Okay, it’s well past the new year by now, but hey, better late than never, right? As always, last year was filled with some great, some good, some adequate and some downright awful burgers. No two burgers are alike, and every experience is unique and fun in it’s own way, which is exactly why I love the pursuit of burger perfection. Moreover, I want to be able to have an opinion on any and every place that serves up the quintessential American food, to be able to identify the best in each part of town, and know that I’ve tried them all. But I’ve got a long way to go, the burger list grows constantly, and sometimes, so does my waistline, but alas, all in the name of research I say, so it can’t be that bad.
Burgers are such a simple product, yet often difficult to master, minimal ingredients yes, but if you’re not nailing each and every one of those, the whole sandwich is going to be off. We’ve seen some burgers that are just short of greatness and a few that are beyond horrible for different reasons. Maybe it’s unfair of me to be so darn critical, I mean, running a restaurant is a tough business, but my goal is to always give you guys the most honest, unbiased opinion on the subject. I’m not in it for fame or free hook-ups or to be buddy-buddy with different chefs around town like every other food blogger I’ve been reading lately. (except of course for the Small Boston Kitchen, Katie rocks!) I guess since I already am a chef I just don’t get impressed by meeting them. (mostly because chefs are often disgruntled, cocky and bitter, much like myself) But I’m shifting focus here, this is a blog about burgers for a reason. Even the one’s that I don’t rate so favorably I still enjoy the experience. Every time I think I’ve eaten the majority of burgers in the city, I stare down at my master list and am overwhelmed by the number of sandwiches I still have to get to. Woe is me.
Looking back on the number of burgers I consumed in 2010, it’s pretty disgusting, but really it’s only about one a week, and based on my uncompleted list, I could clearly be doing a lot more. I probably spend too much energy slamming the places I dislike, although I feel like I easily give a shout-out to my favorites constantly. Five Guys is often a big topic of discussion for me, because I just don’t think it’s that good. I’ve come to the realization that the beef isn’t always the focus on a burger but shouldn’t it be? The beef at 5-Guys is lousy, yes, there is some greasy flavor going on, but trust me it’s not from the meat. As my friend Max pointed out to me, it’s McDonald’s with fresher toppings. Are our standards that low we love a fast food place because the lettuce is fresher than friggin’ McDonald’s?! Never mind the fact it’s more expensive than it ought to be, compared to In-N-Out that costs all of $5 for a combo and is about 100 times better in taste and experience. I always hear the argument that it’s so great because it’s way better than most fast-food, but I disagree and think it’s barely better than the classic garbage that is fast-food. You want a quick burger that is damn tasty? Go to Flat Patties, and go often, there’s a reason 5 Guys hasn’t taken over the city, simply because there are a million better options for us city folk, and that’s just the way it is.
So let’s forget about the bad burgers and think back to all the great one’s I had in 2010. Toro, The Beehive, Washington Square Tavern, The Bristol Lounge, Back Bay Social Club, Russell House Tavern, and Highland Kitchen were all great for different reasons. While my favorite burger is still far and away the burger at Craigie on Main, not everyone is interested in spending $18 on a hamburger. And the great news is, you don’t have to spend a ton of money to get a great burger in this city, as price does not guarantee quality. Looking ahead to 2011, with many places still to get to, what I really want is creativity and simplicity all rolled into one. A contradiction? Maybe, I am a burger purist after all, but I would love it if more chefs took a chance and did something a little different than just serving up an under-seasoned patty with out of season tomato and American cheese. Why can’t I get a sauce on a burger that’s not of the griddled variety? Why aren’t there more aioli’s on burgers that don’t include the word truffle? And why can’t I get a burger cooked to the temperature I ask for? Does it really take a Michelin Star chef to properly cook a hamburger? Too many questions, not enough answers, hopefully a burger food truck will hit the streets this year, and hopefully I’ll be driving that truck. In any event, here’s to a happy and not-so healthy burger year. Cheers!