Archive for September, 2011

Kingston Station

September 30th, 2011 by Richard Chudy

The only good thing to come out of my experience at Kingston Station was my first experience using Level Up, I was surprised at the ease to which I was able to pay via my new favorite App, and even more surprised when I scanned through the numerous locations I had the option of checking out. Kingston Station had been on my short list for some time, and I eagerly ventured there with the promise of an exceptional burger. Maybe that was my first mistake; it’s unfair to rule out a place based on vibe and service, but suffice to say the lackluster service and rugged atmosphere were the first hint of a dull burger to come. Dull can sometimes be spun into “classic,” sometimes it’s all you want for a burger, and generally what I covet most. Ordinary wasn’t even the real problem here, with so many fundamental errors it’s hard to even imagine how this burger is so beloved, and for $15 it was even more egregious. An off day? Please, this one offered almost no hope. continue reading »

The Avenue

September 23rd, 2011 by Richard Chudy

A wild card in the making, The Avenue in Allston should have no business being in the great burger discussion. Our memories of this place are not positive; a seedy bar overtaken by seedy college kids, cheap beer and darts are the name of the game, surely they are incapable of serving decent food. But a new ownership and a complete interior overhaul has done wonders, at least in the confines of a weekday afternoon, who knows what lies between the walls when the construction workers are swapped out for scantily clad co-eds. At least for the lunch shift, The Avenue serves up above-average burgers. The price is right too, unless you’re ordering a turkey burger (and really, why would you do that?) all of the burgers cost less than $5. On Mondays, the Avenue Burger (lettuce, tomato, secret sauce) is only $1, extra toppings costing a mere .50 cents, you won’t top out for more than $2 for a more than respectable burger. continue reading »

Bistro du Midi

September 21st, 2011 by Richard Chudy

An easy burger to peg, plagued by many of the same issues of wannabe burgers from the past, the Bistro du Midi burger is merely ordinary. Too bad, this $15, “Black Angus Burger” sounds fine, available at the bar only, in what is a well respected establishment. But, as is often the case with well respected establishments and their burgers, not much thought is put into it, yet the price tag is advanced based on location and reputation of adjoining dishes on the menu. Everyone wants to serve a burger, I get it, but where’s the love? We all want to join the Boston burger party but no one wants to be prepared. Maybe I’m taking this a bit too seriously, but then again, that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows me or this blog. I’m serious about my burgers, maybe I should learn to lighten up. Then again maybe I’ll lighten up for the next one. continue reading »

How to review a burger

September 14th, 2011 by Richard Chudy

The fourth article I wrote for the Dig (online exclusive)

By now you’re probably starting to get it; boy eats burger, boy thinks about burger, boy writes about burger. Leave it to this guy to try and find something new and thrilling to write on the same subject each and every week. It’s the world we live in now, bombarded with Yelp, Chowhound, Urban Spoon and the like: everyone is a critic and everyone supposedly knows their stuff. I have a hard enough time dissecting burgers, which are elementary enough, I can’t imagine trying to be an “expert” on a more sophisticated cuisine. But it’s what I love and I’m so fortunate that my hobby also happens to be my career. The fact that Boston is full of food enthusiasts; heated debates on who makes the best burger, Pho, or empanada is not uncommon on the message boards, Twitter feeds and Facebook updates. At least that’s how it is in my world. It’s not just about dissecting a burger in the most cynical tone I can come up with; it’s pondering about the food, why it was done a certain way, and what makes it work or not work.  Sorry to disappoint all those who think I’m trying my damndest to be an asshole, unfortunately for me I’m already kind of an asshole, but I’ll gladly play the role of burger villain.

It’s harder to represent the role of food critic than you think; breaking down a burger a week is not for the faint of heart, or stomach.  Sure, easy at first, if you start eating one burger a week, one burrito, or one duck confit a week, chances are you’re going to notice differences. Subtle at first, but the distinction between burger 4 and burger 65 is huge. My critique of a burger starts well before I take the first bite. Upon settling down to dine, I begin to take in the ambiance and attempt to connect with the staff. While atmosphere and service are secondary to the actual taste of the burger, they do contribute to this diner’s overall experience. Is this a place I’m going to want to come back to? Is the music too loud for this quickly aging, soon-to-be 31 year old curmudgeon? Is the server too cool for school and being sassy and inattentive? The burger, of course, rules all, which isn’t to say it can’t be so friggin’ good that I forget all the negative surroundings. That hasn’t really happened yet, because for me the allure of the restaurant is crucial, and clearly most would agree. Why do you think Bartley’s and O’Sullivan’s are always at the top of the burger lists around town? It’s because they look the part, not just because they serve decent burgers, some to tourists and spoiled college kids, some to sulky barflies and fair-weather Red Sox fans.

But let’s get to the meat of the matter, shall we? It’s kind of easy to tell when a burger will fulfill my needs or not, and believe me, I’m pretty needy. The burger has to fit the size of the bun, the cheese has to be fully melted and the condiments and toppings should be minimal and properly proportioned. Of all the things that drive me nuts it’s the bun and the cheese. Too much bun overwhelms the entire point of the sandwich, and that’s the beef. The cheese needs to be melty and gooey and not much else. Flavor is fine, but again, we need enhancements not distractions. Vermont Cheddar is everywhere on practically every burger right now, it’s delicious but never melts well. American is classic and melts extraordinarily well, but c’mon, it’s American Cheese, can’t we do better?  Nail the bun, nothing too fluffy and nothing too crunchy, please, and melt that cheese and you’re ahead of the game. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; I don’t need a salad on my burger. Lettuce and tomato are okay, but mostly they fall victim to being there just for the hell of it. I am mildly obsessed with condiments, but there is not much in the way of creativity these days. Why can’t we have more ketchup/mustard/mayo/pickle based sauces on non-griddled burgers? And where are my aioli’s? More original thoughts please, and less ketchup and yellow mustard on the side, no matter how cute the ramekin is that it’s served in. My dry top bun needs this, seriously.

But the beef is king, and for good reason. The masses are too easily fooled either by falling in with the burger on paper, being manipulated into liking it because Yelp tells them they have to, or loving a burger covered up with a lot of stuff. Less is more, I promise you, many ingredients do not make a burger, most of the time a burger is secondary because there’s a mountain of crap piled high. Hidden way below the fried onions, iceberg lettuce, blue cheese, caramelized onions and sautéed mushrooms used to be a decent looking patty of beef. All the excess toppings in the world can’t fool me; either the meat is good or it’s not. Ground Chuck is the classic cut because it’s beefy and satisfying. Sirloin is too lean individually but does offer a good beef quality if blended properly. Back Bay Social Club basically grinds dry aged steak into a burger. Maybe I’d rather have that as a steak, but I won’t complain about it in burger form, shame on anyone who  thinks it’s too “steaky.”  I’m aware I’m a pain in the ass to please; I bitch about burgers being too simple, then I complain about chefs trying to do too much. Mostly, I want originality, but I’ll settle for at least a twist on the perennial favorites. Nine times out of ten I’m ordering a very basic cheeseburger because that’s the house burger across the board. I’m begging someone to think outside of the box, respect the ingredients on hand, and serve me a juicy, salty, medium-rare cheeseburger. It’s not that tough I assure you, I may be a cynic but at least I know what I like.

White Hut

September 8th, 2011 by Richard Chudy

Isn’t this supposed to be the way burgers are meant to be? Simply cooked on a griddle, caramelized onions, and a soft and steamy bun is our first encounter with the aforementioned hamburger, and White Hut in Springfield has been doing it proud since 1939. A cheeseburger will set you back all of $2.75, of course any reasonably hungry human being should be able to devour at least two of the just barely bigger than a slider patties. If value was the only criterion, coupled with some burger simplicity, the White Hut burger would be king. Too bad all facets must be considered, and nostalgia and purity isn’t enough to get by. continue reading »