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

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Shake Shack - New York City, NY

Double Shack Burger at Shake Shack in Manhatten's Madison Square Park.

Shake Shack in Madison Square Park is the original location for this New York City icon. When in New York I felt compelled to give it a try. On a lovely fall Sunday in the shadow of the Flatiron Building, the line at noon was only about 5 minutes.  I ordered a double Shack Burger ($7.20) fries ($2.70) and a chocolate shake ($5). Pat ordered a plain cheeseburger. We grabbed an outdoor table and waited with our pager. It only took about 5 more minutes to get our food. 

The burger is special. The two patties were fresh and lightly compacted. There was lots of room for the juice to flow. The meat was salty to the best degree and cooked a perfect medium. Melted American cheese oozed nicely blending with the mayo-based sauce. A couple of firm tomato slices and some fresh green leaf lettuce topped it off. The hinged bun was toasted and spongey, holding everything together in the two minutes it took me to eat it. 

The fries were crinkle fries cooked brown and salted. Medium thick, they were good, but not unusual. 
The original location for the Shake Shack in the shadow of New York's Flatiron Building. 

The shake was fabulous. Creamy thick and cold, but still drinkable through the fat straw. The Chocolate quotient was perfectly balanced. I sensed a slight hint of coconut.  

If you get to New York, don't hesitate to give it a try. Try to get to the original location for a great experience. 

Burger 5 spatulas out of 5
Fries 3.5 spatulas
Chocolate Shake 4 spatulas

Shake Shack
Southeast Corner of Madison Square Park
Madison Ave. and E 23rd St.
New York, NY

The Flatiron Building looms next door to Madison Square Park.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Trick Dog - San Francisco, CA

The namesake burger at Trick Dog in San Francisco, CA.

Trick Dog is first and foremost a bar. But it is a bar named for its hamburger. An imaginative concoction on a sesame encrusted, toasted, hot-dog shaped bun. Despite this gimmick, the burger is tangy and satisfying.

We sat upstairs with a great view of the drinking and schmoozing taking place below. Mixed drinks consumed in mass quantities were the norm. Trick dog subscribes to the new artisanal cocktail craze in San Francisco, and I suspect elsewhere. We had met the bartender, Morgan, one night at Bar Agricole and sipped cocktails there at the bar of the master.
The bustling bar at Trick Dog in the Mission District of San Francisco, CA.
I ordered up The Trick Dog ($8) composed of “house ground blend of chuck, brisket & sirloin”. It also comes with shredded lettuce, onion, pickles, cheddar cheese and a delightfully tangy sauce that is some bastard child of thousand island and cayenne pepper. The burger patty itself is juicy and perfectly cooked with a luscious pink center.
Thrice-Cooked, Manimal-Style Fries. 
The Manimal-Style, Thrice-Cooked Fries are a must. ($7). These awesome, salty fries were thick and crispy topped with all manner of stuff. I am not sure what was in the topping exactly but I was in mind of deviled eggs in thousand island dressing with cayenne pepper. Cheese and mushrooms also resided atop the comely mess.

As we ate and I sipped my Manhatten, we enjoyed the ambience of a lively bar, but from a safe, comfortable distance upstairs. Our server had just the right amount of warmth and irony and let us consume at our chosen pace. I felt so at home I chased the whole thing with an ice-cold Miller High Life.  Next time I will try the scotch eggs.

Burger 4.5 spatulas out of 5
Fries 4.5 Spatulas.

Trick Dog
3010 20th St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
An Antique Trick Dog Toy sits above the bar. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Paradise Cafe - Santa Barbara, CA

Paradise Cafe is a nice place in the middle of down town Santa Barbara.  Outdoor dining is available.  Inside the vibe is very Santa Barbara with ferns printed on the seat backs and bamboo tabletops. Our blonde, ponytailed server flitted about smiling the whole time. 

Food came quickly after ordering.  It is a huge looking burger served open faced with all the hot stuff in one side and the veggies on the top half of the bun. Assembling resulted in a 4-inch tall stack. 

The 1/2 pound Paradise Burger sells for $11.95 plus $1.50 for bacon. I selected Swiss cheese instead of standard Cheddar. The patty was smokey and tasty. Juicy meat was nicely salty. Red onions were piled on top and sweetly grilled. Bacon was smokey but a little flaccid. There was a nice thousand island style sauce on the side. Iceberg lettuce. Tomato slice. Pickle chips. The Onion bun was a little smashed but properly toasted. 

The burger comes with thin cut fries; cold, soggy, not impressive.

Paradise Cafe is a pleasant place to have a solid burger that will fill you up. Soak up a little bit of Santa Barbara charm while you are there.  

Burger 3 spatulas out of 5
Fries 1 spatula

Paradise Cafe
702 Anacapa St.
Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Umami Burger - San Francisco, CA

Umami Burger in the Cow Hollow area of San Francisco is one of several California locations of this upscale burger chain. The space is dark and inviting. We arrived around six on a Thursday evening and to our surprise were ushered right to our butcher block table. We have eaten here several times and it can be very crowded, particularly on a weekend or later in the evening.

Our server appeared immediately to take our order. I ordered the Umami Burger ($11). It is one of several burgers built from the ground up. Umami takes pride in concocting each burger with toppings and custom sauces to make each one a unique experience. The 1/3-pound burger is house-ground from some "proprietary blend of high end cuts" as our server told us after inquiring with the manager. It is griddle fried rather than flame broiled, which I always prefer. The Umami Burger itself includes Shiitake mushroom, caramelized onions, slow roasted tomato slice, parmesan crisp and Umami ketchup. (Don't miss the Umami Ketchup on your thin fries either. The ketchup is more tomatoey and spicier than your normal Heinz 57.)

The burger arrived sitting atop a white bun, perfectly dome-shaped and stamped with a "U".  The bun is finely toasted to perfection. The burger itself is a work of art. I have never seen one so finely assembled and presented. Biting into the burger, which is prepared a perfect medium rare, you get each taste hitting your tongue separately and then blending in unison. I noticed the mushroom first, then the beef, cheese and ketchup. It is really a delight.

The Thin Fries ($3.50) are little matchsticks that really live up to their name. Crisp, salty and tasty, you need to eat them fast, because they don't hold the heat for long. The Onion rings are surprisingly uniform in appearance. Their light batter covers and somewhat overwhelms the soft onion inside. I dunked them in the jalapeño ranch sauce and they added a nice little kick.

My wife Pat had a burger with only cheddar cheese. Called the kids burger, it is the same size and bun as my burger. It is really the margarita pizza of burgers. In its unadorned state, it achieves a certain burger perfection that only works when the beef is flavorful, sparingly spiced and fresh.

Skip the pecan, bacon pie. Microwaved to a tongue burning temperature, it disappointed after the quality of the rest. Crust should never be subjected to a microwave, so it was hard to tell how good it was. The bacon was more of a gimmick than an addition.  Instead, have another beer or glass of wine from the nice selection.

According to Cookthink, the tastes of sweet, salty, bitter and sour are familiar, but there is a fifth taste we can perceive with our tongue. Called umami, its taste has been described as rounded, rich and savory. I think this aptly describes the Umami Burger.

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

Umami Burger
2184 Union Street
San Francisco, CA 94123

This Samurai Sword sits in the entrance.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Smashburger - Thousand Oaks, CA

Smashburger in Thousand Oaks, CA presents a clean modern looking restaurant to have your hamburger. I liked the laminate wood grained tables and wood chairs.  No faux 50s aesthetic that has become a cliché in burger places. You walk right up to the counter and order from the flat screen menus behind the server. I ordered up a Classic Smash in the big size ($5.99). The regular ($4.99) is 5 ounces. The big is a half pound. They also offer a double, which is two quarter pound patties rather than one half pound ($5.99).

I barely sat down and my order was there. It is a nice looking burger. The yellow bun was left open with the burger on one side and all the veggies and condiments on the other. I assembled as served and took a bite. The patty was cooked through, but still plenty moist if not particularly juicy as billed. The theory on the "smash" in Smashburger is that they start with a ball of fresh Angus beef and then smash it onto a buttered griddle, searing in the flavor and juice. I have always thought that you compress the ground beef as little as possible to keep the patty light, juicy and soft. The thicker patty also allows more pink beef in the middle. Having said all that, this is a very high quality enjoyable burger. The meat tasted savory and flavorful. All the flavors had a nice balance with the very fresh veggies: pickle chips, green leaf lettuce, tomato slice and red onion. There is also mustard and ketchup.  The American cheese was mostly melted, although it could have been more so. 

The Haystack Onions ($2.29) were light, thin, peppery and flavorful. Served hot and crisp they were supposed to be served with a dipping sauce, which I did not get. I had to go back to the counter and ask for it. Turns out that they were out of the containers for it and had to improvise a french fry container for it. Not a big deal, but leaving that great sauce out of the order would have robbed me of the delightful concoction. The sauce stings the taste buds with a delightful, creamy horseradish mix. 

The Smash Fries were the best of the lot. For a chain, I really appreciate the creativity here. Smashburger rolls the thin, crisp fries in rosemary, olive oil and garlic. The subtle garlic didn't overpower like garlic fries. These fries would be great without the extra spices, but with them, they are a don't-miss addition to the burger. 

Smashburger is a worthy option against other burger chains. It compares well with In-N-Out and beats Five Guys in my opinion. The more substantial burger is a plus. It is more expensive than the previous mentions, but that is not unexpected given the quality of the items ordered.

Burger 4 out of 5 spatulas
Haystack Onions 3.5 spatulas (Get the sauce)
Fries 5 spatulas

650 North Moorpark Road
Thousand Oaks, CA 91360

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Kronnerburger - San Francisco, CA

The Kronnerburger on Challah Bun with white cheddar sauce.
Kronnerburger is a pop-up burger place in the old Bruno's bar on Mission Street in San Francisco. There is actually no sign on the door, but they do have a temporary sign at the door when Kronnerburger is open from 6-late. We arrived right after they opened and had the place all to ourselves. The old bar is very dark and cozy. Edgy rock music, tastefully curated, played loudly. We were greeted cheerfully and shown to our table.

We ordered up and almost immediately received the best poutine I have ever had. Maybe ordering poutine is cheating on fries, but I have fallen in love with it recently. The version here called "Fries with Beefcheek gravy and cheese curd" was $10. You can add bone marrow for $4 more. I could not stop eating the crispy fries with the luscious gravy and soft melted curds. Amazing.
The poutine tastes a lot better than this photo would indicate. 

We also got onion rings ($6) that audibly crunched when you bit them. Battered lightly and sliced thin, they held up well to the spicy chili aioli that accompanied them. I think this is the best fries/onion rings combo I have ever had.

The burger came. Billed as rare and salty, it did not disappoint on either count. The challah bun was heavily toasted and fit perfectly to a somewhat modestly sized burger. I would guess 6 ounces or so.  The white cheddar mayo sauce was sloppy and tasty, holding its own to the salty beef patty. The red onions were sweet and nicely grilled. Crispy pickle slices and crisp lettuce rounded out a very nice burger.
Audibly crunchy onion rings.

Just to finish with aplomb, we ordered the ice cream burger ($6), chocolate ice cream sandwiched between two very thin chocolate chip cookies. I liked this better than others of this ilk. Usually the cookies are too thick and overwhelm the ice cream. This has just the right balance between cookie and ice cream.
Ice Cream burger finishes off a great repast. 

The place is very dark, so my photos here don't do the food justice. You will have to go and experience for yourself!

2379 Mission Street (Inside Bruno's)
San Francisco, CA 94110

Burger 4.5 spatulas out of 5
Fries 5 spatulas
Onion Rings 5 spatulas
Jesus provides the only light at the table. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Burgers and Brew, Davis, CA

The Bacon Cheeseburger at Burgers and Brew in Davis. A lively place day and night for a burger. 

Burgers and Brew is my daughter’s favorite burger place in Davis, CA. I went up to visit her at school on a Sunday at lunchtime. The small cottage was packed. They have turned the porch into outdoor dining. But this was a very cold day at Davis, so they had plastic draped over the openings and heaters straining in vain to keep the place warm.

It didn’t make the line short. Lots of people were waiting in line to order their burgers. Every table was packed. We placed our order and found a table. Our onion rings ($4.25) came out first. They were hot and battered. Slightly undercooked but crunchy, the onions on the inside were sweet.
A full house enjoys their burgers and brew. 

Next came the burgers. Sara had a cheeseburger ($7.50) and I had the Bacon Cheeseburger ($8.75).  The burgers are a half-pound of Niman Ranch beef. The patties seemed freshly and gently packed. The beef was tasty, but a little cooked past the medium I had ordered.  The bun was a handsome, lightly toasted sesame bun fit nicely to the burger. Fresh green-leaf lettuce, two tomato slices and red onion slices were joined by mayo on the burger. The two strips of applewood bacon were crisp and salty. Cheddar cheese was melted, but I couldn't really taste it. 

I found the burger to be very satisfying and (except for being overcooked) very nicely prepared but somewhat unremarkable. The fries were crispy and hot, medium size cut and lightly salted and peppered.

The crowd continued to keep the place packed as we finished our burger. It was a pleasant place for a burger. Sara pointed out they are open until 3 am on the weekends, which really seems to be appropriate for a college town.

Burger 3.5 out of 5 spatulas
Fries 3 out of 5
Onion Rings 3.5 out of 5

Burger and Brew
403 Third Street
Davis, CA 95616