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
415-433-4332
bartletthall.com

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
606-523-6270


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
562-901-0235

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Squeeze Inn - Tracy, CA




The Cheese Skirt on my Squeezeburger has a piece of bacon for good measure. 
The Squeeze Inn in Tracy, CA claims to have pioneered the cheese skirt, which I first experienced in at Nobby’s in Chico. The owner, Dean Davis, told me that the Nobby’s founder had learned the technique when he worked at Squeeze Inn before starting Nobby’s. Having gone to the source, I could not wait to try it

I ordered the Famous Squeezeburger w/ cheese and bacon ($8.59). It has Mayo, mustard, dill pickle, tomato, onion, lettuce. I ordered my onions grilled. The burger has 1/3 lb patty on sesame bun. I also ordered the combo fries and onion rings. $3.99. 

The Squeeze in is a very friendly place walking in. When I had arrived the server proudly told me they were famous from a stint with Guy Fieri on The Food Network. The owner Dean, came over and said hello. Another nice touch is a photo of Kramer from Seinfeld on the wall. 
The onion rings and fries are hot and ready to munch.
The Burger is awesome. It has a fluffy but solid sesame bun. Everything was hot off the grill with a great mix of mayo, mustard and onions. Dill chips were cold and crisp, the green lettuce fresh. The cheese skirt is like cheese chip on the side and spread several inches in all directions beyond the bun. I love breaking a piece off and tasting the sharpness of the cheese. The bacon was salty and firm, almost crisp and a nice compliment to the taste of the cheese. 

Fries are medium cut. Hot and good. Onion rings were hot, beer-battered and crisp. Sweet inside. 

If you are in Tracy, skip In-N-Out, Five Guys, Nations, Sonic, Jack-in the Box and go to Squeeze Inn for a real burger of unique character.

Burger 5 spatulas out of 5
Fires 3 spatulas.
Onion Rings 3 spatulas

Squeeze Inn
2742 Naglee Rd.
Tracy, CA 95304
209-833-7992


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Pink Pony - Scottsdale, AZ



The Pink Pony in Scottsdale, Arizona was a must for burgering when we made our first sojourn to Arizona to watch the Giants at Spring Training.  The Pink Pony is a long-time tradition in Scottsdale for all those who attend the Giants games a few blocks away at Scottsdale Stadium.  My friend Gil Zeimer, who recently wrote a guest blog here, said we had to get the Pony Burger.

After the Saturday game, we headed over to the Pony.  The newly remodeled Pony has little in common with the old dive it once was, according to those we spoke with. It is modern and sleek and would not feel out of place in Los Angeles. We were told it was a two–hour wait for a table so we decided to wait for a spot to open up at the bar. We put in our name for a table, just in case.

At the bar, Giants fans traded stories and we joined right in. Four men who share season tickets at AT&T were on their 14th consecutive outing to spring break.  We chatted with them as we waited for a bar spot to open up. After a mere 45 minutes my pager went off and we got our table.

I ordered the Pony Burger ($12) with Wisconsin Cheddar, crispy Pork belly, avocado, garlic aioli, slow roasted tomato, bibb lettuce and butter bun + fired egg. But our server, Vincente, said that the Giants fans had made a run on the place and the huge trove of buns they had at the beginning of the day were gone! No burgers. I was crest-fallen. He promised to see what he could do. Sure enough, Vince came back and said the chef did not want me to go away disappointed. He would make a special bunless version of the burger just for me!

It was fabulous. The meat was salty and juicy. Very flavorful. The roasted tomato added a nice counter-note to the garlic aioli.  The avocado was more like guacamole in consistency and could have been left off. The sunnyside-up egg was a great topper. The bibb lettuce cradled the whole thing next to some excellent fresh-cut fries.

I will definitely head back to try the bun version in the future, but this one was fabulous and the service was stellar.

Burger 4.5 spatulas out of 5
Fries 4 spatulas

Pink Pony
3831 N. Scottsdale Rd.
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
408-945-6697

Monday, March 3, 2014

Bel Campo Meat Company, Larkspur, CA

By Gil Zeimer, Guest Blogger, Zeimer.com

The Belcampo Burger is 5.6 oz of dry-aged beef with NY cheddar, caramelized onions, butter lettuce and house sauce for $11. 
HBB Note: My friend Gil Zeimer and I enjoyed this burger recently at Belcampo. Gil, a writer by trade, had been bugging me to post. Thankfully for us burger lovers, he finally got tired of waiting and wrote it himself. The burger is great. I agree with the rating he assigned it. Enjoy the review and the burger!

There’s meat. And there’s sustainably grown, stress-free, organic-certified meat 100% from a butcher shop restaurant’s own land near Mt. Shasta.

That’s the unique selling proposition at Belcampo Meat Company in Larkspur, CA, a short walk from the Golden Gate Ferry terminal and a recent addition to the Marin Country Mart.

Belcampo states that their “animals are raised on our farm at the base of Mt. Shasta, where we grow our pastures, and cultivate our fields the old fashioned way with rotational grazing and an integrated and holistic approach to pasture management that is structured to support 12 unique species. Our farm is certified organic by CCOF and certified humane by the Animal Welfare Association. At the farm, our success is measured by our ecology’s health: our soils become richer, our pastures and farm fields denser, our water cleaner, and our energy sources more sustainable.”
The French Dip features medium rare roast beef with creamy horseradish on ciabatta. And, of course, hot jus. 

So does all of this TLC get handed down to the pasture-raised meats in the Belcampo Burgers? Pretty much. The Belcampo Burger ($11) that Scott (HoosierBurgerBoy) ordered was sandwiched between a tender brioche bun –– succulent, medium rare, and perfectly grilled.

While I’ve enjoyed the burgers here on several other visits, I actually prefer the French Dip Sandwich ($12) because the rare roast beef and its au jus were the most fragrant and delicious I’ve ever had.

We also ordered the French Beef Tallow Fries ($7), which were thinly cut and a bit salty, but quite tasty.

Not in the mood for beef? This restaurant also offers lamb, pulled pork, chili cheese fries, and quite a few salads.

The adjacent Butcher Shop offers steer, bacons and sausages of the world, ground beef, double cut steaks, goose and duck.

If you’re traveling throughout California, there are other Belcampo Meat Companies in Palo Alto, Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, and Downtown Los Angeles.

Burger 4 spatulas out of 4
Fries 4 spatulas
French Dip Sandwich 5 spatulas

Belcampo Meat Company
2405 Larkspur Landing Circle, Building 4, Larkspur, CA 94939
(415) 448-5810

Friday, November 29, 2013

Roam Artisan Burgers - San Francisco, CA

The Sunny-Side Burger from Roam Artisan Burgers features an egg on top.
Roam Artisan Burgers on Fillmore is the second location for this San Francisco burger chain. It is a warm and friendly place to meet friends for burgers, which is exactly what we did one Wednesday night.  We all ordered our food at the counter and staked out 10 places at the communal table in the middle. Roam has a very nice wine and beer selection which is definitely a win. But go here for the burgers, which are some of the best I have had in San Francisco. 

I got the Sunny-Side ($8.25) with the beef patty, organic free range egg, aged white cheddar, caramalized onions, greens, tomato, sweet chili sauce. The patty is 4.5 ounces but seems bigger. The meat is moist and nicely spiced, cooked just the right medium. Sesame bun toasted and spongy. Sauce is just the right amount of sweet and spicy.  Onions sweet and perfect. Fresh tomato slices were fresh and tasty.   My only quibble would be the egg yolk should have been runny, not cooked hard.
Russet Fries from Roam Artisan Burgers

The Russet Fries ($2.99) are medium cut and sprinkled with parsley. These were not as hot as they could be. 

Zucchini onion haystack strings ($3.49) are ok. They were tough to eat and indeed stringy. 

The place offers a nice choice of meats including beef, turkey, bison and veggie. I didn't consider anything but beef, but a lot in our party did. They seemed equally pleased. 

I will be back. Sorry for the photo quality. The place was very dark. I lit the food with my iPhone. 

Burger 5 spatulas to of 5
Fries 4 spatulas
Onion Strings 2.5 spatulas

Roam Artisan Burgers
1923 Fillmore Street, 
San Francisco CA 94115
415.800.7801