Friday, August 24, 2007

Malibu Grill - San Jose, CA

Malibu Grill in San Jose came recommended by a waiter at another location where I had tried a burger. His wife had done an extensive survey of South Bay burgers and found it to be the best burger. In my search to date, that isn't saying much. I have yet to try a truly fantastic burger south of Palo Alto. So I was very excited to make the trek south and try out the burger.

Tucked into the corner of a small strip center on Camden Avenue, Malibu Grill is very unassuming, almost hidden. Walking in though, it is a lively large place - clean and busting with plasma screens beaming sports to all corners of the bar. On a weekday, the hard-core sports fanatics weren't in attendance. Instead, there were several families and some construction workers, happily munching away.

I stepped to the counter and ordered a Sirloin Burger with Blue Cheese ($8.95). It came with fries and a pickle. I ordered a half-order of onion rings ($4.95 for a full order). The person taking the order said "15 to 20 minutes". I was kind of surprised looking around since they weren't that busy.

I sat down at one of the clean and well-kept tables and awaited my feast. In less than ten minutes I had my food. "Under promise, over deliver." a business mentor often said.

The burger came topped with copious amounts of luscious looking grilled onions and blue cheese. I forgot to ask, but it had to be a half-pound at least. The first bite was anticlimactic. The burger was a little overcooked and not juicy at all. I have always thought that chuck is better than sirloin for burgers as the extra fat adds to the juiciness and flavor. I give the burger a 2.5 spatulas out of 5.

The fries we medium thick, with just the right amount of salt and pepper. They were piping hot and quite good. 3.5. The onion rings were medium sized onion slices battered. They were a little soggy and tepid. 2 spatulas.

Still looking for my holy grail of a great burger in the South Bay, I appeal to other burger buddies for suggestions.

Burger 2.5 spatulas out of 5
Fries 2 spatulas
Onion Rings 3.5 spatulas

Malibu Grill
5735 Camden Ave.
San Jose, CA 95124

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Zuni Café – San Francisco, CA

Zuni Café is a San Francisco institution. Zuni has a great reputation as a restaurant and quite a following. Many rate the burger the best. So my burger buddy Mark and I decided to try it out. The yellow awnings call out as you drive along Market Street. If you don’t want to pony up the $10 for valet parking, you might work up a good appetite walking 5 blocks from a parking spot as I did.

As I waited for Mark to appear, I read through the Zuni cookbook at the bar. They grind their own chuck. A good sign. A look at the menu revealed the burger to be priced at $13.50. We added mountain gorgonzola ($1.75) and grilled onions ($1) - a staggering sum of $16.25 for the burger. We also ordered shoestring potatoes for $6. I was running short of cash already, so Mark and I agreed to split the fries.

The burger is a thing of beauty. Elegantly presented with pickled zucchini shavings and a candied onion on the side. The square bun is ciabatta style. There is a light garlic aioli on the bottom bun. The cheese and a grilled red onion slice sat artfully on top with the bun top slightly askew. The burger was cooked a perfect, juicy medium. All the elements played well together. The bun was a little stiff for my taste, but that is a quibble. Mark and I rated it a 4.5 spatulas out of 5.

The shoestring potatoes were thin and crisp. They are actually smaller and thinner than a shoestring. Very good, they are even yummy when they have cooled off. I dipped them in the homemade ketchup. We rated them a 4.5 as well.

The check came to just under $50. We added a $10 tip for the great service. $60 for two burgers, an order of fries, an ice tea and an Arnold Palmer. That’s a lot of coin for a burger. My Indiana dad would not believe it - unless maybe he tasted it.

Burger 4.5 spatulas out of 5
Fries 4.5 spatulas

Zuni Café
1658 Market Street
San Francisco, CA

Tied House - Mountain View, CA

Tied House in Mountain View turned out to be a nice surprise. I typed “best burger Mountain View” into google on my iPhone. Clarke’s came up about 10 times, In-N-Out twice, my blog once and then “Tied House”. I have always said the food at brew-pubs is an after thought. Large portions do not necessarily make a good meal. This one seems to care a little more about the food. Although I have eaten at Tied House many times, I never tried the burger. I should have.

The menu sports a Wild Game Burger that rotates between buffalo, venison, elk and ostrich. That day was buffalo. I have had buffalo before and don’t prefer it to straight beef. My server, Patrick, recommended the Roasted Garlic Burger, I added bleu cheese ($9.50). The burgers are made of 1/2 pound of ground chuck. There is a garlic aioli and red onion crisps. The burger was a little over-cooked but with a tasty charcoally crust. I gave it a 3.5 spatulas out of 5.

The $9.50 included half and half of onion rings and fries. The o-rings were medium-thick and battered. 3 spatulas. The fries were medium-thick, coated and cold. 2 spatulas.

The Tied House is a lively place in an old warehouse type building. There are flat screens playing sports and the service was excellent. If you are looking for a good art-house brew and a burger, this could be your place.

Burger 3.5
Onion Rings 3
French Fries 2

Tied House
954 Villa Street
Mountain View, CA 94041

Another location in San Jose.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Barneys's Gourmet Hamburgers - Oakland, CA

I headed off to Barney’s expecting a greasy spoon type place. Instead I found a hip and happening spot with marble floors, wood tables, leather seats and outdoor dining. Just up from Berkeley, the place has a college town feel. I wish I had brought my Birkenstocks.

Joined by my burger buddy Mark, we perused the expansive menu before settling on a Blackened Burger with Swiss cheese ($7.80) for me and Baja Burger with avocado ad bacon ($7.95) for Mark. I had heard the curly fries ($4.50) were awesome, so we ordered those, along with onion rings ($4.75) and a mocha shake ($4.25).

Our server was polite, well informed and speedy. She told us all the burgers are made with 1/3 pound of fresh ground chuck, except for the Big Barney’s Burger, which is a full pound. She quickly brought a spectacular plate of onion rings to our table. An onion had been halved and split into huge rings. These were battered and topped with parmesan cheese. They were crunchy and luscious. 4.5 spatulas out of 5. One order was more than two of us could eat. The curly fries weren’t as impressive as the o-rings, but held their one in crispness. (3.5 spatulas) Both were even better when dunked in the peppery ranch dressing that accompanied them.

As we were tackling the deep-fried delicacies, the burgers arrived. They were almost two beautiful to eat. (The kind fast food places photograph for ads before replacing with a microwave slab of gruel.)

My blackened burger was cooked to perfection - pink and juicy in the middle with a nice peppery crust on the outside. It was served with a tangy thousand island type dressing, which softened the late-hitting, zing of the pepper. It also came with lettuce and tomato and a soft sesame bun. I have to give this a 5 spatulas. I really enjoyed it. Mark was equally enthusiastic about his Baja Burger.

The Mocha shake was a very nice accompaniment to all the spice as well. A nice coffee taste gave it a little twist from the classic chocolate. 4 spatulas.

It won’t be long before I return to Barney’s. Maybe with a tie-die bib.

Burger 5 spatulas (out of 5)
Fries 3.5 spatulas
Onion Rings 4.5 spatulas
Shake 4 spatulas

Barney’s Gourmet Burgers
5819 College Ave.
Oakland, CA

Additional Locations is Oakland, San Francisco, Berkeley and San Rafael.