Casablanca (CLOSED)

April 15th, 2011 by Richard Chudy

It’s all about what you do with the ingredients on hand, the quality and care taken makes all the difference in the burger world. Casablanca isn’t reinventing the burger wheel, they just do the best they can with some very traditional components. What basically reads as a very traditional, almost cliched burger (bacon, cheddar, lettuce, tomato) is surprisingly delicious. Sometimes you just can’t account for that “it” factor. Even upon arrival, the burger is mostly unassuming; the cheese is kind of melted, the lettuce and tomato sort of look okay, and the bacon appears to be mildly crispy but unspectacular. All of that changes during the first bite, which yields a ridiculous amount of juiciness in a way that I’ve never seen before. Post 390 was similar, but that lasted for about three bites before turning into a dry oasis of beef. I lambasted them for not letting the meat rest a few minutes before serving, and I could almost criticize Casablanca for the same issue. Except of course, this burger is juicy down to the last bite, some lost on the plate, but most contained in the burger. And that’s a good thing in my book. (book pending)

This is a culminating example of a burger being on a menu just for the sake of having a burger on the menu. Inspired by classic Mediterranean Cuisine, this could have been their chance to do something differently. Maybe a lamb burger? Muhammara? Olives? Feta? Something off-the beaten-burger-path might have appreciated, but it’s a classic version and lucky for them, it’s friggin’ divine. Although not perfect, it’s juicy and salty and beefy. Good enough for some, and mostly great enough for me, while still being a shade over the requested medium-rare, the burger remains unaffected. Which is another point I have to stress; I’ve been critical of over-cooked burgers in the past, but isn’t the entire point to have it taste good?

The fries are fair, golden and crispy but needing salt, which I quickly remedy myself. Isn’t it funny how salt almost always fixes everything? A decent tomato and not-so decent piece of lettuce top the burger as does the curious bacon. Curious because it’s not quite crispy, not quite chewy and definitely not bad considering its lack of crunch. It’s an excellent Apple-wood smoked bacon at that, and even though it isn’t cooked up to par, the flavor is impeccable. The cheddar is also fair in the melting department, because it’s so thick it never really has a chance to fully melt onto the burger. But again the flavor is the saving grace, any thinner a piece and it would be melted but would also probably be lost in the burger. The thicker the cheese, the more flavor it imparts, add that to the juicy burger, the smoky bacon and we have a winner. At $13 it feels more like a $9 – $11 burger, but we’re arguing over a couple of dollars so who the hell cares. While there are some technical issues in the way of under-seasoned fries, less than crispy bacon and not quite melted cheese, the flavors and juiciness of the burger make it noteworthy. Even if I have my own desires for it to be fancier than it probably needs to be, the burger at Casablanca is damn good, and should not be overlooked.

Overall Score: 85

12 Responses

  1. Katie says:

    No surprise, well said. Spot on review here, Burger Boy. I can only imagine what this burger would be like when ‘maters are actually in season.

  2. Jason A-J says:

    Chudy ya Nutz Kid! that burger is older than you are, been a legend served up in Harvard Square since the mid seventies. Once taken off the menu in the late nineties, Casablanca was scrutinized to the point of the “classic’s” return. While I have not made burgers a proffesional quest, I can say that eating this one for 30 years and living in Montana cattle country for one third of that, I dream of only one burger…”THE” Casablanca burger. Easily worth a 90 in my book, but Im no blogger.

  3. opinionatedchef says:

    i’ve just discovered your blog and am very much enjoying your reviews. have been in boston for 40 yrs but have never had a burger at a restnt. here. Am looking for a great fire grilled burger w/ great (non-brioche) bun, great crispy fries and garlicy aioli.Have read through all your top ratings and it looks like Craigie may be the only one that satisfies those goals. yes?

    btw, big fan of casablanca for years; have read this review twice but cannot find mention of bread or fries. Did I miss something?
    I also can’t find mention of the fries in your Toro review.

    I do have a suggestion. I have read your explanation of your rating system but i personally feel that the most important thing about a rating- is not that it was made and cannot be changed- but that it should reflect the review. I don’t think this rating does reflect the review and I thought the same of the Eastern Standard rating/review.

    Is 5 Napkins on the upcoming roster?
    Thanks for your excellent writing; very helpful w/ my quest!

    • Thanks for checking out the blog! I definitely mention the fries at Casablanca, but they weren’t super important, really it was all about the juicy burger. I agree that sometimes the written review doesn’t completely match the actual score, but I would say the score on a relative scale is probably more important than dissecting my contradictory words. The Toro burger does not come with fries and I’m heading to 5 Napkin tonight!

      • opnionatedchef says:

        thanks for your reply. I just posted my ideal burger quest on Chowhound; would you take a look?
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/781350

        rich, I do think Consistency of Review Criteria is vital to a one-subject (complex as it is) blog like this. Every review should include an appraisal of the bun/bread and the fries, including mentioning that they were non-existent(though you could have ordered Toro’s on the side.) Maybe you could revise the few reviews that lack these criteria (Toro for one). Look forward to your future reviews; you’re doing a super job. Hope you’ll comment on my Chowhound quest!

        • opnionatedchef says:

          rich, i misspoke. the casablanca review does indeed mention the fries, but it does not mention the bun. it’s the bun that needs mention!

          • The bun was a standard Kaiser, again it was fine, didn’t affect the burger one way or another. Sometimes I just get lazy and write the article without over-thinking; whatever I put out there is ultimately what stays, even if I end up leaving something out.

        • Awesome, looking forward to reading along with your quest, maybe we can meet for a burger one of these days. I agree that all components of the burger should be considered, but sometimes they just aren’t of note, which in turn should make them of note, if you catch my drift.

      • opnionatedchef says:

        p.s. how about reviewing Kingston Station and The Tavern at the End of the World? they had some good reviews on CH lately.

  4. […] That’s no coincidence, since popularity has no bearing on quality. Recently, The Fireplace and Casablanca spring to mind as two places where I literally had zero expectations, mostly because I had heard […]