for an emergency burger outing,” I said, trying with my eyes to convey the seriousness of it.

My wife dropped her hands, placed them on her hips, and glared at me.

“Yes—as soon as possible,” I said, looking down to avoid seeing how determinedly my wife was shaking her head. “I’ll just need to clear it with my wife first.”

II: John’s Reaction

Of the three of us, the toughest critic is John. Of our 23 previous official reviews, his average rating is 3.60 (Michael’s is 3.79, mine 3.74), with exactly zero 5s. He gave only one 4.75 (to Draft, in downtown Raleigh) and was so moved that he wrote a song, “Almost a Five,” in the burger’s honor. John’s generally the one who can identify a burger’s technical flaws, almost on a molecular level, and it’s usually those flaws we hear about during those initial bites, the poor burger’s rating dropping with every offense. Not that we ever know John’s rating right away; it’s usually when he pens his review that we hear his verdict.

So imagine John’s skepticism upon entering Chuck’s, knowing Michael’s prophecy—the first time that one of us made a ratings prediction—that he was on a one-way flight to Fivetown.

For the first time in TSB history, John was speechless (save for a few approving grunts). For the first time in TSB history, John announced his review right there at the table, during the meal. And for the first time in TSB history, John gave a 5.

III: My Reaction

I won’t spend time trying to explain why the burgers at Chuck’s Burgers & Freits are excellent (descriptions here). Perhaps a mention of the Holy Grail-like achievement of perfect external char and uniform internal pinkness. Perhaps a word about the masterful combination of ingredients that commingled in Beatle-esque harmony, casting interrogation lights on the efforts of impostors, known to pile edibles between buns, seemingly for its own sake.

Rather, I’ll say this:

Though not formally recognized in burgiatric circles as a legitimate determinant in burger criticism, we can often determine the quality of a burger by how much fun we have at the joint, the level of banter and revelry often a fair measure of how content we are in our persnickety choice of once-a-month outings. (In her feature on TSB, Andrea Weigl of The News & Observer called them man dates. Given our sacred obligation to disseminate burger wisdom, we respectfully prefer mandates.)

As it turned out, we so enjoyed our experience at Chuck’s that we weren’t quite willing for it to end. Plus, Ashley Christensen had also just opened another restaurant—Beasley’s Chicken + Honey—right next door (visit all of the renowned chef’s Raleigh digs here)—and, now having absolute faith in Ms. Christensen’s culinary expertise, we did what at least this burgiatrist has never done before in his life: finish dinner in one restaurant, leave said restaurant, relocate immediately to another restaurant, and eat another full dinner. Though I was too full to fully appreciate (or even taste, really) what I hear is Beasley’s delicious fried chicken, I will say that our presence there—the level of banter and revelry still high—spoke volumes for the burgers next door.

Scott’s review: 5 out of 5.

    

Michael’s Review: The Hill + The Valley (Snooty Beauty)

Buddhists on the path to enlightenment must pursue the Four Noble Truths. It can be very time-consuming. I suggest that those in search of enlightenment simply visit Chuck’s, where four other, easier noble truths are posted on the menu:

1.      Half pound 100% chuck

2.      House ground

3.      Flat top seared

4.      On a potato roll

Yea though I walk through the valley of death, as long as I have this burger, I'll be all right.

I have been burned by many a Snooty Beauty (the most rare of Straight Beef categories) in the past. However, The High + The Valley, with its crushed avocado, bacon-onion jam, and “blistered red peppers” was sublime. It was cooked to perfection, and each bite was consistent because of the precise build.

Three ingredients combined atop a burger led this burgiatrist to true enlightenment. I give it a 5 out of 5.

    

John’s Review: Bear in Heaven (Classic Rocks, with Snooty Beauty quality)

(To read with the one you love…)

I love you deeply. More remarkable is that you so love me. This miracle we share—it is that rarest of symmetries that has always been responsible for the brightest lights of human poetic, musical, and visual expression, and the most majestic sensations that flood the heart, whirl the mind, and satiate the body.

How grateful I am to have found you! To know what it’s like to be overcome by you, and to delight in longing to be overcome by you again. I know, and I celebrate, that I will again pull you close to me, and that when you touch my lips I will instantly be awash in a harmony of the sweetest sensations of warmth, dizziness, soul-shuddering pleasure, and a giddy, childlike mirth. My eyes will fall closed, my skin will flush, and my heart will nearly stop for a moment then swell again and resume beating in the deliberate, languid rhythm of love just proved.

Oh, to think of you now is to give in to my passion! The allure of your shape, your beading freshness and firm, youthful texture, your penetrating scent and the musky heat of the steam that rises from your flesh at the height of our passion! I can wait no longer. I HUNGER for you, my love. I must see you again soon. Let’s meet again at our place. At Chuck’s.

5.0

    

Chuck's on Urbanspoon

 

Review #23: Barry’s Cafe (Cary, NC)

Michael’s Review: Papa Burger (Classic Rocks)

The Hungry Burgiatrist

Once upon a time, there was a hungry burgiatrist. One day, the burgiatrist came upon a small restaurant in the middle of a strip center. He opened the door and followed the sign’s instruction to seat himself. When he reached the booth, he found he had a terrible problem. “What size burger should I order?” asked the burgiatrist. For there were three different-sized patties on the menu.

“The Baby Burger is too small,” said the burgiatrist. “But the Mama Burger will not fill me up!” Finally, the burgiatrist settled on the Papa Burger. That would be juuuuust right. Soon, the waitress brought the burgiatrist his burger. It was topped with American cheese, lettuce, and a shiny red tomato.

When the burgiatrist finished his burger, he leaned back. He wanted to doze right there in the booth. He was right. The Papa Burger was juuuuust right.

His rating was 4.25 out of 5.

    

Scott’s Review: Mama Burger (Classic Rocks)

@&$%ing Mad 

I can’t believe I’ve been @&$%ing living in Cary for three and a half years before knowing that there was a @&$%ing 4.75 burger just over a mile away, right there in Swift Creek @&$%ing Shopping Center—right @&$%ing down Tryon Road from me—at the modest, unassuming Barry’s Cafe. It was like finding a $100 bill in my pocket. Or a Van Gogh in the attic. Or a @&$%ing golden ticket in my @&$%ing Wonka Bar.

Oh the @&$%ing humanity.

You think I’m angry? You’re damn right I’m angry. Do you know how many Barry’s burgers I could have enjoyed in the past 1,278 days? A @&$%ing lot—that’s how many.

Scott’s review: 4.75 out of 5.

    

John’s Review: Mama Burger (Classic Rocks)

Barry’s: So Very

If you want a very good burger in a very interesting little family restaurant with a very cool fire-fighter theme and very good service, go to Barry’s Cafe on Tryon Road. They have a very good flat grill there that is very well-seasoned due to the very many breakfasts and burgers that have been cooked upon its very hot surface. As a result, the very fresh hand-made ground chuck patties are very well charred to establish the strong foundation for a very, very good burger.

From there, Barry’s continues to get it right, with very nice American cheese, very fresh veggies, the very build order required, a very nice and traditional bun (not a VERY infuriating Kaiser roll!) and very nice attention to proportions and assembly to bring all of the very nice flavors together. And, after you’ve enjoyed a very, very, very good flat-grill Classic Rocks cheeseburger—heavy and laden with the very burger magic we all seek—Barry’s servers will surprise you with a very scrumptious fresh-baked chocolate chip or white chocolate/macadamia cookie to solidify your very well-deserved gratitude and newfound loyalty.

This is a very, very, VERY good burger, people. Which is why I wanted to provide the very serious and very straight-forward review it deserved, resisting any urge to replace the word “very” with “Barry,” which would have been juvenile.

John’s Review: 4.5 out of 5.

    

Barry's Cafe on Urbanspoon

Review #22: Red Monkey Tavern (Raleigh, NC)

Michael’s Review

As a kid, I had a tough time with summer vacation. Of course, I enjoyed it at first. It started out with such promise. Lazing around playing Atari games, riding my bike, going to the pool. After a while, though, I was ready to go back to school. Summer always felt three weeks too long, and I ended up bored.

Which wasn’t unlike my experience eating the Oscar Burger at Red Monkey Tavern.

Of all the burgers I've had, this is definitely one of them.

As I bit into the Oscar, which was topped with sautéed garlic spinach, lump crab meat, hollandaise sauce, and sweet garlic mayo, I was sure this would be the best burger ever. The salty crabmeat and hollandaise sauce combined delightfully with the spinach. I was sure I wouldn’t want it to end. A couple of bites in, however, I realized that the patty was a little tough—and had little flavor. A few bites later, I didn’t even feel like finishing it. It didn’t taste bad; I was just bored.

Michael’s rating: 3.25 out of 5.

    

Scott’s Review

In burgiatry school, we are trained to ask ourselves this question upon completion of a new burger: Would I eat this burger again? Easy, you might say. But burgiatry isn’t about easy, my burgiatric compadres; it’s about correct. To this day I remember agonizing over my first midterm paper at university (Cheltenham & Gloucester College of Meat Pies, Newcastle campus—go Flatgrills!), pulling all-nighters in Condiments Hall, poring through dusty volumes of neo-classical burgonomic theory, agonizing over the ostensibly “easy” question of whether to return to the Jolly Fryer in Filton for the two-patty Super Scooby. If that was easy, burger friends, I’m in the wrong line of work.

While preparing to compose my review of the perfectly pedestrian Pub Burger at Red Monkey Tavern in Raleigh (bacon, “whiskey cheese sauce,” “sweet garlic mayo”), I recalled a technique that a fellow neophyte burgiatrist (Phil Weisberg, author of the bestselling Catsup: How It’s Spelled) taught me back in those heady days at C&G: If you’re unsure about whether you’d eat a given burger again, make a list of five things you’re likely to do instead. If the list comes easily, the answer is no.

So here it goes—five things I’m more likely to do before I return to Red Monkey for another go at the Pub Burger:

  1. Watch Phil Collins’ Live and Loose in Paris (2-DVD set)
  2. Develop basic understanding of Cary geography
  3. Troll eBay for season 1 of Bewitched
  4. Stand near register at Qdoba, yell “Welcome to Moe’s!” as people enter
  5. Learn to play pan flute

Now that was easy.

Scott’s review: 3 out of 5.

Note: I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: This burger wasn’t bad per se. It’s just not worthy of an all-nighter.

    

John’s Red Monkey Stream of Consciousness Review

Charlie Babbitt taught me how to drive. Rain Man. Better than average movie, but much more better-than-average than the Red Monkey burger. Better analogies out there. Start over.

My friend Tom from college. The Elbow Room dance floor, kickin’ around empty “dollar beer night” cups to the sound of the beat. An only slightly better than average dancer in nice threads. Much better analogy.

Toto. Pat Sajak. Wrangler jeans. Store brand soda.

A day at the beach, with no waves, no sun, deer flies and a slight drizzle, but still better than a day at work. Hmmmm… Drizzles’s fun to say. A little Double Dutch, girls? “Drizzle, dizzle, fizzle, whizzle, Red Monkey burger needs more sizzle!”

Hasselhoff, but only on Knight Rider in the US, not music in Germany or the US or any other permutation.

Miracle Whip. Generic potato chips. Kia Motors. Ziggy Marley. Boxed wine. Rayon. Where am I going with this?

Oh yeah… things that are better than acceptable in the just slightest of ways and only under unique circumstances – like when a better alternative is completely unavailable and out of the realm of possibility. In that circumstance, a Red Monkey Classic Rocks cheeseburger can be just as satisfying as getting some good sleep on a sleeper sofa.

Rating: 3.00000000000000001

    

Red Monkey Tavern on Urbanspoon

Review #21: Bull City Burger and Brewery (Durham, NC)

Scott’s Review: Pittsburgh Style (Look At Me!)

On the surface, Bull City Burger and Brewery held so much promise: a great beer list, self-serve wine dispensers, Boylan fountain sodas (including Creme), that down-home, college-y atmosphere, and menu items with pleasingly weird names like “duck frites” and “bull nuts.”

How can a burger joint that offers bull nuts not be fantastic?

To my dismay, Bull City’s promise was not kept. The service was too spotty, the communal-style picnic tables too communal, the outdoor seating too overwhelmed by the WHIRR! of the A/C unit, and the food-ordering system—which featured having to stand in line yet again to add even the smallest item—just too annoying. But it’s what really mattered, burgiatrically speaking, that left me feeling betrayed: The patty wasn’t cooked correctly—and was just good, not great. Not much else to say about it because not much else stuck with me.

On the one hand, I might have been so annoyed by the aforementioned negative qualities to fully enjoy the burger, which really isn’t fair. On the other hand, I might have been so annoyed by the aforementioned factors to fully enjoy the burger, which…well…is perfectly fair.

Scott’s review: 2.75 out of 5.

    

Michael’s Review: Pittsburgh Style (Look At Me!)

Bull City Burger and Brewery’s way of doing business is an admirable one. It uses North Carolina pasture-raised beef, supporting local farmers. The leftover grain feeds the pigs it gets its bacon from, and it recycles the fry oil into bio-diesel. Moreover, BCBB bakes its own buns and makes its own condiments. As a fervent supporter of the local food movement, I applaud BCBB’s efforts. It serves as a model of what a restaurant should be.

But

The burger was terrible. I had the BCBB burger of the day, which was served “Pittsburgh style,” with “dirty fries,” pickles, gruyere, and sweet slaw. The bun was chewy, actually requiring some forceful chewing to get through it at times. The patty was juicy and had good texture, but tasted as if it were marinated in Worcestershire sauce and coated in garlic salt. I ended up abandoning the bun and patty with about 20% left and just finished the toppings.

A knife to the heart of burgiatry.

It pains me to give BCBB a bad review because I really like what it’s trying to do. Now, if it put the same effort into its burgers as it does into its business practices, BCBB might have something. My rating is a 2.5.

    

John’s Review: Build Your Own Burger (Classic Rocks)

Like Dr. Blumenthal, I disliked the layout and logistics of Bull City Burger and Brewery (BCBB). Like Dr. Marino, I applaud the focus on local support and the green approach, but I’m downright resentful of the burger.

Here’s the thing…Anytime something is done differently, it’ll strike a chord with some segment of the population and find followers. To those of you who love the ways in which BCBB and its burgers are different, please forgive me, for I am about to lay down some canonical burgiatric facts that are certain to offend your dilettante sensibilities.

If you have the word “burger” in the name of your establishment, you set high expectations for the burger-lovin’ masses. You suggest that you know something about burger magic and that you can be counted on to deliver. Now, you won’t get instant credit, and burger lovers will assume that you may not deliver true burger bliss, but they expect that you’ll at least be in the ballpark. They expect that your burgers will taste something like burgers.

I ordered a standard Classic Rocks burger: cheese, pickles, lettuce, tomato, mayo. My expectations were soaring, based on the big B-word in the name and some of the buzz prior to the opening of the place. After waiting in line to order, then waiting in a separate line for a gin and tonic that I couldn’t order at the main register 10 yards away from the bar, I jingled my change-laden pockets up a flight of stairs and joined my TSB brothers at an outdoor picnic table beneath the heavy drone of an HVAC unit, or similar industrial fan system. About 10 minutes later, an unpleasant “waiter” (grumpy food delivery person who can’t take orders for a second drink, even if it’s a soda) plunked an insult on a plate beneath my nose. It was served open-faced, with lettuce slip-slidin’ against the top half of a dark bun, tomato adhered to the lettuce. On the bottom half of the bun was the patty, with cheese melted so thinly over it as to be difficult to discern, and (blink blink) a blob of mayo on the center of the patty. What the hell? “Pickles”—more like cucumber shavings in vinegar—were on the side.

AAAAAUUUUUUUGGGGGHHHHH!

I shook my head and reassembled. Scraped as much mayo onto the top bun as I could, placed a couple of “pickles” on the cheese, then lettuce, then tomato to meet and mingle with the mayo, as the canon dictates. I took a bite, with a last-minute flicker of optimism at the sight of the very fresh local ground beef. Alas, even that remaining hope was dashed—by heavy garlic, perhaps among other seasonings, worked into the patty. The bun was dense and chewy, with a wheaty flavor that combined with the funky “pickles” and over-seasoned patty to make this thing taste absolutely nothing like a cheeseburger.

It gives me no pleasure to write this review, and I was rooting for BCBB with high expectations and an appreciation for their business ethos. But BCBB made a promise by identifying itself as a burger place, then offended the burgiatric gods above with a blasphemy that shouldn’t be called a cheeseburger at all. May those gods have mercy on BCBB. If you’re a true and knowledgeable burger lover, go only out of morbid curiosity. If you could care less whether your cheeseburger tastes like a cheeseburger at all, go right ahead…you may very well like it.

Rating: .5

    

Update 03/15/2012: Scott and I revisited BCBB to do a review for WRAL Out & About and had a much better experience. Click here to check out our review.

Bull City Burger and Brewery on Urbanspoon

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