When given the choice, who really prefers a grass-fed burger? A grass-fed burger, much like any other burger, can be as great as it wants to be if treated correctly. But the grass-fed variety is often a little more difficult to nail because it is generally very lean, and hence, less flavorful in my mind. But then again, how often do we have a choice? At The Independent in Union Square, you can get the most basic of burgers ($10) or supposedly upgrade to the grass-fed option ($14) according to my server. I was explained that if I like better flavored beef and my meat cooked rare to medium-rare then the grass-fed burger was the way. Dubious that there would even be a difference between the two and skeptical that the extra $4 would be worth it, I played their little burger game and went with the claimed superior product.
As far as grass-fed goes, it’s not a bad little number. Appearing like just about every other run-of-the-mill burger out there, the beef certainly does have a distinct flavor profile that at least makes it differentiate from the norm. Not quite gamey, not exactly funky or overly beefy, it has a mild tang and earthiness is appreciated. I can’t say it’s something I’ll crave or forever think of, since it almost doesn’t really taste like the beef or burger we’re all used to. Instead, it sort of tastes like meatloaf. I mean, I love meatloaf as much as the next guy, but a burger should be a totally different tasting animal, if you will. The burger is over-packed like I’ve never experienced, however, making it tough and firm, versus loose and soft. It’s cooked mostly to a medium if anything, partly red in the center but more than the rare to medium-rare I was expecting. Seasoning was fine and as much as you might expect or need, not ambitious with the salt but not bashful either. A standard and crispy pub-style bun holds it all together, while very melty Cheddar cheese is pronounced and flavorful. French Fries are skin-on with a good amount of salt and fit the ho-hum atmosphere and food as a whole. House-made Katsup is very thinly applied to the bun and is lost, completely being engulfed by the bun and juices of the burger, it never had a chance to shine. Unfortunately a ramekin of Heinz joins the fries, a missed opportunity to showcase the house-made condiment and something I wish I could have had more of.
I can’t say this is a burger to recommend. On the one hand the grass-fed burger at The Independent is uniquely flavored and something you don’t always get at similar venues. The burger is fairly juicy, fairly seasoned and fits the bun nicely. Is it worth $14? Not a chance, but it’s a well rounded pub burger if nothing else.
Overall Score: 75