Damn you, expensive burger. There is a time and a place for the pricey hamburger (anything in that $15 and up range, I think) if executed right. At a certain price point I come to anticipate a level of culinary craft and skill. Anything less than a fully functional sandwich technique-wise (cooked to temp, seasoning, etc.) and it just opens the doors to a justified list of criticisms. I’ve gone on and on regarding the merits of high end versus low end and quality when factored into the complete package. When successful, the “high end” burger is a divine treat; examples being Craigie on Main, Back Bay Social Club and Radius, whereas places such as the former Oak Room, Catalyst and Neptune Oyster fell short. The Butcher Shop, Barbara Lynch’s South End restaurant and butcher spot, unfortunately lies in the less accomplished category.
Slow to arrive to the table, a towering burger on a sesame seed bun landed in front of me, easily one of the sexiest looking burgers I’ve seen, adorned with a giant pickle spear pushing its way through the top of the massive burger. Sitting next to the burger was a very generous portion of (gulp) salad, and no fries to be seen. It’s not that I don’t care for eating a salad, it’s just hard to beat a serving of hot fries with any burger. To say I was disappointed with my forced healthy balance of a meal would be an understatement. But my disappointment did not end with the acceptable salad, as the burger, $18 for lunch only, was mostly unremarkable. The first couple of bites gave way to a mildly beefy, unevenly cooked (beyond my ideal medium-rare) patty with a pretty solid juiciness factor. The sharp cheddar cheese dominated early on, and the house-made bacon offered a fruity, sweet and salty undertaking to the burger at hand and was easily the most enjoyable component. Caramelized onions felt rushed and lacked the depth they deserved, not offering much more than a minor textural note. The beef is very loosely packed, more like a Sloppy Joe than a burger, it’s almost too loose. It crumbles and has virtually no structural integrity and for $18 you can’t help but feel a little cheated.
The bun thankfully is fresh and lightly toasted and it has the ideal chew and tenderness I look for in a bun, but it’s disproportionate to the patty, which slips into the great unknown and a miss in the meat-to-bun ratio. The beef is clearly the letdown here; expecting some phenomenal blend of aged meat should not have been a reach, but it’s ordinary and just not all that special. A lot to live up to, especially at the hands of (arguably) Boston’s most accomplished chef, the Butcher Shop burger ends up being a sort of satisfying yet very expensive lunch and not much more.
Overall Score: 75