Review #4: Tyler’s Restaurant and Taproom (Apex, NC) [CLOSED]

  • Joint: Tyler’s Restaurant and Taproom
  • Burger: Carolina (Michael), Bacon and Bleu (Scott), and Original Taproom (John)
  • Burger Category: Classic Rocks (John) and Look at Me! (Scott and Michael)

Scott’s Review

 

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. So here it goes.

Tyler’s, I think you’re super. You have a great personality, and I really enjoy spending time with you. You’re amazing in so many ways. Your beer selection is incredible—phenomenal, really—and your wings are just fine delicious. Tyler’s, you have so much going for 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.

When I bit into your Bleu Cheese Bacon Burger, I was really hoping to feel that…that magic, you know? But I just didn’t. It wasn’t that it was bad, it just wasn’t very good what I’m looking for right now. The beef wasn’t especially flavorful, the bun not especially tasty or distinctive, and the bleu cheese was just kind of there. All in all, it was just kind of meh. I’m sorry. That was hurtful. I should stop before I say too much.

I do hope we can remain friends.

Your pal,

Scott

My review: 2.5 out of 5.

John’s Review

Did you ever have a friend who had one endearing trait, and with whom you’ve had some really good laughs, but came with a lot of baggage? Perhaps disorganized, habitually late, or unable to focus on more than one thing at once?

Well, let’s say you agreed to go to that friend’s house for beer and burgers. Knowing that you love a good beer, your friend promised to knock himself out to provide you with a wide range of the finest brews, each served in a thick glass bearing its own label. What a pal!

So you show up salivating, fantasizing about a mouthful of juicy cheeseburger surfing down your gullet on a tasty wave of malty artisan magic. You show up, your good pal greets you and your entourage with the fulfilled promise of the fine, cold beer of your choice, as rare and exotic as it may be. He even goes a step further, taking down your specific burger request. Again, I say: What a pal!

Then, he vanishes into his bedroom for a half-hour of X-Box with a fellow gamer on the West coast.

Finally, he comes back to the dining room table and says, “What? Dude, I’m so sorry. I told my roommate to get those burgers for you and he totally forgot! I’ll take care of it. Got your back, bros!” Then, he bolts to the kitchen, leaving you to your empty glasses and their frothy residue.

Another 20 minutes, and you have your burgers with an apology and a look that says, “Do you still like me?” Forgivingly, you nod and thank, and as he returns to the bedroom, you dig in. Starving, you put it down, thinking the patty resembles the reheated Angus patties from Costco you’ve zapped at home in desperation. Another beer might help, you think, as you use those throat muscles to massage down the dry Kaiser roll. You and your buddies around the table consume, all the while looking at each other, oozing with disdain. One of you speaks up, in charity, and states, “Tyler did come through on the beer, though.”

Your pal returns with a check.

John’s review: Beer 4.5. Burger 2.5.

Michael’s Review

Our trip to Tyler’s was an unexpected one. We had planned on going to Salem Street Pub, but learned the hard way that it’s closed on Mondays. Not to be denied, we journeyed through the slushy streets to a burger beacon in the night: Tyler’s Restaurant and Taproom in Apex.

The beer list at Tyler’s is long. I ordered a Lhasa from Tibet, which was quite tasty. Unfortunately, it was the highlight of the meal.

I had the Carolina burger, which was, as promised, “loaded with meaty chili, coleslaw, red onion, and melted cheddar cheese.” The roll was grilled exactly as I like it, but one big problem: They do not cook burgers to order. It’s medium-well, well, or nothing. I ordered it medium-well. It was well done. There was so much chili it was as if the burger was just a vehicle for it. I know the cheese was there because I could see it, but I couldn’t taste it or appreciate its texture. I couldn’t tell you if there were onions down there. The burger didn’t have so much as a build as a pile of toppings on a slab of beef.

The biggest problem with the burger, however, was that the beef itself wasn’t that great. The chili and coleslaw were good, but as a whole it was nothing memorable. The service was excellent, as our waiter knew pretty much every beer on the menu. I have been to Tyler’s before and had good food. I do not recommend the burger, though. Not great, not bad, just something to eat.

My rating: 3 out of 5.

Tyler's Tap Room on Urbanspoon

Review #3: Mojoe’s Burger Joint (Raleigh)

John’s Review

Mojoe’s Classic Big Moe burger moved me.

It was in this humble, cozy establishment, at one of its handful of smallish tables, ensconced within Polaroid-lined walls, beneath a clothesline of justifiably blustery Mojoe’s T-shirts, that I and my fellow TSB experts had our burger horizons unexpectedly expanded.

At first glance, the Classic Big Moe looked like an average Classic-category cheeseburger on a store-bought sesame-seed bun (don’t make me say Merita…there, I said it), neither toasted nor steamed, complete with shredded lettuce, a slop of condiments, with the order of the build a mite convoluted: The cheese was melted properly enough on the patty, but then came tomato, lettuce, and pickle—in that order!—up to the bun (yes—the pickle against the mayo, people). Presented with a seemingly ho-hum bun like this and an apparent disregard for proper build order, and one’s hopes are understandably dashed.

But alas, I had judged this burger by its proverbial cover.

Mojoe’s mojo is in the patty. Thick, fresh Angus beef with enough rich and luscious burger juice to mix with the moisture of the veggies and condiments, uniting all flavors into a single, wondrous blend of burger bliss.

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 (though seriously tempted to go all the way)

Michael’s Review

It had been a long day. I had spent weeks in a quiet, meditative state, struggling to free my soul of the Spirits surfer burger, and now it was time to emerge and rejoin the physical world.

I entered the joint (yes—definitely a joint) and perused the short menu. Pabst was only a buck and a half—a good sign. I ordered the Classic Big Mo with lettuce, tomato, mayo, cheddar cheese, and—an ingredient that would prove crucial—bacon.

The presentation of the burger was as it should be—modest, in a plastic basket lined with foil. The taste, however, was what it was all about: ten ounces of medium-cooked Angus nirvana. Even by itself the beef was beyond flavorful, but what really did it for me was the bacon. None of this Applewood smoked nonsense, which undermines the burger experience by portraying itself as more than it is. Just plain bacon, perfectly cooked, crispy without being burnt. Frankly, I was so taken aback by the overall flavor that I ignored the order of the build.

I couldn’t think of anything I might have been improved upon. Even after sleeping on it and consulting with my guru, my final rating was unchanged.

My rating: 5 out of 5.

Scott’s Review

Yum num num num num. 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. I mean, granted, you have to be stingy with your fives. You can’t just be slingin’ fives like candy at a clown show. I mean—num num num—Silence of the Lambs is a good movie. A great movie. But you have to save your fives for Star Wars, you know? What? No, I’m not saying that this is the Star Wars of hamburgers per se. Though it does have that slightly euphoric blowing-up-the-Death-Star kind of feeling to it. Yum num num. Yum num. Man, this burger is good. Yes—I do realize that I’m a world-renowned burgiatrist yammering on like a schoolgirl meeting Joe Jonas. But did you see this lettuce? It’s shredded. I love that. It would have been a five without the shredded lettuce, but man, that just clinches it.

My rating: 5 out of 5.

Mojoe's Burger Joint on Urbanspoon

Review #2: Spirits Pub and Grub (Cary)

  • Joint: Spirits Pub & Grub, Cary
  • Burger: various
  • Burger Category: Classic Rocks (John) and Look at Me! (Scott and Michael)

Scott’s Review

I’ve always wondered why clothes didn’t come in extra medium. As I see it, there should be some designation to indicate a size that is not only in the middle range but is remarkably equal in distance between large and a small. Alas, however, no such designation exists.

But now, thanks to the Smoky Burger at Spirits Pub & Grub in Cary, that mythical place between extremes not only exists, it comes with your choice of cheese.

The burger wasn’t unpleasant, mind you, but the beef wasn’t especially flavorful, the bun not especially fresh, and the overall taste experience did not distinguish the burger as exceptional in the annals of burgrarian history.

My reaction surprised me, for three reasons:

  1. Spirits is owned by the same fellow who owns Daniel’s Restaurant in Apex, far and away my favorite Italian restaurant in the area. (And as a guy who grew up in New York, I know me some Italian.)
  2. The wings (c’mon—we needed something to whet our appetites) were excellent. (And as a guy who went to college in upstate New York, I know me some wings.)
  3. The service, décor, and atmosphere were all great. Oftentimes—though not always—that comes hand in hand with good burgers.

All in all, it was a burger that might best be described as eh. Or perhaps, s’alright. Or, if you will, a hearty fine.  My rating: 3/5.

 

Michael’s Review

I arrived before my cohorts and was greeted warmly. I decided to have a beer at the bar while I waited. Beer selection was good, and I was served immediately. Drs. Blumenthal and McManus arrived, and we were offered our choice of tables: tall or regular height. My training as a holistic burgrologist taught me to keep my heart as close to the ground as possible to fully experience a burger’s pleasures. We chose a regular-height table.

We went for buffalo wings as an appetizer: Buffalo-style, medium spice. Quite tasty and meaty. Unfortunately, the meal went downhill from there.

I opted for the Surfer Burger, intrigued by its “Spirits spicy seasoning” and pineapple salsa, the perfect mélange of spicy and sweet. (All burgers came with potato wedges, which had the unfortunate name “wedgies.”)

Juices flowed freely from the burger as I picked it up. But my initial enthusiasm was dashed with my first bite, when I realized that the juices were brown and not pink—a sign of surface grease, not of the burger’s natural, succulent drippings. The burger was cooked medium, as I had asked, but was overly dry. The miniscule dollop of pineapple salsa didn’t help. The blandness of the burger, I found, actually detracted from the sweetness. 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 experience from my memory.

The service was excellent, the wings top-notch, but the burger was blah.  My rating: 2/5.

John’s Review

Dry kaiser roll, average-quality beef patty, and a taste experience that was a bit of a disappointment after the promising appearance of the “Basic Burger” with cheddar and bacon. Tomatoes were red and juicy, lettuce was fresh, burger was cooked to the requested temperature and built in the proper order… but it just didn’t come together. It didn’t do that magical thing that causes one’s brain to swim in a steady trickle of endorphins. It was an okay burger. After a two-hour tennis match or a day out on the boat it might have gone better with my frosty glass of lager, but there was no tennis or boating that day; just an evening out at Spirits and the anticipation of some burger magic.

The atmosphere was pleasant—a modern sports-pub-and-grill-type place, filled with a cacophony of sports broadcasts and gregarious folk chattering away over junk food and beer (and I mean this in a good way). The place makes you feel good, want to drink a brewski and hang out with friends, talkin’ some bull. The service wasn’t the best, but our waiter was amiable, the kind of guy you wouldn’t mind offering a chair to so he could sit down and talk some bull himself. Spirits is the good-time joint I expected it to be, with a good beer list, but a distinguished Burgiatrist like myself will not become a regular. Nor will my alter ego (see bio) be writin’ any poetry about that decidedly bourgeois burger.  My rating: 3/5.

Spirits Pub & Grub on Urbanspoon

Review #1: The Players’ Retreat (Raleigh)

  • Joint: The Players’ Retreat
  • Burger: The Bernie Burger (provolone, bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion, sesame-seed bun)
  • Burger Category: Classic Rocks

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Those in the know call it “the PR.” Those not in the know also call it “the PR,” but in a less cool way.

Nestled in the cozy nook where Hillsborough Street meets Oberlin Road, veritable inches from NC State, the Players’ Retreat is a place where, according to its website, “people from all walks of life rub elbows,” a place where, since 1951, one might see “Supreme Court justices and carpenters in adjoining seats.”

Little did the good folks at the PR know, however, one balmy autumn eve, that sitting in the large dining room opposite the pool room and capacious bar, beneath one of its mammoth TV screens (each the size of a small moon), they’d find neither justices nor carpenters, but rather the sordid likes of The Straight Beef.

John’s Review

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.

The menu promised fresh Black Angus beef, ground on-site and cooked to temperature. Promise kept. A rare authentic medium rare, lavish in its flavor, its juices weeping gently into the soft, steamed sesame bun without sogging it. The patty was neither overly compressed nor spongy, like many of the “Angus” burgers slung through today’s drive-thrus.

My one serious criticism has to do with the order of the build. First, the provolone was melted into the top bun (as opposed to its traditional placement on the patty itself), and the mayo appeared beneath the patty, thus preventing it from commingling with the juices of the deep red tomato slices. Despite these transgressions, the PR’s Bernie Burger was knee-wobble-worthy indeed. My rating: 4/5

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Michael’s Review

Unlike my Straight Beef cohorts, I’d eaten at the PR before. But that previous visit was misguided, as my so-called friend Don suggested I order the Chicken Bernie instead of the Bernie Burger. Only now do I realize how lacking my life had been in the interim. (Thankfully, my training as a holistic burgologist taught me never to regret burgers not eaten.)

The burger was medium, as ordered, without that soul-squashing taste of char. Like John, I found the cheese-on-bun technique a negative—as was the sub-patty mayo—but the fact that the onions were crisp and of uniform thickness offset the negative karma. I’m a bun-lightly-grilled guy, but I can respect a bun that’s steamed without being soggy.

Though the order of the build was not ideal, the even horizontal placement of the ingredients allowed each of the flavors to merge into a burgery oneness that satisfied me to my soul. My rating: 4.25/5

Scott’s Review

We all know the old English proverb: “Rejoice, o mighty burger! For thine cheese shield ye from daubery.” Before entering the PR, I had no idea what this meant. I still don’t, but I think it has something to do with the Bernie Burger.

I respect my colleagues’ objections to the cheese-on-bun build, but for me it served to elevate the burger to even greater burgionic proportions. In its own, mischievous way, the sandwich fused the unbridled joy of burgers with the subtle pleasure of grilled cheese—that uncomplicated cheese-on-bread goodness that hearkens to a bygone time. A simpler time.

For me, it was the amalgamation of all things good—cold beer, quality burger, and homemade potato chips, the taste of which have for centuries made grown men weep, that secured the Bernie’s—and the PR’s—place in the annals of great Triangle burgeries. My rating: 4/5

Players Retreat on Urbanspoon

Players Retreat on Foodio54

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