Finding myself in Western Mass for a weekend, I knew a burger was obviously going to be in the cards. After a quick stop at the new outpost of White Hut, I found my way into High Horse, a brewery and pub in Amherst. Like any good pub, it devotes a large portion of the food menu to burgers, which the restaurant boasts as being ground in-house every morning. Pickles and buns, I’m also told, are made in-house as well. If you think making pickles isn’t a big deal (and I would agree with you) take a look at all the local Boston restaurants that use pickles (while still delicious) from another hometown company. Generally lots of components are made in-house, but the pickle is often outsourced and I never understand why. A refreshing but painfully small pour of a Saison joined my lunch as I sat outside on the patio.
The “smoked bac-in burger ” arrived on a flat and misshaped bun that held a slightly round, thick and wide patty, which didn’t exactly make them look like they were a perfect match. The ordered medium-rare burger veered more rare, borderline raw in parts, and past medium in others. If they were looking to nail the backyard and homemade feel, they certainly achieved that with the amount of technical flaws in the patty alone. The patty was seasoned adequately, though not quite enough on the salt level, with a minimal crust. The meat definitely tasted fresh; it had a nice softness with meaty qualities, but lacked the texture or caramelization it could have attained with more precise cooking. It was relatively juicy at the start, but reached a drier state towards the end of the meal. The meat was supposed to be a blend of smoked and ground pork belly with ground beef, but it really just tasted like beef with zero smoked flavor. I’m not calling them out but I seriously question the promised addition of the belly. Still, the flavor was just fine, and the in-house grinding was appreciated and recognized. The bun was sort of a brioche-Parker house hybrid, with pretty good flavor and a crumbly, delicate texture. I didn’t love it or hate it, but again enjoyed the house-made approach even though the meat to bun ratio was off ever so slightly. Caramelized leeks and apples topped the patty, offering positively tart and sweet notes that didn’t make or break this burger. Half-melted cheddar cheese was skimpy and otherwise a waste. A side of pickles were spot-on with a crispy, salty and tangy flavor that I thoroughly enjoyed. I upgraded (an additional $3) to spud nuggets, their take on tater tots and I wish I hadn’t. More like a cross between a latke and hash browns, they were completely greasy, unseasoned and a big miss.
The burger is $13.50 and the swap for the poor spud nuggets made this a more expensive burger combo than I would have liked. The burger, however flawed, still had promise and freshly ground beef that at least make it stand out in some respects. While this isn’t the best burger I’ve ever had, High Horse is able to offer some originality and aspects that other places, near or far, can’t measure up to.
Overall Score: 79