Review #38 – Only Burger (Durham, NC)

(This review is also posted at WRAL Out and About.)


Everyone Right About Only Burger, Apparently

In a turn of events that shocked no one, world-renowned burgiatrists The Straight Beef finally visited Durham’s Only Burger—which had been only recommended to them about 512 times, for the love of all things holy—and “freakin’ loved it.”

“It’s about time those guys went there,” said Sheila Montalbán, Duke University environmental studies student and self-proclaimed “Straight Beef freak.” “Only Burger is only like the best burger in the world, basically. Everyone says so. I don’t even know what took them so long.” Added Montalbán, “Hello? Duh?”

The Straight Beef, which has been reviewing Triangle-area hamburgers since 2009, admits that the group had been talking about reviewing the Duke University favorite for a “ridiculous length of time,” and that there is no excuse for making Only Burger its 38th official review instead of, let’s say, its 4th, even though everyone and their uncle has been insisting that they just shut up and go already.

All four members of The Straight Beef conceded that yes, fine, apparently everyone had been right.

Can't talk. Eating.

Can’t talk. Eating.

“Once I had locked my eating-claw on the burger, I could not put it down until it was gone,” said TSB’s spiritual guide “Reverend” Don Corey, who ensured that his double with bacon, cheese, and egg was not long for this world. “The worst part of the night was when I finished the burger and didn’t have room for another.”

TSB’s burger renegade Chad “The Griddler” Ward concurred. “I was knocked out by the beefy richness, the salty crust, the juiciness of the burger,” said Ward, who ordered a double cheddar burger with bacon only, opting to “get a feel for the basic burger before gussying it up with toppings.” Ward averred that anyone who does not love Only Burger “clearly has been taken over by pod people who not only lack taste buds but hate freedom and America.”

Ward added that although The Straight Beef does not rate side dishes and tries not to be influenced by them in their burger evaluations, the sides at Only Burger were simply insane. “If we rated side dishes along with the hamburger,” Ward said, “Only Burger would be a six out of five on my scale.”

“We went three years without knowing the joy that is Only Burger’s exquisitely flavored patty,” said Scott Blumenthal, renowned British burgiatrist and TSB co-founder, who downed two singles with classic condiments, no questions asked. “We’re never going to get those years back. We’re just not. Those years are gone.”

When asked for his initial comment, leading holistic burgiatrist and TSB co-founder Michael Marino, who downed the same burger combo as Corey, plus mayo, managed only to scribble on a sheet of paper that he could “not talk, what for all the drooling.”

Michael’s rating: 4.75/5

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Don’s rating: 4.75/5

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Chad’s rating: 5/5

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Scott’s rating: 5/5

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Only Burger on Urbanspoon

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

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

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 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.)



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…

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