R.F. O’Sullivan & Son

July 13th, 2009 by Richard Chudy

I previously wrote about hype involved in a restaurant, and fortunately, Bartley’s passed that test, unfortunately, R.F. O’Sullivan’s does not. While not boasting as many accolades as Bartley’s, Sullivan’s has its fair share as well, even Gourmet magazine recently did a piece on twenty burgers across the country to eat right now, listing O’Sullivan’s among them. A giant sign outside of the pub boasts “Number 1 burgers,” in which I couldn’t help but think back to a Seinfeld episode. To paraphrase, I’m not sure how official any of these rankings really are. It was a Saturday night and there was a wait, not a problem, we’re told it would be twenty minutes, and after said time the hostess comes out and says it will be a few minutes longer if we want a table, again no big deal. We finally settle in to the pub, which is quite smaller than I imagined it to be, very noisy, but charming, a nice atmosphere.

The menu lists over twenty five different burgers, but predictably I order a regular old cheeseburger with bacon. (are we sensing a theme here yet?) A few things annoy me and set me off immediately and I can’t seem to write down notes to myself fast enough. Here we go:

  • -additional charge for lettuce, onion, and tomato
  • -sticky table
  • -no free refills on soda
  • -a clear no cell phone sign is hung, but it’s so loud in here, who who want to speak on the phone?
  • -Phantom Gourmet approved, never a good sign

Now these may not seem like a big deal to most, but to me they are. For some reason the extra charge for the standard trio of lettuce, tomato and onion, and the no free refill rule on sodas bug me. If you’re serving soda from a fountain at a pub setting, how can you not have free refills? Each sip I take is a race against time, so my drink doesn’t become watered down. It’s like they know they have been well received by critics, the press loves them, so they think they can charge additionally for these items, why don’t you just make the burgers $8.75 then?

They make note that the wait for a burger is twenty minutes. Really? It takes twenty minutes to cook 8 ounces of meat? Really? Unfortunately, it takes over thirty minutes to arrive, and yes I understand it’s busy, but it’s also a small place and orders aren’t exactly flying in. To me, it’s more of a warning, “Attention, our cooks are very slow, please be patient.”

I know going in its lean ground sirloin, so I’m not expecting much (fat is flavor, or so the saying goes) and although it imparts a wonderful charred, grilled flavor, that’s all I can taste. The meat is completely tasteless, completely unseasoned. The fries baffle me. Steak fries I understand, a little thicker but still fried. These are beasts, more like baked potatoes than anything, all I’m missing is some sour cream and chives to call it a day, and just like the burgers, completely unseasoned. I commend them for cooking the meat to desired doneness, but I forgot I even had bacon until Nick mentions it. Somehow I have one lonely pickle slice on the side, Nick gets three, Angela has four. So we can be stingy and charge for lettuce, but we can’t portion out pickles evenly?

Above all, we’re calling this a backyard burger, nothing that can’t be done in a backyard in anywhere, U.S.A. The meat is tasteless, almost unidentifiable, but you can taste that it’s grilled, but nothing beyond that. The reason I keep ordering the simplest burgers on the menu is that it should be the easiest thing to execute, it’s a burger, keep it simple. I’m afraid to even try something beyond that (teriyaki sauce anyone?) for a reason. Usually I find that other, more aggressive ingredients completely muddle the taste of the whole point of it all; the meat.

Overall Score: 73

15 Responses

  1. LStaff says:

    This biggest problem I had (besides the charge per soda) is how the burger is actually put together. First, the ball like chunk of ground beef is just stupid – I can’t enjoy a burger if I can’t get my mouth around it. I must look like some jackass like Guy Fieri or Adam Richman trying to shove that thing in my face, but only managing to get a bite full of meat or a bite full of condiments and bread, but never both at the same time. Flattening out the burgers would also speed up cooking time – I think ours took like 40 minutes (which I guess gives you an opportunity to order more soda!). I ordered a burger with cheese with l,t,o and the thing was stacked up at least six inches high – with a slice of cold cheese inbetween the lettuce and the bun (wtf?). I liked the steak fries – at least the two that was on my plate that were not still crunchy from being undercooked.

    • 100% agree with everything. When will people realize that a bigger burger is not better? Each bite of a burger should give you a taste of everything, unfortunately for the O’Sullivan’s burger, there’s no seasoning anywhere, so it’s not like your missing anything.

  2. Josh says:

    I totally disagree with your review and the replies to your review. It has made me suspect to all your other reviews, should I even bother reading another one? I can only assume you are not originally from the Boston area. If you are going to gripe about how the layout of the Pub seems small or tight for you (in this area most older places are small and cramped). Also to complain about the noise level of a Pub on a Saturday is a little ridiculous (image if that cell phone sign is for times other than a Saturday night, when it may be quiet in the Pub, Like a Monday lunch, that would be crazy huh). After all it is not a restaurant but a pub that serves burgers. I must state that I have never had one of their basic burgers, so I can not offer an opinion on it and would have to reluctantly defer to you. I can however say that I have tried numerous styles of their other inventive burgers on the menu and have never been disappointed (Ordering one of these off the menu also eliminates the extra charge for Lettuce, Tomato, and the like because they are included in the price of specialty burgers). I also prefer the slow cook style they take to their beefy burgers and find it laughable that somebody would state in a reply that they should flattening them. What kind of people read your blog? Good luck on your continued search for the great Boston burger, I have found mine and it is at R.F. O’Sullivan’s.

    • nlvarch says:

      Josh, your response to this post is ridiculous, and spoken like a true employee of this restaurant. I am a frequent reader of this blog, every overly defensive response to one of the bog’s posts always seems to be from a chef or someone tied too closely to the restaurant in question. this blog is a couple guys’ opinions about the burgers they’ve eaten, everyone has their own taste and their own opinion about burgers and pretty much everything else. that’s what makes this a free country, no? to question whether you should read anything else on this entire site because you don’t agree with an opinion about one restaurant is childish. but if your overreaction to this single review stops you from posting stupid comments in the future, I’m all for you not reading another review. I don’t know why you took such offense to his comment that the pub was a bit loud, that was a side comment and not too important to the main point of the article, the burger. still, I find this comment helpful. if I’m planning on trying the burger at this place, I might avoid it on a saturday because of this. I’m not crazy about loud, tight pubs, and yes I grew up in Boston as did the authors of this site if you do your homework. I also agree with the review that it’s wrong to charge extra for the lettuce, tomato and onion. I usually want to try the pure, typical burger the first time I go to a new pub or restaurant, and I would be very disappointed if they charged me extra or made me get a ‘special’ burger to have those included in the price. and as for your comment about what kind of people read this site? I think that’s incredibly rude and ignorant for you to even state, because clearly there are educated, interested people that want to know someone’s informed opinion on burgers in the Boston area or this site wouldn’t still be here. after all, you read this site, or you must not be one of those people.

    • I don’t know why you’re getting so worked up over my review, I dislike O’Sullivan’s, first and foremost, because I just don’t think they taste good. But, I think they fundamentally fail on many business fronts as well, which you so kindly point out. I am from Boston, lived here my entire life, and I also don’t think a small place, even a pub, has to have bad acoustics. Actually I wrote I liked the atmosphere, but noisy is noisy, and I enjoy having a conversation with my dining companions, but that’s just me. I don’t think the burgers have to be flattened, but how can you prefer a long wait for an unseasoned burger? Ordering an “inventive” burger is fine and all, but if you can’t properly cook a basic cheeseburger, what’s the point? I assume you’re an owner or something, it’s just burgers, no need to be so sensitive.

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Richard Chudy, Richard Chudy. Richard Chudy said: I find it laughable when people send me hate mail. It's just burgers people, relax. Come join the fun! "I totally… http://fb.me/IGZU0ALL […]

  4. Josh says:

    I actually am not an owner or an employee of the restaurant but I am a frequent customer. I work for MGH and have for many years, so I have no financial benefit at all with the business of this Pub. I was only trying to join in on the discussion about this establishment and offer my view, which I see now came across more harsh than intended (it was supposed to be a little funny/biting). However, now I have to stand by my view that you are not from Boston proper and must be from one of the outlying metro/suburban areas, I am going to take a shot in the dark and guess Easton, otherwise you would be used to the Bostonians love of a heated discussion and not have taken this as “hate mail”.

    Sorry I found it surprising that somebody that ate their would say to flatting the burger. When it is mentioned everywhere (menu/signs/reviews) in the Pub that they are going for a FAT, minimally pressed burger. That is their gimmick. So to ding them on that I felt was a little odd, obviously ridiculous was to strong of a word to use for the other overly sensitive people reading my reply. I simply stated that your other reviews become suspect to me because if this is the place I enjoy the most and you do not like it, then your taste obviously do not match up with mine. Is that a crime? To be attacked and written off as an employee or owner for having a different opinion than yours I find disheartening. You have a right to your opinion and I have a right to mine (as stated by nlvarch, who then went on to insult me and basically say the opposite of that in the rest of his/hers reply). Only because my opinion is different does not mean I can not join the discussion or should be written off as somebody that has a stake in the Pub. Is that your deal? That because I disagree with you, that you immediately write me off as an employee, so everybody that disagrees with you must work for the establishment you are reviewing? If so, that truly is ridiculous.

    Also, how can this be hate mail when I sincerely wished you good luck on finding the perfect burger (in your opinion) at the end of my post and did not say anything hateful to you? Although I am glad my reply was worthy of your Tweet, thank you for that. For people reading this who are looking for a burger other than the basic way, I recommend giving this Pub a try, I feel in MY OPINION that you will not be disappointed.

    Again Richard, I truly do wish you luck in finding your perfect burger and will continue reading your reviews. Although I will more than likely be enjoying the establishments you place at the bottom. Due to are opposing taste.

    Good luck, Josh

    • I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree. I just don’t think it’s worth getting worked up about, we’re only discussing burgers. But I do love that we live in a city that is so passionate about our food, it makes for fun conversations and debates. I did take your original post as rather spiteful and unnecessarily sarcastic. Once again, I am from Boston, hell, I don’t even think I’ve been to Easton. (don’t even know where that came from) I’ve been to many Boston pubs, and they aren’t all loud, it’s just a preference for me, I enjoy a quieter place, no need to attack me for that. I didn’t find your comment to wish me luck on my burger search to be genuine, in fact you already dismissed my credibility based on one review that you disagreed with. So enjoy R.F.O., Eagles Deli and McGreevy’s if you wish, I’ll be at Toro, Craigie, or Miracle of Science. God luck.

    • nlvarch says:

      Josh, way to back down from your original post. if you were trying to be ‘funny/biting’ you totally failed. I am not from Easton either, your assumptions about us are as off as ours was that you must be an employee I guess. I was born and raised in Boston, never been anywhere near Easton, and I’ve loved heated discussions on the internet since I started my own blog to incite them in 1998. I don’t really know what to say at this point, you completely dismissed the opinions of this site based on one review you didn’t like. you make a valid point in your response that if your favorite place isn’t liked by this blog, then maybe you wouldn’t agree with most of the reviews, but that’s not how it came off in your original reply. the point of my response to you was that everyone has their own opinions, your reaction was unfounded and overly dismissive, so I gave you the same treatment to see how it felt. as for the comment about you being an employee, historically on this site only people that have a very close connection to these restaurants react as you do, so it was an easy assumption to make. if I had known you’d change your tone a bit now, maybe I wouldn’t have said that. you also insulted the readers because of another comment that was posted that you didn’t agree with, which I took offense to, but again kind of changed your stance on that now by saying it was only your opinion. I guess the moral of the story is that we all have our own opinions, and it’s just a matter of how we present them and react to others’.

  5. And as for the whole employee thing, I will apologize for that. You’d be surprised how often someone disagrees with my review, and emails me in a way you did. When I google their email or name, 9 times out of 10 their an employee or owner of the restaurant or closely connected. Which is just sad to me.

  6. Ron says:

    I to have eaten at this place not once but 3 times. The first time I visite I ordered a reg cheese burger, for I don’t like a salad on a good burger either. My experience was like Richards. But the night I went it was wicked hot out and they had no a/c and the door was open. I wasn’t impressed with the burger at all. Not to mention how long it took me to get one.

    With all the advertising and excitment on the Phantom Gourmet, I decided to give it another shot. Results same. Burger was to fat to put in my mouth.

    Ok so maybe I’m missing something here. So i bring my wife with me to try 1. She was not happy at all with the wait and whatever burger she orderd. I never go without a burger at least once a week. But all my friends no i like a good burger every weekend and I tell them not to wais there money. And I have convinced most people that ask me about this place.

    And by the way, I lved in boston my whole life and grew up in Somerville.

    • Josh says:

      Hi Ron,

      I also was born and raised in Somerville, class of 94. My family for multiple generations is from Somerville; on Both sides (Father and Mothers). I was raised there before all the yuppies came in and ruined our city; jacking the property prices to out of control rates and pricing out the working class. So I hate to be the one to break the news to you but Somerville is not Boston; its Somerville. So neither you or I am from Boston, the Boston area yes but not Boston.

      Again, I must have been extra bitter the day I posted my original comment. I did not want to personally attack anybody and did not feel that I did. However just incase, I apologize again for anybody that was offended. Although I do like a heated discussion and am a fan of a good argument. I appreciate Richards search for a good burger and am looking forward to trying the places he ranks at the top (I agree Richard, Eagles Deli is trash) . I do hope though that I can freely offer my opinion after trying them ,bitter or not, and maybe get in another good discussion after posting my comment. This time I will edit myself better as not to attack any other posters comments that I may disagree with.

      Good Burger Days to you all, Josh

      • Richard says:

        Of course, friend, I think we’re all just passionate about our likes and dislikes, comments and opinions are always welcome here, glad you’re sticking with us!