I’ve been drooling with anticipation to experience the Radius burger. And yes, it’s an experience, as Radius is one of Boston’s longstanding fine-dining restaurants with celebrity chef Michael Schlow at the helm. There has been a huge buzz around the burger in particular at Radius, one of the first upscale Boston restaurants to offer an upscale burger. It now costs $19, and you’re treated like royalty compared to the standard routine of driving up to a window and ordering a burger, but that should be expected, I mean we’re talking $19 for a BURGER!! What ever happened to the burger being a “food for the people,” anyway? Luckily, it was Paul D’s birthday, so we had a legitimate reason to finally go, not that running a burger blog isn’t reason enough, but the time had come.
Outside of the burger, not much surprised me about Radius; a reservation is necessary, the decor is stunning, parking is lousy and it would be an expensive night. Do people usually pay $14 for a cocktail? I must never go out for drinks, so I guess this is the norm. 8:00 on a Friday night I would have guessed the place would have been packed, but no, more than half the tables were empty, and that’s not just my pessimistic view coming through. We were a group of eight, late 20’s to early 30’s and about as nicely dressed as we can get, and with no dress code required, felt we deserved as good a service as anyone else. This isn’t the first place where I felt ageism was in issue and it wont be the last. If we had all worn tuxedos would it have different? Hard to say but I doubt it. No I am not a baby-boomer and no I don’t have oodles of money, does that mean I’m less of a customer? Maybe I am just writing an immature blog regarding burgers, but I still fancy myself as a critic, of sorts. You want to avoid having people like me come to your restaurant? Don’t put a burger on the menu then. Sorry for the soapbox moment there, let’s get to the food.
They really stretch out the service at Radius, we were seated over an hour and a half before our burgers arrived, luckily they aren’t stingy with the free rolls. When the burgers do arrive, it’s like food being sent to the king, as loyal servants all come out and gracefully present the massive burger with a huge pile of golden fries to join the party. The fries, sort of a modern take on McDonald’s (in fries only, tell me it’s not a guilty pleasure for you) are perfectly crispy, sprinkled with fresh herbs and are quite tasty, if not lukewarm, and needing a little bit of salt. Fries deserve to be salty, end of discussion. The burger is massive, the bun a perfect fit and oozing with horseradish sauce and gooey Vermont cheddar cheese. Topped with fried onion strings, this is a two-handed job without a doubt.
I first taste the horseradish, which is not overpowering, as anticipated, but a wonderful accompaniment. The beef is flavorful and very juicy, but I don’t find the onions all that exciting, I understand the textural addition, but to me they didn’t have to be onions at all, anything crispy would have worked here. The bun is perfectly done, with just the right amount of crust and chew, no easy feat. Unfortunately I quickly realize my burger is not cooked to medium-rare, I’m so hungry I tear through half of it before I notice the pink is gone, and it’s a disappointment. Upon further inspection the meat doesn’t blow me away, and as i progress further, the meat is dryer and less appealing, good thing the horseradish sauce is aplenty and keeps the sandwich relatively moist. However, some people at the table are having entirely different experiences. Nick’s burger is perfect, medium-rare all the way through, and as we swap samples, it’s night and day. His burger is peppery, and unbelievably beefy, mine is tasty and all, but is lacking on the seasoning. We’ve seen inconsistencies before, but for $19, and for a restaurant that executes classic French techniques otherwise flawlessly, why can’t the burgers all be cooked the same way? If Radius can’t do it, what hope is there for anyone else on the Boston restaurant scene?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still happy with the burger, but I suppose my expectations are a little higher, all in all, it’s a delicious sandwich, maybe a little too rich, maybe in need of a pickle, but very good, I just wish I had their best offering. If you don’t think value is important, you’re crazy, for $19, plus tip, it’s not a cheap night. I might come back again, but it’s not special enough to make me want to do it regularly.