Some places are destined to have great burgers, some are not. Rialto was never meant to have a great burger. After all, Jody Adams is a woman of many culinary talents, but perfecting the classic American sandwich is probably not up her alley, at least that’s the conclusion I’ve come up with. I have to give credit to Rialto for at least trying to put their own spin on things, as you will not find the jaded version you see everywhere else these days; Vermont cheddar, out of season tomato, iceberg lettuce, repeat. At least it looks good on paper at Rialto; Buffalo Mozzarella, prosciutto and a Focaccia bun. But we’ve come across many “looks good on paper” burgers before, and remember the rule; don’t fall in love with it until you’ve taken a bite. (that’s what she said?)
Archive for April, 2011
Sometimes it’s not about the burger, it’s about the experience and I’m not here for a review, just to sit back and the enjoy the ride…I arranged for a lunch with one of my all-time favorite radio DJ’s, Adam Xii of WFNX, and formally of ‘BCN. I’ve been listening to him for years. When he asked me to meet him in Lynn for a quick burger, I jumped at the opportunity. We first ventured to the Capitol Diner, a retro spot in every sense of the word. Originally built in 1928, I doubt its even changed that much since. If you’re looking for servers to come and wait on you hand and foot and serve up some bullshit gourmet burger, you’ve come to the wrong place. What you get is two seemingly cranky, but pleasantly charming, and mature waitresses. They literally holler at you from a few feet down (the interior is no more than 20 feet long anyway) to get your order. One cheeseburger, plain, will set you back about $3.75. And you know what? It was actually cooked a pretty good medium-rare, (cooked literally 1 minutes less than Adam’s Medium request) the American cheese was actually melted, and it had that familiar and greasy taste that only a Lynn diner can have. And it was exactly what I was looking for. The beef wasn’t amazing, but it was nice and loose, barely held together and literally crumbled in my mouth as I ate it. It was perfect for what it was, and many Boston restaurants should be envious of the structure of this simple patty.
My second article featured in the Dig. (online exclusive) Working on a new article this week on fries. Tell me, what is your favorite spot for fries in Boston?
I don’t know why the obsession with burgers started; I can’t pinpoint it to one memorable experience, one specific juicy burger, or one perfect burger hot off the grill in the summer. What I do know is that, like many Americans, it was my go-to dish every time I went out to eat as a kid. It was acceptable as a kid, but I’m not convinced it’s socially normal to eat burgers as frequently as I do now. I was always that dumb kid who ordered a burger every chance I got, which is fine when you’re dining at the Ground Round with your parents as an eleven year old. It’s less fine when you’re eating a burger at a restaurant when there’s probably a much more sophisticated option. I still feel like I’m ordering off of the kids’ menu more often than not, and some places are more embarrassing than others. It’s not my fault there’s a burger on practically every menu in Boston, and I have to have to them all. Neptune Oyster is 99% seafood, and 1% burger. I don’t think you have to guess what I ordered there.
The journey, at least in my “adult” days, began on a road trip to Louis’ Lunch in New Haven Connecticut, the supposed inventor of the modern hamburger sandwich. While the burger itself was average, the history and the experience were memorable. This inspired me to launch a website devoted to reviewing all the burgers in Boston, good or bad, over or under cooked, and to do it as candidly as possible. I think I bit off more than I could chew (pun intended) because as noted, burgers are everywhere and there are a dizzying number of opinions as to what makes a burger good. Food is such a personal thing, especially the burger which represents so many food memories to so many people. But why is the burger so beloved by the masses? For me, it’s not about childhood nostalgia or the ghosts of burgers past; it’s about the anticipation of the next great burger. The best burgers I’ve had in this city stay with me always because they never fail to disappoint. A bad burger leaves my memory before I even finish the last bite, but that doesn’t mean I still don’t love the process.
Let’s talk about the process, the nitpicking and dissecting of the burgers I’ve become known for. Not all burgers are created equally, and there is so much to consider. I never tire of burgers because they are all so different. I’ve never finished eating one and had nothing to say about it. Worst case scenario it’s redundant, a been-there-done-that kind of moment, but that’s the story right there, the tale of the clichéd burger. For my own self-indulgence, encountering a below-average burger can be amusing, and it provides for much more material versus say, the C+ burger that is charred, under-seasoned and pedestrian. But when it’s bad – as dry as my sense of humor and has fried dough as a bun, that’s when the fun begins. The opposite end of the spectrum is true too. While I can’t bitch about the exceptional burgers (The Bristol Lounge, Eastern Standard, Lineage, to name a few) sometimes it’s nice to write something positive and not play the role of “most annoying food blog,” as one reader kindly pointed out to me. Burgers are the quintessential American food for a reason, and although you’ll never catch me claiming to be super-Patriotic, a burger is and will always be my food of choice.
At its best a burger is juicy, mouthwatering, beefy and exactly what I’m craving at any given moment. I’m well on my way to eating my way through this city of burgers. Some topped with aioli, others with bacon and barbecue sauce, all unique in their own way and I’ll gladly play the role of burger critic, the eleven year-old in me couldn’t be happier.
Figured I might as well post my articles for the Dig here. This is the first of four articles I’ve written so far, look for new burger musings each and every week at the Dig online. Feel free to send along burger topics for me to cover.
Burgers are the ultimate blank canvas food; the possibilities and condiments are pretty endless. But at what point does it become too weird, too over-the-top, or too “gourmet”? We are so accustomed to grilled, back-yard burgers during the summer, that anything elevated beyond that becomes categorized in the aforementioned gourmet category. Locally, the likes of R.F.O’Sullivan & Son, Washington Square Tavern and Post 390 are what I consider to be the full-on, summer burger your dad probably made for you as a kid, and they all do it with varying degrees of success. I think food memories certainly play a large part in any local loyalties, especially in the world of flip flops, sprinklers, a few beers, and the glorious smell of charcoal and smoke. The $16 burger just can’t compete with that. continue reading »