Archive for the 'great burger odyssey' Category

Day 10 – Burger’s Up: Mary’s Notes

Our intention this day was to visit another of Nashville’s traditional burger dives, but the hours listed on the web were wrong and we needed something that was open already at 10:30. So we drove from the Nolensville Road area to Melrose and our second choice wasn’t open yet, either. Went four streets over and Burger Up, the new venture from the owner of the Frothy Monkey, was unlocked and ready for business, or at least it was ready to serve a margarita. Here’s how it went:

Juiciness – 6. Most of the 1/2 teaspoon or so of drippage was in the form of grease more than juice.

Flavor – 10. There it is, finally, a 10 from me. Local, grass-fed beef flavor wins out. Burger Up’s basic cheeseburger adds caché name-brands Jack Daniels for ketchup, Cabot’s for cheese and über-hip (for Tennessee foodies, anyway) Benton’s bacon; I’m pretty sure the burger would have tasted just fine without them.

Attractiveness – 7. It was a lovely burger. It was ordered medium rare and appeared to have the texture of a medium-rare but the meat was suspiciously grey, not pink.

Atmosphere – 9. Very 12 South; matted steel with some vintage wood thrown in and public-house style seating.

Digestivity – 5. Getting some pangs. I’m not sure if it was from the beef, grease from the bacon or the French fries, which, by the way, were seasoned with truffle shavings. Major points on the foodie scale, for both of the latter.

Overall experience – 8. In spite of finally finding a burger with flavor that beat out Dalt’s (which will make all of my hipster friends very happy with me) the overall experience was brought down by two things: the above-mentioned pangs and the less-than-stellar margarita.  Burger Up’s margarita seemed to venture too much into screw-driver territory. The $11 price tag on the burger can be justified by the gourmet burger craze, the $10 inferior cocktail, not so much.

afternote: this review was written in June but circumstances prevented posting it. On a return trip the burger was just as good, and no pangs.


Day 8: Red Robin – Mary’s Notes

And then there are the times when a thing misrepresents itself so much that you have to speak up. The Red Robin burger, even more than the Burgers’-n-Cream burger, is a fast food burger billed and disguised as “gourmet.” I chose RR because it was recommended by a friend whose taste I respected until about two hours ago.

I’ve read, in recent times, on internet message boards and industry mags about how processed food producers are employing research – both nutritional and anthropological – to induce consumers to buy and eat and buy and eat and buy and eat. For exmple, it’s known that we like foods that are crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside. We like sugar. We like fried fat. We like salt. If a food producer can give us everything we want in a small dense portion, that costs next-to-nothing to make, we’ll return to the trough again and again without a thought. That information came to the forefront, almost from my second or third bite of an appetizer that offered a mix of two greasy and sweet and salty and crunchy exteriored and soft interiored items – onion rings and mozzarella sticks. Funny thing though, these foods had all that we love except any real flavor, unless you put them in the restaurant’s dipping sauces. They looked beautiful though; perfectly formed and presented in a neat holder. Enough of that, let’s get to the burger.

Juiciness – 3. This was a pre-made patty and “medium” was the restaurant’s lowest-temp served. I looked closely to see if I might have been missing something but the interior was like Lake Lanier circa 2008. A little water, but not enough to float a boat.

Flavor – 4. There was some, in two areas where brown bits managed to form on the grill and mingle with the cheese.

Attractiveness – 9. This was a very pretty burger, as was all the food. Minus a point for pre-shredded lettuce.

Atmosphere 7 – The restaurant also was attractive, in an ADD Pizzeria Uno meets Hanna-Barbera kind of way.

Digestivity – 5. All that grease adds up and lingers.

Overall experience: 4 minus. I know that there are people who like this kind of place and this kind of food; they feel safe eating here, because if you’ve got a chain of restaurants across the country, you must be doing something right, right? You must be doing something that a lot of people all over the country like, right? As Oscar Wilde wrote, “for those who like that sort of thing, it’s the sort of thing they like.” If you’re not, I’d recommend you try one of the other places – even the chains – Higgins and I gave better grades to. 

Day 7: McCabe’s Pub – Mary’s Notes

Some people, when they don’t like a thing, really really really hate that thing and have to let the world know.

I’d rather just forget, and that’s why it’s taken so long to get around to posting my notes on the McCabe’s Pub burger. I do want to point out there are other things on the menu: I had, as an appetizer, a plate of nachos and found it far preferable to the burger.

Juiciness – 6. I can’t remember too much, it seems like it was adequately moist because … (see below)

Flavor – 3. It didn’t have very much, and this may have been because the burger nearly mooed at me! After spending a weekend in North Carolina where they have to, by law, serve medium well, you’d think one might better appreciate a rare burger. I do appreciate that McCabe’s serves a rare burger, I just wish they hadn’t served it to me, because I ordered medium rare. The other issue is that they had Dijon mustard out and Dijon doesn’t really go well with cheddar. An alternative would have been nice.

Attractiveness – 7. It looked fetching. 

Atmosphere – 5. Something about the place reminds me of 1970s suburban basement.

Digestivity – 6. Really, I can’t remember. See above.

Overall experience – 5. I’d go back, but would have something else off the menu.

Day 6: Hard Rock Cafe – Mary’s Notes

Oy! Sometimes you get an idea into your head and it’s just hard to let go. When Nashville’s Hard Rock Cafe re-opened earlier this spring, after closing several weeks for renovations, the restaurant that first made us drop our collective jaws with a $7 burger (oh, how innocent we were in 1994) has raised the stakes by offering a $13 burger ($13.95, actually). Although I wasn’t there for a burger at the discovery visit, just as Lux Interior once asked, “What’s inside a girl?” I wanted to know what was between the buns. This afternoon, in the name of gastronomical investigation, I found out.

Juiciness: 5. This was not a dry burger by any means, but apparently the buns are pre-grilled for “fronts” and stored warm. As a result, maybe the bun soaks up whatever juice the burger would normally drip onto the plate. Or my shirt. No drippage at all.

Flavor: 7. Okay, tough call here. It was a good burger. It had a clean, fresh taste. It was well-seasoned with pepper. But it didn’t have a very beefy flavor.

Attractiveness: 7. Nicely put-together and good looking but I have to admit: it was just too much for me. The difference between the $8 (inflation) and the $13 burger at the Hard Rock appears to be about 4 ounces of meat and a matter of toppings.

Atmosphere: 10. The Hard Rock re-designed everything about the place and the new look is fantastic. Even with all the eye-catching displays, the overall look manages to be comparatively minimalistic for Nashville, with lots of clean lines. Major props.

Digestivity: I’m giving it a 6, but it’s just hard to tell how much is because I just ate fatty red meat and how much is because I ate 10 freaking ounces of it of my own free will. I suspect it could be much worse.

Overall Experience: 7. Thank you sir, but if I do have another – and I likely will – it will be the 6 ounce deal.

Day 5: Rotier’s – Mary’s Notes

Today we took on Nashville’s most famous burger joint in its most infamous neighborhood (prior to the rise of East Nashville, Elliston Place was renowned as the “Rock Block” for decades). What makes the Rotier’s burger is that it’s one of the few – maybe only – in Nashville that’s freshly ground on-site; you really can taste the difference.

Juiciness – 10. When you pick up your burger and two-three teaspoons of deep reddish, brownish juice spill out on your plate, you know you’re in good hands and the cook hasn’t been flattening your patty with the spatula. 

Flavor – 4. I’ve had Rotier’s on several occasions and while today’s burger had as much old-fashioned hamburger taste as any other day’s might, it also carried a trace of “meat sat in the refrigerator one day too long” taste. Not enough to send it back, but to make me think that I might not want to return early in the week, if you know what I mean.

Attractiveness – 6. It looks like a real-burger burger, but the French bread bun it’s supposed to be famous for was disappointingly un-French breadlike. Next time I’ll happily settle for the plain-bun bun.

Atmosphere – 9. Awesomely divey, with wood paneling, Christmas tree lights, neon signs and booths.Good beer selection, too.

Digestivity – 4. Another area that disappointed me today. Maybe the meat did, indeed, sit one day too long.

Overall experience – 6. I want to specify this being judged on today’s – and only today’s – meal. Now that we’re comparing all these great places side by side, or meal by meal, this was a real disappointment. Come on, Rotier’s, you can do way better than this.

Day 4: Ruby Tuesday – Mary’s Notes

Thanks to life and then the John Holmes flood, this review was so late in writing, I needed to go back for seconds and get a fresh take. I didn’t mind having to, for the record. As most are aware, Ruby Tuesday is a national chain restaurant serving up acceptable food trends to Americana eaters, with a slightly modern approach to presentation.  The menu offers regular burgers (“Classic”) and more upscale, USDA prime-beef burgers. We had those. I also had their signature drink, the “Ruby Relaxer” which, in spite of having a name that sounds like an adult toy, has earned a place at the table.

Juiciness: 7: Granted, much of the juice was rendered fat (“grease” just isn’t fair to use when we’re talking about prime) but there was some color on the plate and there was plenty of it, overall. I went through two napkins.

Flavor: 7: This burger had a big beefy taste that was enhanced by cheddar cheese. However. I don’t normally order burgers with tomato anymore, because what comes on them is some hard, pinkish or orangish thing that’s been in a refrigerator. Ruby Tuesday’s menu says they use seasonal vine-ripened tomatoes, so I chanced it. It did add a little to the overall beast, but still didn’t come anywhere near to what local tomatoes would add.

Attractiveness: 8: Look at that pic. Doesn’t that look like something you want in your mouth?

Atmosphere: 7: Your basic chain restaurant. Solid. Dependable. They have a few booths. 

Digestivity: 9: In spite of it being a rather large size, no sluggishness to report. Perhaps it was the cocktail.

Overall: 8: I’m not entirely sure this is a $10 burger but the whole experience — good burger, good fries that automatically come with it, good drink, good service — easily makes it returnable.

Higgins: Ruby Tuesday – Triple Prime Threat?

“The sudden disappointment of a hope leaves a scar which the ultimate fulfillment of that hope never entirely removes.” Thomas Hardy

“I still haven’t found what I’m looking for…” Bono

Mary and I have this running conversation that there is no Ultimate burger and we may be past the age at which one decides “THIS” (wherever this may be) is THE Burger. I beg to differ. I am trying to pull my Burger Buddy out of her Medium-rare Existentialism and SAVE her with Hot Greasy Cheese Burger Evangelicalism… OK maybe we don’t go that far, but that Best Burger is out there. Ruby Tuesday in Green Hills. Another chain burger. But the Triple Prime Burger, the name says it all, yes?

The Digs: It’s a sit down restaurant. It’s Ruby Tuesdays. I arrived late and the place was full. Mary had graciously ordered my burger ahead and I timed my late arrival perfectly.

At First Sight: It was nice enough, the bun looked a little bigger than the burger (and the burger was a nice size.) Cheese (cheddar I think) was melty on the side which made it look even better. Again, with the hand cut fries, but they are ‘endless fries’ and they came in a nice little cup-ish bowl thing. It made the presentation look nice and ‘restauranty’. They had the condiments I wanted on it (Mary got a little extra from what I hear…)

At First Bite: Great Medium Rare Burger for me. I was surprised on first bite the flavor kind of jumped out at me. Grilled taste mixed well with the condiments… and I had my first drip on my shirt. Now mind you, I like a greasy burger. I am not wont to wear the grease all over my shirt. Maybe it was the day maybe it was the burger – if I had been at a bar having a beer, I would not have minded the drippage. What am I saying? I Love a good greasy burger! My Tide Stick worked overtime after the meal.

The Finish: After a few bites of great medium-rare meat, I started to taste the condiments as much or more than the burger. My greasy manna started to wane. And the bun? It seemed flakier like a croissant; I did not notice it at first because of the burger flavor… No croissant-y buns for me, please. It was a great first few bites then started to fail a little. I WORE that burger, some might complain, not me. I will blame it on the perfect meaty medium-rareness of it all. It was Juicy.

Score 7.75

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