Sunday, August 16, 2015

Grumpy's - Ketchum, Sun Valley, Idaho

The 1/2 Pound Cheeseburger at Grumpy's in Ketchum, Sun Valley, Idaho
Grumpy’s in Ketchum, Idaho’s Sun Valley is a place everyone told me I had to go. I had been to Sun Valley many times over the last 22 years, but for some reason had never heard of Grumpy’s.  Why didn’t I hear about it before? “Sorry We’re Open” proclaims their website. The people working at Grumpy’s were not grumpy, as advertised but were very pleasant, calling those in our party “honey” and “sweetheart”. 

Grumpy’s location has a classic burger joint lived-in feel, pleasantly dilapidated. Beer cans line the wall. Lots of memorabilia litters the walls. Graffiti, wall carvings and mementos abound. Most of the seating on this sunny day was outdoors. 

I ordered the 1/2 lb burger ($7.75 added) and added ham by suggestion of the woman at the counter, since they did not offer bacon. I added fries ($1.50). Everyone else got the 1/4 pound burger. We grabbed our seats outside under an umbrella. A golden retriever who seemed to know its way around came over and greeted us. Within a short time a young man emerged from the restaurant and yelled “Scott” and brought us our burgers. 

The burger and fries shared a basket lined with white paper. The sesame bun, lightly toasted, surrounded the burger patty along with shredded lettuce, onion slices, pickles, special sauce and american cheese. The burger patty itself was charcoal-broiled, charred crispy on the outside and cooked medium on the inside. A very smokey flavor masked the meat flavor. The patty was not very juicy and was relatively unremarkable so maybe the smokey taste was a relief. By comparison the 1/4-pound burgers were cooked clear through and grey in the middle. Get the 1/2 pound burger and eat half of it. 

The thin fries were your typical frozen, industrial style fries, slightly under-coooked and not that hot.  

Overall, I was unimpressed with Grumpy’s but it was a pleasant place to have a family burger on a beautiful day in Ketchum. 

Burger 2.5 spatulas out of 5
Fies 2 spatulas

860 Warm Springs Rd. 
Ketchum, ID 83340

Monday, June 29, 2015

Assembly - Santa Cruz, CA

The West Coast Burger at Assembly in Santa Cruz, CA, featuring artfully crispy bacon, cheddar topping and poutine  fries as photographed by the HoosierBurgerBoy.
Assembly in Santa Cruz beckons on a sunny afternoon along the coast. The doors open to a bustling downtown full off pedestrians. A breeze blows gently through the door. Chandeliers fashioned from deer antlers hang from the ceiling. This is a high-end dining experience. The burger is as well.

After being seated, I order the West coast burger with home made brioche bun, cheddar spread, pickled onion, secret sauce, salad and fries. ($13.50) I add bacon for $3. Avocado is $2.50, but I decline. The burger comes with fries, but they also have Poutine with aged cheddar and duck gravy for $8. My server says she can make my fries into poutine. 
Antlers form a Chandelier at Assembly in Santa Cruz, CA.
I order a glass of wine and wait for my burger as the restaurant starts to fill up. The burger arrives with bacon draped artfully around the patty; the smokey slices thin and crisp. The burger is grass fed and grass finished. It comes prepared to medium. Cooked perfectly, my burger tastes salty and delicious. The cheddar mixture gives a nice grace note of sharpness. I don't really taste the secret sauce, unless it's in the cheddar sauce. The bun holds together well under the juice until the last few bites when it falls apart on the bottom. This is a big win of a burger. 

The poutine fries are a work of art. The light duck gravy works as a condiment, not heavy and greasy but airy, salty and delicious it is spread sparingly over the hot, medium cut fries. 

I recommend this burger highly if you have the extra bucks and are in Santa Cruz looking for a great burger. There are lots of great things on the menu besides, so bring the whole gang and everyone can enjoy. 

Burger 4.5 spatulas our of 5
Fries 5 spatulas

1108 Pacific Avenue
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
The front view of Assembly in Santa Cruz, CA. A great place to have a burger.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Burger. - Santa Cruz, CA

The Syd Barrett Burger at Burger. in Santa Cruz comes in a metal pan with Fries. 
Burger. in Santa Cruz is a regular stop for me when I am in Santa Cruz. They have an imaginative and creative offering and a very comfortable and fun bar atmosphere in the restaurant. The moment you come in, you are presented with a huge chalkboard behind the counter with lots of burger combos named after the famous and semi-famous. My favorite name is the obscure Pink Floyd founder Syd Barrett whose eponymous burger is the mushroom swiss. The Kim Kardashian ($14.75) is a double Phatty, which is two bacon cheeseburgers between two grilled cheese sandwiches.

I ordered the Hank Williams ($7.75),  a 4-ounce Humboldt grass-fed beef patty, onion rings, bacon, cheddar cheese and BBQ sauce. All burgers come with lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles.  And shoestring fries. I also bought a chocolate shake ($5.25). The five of us finished ordering our burgers and were given a picture of Ozzy Osbourne as our "number" for our order to be brought to our table. 
The Shake at Burger was luscious. 
The shake came first, exquisitely topped with whipped cream and chocolate syrup. We had five spoons and the shake was quickly consumed. It was cold but still creamy. The shake was made with chocolate ice cream, not vanilla with syrup. It was sublime. 

The burgers came, nicely packed in small metal loaf pans: face up for easy photography with fries nicely tucked in. The burger was very good, the meat nicely spiced with pepper. The onion inside the ring was sweet and soft, bacon crisp, bbq sauce a nice accent rather than overwhelming. All the vegetables were crisp and fresh. The toasted bun was firm and fresh. 
The Menu is Considerable. No end of choices at Burger. in Santa Cruz.
The fries were disappointingly cold. We told our server and she cheerfully brought a piping hot mound of fries as a replacement. The hot fries were too thick to be called shoestrings. They were thin-cut, salty and crisp. Good if not remarkable. 

Everyone really enjoyed their burger. We had a good time hanging out. We all agreed we will come back next time we are in Santa Cruz. 

Burger 4 out of 5 spatulas
Fries 2.5 spatulas
Shake 4.5 spautals. 

1520 Mission St.
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
(831) 425-5300

The interior at burger is well lit and inviting. A bar in the back is quite popular. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Bishop Burger Barn, Bishop CA

The Double Cheeseburger with Bacon from Bishop Burger Barn combines lots of flavors for a smokey, satisfying burger experience.
Bishop Burger Barn in Bishop, CA is a beef oasis. Situated just off the main drag on West Line, it feels timeless in its small-town quirkiness. 

You walk up to a packed place. A little building with an outdoor window is where you order. A Drive through goes right through the line of people waiting to order. Outdoor seating spreads around the old complex, including a fenced in pet area out back. It took about 15 minutes to get my food on this very busy August Saturday. 
Bishop Burger Barn in Bishop CA features outdoor seating, drive-through, walk-up window and a great burger.

My Nutella Shake ($4) came first. Very, very creamy and yummy. Just creamy enough to be sipped through a straw. I kind of ordered it on a whim, but on this 91 degree day it was very refreshing, with that chocolate-hazelnut Nutella goodness. 

The food came a few sips later. I ordered the double cheeseburger ($6.85) with everything including grilled onions (+25 cents) and bacon (+$1) It is quite a stack, it's a good thing they paper wrap it to keep it together.  The patties are thick and hand formed and cooked a nice medium. They were tasty but not especially juicy.  Lots of butter lettuce, fresh tomato and grilled red onions. The sesame bun was perfectly toasted. American cheese melted everywhere. The crispy bacon added a smokey note. With the optional thousand island dressing it all combined for a tasty burger.

A local note: The Burger Barn uses Bishop-raised grass fed, Angus beef. 
The fries and Onion Rings from Bishop Burger Barn

The "crispy" fries were coated. While I am not generally a fan of coated fries, they were crispy and hot. The onion rings were better. Beer-battered and thick, they were very sweet. They audibly crunched even as they cooled off. The staff brought ranch and ketchup without me asking, which is a big plus. I have to have ranch on my onion rings.

This is a really fun, local treat. If you are making a trip up 395, take the detour a couple of miles to the Burger Barn. It's worth it. 

Burger 4 spatulas out of 5
Fries 2 spatulas 
Onion Rings 4 spatulas 

Milk Shake 4 spatulas 

Bishop Burger Barn
2675 West Line St.
Bishop, CA 93514

Misters work overtime on the line at Bishop Burger Barn on a 90 degree day in Bishop.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Bartlett Hall - San Francisco, CA

The Maverick Burger with Kobe Butter Beef at Bartlett Hall

Bartlett Hall in San Francisco's Union Square area has been touting themselves as having a great burger: Kobe beef with butter, butter and more butter.  All the ingredients are in place for a great experience. Very nice space. A bar. Lots to eat. 

We were there during the Pride Day parade and the World Cup match between Costa Rica and Greece.  The bar was fairly quiet. We sat at a high table near the bar so we could watch the Giants game and the World Cup match at the same time. There was a large table of Costa Rica fans cheering their team on. They won. 

The Maverick is the name of the burger. At $16 it is pricey. The description says it is a Kobe butter burger. The thick burger was perfectly cooked to medium and would have been magnificent if it was hot. It was griddled, not flame broiled (a plus) with a nicely cooked exterior of crisp dark beef.  It was warm and palatable but had sat too long. The buttery cheddar concoction on the top oozed flavor. I loved the onion crisps. The beef was tasty and lightly seasoned.  

The Kennebec fries are unremarkable. They reminded me of a lot of the fries you get in chain restaurants. Medium cut. Salty. No skins. They were hotter than the burger, but nothing special. 

I would love to try the place again when the place was busier and the burger was hot. It is nice to have his type of place near Union Square. 

Burger 3.5 out of 5 Spatulas
Fries 2 spatulas

Bartlett Hall
242 O'Farrell St.
San Francisco, CA 94102

Monday, June 30, 2014

Dixie Cafe, Corbin, KY

Burger with Egg from the Dixie Cafe

Dixie Café  in Corbin, Kentucky is reviewed by our Indiana correspondent Ron Newlin.

Each year millions of Hoosiers and other Midwesterners blast through Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia on Interstate 75, trying  to get to Florida as fast as they can.  Corbin, Kentucky, is one of dozens of little towns that we blow by without even seeing, hidden by the mountain ridges.

Probably all of them have a hidden treasure of a diner or two, but a couple of things make Corbin more worthy of others of a brief detour.  If you’ve got an hour to spare, it’s the town closest to Cumberland Falls, one of the great under-appreciated natural wonders east of the Mississippi.  And foodies may recognize Corbin as the home of Colonel Sanders and birthplace of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

And indeed, you can still enjoy a meal as well as tour a museum in the quaint refurbished cottage where Colonel Sanders started his empire.  But, this blog is not called “Hoosier Chicken Boy.”

Or you can ask someone where to go for the local color.  Odds are, they’ll be delighted to tell you that the Dixie Café is open again.

The Dixie is a classic hole-in-the-wall main street diner, serving breakfast and lunch, that dates back at least to my mother-in-law’s childhood in the 1930s.  A few years ago it closed and the space briefly became an Italian restaurant, but in the last year new owners bought it and restored/updated it to a version of its former “glory.”

It’s still got the 2’x4’ acoustic ceiling and the red-and-white tile floor, accompanied by new, no-nonsense booths and tables, with a lunch counter in the back.  The walls are freshly painted in the red and gray colors of the local high school, the Corbin Redhounds (hey, there’s another alternative nickname for the Washington Professional Football Club), and adorned with a combination of letter jackets, old sports calendars, and framed artwork of local landmarks for sale, including a striking image of an L&N locomotive, a tribute to the employer that kept my in-laws fed and shod through the Great Depression.  You have to get close enough to read the price tags to realize that the images are filtered and soft-focused photographic prints.   If they had actually been paintings, I would have bought a couple for $105.  I may still.

Whether your clientele is locals or tourists, if you’re down the street from the original KFC, you need a gimmick.  At the Dixie, it is the “chili bun” – a hot dog bun filled with finely-ground beef in a chili sauce, with no frankfurter involved.   The sauce has just a touch of heat, seasoned primarily with black and cayenne pepper, and maybe a hint of cumin.  They come two to a platter with a side for $4.25, and they are ample enough that my 14-year-old didn’t need dessert afterwards. 

Hoosier Burger Boy and I grew up in rural  northern Indiana, where his family raised beef cattle and my family’s blood money came from poultry, so I ordered the Dixie Eggburger for $5.65, plus a 50-cent upgrade to onion rings.    The onion rings were of the frozen variety, but of good quality for that kind, well-drained so they weren’t greasy, and plentiful.

The burgers at the Dixie are fresh and hand-made.  No perfect circles here – mine was bigger than 6 ounces but not a half-pound, and bore a striking resemblance to a map of Ireland.  It was thick enough that they probably should have asked how I wanted it done.  It came out medium-rare, which was perfect for my tastes, but maybe too pink for some.  They did ask me how I wanted the egg, and they nailed the “over-medium”, with just enough yolk to drip some on the plate without getting the large, white-bread bun soggy.   The burger lacked any kind of seasoning to make it truly memorable, but was more than satisfying for the price.

Despite the antique coke machine inside the front door, the Dixie offers Pepsi products and both sweetened and unsweetened tea, which is a pleasure.  In this part of the country, if you order iced tea without asking, you’re probably going to get “swait tay.” 

I don’t think you need to be accompanied by a delighted Corbin expatriate to enjoy the Dixie, but that was surely part of the pleasure.  Every household at my wife’s family reunion made a detour from the state park into town to have at least one meal at the Dixie.  With or without a Corbinite (Corbinian?  Corbinaria?), a trip to the Dixie feels like a homecoming.

Burger 3 Spatulas out of 5
Onions Rings 2.5 Spatulas

Dixie Cafe
208 S. Main St. 
Corbin, KY 40701

Saturday, April 26, 2014

James Republic - Long Beach, CA

The James Republic burger features 2 patties with onion jam between and white cheddar melted over both.

James Republic in Long Beach, CA is a farm-to-table restaurant in downtown Long Beach. In the Marriott Hotel, it opens to the outdoors for a great feel. The night I was there they had all the lanai doors open and Long Beach's vibrant downtown was right there. 

The Grass Fed Burger ($13) features two four-ounce patties, fiscalini white cheddar cheese, onion jam, fancy suace and house pickles. The nicely conceived two-patty configuration allows them to tuck the onion jam between the patties. The cheddar is melted around the whole thing. Everything blends together. I could have sworn I tasted mushrooms. The bun is nutty and sesame covered. Soft, but it held together well. The patties were cooked more medium well than medium, but I still enjoyed. 

I also ordered a side of pomme frites with jalapeño, rosemary garlic, malt vinegar aioli ($5). 

Fries were good. A little limp. Medium cut. Salty and peppery. I didn't taste jalapeño or garlic or vinegar. About halfway through, I found the malt vinegar aioli, which was awesome.  

The crispy brussels salad with frisee, benton's bacon and a sixty minute egg ($11) are not to be missed.  The bacon is in chunks.  I ate every chunk. 

Burger 4.5 spatulas out of 5
Fries 3 spatulas

James Republic
500 East 1st St.
Long Beach, CA 90802