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Chili’s: Ground Peppercorn Burger

By • Dec 20th, 2010 • Category: Burger Blog

Individual tastes and personal preferences notwithstanding, we can all agree on a few things, right?  Like stop lights. You can be a total rebel nonconformist, but you probably still stop on red.  It’s an understanding we have, a convention we all buy into in order to operate under some sort of common framework.  Take for instance, a burger cooked to “medium.”  No matter where you eat your burgs or how you roll with toppings, it’s pretty universally accepted that “medium” means “a warm, pink center.” Well, someone should tell Chili’s.

In general, I hold Chili’s in low regard.  As with most of the “Apostrophe S”s (Applebee’s, Bennigan’s, O’Charley’s, T.G.I. Friday’s, et al.), I consider them fallback places, the non-offensive kind of vanilla eatery you hit when there are no other options.  Or when the wait at the place you really want to go is too long.  Or when you have a big group of people who can’t agree on a restaurant.  Or, as in my case recently, when you have a second-grader proudly holding a school-issued coupon for a free kids’ meal because she read X number of books over the course of the quarter.  “Burger Snob, Party of Two, your table is ready.”

Looking over my lunch options, I saw variations on all the standard fare; I’d be breaking no new ground.  Lots of faux-foodie ingredients that some focus group has told the casual chains of the world that the rest of us just can’t get enough of. (Applewood-smoked bacon!  Beer-tinged BBQ sauce!!  Crispy onion straws!!!)  I almost ordered Chili’s Smokehouse Bacon Triple Cheese Big Mouth Burger with Jalapeno Ranch Dressing just because the 21-syllable behemoth has been repeatedly called the Worst Burger in America by Men’s Health; hell, I’m already at Chili’s, I might as well go all-out.  In the end, though, I chose the Ground Peppercorn Burger:

Crusted with ground black pepper and spices, then topped with crispy onion strings and blue cheese dressing,” according to the menu.  That menu also states that Chili’s cooks all of their burgers to medium-well “unless requested otherwise.”  I requested otherwise.  “Medium.” Not too long on the grill, not too short.  Right down the middle.  Average.  I figured I was in the right place for that.

It actually looked pretty good.  The pepper-and-spice crust made for a rather attractive burger.  Blue cheese dripping in all the right places.  Even a not-obnoxious pile of those ubiquitous fricking crispy onion straws.  Maybe I could work with this after all.

Um, no.  How the hell is that medium?!? That’s not even medium-well. The pepper-and-spice crust added zip, but the dressing and (pointless) onion strings were completely lost.  Probably to a too-thick bed of shredded lettuce.  (Shredded lettuce, I’ve decided, may be the most reliable bad-burger barometer I’ve found.  Can you name a decent burg with shredded lettuce on it?  Me neither.)

It’s especially troubling that a hamburger with a “warm, pink center” is apparently so hard to get right.  Did the line cook simply leave mine on the heat a minute too long?  Maybe.  Is it unfair for me to throw the entire casual-dining restaurant category under the bus because of it?  Perhaps.  But it’s perhaps the most basic thing on the kind of menu that purports itself to be everything to everyone.  They should be able to knock a medium burger out of the park every single time. Sadly, Chili’s Ground Peppercorn Burger is an utterly unremarkable burger that made almost no impression on me, good or bad.  In other words, exactly what I should have expected from one of the Apostrophe-S’s.

2 Responses to “Chili’s: Ground Peppercorn Burger”

  1. 1
    sarah Says:

    what a close minded opinion of everything. that burger is one of the best burgers ive had. agreed that the lettuce is awful on it, but how can you just dismiss the peppercorn spice off as mediocre? and as far as being cooked medium, it certainly is slightly overdone but in the picture it does still kind of look pinkish in some areas so maybe you’re preconceived notions about the place have blotted your judgment. either way, casual dining is what americas turned into, and this place is one of those places.

  2. 2
    Perez Says:

    Mate! If the burger wasn’t done right, Why not just send it back for another done at proper rightness. In all honesty, I just had this burger down at Chilis Malaysia, Requested for Medium Rare and received a well done. Sent it back to the kitchen, the manager did not kick up a fuss, and got a new burger done at a perfect medium rare to my liking

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