Quick: name any and all exceptional burgers in Boston for under $10. Sadly, the examples of greatness in the under $10 burger category are shrinking it seems, or maybe it was never that strong to begin with. Options are limited for the classic burger and fries combo, even more so when you take into consideration my ridiculous standards. Estelle’s, right on the corner of Mass Ave and Tremont, has East Coast Grill alum Eric Gburski at the helm, and a Southern-tinted menu to boot. Although they tout the lunch menu to be a “daytime burger joint” there are surprisingly very few twists and turns or options to an otherwise pretty basic burger looking menu. There is only one beef based burger (two if you count the “double trouble,” essentially just a double burger with extra cheese) to go along with a turkey, catfish and vegan burger option, not exactly pushing the limits on all things burger if you asked me. True to form, I order the the Estelle’s House Burger, a very straight-forward sounding sandwich with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and house-made bread and butter pickles. Served with house cut fries, it’s the basic burger model in the most basic of ways, but for $7.95, how can you complain?
The first thing I noticed was how similar this burger looks to the iconic Shake Shack burger, no problem there; a trend that more and more restaurants seem to be doing these days but not a lot of them are really trying to bring anything different to the party. Much like the popular burger at Abigail’s (another East Coast alum in the kitchen there, Chef Jason Lord) this burger certainly looks the part of the typical griddled burger, but it’s what’s inside that counts. Starting at the top, a very fresh, soft and squishy Martin’s potato bun holds it all together, it’s heavily buttered and toasted, treated the best way a bun can be treated. There is quite the abundance of lettuce, tomato and raw onion, which are easy to pluck off since I don’t find they add much value to the overall burger. The tomato is most notably a disappointment; it’s mealy and tastes more like an out of season winter tomato than the in season right now flavor one would expect in August. The patty is thin like all good griddled patties are, it’s got a hint of a crust and is sort of close to being on the dry side and also in need of more salt. The beefiness is modest, and overall too shy on the big flavors I was hoping for. However, the American cheese has a lovely melt, creating an even lovelier sauce in a way that only American can do, creating a lush, creaminess that is sorely needed. Three sauces come along for the ride: a mild, medium and hot sauce that all appear to be mayo-based and are fairly standard across the board, with nibbles of Sriracha and Russian dressing as basic influences and ingredients. French Fries appear to be fantastic, but an initial poke yields a flabby fry that begs to be crispier. They might need more salt but the skin-on, legit potato flavor is pronounced and not a total bummer.
Overall, after dismissing the majority of the lettuce, tomato and onion, the burger and bun are a good fit and it’s a mostly enjoyable product. It may have been nice to add more of a Southern flair or do something different to stand out, but Estelle’s went with the most basic burger possible. Its biggest benefit is the price tag, there aren’t enough faults to be fully dismissive, it’s got some good flavor mostly coming from the bun and the cheese and the sauces are a nice touch, but in a world where beef is king and fries are the queen, they fall a tad short on overall burger respectability.
Overall Score: 82