Remember when I used to write a new burger review as often as once a week? Me neither. It wasn’t necessary a conscious choice, and quite frankly, I wasn’t sure how eager I was to get back into it after the release of American Burger Revival. I felt even more connected to the local burger world but in some ways felt it was as good a time as any to take a break, catch my breath, and well, start eating a little better along the way. Ultimately I knew I had to get back into it all. We’ve really been pushing and growing our personal chef business so that has been the focus from a professional stand point, and even though burgers are/were part of my identity, it wasn’t the only game in town, if you will. I’ve eaten a few burgers here and there, but never got around to writing a review for various reasons. Maybe I’ll revisit those lost burgers at some point (Puritan = great, Grill 23 = not that great) but for now, it’s onto new burgers and new reviews as often as I can. Sorry for the long and semi-pointless intro but away we go…
It only felt fitting to start with a burger at a place where one would seemingly have no reason to order a burger. If I’ve learned anything over the past few years, it’s that you literally never know where a great burger will be. The obvious pubs, grills and burger-centric places that seem destined to have a worthy burger don’t necessarily do, and the reverse is often true for the fancy bistro, high end spot with a burger tucked away on the menu. You already know all about Island Creek Oyster Bar, don’t let me stop you from ordering all the bivalves you want (and you really should) but don’t sleep on this burger either. For $16 you receive the basics (Colorado Angus beef, house cured maple bacon, Grafton Cheddar and fries) and an extra $5 will get you even more (pickled onion, fried oysters, horseradish mayonnaise). I opted for the full experience, and my quick math skills tells us that would make it a $21 burger.
If you’ve ever been to a Garrett Harker owned restaurant you can pretty much be guaranteed outstanding service and very well executed and delicious food. I received nothing less with this visit to ICOB; the service was nothing less than perfect. The burger was damn delicious as well. A thick, slightly charred patty was gloriously cooked to medium-rare, seasoned expertly but maybe, just maybe on the low end of the salt spectrum depending on your preference. The beef is everything you need it to be: succulent, juicy and a subtle hint of mystery and depth. Melted cheddar is sharp and plentiful and a soft and fluffy bun couldn’t be more perfect, fresh and ideal for the patty in hand. The house bacon is more chewy and less crispy than I’d prefer, although the flavor is very well balanced both on its own and as a counterpoint to the burger. Fried oysters are a nice idea given the parameters of the restaurant and are mostly successful. As the burger becomes eaten, they are less and less crispy, but understandably so. They are unexpectedly less punchy in the oyster department than I would have thought, although having them laid out like two thin deck of card thickness fish sticks is very, very clever. Fries are crispy, with an almost custardy hollow interior, are an enjoyable side even if they need a dusting of salt. A pile of pickled vegetables also come on the plate and are refreshing, crunchy and flawless.
I’m not completely convinced that the add-ons are worthy of a $21 price tag or that they even enhance the burger all that much. For $16 you’re probably better off with the simpler version of the two and is arguably more enjoyable based on the numbers alone. Either way it’s a delicious burger with or without all the bells and whistles because it’s the basics (beef and bun) that make it a stand-out. Come for the oysters, but definitely stay for the burger.
Overall Score: 88