Reader Submitted Review – The Wild Turkey Lounge (at Angus Barn) – Raleigh, NC

In what he describes as his “ongoing search for the perfect ground cow,” associate burgiatrist Brian Kachel brings us his review of Angus Barn’s Wild Turkey Lounge.

Most people consider Angus Barn a place for after-work business meetings, birthday celebrations, and people with deep pockets dressed in serious clothing. Well, that’s mostly true. But climb a set of creaky stairs to find The Wild Turkey Lounge, where you’ll find the Barn’s burger—“16 oz. patty [yes—a pound] of our Angus Barn beef, ground by our butchers”—for a measly $17. The staff will gladly explain how the burger can be spruced up with just about anything they’ve got in the kitchen, from the basic toppings to béarnaise sauce and crab. I personally stand by my faithful favorite formation: bacon and cheddar, medium rare, with a side of mayo.

The burger arrives on a large plate surrounded by a buttered, toasted bun, with massive, charred edges, melted shredded cheddar, and three pieces of crispy, curly bacon on top. I’ll admit I’m not a huge fan of the AB bacon. I prefer thick slices on my burgers, but AB puts the little curly crispy guys on theirs. I take a massive first bite to look back and see a pink inside while juice drips down the sides and onto my hands.

Closer to the center I find a warm, deeper pink—almost red—core. The beef is soft and moist on the inside, with a crisp shell from an open flame, with a unique flavor that I can only associate with the seasoned grills of AB. I quickly find my inner peace in this perfectly cooked medium rare patty from heaven.

Brian’s review: 4.5 out of 5.0

Skillet Burger with Bacon Jam

Skillet, Seattle’s acclaimed diner and food truck empire run by chef Josh Henderson, is known for its extravagant burger. Not extravagant in terms of high-dollar ingredients, but extravagant in the sense of “lacking restraint” with high intensity flavors and perfect execution. The bacon jam is the real scene stealer here, and you can make it at home with relative ease.

Skillet burger recipe with link to bacon jam recipe. Seriously, try this at home.

Skillet burger. Recipe courtesy of Leite’s Culinaria & Josh Henderson. Photo by Sarah Jurado.

Review #37 – Yard House (Raleigh, NC)

“All during the 45-minute wait for a table I was certain that a staff member would spot my LL Bean Relaxed Fit jeans and rat me out as the suburbanite among the pretty people. I had the urge to pop my collar and call someone ‘bro’ just to fit in.” –Chad

Chad’s Review: Pay No Attention to the Burger Behind the Curtain

The Yard House is loud. The music is loud. The conversation is loud. The artwork is loud. The burgers are big and flashy, with intense and exotic toppings. Just to be contrary, I ordered a Classic, as plain and simple as I could get it, to see what was under the hood.

chadburger

Please ignore the burger behind the curtain.

What I got for my $14 was a decent hamburger, competently cooked, but no more than that. The real stars of the menu are the big bold burgers—pepper-crusted, caramelized, glazed with pineapple and “Aloha Sauce,” or tarted up with lobster and asparagus, the muscular toppings obscuring the undistinguished but well-prepared patty. Like the Wizard of Oz, once you pull back the curtain (or bun) you realize that all of the sturm und drang is just a distraction, albeit a tasty one. Three out of 5.

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Scott’s Review: Don’t Be Saucy With Me, Béarnaise

Somewhere in North Raleigh I must have entered some sort of space-travel wormhole leading to the opulent chic-fest that is Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Certainly nowhere our fair, modest Triangle, I had assumed, would people squeeze themselves into their tightest, blackest duds for the right to wait an hour for a Fresh & Skinny Martini. But I was wrong. So Wrong.

In an attempt to appear at least minimally chichi, I ordered a burger with an accent in its name: The Béarnaise. (Not The Béarnaise Burger, mind you, just The Béarnaise.) The burger was good—its fried onions a tasty foil for its tender, flavorful patty—though truth be told, I was too busy voguing to fully focus. What I do know is that wherever I might have been—be it Raleigh or 86th and Lex—I was squarely in Three-town. My rating: 3.75.

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Don’s Review: Too Much Turf, Not Enough Surf

The Yard House is about atmosphere and image—loud, colorful, and vivacious. This they make obvious as they take you on a lap around the huge, elliptical bar before seating you at a table you passed when you started your journey.

surfturfopen

Would the béarnaise please report to the burger please?

The burger choices were plentiful, but my eyes were drawn to the Surf & Turf—a powerful lineup featuring Maine lobster sautéed in garlic butter, grilled asparagus, Swiss cheese, and tomato béarnaise. Unfortunately, I was to suffer a severe case of “antici-pointment.” The burger was not cooked to order, and the béarnaise was, without warning, replaced with spinach—a definite letdown. And though I could see the lobster, its taste was smothered by the patty and too much asparagus. I give this burger a 3—too much missing from the show.

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Michael’s Review: A Tsunami of Flavor

The flavor of the Pepper Crusted Gorgonzola burger—with marsala sautéed crimini mushrooms, caramelized onions, and baby spinach—matched Yard House’s décor: intense. The spinach was like a man yelling at a tsunami, useless against the onslaught of marsala, pepper, and Gorgonzola. Because the cook didn’t try to blacken the patty (which often happens in an attempted to create a crust on a patty), the combination worked very well overall. Any hint of char was imperceptible.

tsunami

Bodhi would be all over this.

If you are looking for a place to enjoy a quiet dinner, avoid Yard House. If you want an interesting burger and don’t mind yelling to be heard, this is the place to be. I give the burger a 4 out of 5.

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Yard House - Raleigh 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 #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)

Meh.

Scott’s Rating: 3.25/5


My Way Tavern on Urbanspoon

Review #8: Tribeca Tavern (Cary)

  • Joint: Tribeca Tavern
  • Burger: Land and Sea (Scott), Southern Lovin’ (John), The Masterpiece (Michael)
  • Burger Category: Look At Me! (Scott and John), Snooty Beauty (Michael)

Michael’s Review

There was a lot to like about the Tribeca Tavern in Cary. The service was excellent. The restaurant was beautiful, the table well appointed. My locally brewed beer was served with a hard pretzel—a nice touch. Tribeca’s burger menu is extensive, with 17 burgers to choose from.

I decided on The Masterpiece, which featured a Kobe beef patty topped with St. Andre triple crème and short ribs that were smoked for 12 hours, topped with port wine gravy.

It turned out to be a burger of contrasts. My first bites were complex and intriguing, but those first impressions gradually diminished. Eventually, it was just another burger. The gourmet ciabatta bun crumbled apart as I ate. The patty itself was silky Kobe beef, but it was overdone.

Despite the critiques, I will say that the burger was interesting. The short ribs and sauce could stand on their own as a respectable entrée. It was a difficult burger to rate. The bun was a 1. The patty was a 3. The short ribs and sauce were 5s. I look forward to going back to Tribeca, as I want to support a restaurant that supports local farmers and brewers. I might get another burger, but more likely I’ll explore the rest of the expansive menu.

I give the burger a 3.25.

Scott’s Review

Tribeca Tavern: A Play in One Act

 

FADE IN:

Still, warm evening. Outside seating area at Tribeca Tavern in Cary. Spotlight on our three heroes.

SCOTT

(pounding head on table)

What should I order? So many choices. Do I get the burger with short rib and St. Andre Triple crème, or the one with fried salami?

MICHAEL

(arms extended heavenward, imploring)

Or the one with 10 ounces of ground beef, 8 ounces of Kobe, 8 ounces of lamb, 5 ounces of spicy sausage, all topped with “Hoop” cheddar, mozzarella, pepper jack, and American cheeses, complete with 8 slices of bacon–all on battered brioche?

JOHN

(weeping gently)

Or the one with slaw?

FIFTEEN MINUTES LATER:

Table littered with beers, wing bones, and three plates of fries and quarter-eaten burgers, each four feet in height.

SCOTT

Who had the Southern Lovin’ burger, again?

JOHN

That would be me…I think.

MICHAEL

No, you got the Land and Sea.

JOHN

Was that the one with crab on it?

MICHAEL

I think so.

JOHN

[Examines burger on plate.]

Oh yeah.

SCOTT

So where’s the one with the fried egg on it?

JOHN

We got one with fried egg on it?

All three heroes look confusedly at one another’s plates, then their own.

MICHAEL

Probably.

Our heroes shrug, continue eating.

Big points for service, ambiance, and burger novelty. Mid-level points for taste. My review: 2.75 out of 5.

John’s Review

Oh my. You were right! She is breathtaking in this photo—exotic, even. And the way you describe her, we seem to have so much in common. I’m in. I want to meet her. Go ahead and set it up.

Blimey! She was attractive, but there was just no chemistry. And what the hell was she wearing? It was pleasant evening, and it had its high points, but just not what I’d hoped for. But there’s more to her, I think. I’m not giving up yet. I’ll see her again, but next time it’ll be much less formal. I think we need to just relax, hang out, and not try so hard. I’ll let you know how it goes.

My hopes were sky-high for the Tribeca Tavern, as it had come highly recommended (though not by a fellow burgiatrist, I should say). It seemed to offer such a special atmosphere, and while covering a more traditional burger menu, also promised some special burger artistry in a unique marriage of the “Look at Me!” and “Snooty Beauty” categories. Add that excitement to the availability of their proprietary brews on tap, and TSB was on its way.

And we went for it! We all opted for the Burger Menu, which is dedicated to such fanciful and esoteric burger creations as to put your imagination into overdrive. Eggs, fried green tomatoes, crab, goat cheese, rosemary hollandaise…these are all ingredients in the mix here. Despite the availability of some much crazier options, I chose a “Look at Me!” burger that you might find elsewhere: the Land and Sea, with Angus beef, lump crab, fried mashed potatoes, roasted garlic, and rosemary hollandaise. It came on what I would call a split ciabatta roll. All of these very special ingredients 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. Perhaps even that Kobe burger on the main menu (which of course, would be in the “Snooty Beauty” category due to the professed quality of the ingredients).

I won’t drone on. The burger was a 3. The service was excellent, the sweet potato fries were good, the place was lovely, and the beer selection is probably delicious, even if I did make a poor, overly-hoppy selection. I still think Tribeca is highly attractive (smokin’ hot, as a matter of fact), and I’m actually looking forward to seeing her again. But we’re not going to put on any airs this go ‘round. We’ll just dress casually, kick back with a good beer, and maybe listen to some Classic Rocks together. (In other words, a good old-fashioned cheeseburger.)

Tribeca Tavern on Urbanspoon