A genuinely nice place is the simplest way to describe the friendly staff and vibe at the newly re-constructed Strip-T’s in Watertown. It’s become a love affair for local media types recently because it certainly is a newsworthy story. But is it just a product of media and blogger hype or is Strip-T’s truly home to one of the better restaurants in Boston? Impossible to say in full disclosure, since above and beyond all other food categories, the hamburger, and the search for the best of the best in Boston, is what I’m after. On this being my first visit, expectations were high and much to my delight, the Strip T’s burger delivers. Working in their favor is the more than affordable $12 price tag at lunch (it jumps to $15 for dinner) which only adds a few bonus points into the mix.
The burger, with many recent accolades, is simple but not all at the same time. Just different enough to be unique and just restrained enough to make it familiar, the burger boasts smoked miso, lemon aioli and pickled red onion as the main flavor components. It appears bigger than it actually is, as I had no problem polishing off the rumoured 9oz burger, and an overdose of lettuce is easy to pluck off to get to the meat of the matter. The burger sits in between a poppy-seed topped brioche bun, and it’s a big success due to proper meat to bun ratio, the brioche never compromises the meat and delicately falls apart just the right way. The meat, also rumoured to be a different blend than the norm of chuck and/or sirloin, actually tastes a little muted and one note, or maybe it was just under-seasoned. Either way it’s just above-average on the beefiness scale, if it does in fact contain some funky cuts I couldn’t detect them. A touch of char on the patty is either a clever way of bringing the whole backyard barbecue full circle to evoke my own childhood memories, or it’s purely accidental with no real intent. Either way that char is key, adding a hint of smoke to a burger that, let’s face it, is different from most, and in the process brings it back down to earth but in the best way possible. The fries look pale and oily but are in fact just the opposite. They have just the right amount of crisp factor despite the lightly hued appearance. They are salted well and are enjoyable if not uninspired.
In many respects I wanted more from this burger. Never mind the high expectations, it could have been greater. The miso adds a beautiful saltiness to the burger, in a way seasoning the beef like no box of Kosher salt could ever dream of. But the promise of smoke in the miso is lacking, and while the lemon adds a wonderful acidic element and counterbalance to the salt and the beef, it could have been applied more liberally. In theory the aioli and the miso are mere pawns to the King beef, but the fact that the beef is more like a rook means it needs more help. Nerdy chess references aside, Strip-T’s makes a very good to great burger, but the best in Boston? Not exactly.
Overall Score: 87