2009 — A Burger Retrospective

December 30th, 2009 by Richard Chudy

This year flew by. A blog devoted to burgers just kind of happened, my love affair with burgers is nothing new, but after going on a trip to Louis Lunch in early May, Nick and I decided to embark on a personal quest to eat our way through every burger in Boston and figure out what was the best. And that’s how it started, and that’s how it will continue to go, until we try them all. I don’t know if there is such a thing as perfection, especially in terms of food, for every perfectly cooked burger, there’s a burger with too much mayo, or over-fried potatoes, or just a lack of salt. I haven’t really that had that combination of affordability, burger greatness, perfect fries and attentive service. Maybe it doesn’t exist, or maybe I’m asking too much, but I’m remain optimistic. We started our quest in May, didn’t know where we were headed, but did know that no one else was doing what we were in Boston. We were so fortunate to have met Nick Dixon at Lucky’s Lounge, and by a freak occurrence had a brief blurb written about myself and the blog in the Boston Globe. There was the Burger Crawl, in which sixteen of us braved the Woodstock-esque conditions and powered our way through the streets of Cambridge until we were ready to explode. I swore I’d never eat that much again, but Burger Crawl 2010 is already in the works, you’ve been warned.

Burgers really have gone through a renaissance, first in New York and now in Boston. The beauty with burgers is that they never go out of style, bad economy yields the onslaught of more affordable places, and a prosperous economy gives us truffles and foie gras. Personally I like the simple stuff, and despite my love for the Craigie burger, we need more affordable burger places that we can all enjoy. For me, the burger-only places (O’Sullivan’s, Bartley’s, Four Burgers, Boston Burger Company) all fall short. That’s why we have to turn to the classically trained chefs, the Tony Maws’ and Michael Schlow’s of the neighborhood, to show us what a great burger should taste like. It’s almost unfair to have these amazing chefs cook up a hamburger patty, the lowly fry cook has no chance. I expect even bigger things in 2010, we now have full year to review burgers, may look into doing a show on Cambridge public access, all the while trying to gain some respect on the Boston critic’s restaurant scene. So without further ado, I have to mention the following places (good and bad) to round up the 2009 year in burgers.

  • Beefiest burger – Craigie on Main. I knew it would be great and it was, oozing with juiciness and exploding with Umami, this burger is king.
  • Best Cheap Burger – Flat Patties. Often over-looked because of the setting, it’s simple, but terrific, everything a West-Coast style burger should be.
  • Burger I’ll go back to the most – The Miracle of Science. Not quite the fast-food style of Flat Patties, and much more affordable than Craigie, the MOS burger is perfect, smoky and full of flavor.
  • Best Fries – The Biltmore – Perfect in every way, was also the first place we went to.
  • Best Bun – Craigie on Main – Yes, there’s a category for best bun. Although the bun at Boston Burger Company was good, the house-made, sesame seed bun at Craigie was spectacular, that extra effort really makes the difference, and they know it.
  • Burger I was most surprised by (in a good way) – Flat Patties. Having overlooked it and walked past it dozens of times, the Flat Patties team does a great job, although it almost feels accidentally so.
  • Burger I was most surprised by (in a bad way) – R.F. O’Sullivan’s. So many accolades, so many foodies who love it, the RFO burger fails on so many levels. A dry, flavorless softball of a burger is wrong on so many levels.
  • The “everyone is crazy” award – Five Guys. Stop it, just stop it. This tastes nothing like In-N-Out, which is magical. No, Five Guys, although the toppings are free and the fries halfway decent, the meat is crap, is everything I dislike about fast-food and deserves none of the hype it gets. There’s a reason that they are only located on the outskirts of the city, it would never make it in Cambridge or anywhere else, there are much better options.
  • The burger that almost was – The Biltmore. It was our first review but I still feel it was close to burger greatness, maybe next time.
  • Biggest Disappointment – UBurger. I swear it used to be good, then again, I used to just eat to become full, never thinking of what makes a meal good. I’ve never been so betrayed by a food item and I probably never will be.
  • Best Service – Craigie on Main. Not even close, they are great and they know it.
  • Worst Service – Radius – It may be a bit harsh to call it the worst, but for this kind of a restaurant, they should be doing better. Good burger, just not worth the price of admission.
  • Burger I’m most looking forward to in 2010 – I can’t pick one, as I’m always excited to eat a burger for the first time. If I had to pick, I’m eager to go back to The Cellar when not on a burger Crawl and I’m very interested to try the burger at Green Street.

And finally, a giant thanks to all our readers. We started out humbly, with a few family members reading and not much else, but we’ve grown quite a bit in readership and on our Facebook Page, so thank you to everyone who is reading and for all the opinions and suggestions, please keep them coming. Until next year!

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