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Cheese-Burger.net » Burger Reviews http://www.cheese-burger.net Burgers, Cheeseburgers and stuff... Yes a website about Burgers. Fri, 16 Mar 2012 21:42:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.23 Burguesa Burger: A New Definition For Tex-Mex http://www.cheese-burger.net/stories/burguesa-burger-a-new-definition-for-tex-mex.html http://www.cheese-burger.net/stories/burguesa-burger-a-new-definition-for-tex-mex.html#comments Fri, 13 May 2011 18:20:53 +0000 http://www.cheese-burger.net/?p=4288 Burguesa Burger is a new Dallas based burger franchise that is combining classic Mexican with classic American. The Mexican in Burguesa Burger is a lot more than the usual Jalapeño topping.

Burguesa Burger

For those of us who live in Texas, we embrace Mexican food and have even integrated it into our own cuisine, Tex-Mex. Many restaurants, fast food chains and backyard BBQ’s have promoted a spicy hamburger as “Tex-Mex Burger”. Though no fast food chain has combined these cuisines to the extent that Burguesa Burger is.

Burguesa Burger: More Than A Jalapeno Topping

The La Monumental at Burguesa Burger

Burguesa Burgers, a new chain of burger stores, has used the Mexican influence into American cuisine and has engineered a hamburger like no other.

The Burgeusa Burger signature hamburger the “La Monumental” is piled with two beef patties, two slices of cheese, ham, avocado, refried beans, crunchy tostada, lettuce, tomato, onion, a creamy special sauce and of course the obligatory jalapeño as a garnish, making this a very handsome looking hamburger indeed.

The fries are offered regular or spicy, and if you have never tried one you should – the bacon wrapped hot dog (very yummy!). The one little item that caught my eye while browsing the menu was the churro filled with dulche de leche (caramel). I cannot tell you how yummy these tasty treats are, similar to a donut, only long and thin, served warm, dipped in cinnamon sugar and then filled with warm caramel – a guaranteed eye-rolling, delightful treat if there ever was one.

Burguesa Burger: Drinks Menu

Burguesa Burger Drinks

The drinks menu is listed with the fountain sodas but Burguesa Burger promote the use of cane sugar rather that the controversial high fructose corn syrup used liberally across the United States in soda’s and they have created their own blend of sodas.

They also offer Coca Cola and Jarrito’s soda imported from Mexico, which is sold in glass bottles in a variety of flavors. There is something about a coke in a cold glass bottle and when you are so used to corn syrup, tasting the difference between and that and the cane sugar, is quite noticeable.

I did perk up at the hand dipped milkshakes blended the old fashioned way, but did cringe a little when I saw it was served with a donut skewered to the straw, perhaps a little over the top but, hey, just because it is there doesn’t mean you have to eat it, does it?

Burguesa Burger, the Real Deal?

The concept was founded in Dallas in 2009 by restaurant entrepreneur Jeff Sinelli, and has been named one of the 11 burger chains to watch in 2011 by BurgerBusiness.com.

Burguesa Burger, now have 4 store locations around Dallas Texas with plans for further locations around the Rio Grande area which is on the borders of Texas and Mexico and in my opinion, will probably be a very popular chain before too long.

The Mexican impact on the food here in Texas has been a positive and a negative. While many restaurants are able to focus on creating a menu filled with fresh and interesting foods, some establishments have “Americanized” and cheapened the foods or simply changed the whole concept of what the foods were supposed to be originally and have all but ruined the taste buds of those who have been victims of bad Tex-Mex.

Here is to hoping that Burguesa Burger keep the traditions of the Mexican food culture and the traditional hamburger so that we may acquire a taste for the real Mexican tastes combined with our old favorites instead of the other way around where tastes and flavors can get lost in grease and sauces.

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Fat Ho Burgers in Texas http://www.cheese-burger.net/stories/fat-ho-burgers-in-texas.html http://www.cheese-burger.net/stories/fat-ho-burgers-in-texas.html#comments Fri, 08 Apr 2011 15:55:35 +0000 http://www.cheese-burger.net/?p=4207 There’s a new burger joint in Texas that’s proving to be… how to put this… not exactly for everyone.

That’s Lakita Evans standing in front of her shack on 11th Street in Waco, Fat Ho Burgers. Evans says she got the name after watching the 2006 movie Phat Girlz, starring Mo’Nique. “I was trying to make myself laugh,” she told Texas Monthly recently. “I knew the name would put a smile on people’s faces, so I just did it.” Evans carried the theme to her menu items, too.

That’s the Supa Fly Ho (in a shot from Texas Monthly), a single patty with cheese. Want a second patty? You’re a Supa Dupa Fly Ho. Are you 86ing add-ons like pickle and tomato? You’re a Skinny Ho. Plain meat with cheese? Dried Up Ho. What if you’ve got kids in tow? This is, obviously, a family establishment; of course, there’s a kids’ meal. It’s called the Tiny Ho.

As you can imagine, there’s been a wee bit of controversy surrounding the new burger joint and its colorful name, especially from some of the Texas town’s more religiously-minded residents. Evans is taking the flak in stride. “When they change the economy, I’ll change my name,” she’s gone on record as saying. “When they get these kids around here jobs, I’ll change my name. If the crime rate goes down, I’ll change my name.

For now, it’s hour-long lines and standing room only at Fat Ho. Don’t believe me? Check out this collection of photos on Flickr after a recent visit by MsElenius. Business has been so good, Evans ran out of meat on her very first day and is hiring extra staff just to keep up. And the place has been spotlighted by both national and foreign news outlets. When was the last time a place featuring mismatched chairs, plastic tablecloths, and a cardboard sign with “No Big Bills” handwritten in Magic Marker has gotten international press coverage? (Although, truthfully, Ann’s Snack Bar in downtown Atlanta would seem to be a not-too-distant cousin… and she’s doing all right more than 40 years later with her world-renowned Ghetto Burger.)

So can Fat Ho keep the momentum going? That remains to be seen, but early reviews suggest that Evans needs to pay as much attention to the quality of the food as she has in giving it funny names. According to Texas Monthly, the Supa Fly Ho “was not especially juicy—or fatty, as the restaurant’s name would suggest—and the patty itself was almost charred.”

But it’s a great story. Evans, who studied culinary arts at a local community college and saved three years’ worth of salary from an overnight shift at Wal-Mart to open her restaurant, is the kind of gal you want to root for. Let’s hope everything works out for this Fat Ho.

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California Burger Wars: Five Guys Review http://www.cheese-burger.net/stories/california-burger-wars-five-guys-review.html http://www.cheese-burger.net/stories/california-burger-wars-five-guys-review.html#comments Tue, 22 Mar 2011 05:14:43 +0000 http://www.cheese-burger.net/?p=4150 The California Burger War continues with the challenger, Five Guys.

Part 1: The California Burger War
Part 2: In-N-Out-Burger Review
Part 3: Five Guys Review

Part 3: Five Guys Review

Five Guys Review

After dominating the Mid-Atlantic, Florida, and all parts in between, Five Guys has come to California to challenge the almighty In-N-Out for west coast burger supremacy.  We’ve already visited the reigning champion, so let’s now have a look at the challenger.

Five Guys has already landed two locations in the SF Bay Area with plans for more.  Today, in Sunnyvale, the layout is pretty simple.

As you can see, since their foreign to most people in these parts, Five Guys touts its victories in other parts of the country.

The menu’s pretty simple.  Regular hamburgers/cheeseburgers are actually what pass in most other joints as double burgers.  You’d have to order the little burgers for something sized normally.

The fixins for the burger are pretty standard.  If you order “All the Way”, you get the most popular ones altogether

The fries here come in cups, and either with simple seasoning (Five Guys style) or Cajun seasoning.  Even a small order is quite sizeable, and they’re fried in peanut oil. And if that wasn’t enough, crates of free peanuts line the walls of the restaurant.

As you wait, you can also partake in the crayon notecards, carrying all matter of messages from previous patrons.

So how did it measure up?  Let’s look at the tale of the tape:


Five Guys has a great patty to other ratio, with the regular cheeseburger sporting a sizeable patty.  It makes for some difficulty keeping the burger altogether like most In-N-Out burgers, but the patty was well-cooked and juicy, and the fixins were just enough.  Combine that with how the In-n-Out burger I had was a little too veggie-loaded in relation to the patty…


Five Guys cuts its fries thick, and serves a lot of them.  Frying in peanut oil also helps gives a distinctive flavor.  However, they give you a lot, even for a small size.  So as a result, the crisp tends to fade away as the meal progresses.  In-N-Out fries, however, maintain a good crisp and are appropriately portioned.


Five Guys serves a couple of other things (like hot dogs and veggie sandwiches), and the peanuts are kind of a nice touch.  In-N-Out has the secret menu and ice cream shakes, but the secret menu isn’t really a secret, and the ice cream is pumped from a machine, so hard to give them a lot of credit there.


With the crayon board and the good humor of the employees (“Guest #51, there’s a lack of motion from your general direction!” -Heard upon entering), you can see there’s a certain buzz from the people at Five Guys, and a genuine effort on their part to become a big part of the scene here.  You don’t really get that from In-N-Out as much, as they’ve been around for so long.  That can only hurt in the battle for the hearts and minds of the next generation.

So when you break it down, the challenger, Five Guys, has prevailed.  However, let’s not declare this a debate-ending victory for the eastern challengers.  What these guys may very well merely done is fire a warning shot across In-N-Out‘s face, and the response from the old boys will no doubt make this burger war one to watch for years to come.

Any why not spark the battle with a not-so-flattering comment from one to the other?

Part 1: The California Burger War
Part 2: In-N-Out-Burger Review
Part 3: Five Guys Review

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California Burger Wars: In-N-Out Burger Review http://www.cheese-burger.net/stories/california-burger-wars-in-n-out-burger-review.html http://www.cheese-burger.net/stories/california-burger-wars-in-n-out-burger-review.html#comments Sun, 20 Mar 2011 04:52:57 +0000 http://www.cheese-burger.net/?p=4144 Our California Burger War kicks off with the reigning champion, In-N-Out Burger.

Part 1: The California Burger War
Part 2: In-N-Out-Burger Review
Part 3: Five Guys Review


On a recent weekday, I paid a visit to In-N-Out’s new Redwood City, CA location. Opened a mere couple of months ago, this new branch has the same general layout as most locations.

The menu you see at the counter looks surprisingly simple, but hang around the counter long enough, and you’ll hear In-N-Out veterans reciting orders from the “secret menu.” It has long been a rite of passage for In-N-Out visitors to tweak their orders with stuff from the “secret menu”, and it only strengthens the ties this west coast institution has with its customers.

Today, it’s an easy #1. A double-double (two beef patties, two slices of cheese), fries, and a soda. While the burger itself comes with lettuce and tomato, I add the secret menu’s grilled onions to the burger.

In N Out Burger Review

In-n-Out prides itself on freshness, and that no burger hits the grill before its ordered. The beef is never frozen, and always emerges from the grill very juicy and moist. While solid, today’s version seemed to be outweighed by the vegetables, and by all means, an exacting patty to extras ratio is critical to a good burger.

In-N-Out Burger Review 2

The cheese is always well melted, and the spread is basically Russian dressing. No real surprises here. They add to the burger, but don’t overwhelm it.

In-n-Out fries are unique in that most times, you can see the Associates (yes, they’re called Associates, NOT employees) actually running the potatoes through the slicer. The fries are small but crispy and tasty with a hint of salt. Sometimes they do put too much, though, so one ought to be a little careful about the salt on the fries.

In-N-Out Burger Fries

In all, the meal is substantial and not overwhelming, which was what I was after today. The burger was nice and flavorful, and the fries were very noshable. Did not opt for a shake today, but many customers do, even if it comes pumped from a machine (Chocolate, Vanilla, Strawberry, or if you fancy, Neapolitan). In-n-Out has great fundamentals and good consistency across all of its locations, making it the longtime favorite it has been.

But can it stand a challenge? Stay tuned.

Part 1: The California Burger War
Part 2: In-N-Out-Burger Review
Part 3: Five Guys Review

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Churchill’s: Better Than the Best http://www.cheese-burger.net/stories/churchills-better-than-the-best.html http://www.cheese-burger.net/stories/churchills-better-than-the-best.html#comments Thu, 21 Oct 2010 00:00:49 +0000 http://www.cheese-burger.net/?p=2616 Say you’re a movie junkie.  Not a professional film critic, but a good judge of what at your local cineplex is good and what’s crap.  How would you react if someone said that an independent student film you’ve never heard of is better than “The Godfather?”

Welcome to my state of mind not too long ago.  Beloved food writer John Kessler announced that he was beginning a search for Atlanta’s best burger, and he was taking nominations.  The catch?  No usual suspects allowed.  So right out of the box, Ann’s Snack Bar (maybe the best burger I’ve ever eaten) and the Vortex Bar & Grill (my favorite place on Earth) were out of the running.  Kessler praised these hotspots, but wanted to focus on lesser-known burgs.  Okay, I can go along with that, I figured.

Then I got blindsided by a runaway MARTA bus barreling down the middle of Peachtree Street. In the long list of eateries culled from reader suggestions, I saw this:

“Churchill’s Pub – In Marietta, and better than the Vortex.”

Now, them’s fightin’ words.  You don’t tug on Superman’s cape.  You don’t spit into the wind.  You don’t pull the mask off the ol’ Lone Ranger, and you don’t just say you’re better than the f**king Vortex! This would require an immediate investigation.

Churchill’s Pub is exactly 3.4 miles from my front door.  I’ve cycled to the strip mall it’s in.  It’s sandwiched between a swimming pool supply store and the barber shop where I get my hair cut.  No way they serve a better burger than a joint where you enter through a 20-foot-tall skull, right???

While the place is named after the WWII-era British Prime Minister, there isn’t a trace of anglophilia inside.  The decor is Early Neighborhood Sports Bar.  Framed jerseys from Johnny Unitas and Terry Bradshaw.  A guitar autographed by the members of classic rock band Kansas.  A ginormous collection of beer cans displayed on built-in shelves and protected by chicken wire.  What any of this has to do with Sir Winston, I haven’t the foggiest.

The menu, apart from fish and chips, has zero to do with English cuisine.  It’s standard sports bar fare: wings, sandwiches, deep-fried appetizers.  What you’d expect at a place that has a dozen-plus flat-screens within eyesight of anywhere you sit.  And burgers.

Churchill’s offers 3 kinds of burgers.  Three.  With cheese, without cheese, and buffalo-style.  That’s it. Additional toppings for 50 cents a pop: bacon, sauteed mushrooms, sauteed onions, jalapenos, chili, coleslaw, and sauerkraut.  The Vortex offers 21 burgers with chorizo, fried eggs, peanut butter, and grilled cheese sandwiches as condiments; how could this possibly stack up?

I ordered the cheeseburger with Swiss and mushrooms:

Lovely looking, but legendary tasting???  I can’t say that.  It was a good burger, to be sure.  Nicely cooked, juicy, well seasoned.  Bonus points for putting the ‘shrooms under the protective blanket of Swiss.  (Too many places want to make sure you see their mushrooms by placing them on top of the cheese.  You’ll see them, all right: on your plate, on the table, on your lap.  Everywhere but on the burger once you bite in.) The bun was a little soft and absorbed a tad more juice than I prefer, but it didn’t completely disintegrate like many do.

Churchill’s Pub Burger is not, however, better than the Vortex. I actually find it hard to imagine someone would actually say that with a straight face.  (Wouldn’t surprise me if it was Churchill’s owners who made the claim in the first place.)  I’m glad I found Churchill’s, though.  It’s a welcome lunch option for the next time I want a better-than-fast-food-or-casual-chain cheebie.  It’s very close to home and doesn’t require a half-hour drive downtown or paid parking, and that’s worth something.  And it proves that a good burger can come from anywhere.

But Superman is still the Man of Steel.  My spit sails safely downwind.  The Lone Ranger’s identity is still known only to Tonto, and the Vortex is still Burger Nirvana.

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Walt Disney World’s Muffalata Burger http://www.cheese-burger.net/stories/walt-disney-worlds-muffalata-burger.html http://www.cheese-burger.net/stories/walt-disney-worlds-muffalata-burger.html#comments Thu, 30 Sep 2010 17:20:05 +0000 http://www.cheese-burger.net/?p=3503 The muffuletta is one of New Orleans’ signature contributions to the culinary world. Born in a French Quarter grocery store in the early 1900s, the “muff” is now as much a part of the Mardi Gras experience as po’ boys, etouffee, and gumbo.

That’s a beautiful shot from passionateeater’s wonderful blog.  A circular loaf of bread, usually about 10 inches across, is split in half horizontally and loaded with Italian meats and cheese, then dressed with a unique olive spread.  It’s a tasty sandwich, to be sure.  So it’s no stretch to imagine it combined with the classic cheeseburger. Breeding grilled cheese sammies, Philly cheesesteaks, and even peanut-butter-and-banana ‘wiches with the All-American cheebie has yielded some good eats, so why not this genuine taste of NoLa?  It doesn’t surprise me that someone did a mashup of the muff and the cheeseburgerWhat surprises me is where I found it: not in some dive on Bourbon Street, but in a sports bar at Walt Disney World.

That’s the ESPN Club, located just outside the EPCOT theme park.  (A tip of the mouse ears to the excellent Disney Food Blog for their shots of the restaurant’s exterior and interior.  I was having some camera issues.)  And since NFL Sundays don’t shut down for family vacations, I found myself recently parked in front of one of their 108 TV screens at lunchtime to watch my Cowboys take on the Bears.  (“Happiest Place on Earth?”  Not after that showing.  But that’s another story for another blog.)

Clam chowder, racks of ribs, an “extreme” Reuben, a turkey-and-brie sandwich, and a salmon BLT were some of the unexpected menu options.  Of the four burgers, the one that jumped out at me was the Muffalata Burger, which, despite the unorthodox spelling, sounded pretty damn good, an “Angus chuck burger topped with prosciutto, cappicola, salami, provolone, and olive tapenade.

It looked fairly authentic when it hit the table.  Granted, not 10 inches in diameter, but I saw a juicy burger topped with a thick layer of cheese and cold cuts, pre-cut under a slightly-crusty panini-like bread.

Some muff buffs consider toasting the sandwich to be sacrilege, but I gave it a pass since it was a burger, after all, and I wasn’t interested in a “hot-side-hot-and-the-cold-side-cold” arrangement.  The olive spread was of particular interest to me:

Although most Italians refer to it simply as “olive salad,” it’s more specifically, as the menu calls it, a tapenade.  Wikipedia defines that as “a Provencal dish of pureed or finely chopped olives, capers, anchovies, and olive oil.“  It looks like relish, and it was the part of the burger that I was most unsure about.  I mean, really… would you load up your burg with olives, capers, and anchovies if they were on the fixings bar at Fuddruckers?

All in all, this was an okay burger.  The Angus beef was very good, and way better than what I expected from a sports-bar-in-a-theme-park patty.  But the other meats just got lost.  No arguments with the cheese, although provolone isn’t much of a melter, so no ooey-gooey factor.  The tapenade wasn’t too olive-y, which was okay by me, as I’m not an olive fan.  But it made me wonder: what’s the point of the Muffalata Burger if the things that define it as a muff are so muted?

Out in the real world, I’d raise holy hell about the $12.49 price tag.  Inside the Mouse House, though, I guess that’s to be expected.  ESPN Club’s Muffalata Burger isn’t a bad burger, but not overly memorable, either. Of course, I still polished mine off…

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Hardee’s: Grilled Cheese Bacon Thickburger http://www.cheese-burger.net/stories/hardees-grilled-cheese-bacon-thickburger.html http://www.cheese-burger.net/stories/hardees-grilled-cheese-bacon-thickburger.html#comments Mon, 27 Sep 2010 02:26:42 +0000 http://www.cheese-burger.net/?p=3491 One of the unforeseen hazards of having a job as a professional cheeseburger eater is that it’s actually not easy for me to just dash out on a burger run when the mood strikes.  Before this gig came along, when I felt like a cheebie for lunch, I’d hit whatever joint was closest and grab a trusted fave off the menu board.  But now, it has to be something new.  Something I haven’t had yet.  Something I can write about. I’m not complaining, really.  Variety is, after all… well, you know.  And I’ve tried a lot of burgers at a lot of places that I’d never have made time for without this job.  But after 125+ articles, “just grabbing a burger” requires actual research and planning for me.  Recently, in looking over my options for a quick midday bite, I found this:

That’s the Grilled Cheese Bacon ThickburgerI waxed poetic about it back in February when Carl’s Jr. first announced it to the public, but then forgot about it, honestly, even after sister chain Hardee’s put it on their menu, too.  I suddenly decided that the comfort-food combo was just what the doctor ordered at the end of a long and busy week.

Hardee’s touts the burger as “Charbroiled 100% Black Angus beef topped with crispy bacon, slices of melted Swiss and American cheese, and mayonnaise served on grilled sourdough bread.“  It’s offered as a quarter-pounder, a third-pounder, or the half-pound “Six Dollar” version I got.  Heavy in my hand, it felt like a very substantial sandwich.  And unlike most fast-food burgs, this one actually looked good, too, not much different from how it’s pictured in the official company literature:

The beef was exceptional, a solid reminder that Hardee’s really cranks out a juicy, meaty burger, totally deserving of its Top Ten spot in Consumer Reports’ recent poll.  The bacon was nothing special- typical fast-food bacon that’s more limp than anything.  The sourdough was a nice touch, but I would have liked it crustier. To me, that’s a grilled cheese hallmark- that little bit of crisp and crunch to the bread, the way the outer layer kind of shatters as you bite through just before you hit that rush of gooey melted cheese.  This bread was pretty squishy all the way through.

But most surprising to me was the cheese.  Obviously, this is meant to be a very cheesy eat.  And with two slices of American and two slices of Swiss, it doesn’t disappoint.  But the Grilled Cheese Bacon Thickburger was… well… I’m not sure how to say this… too cheesy.


Sorry, I’m back now.  I was waiting for the bolt of lightning to strike me down for typing such a blasphemous statement.

Cheese is good.  Lots of cheese is better.  But after a few chews, each bite of this burger turns into a mouthful of nondescript goo.  I wanted more texture, a little crunch in there somewhere.  Those sourdough buns spending an extra minute on the griddle and crispier bacon would have been nice, but just a start.  The best grilled cheese I ever ate had Granny Smith apple slices tucked inside it. Yeah, sounded weird to me, too, until I tried it.  The apple added a welcome crunch to counteract the multiple melted cheeses, and a blast of tartness and sweetness that I’ve tried to duplicate in homemade grilled cheese sammies ever since.

Hardee’s Grilled Cheese Bacon Thickburger is a super-tasty and extra-filling burger. I really liked it.  But I wondered if, with a few little tweaks, I might absolutely love it.

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Stuffed Blue Cheese Burgers http://www.cheese-burger.net/stories/stuffed-blue-cheese-burgers.html http://www.cheese-burger.net/stories/stuffed-blue-cheese-burgers.html#comments Mon, 06 Sep 2010 03:31:11 +0000 http://www.cheese-burger.net/?p=3395 I have an idea” are words that tend to scare my wife, especially after my Backyard Blowout Burgers that, while awesome, were admittedly quite an involved production and managed to dirty every single dish in the kitchen.  Still, I decided to start my Labor Day Grillathon with another new cheeseburger I’d been dreaming of.  This burger brainstorm was more simple.  Understated.  Elegant, even.  In fact, the big-ticket ingredient in this creation was downright upscale:

The goal was a stuffed cheeseburger filled with blue cheese.  I started with my basic Jucy Lucy recipe: 85/15 beef mixed with a white-bread-and-milk paste to help with moisture and act as a binder.  Then I flattened out a thin patty and topped it with a tablespoon of blue cheese crumbles.

I laid another thin patty on top and pinched the edges together, sealing the cheese inside.  These third-pounders were dusted with Montreal steak seasoning and popped in the freezer while my charcoal ashed over.  Once I had a hot and well-oiled cooking grate, my burgs hit the grill with a sexy sizzle.

That short stay in the freezer was of particular interest to me.  My last batch of Jucy Lucys saw some unfortunate cracking and leakage, and I wondered then if a quick subzero chill might keep the cheese safely encased inside the beef as the burgers cooked.  When it was time to flip, I got my answer:

No breakage, zero seepage. Less than an hour in the freezer had made all the difference in the world.  Now I went to work on my burger topping.  I figured since I was already going slightly gourmet with blue cheese, I might as well fully commit with some large portobello mushroom caps.

Once the burgers were cooked through, I removed them from the heat and let them rest at room temp.  That’s key to any burgers you pull off the grill, but it’s especially important with stuffed burgers.  That cheesy center is like molten lava: bite in right away, and you’re asking for a messy lapful of liquid fire.  Give it 5 or 10 minutes to congeal slightly and come down to an edible temperature, and you’ll be glad you did.  I used the time to finish the mushroom caps over direct heat, then assembled the burger:

Perhaps a little vanilla-looking in appearance, this burger made me think about how a lot of burger-topping strategy comes down to the visual aspect.  Consider how many restaurant cheebies hit the table open-faced: perfectly-melted golden-hued cheese on full display, bright green lettuce, purple-tinged onion rings, and a ruby-red tomato slice waiting neatly alongside.  You don’t necessarily need those items, but it sure makes for a pretty picture to have all those textures and colors stacked atop one another.  By contrast, this burger was largely monochromatic, in several shades of brown and tan.

Cutting it half, while not standard operating procedure for me, is the preferred way to show off a stuffed burger.  So here you go:

The Montreal seasoning made for beautifully-seasoned beef.  The blue cheese was wonderfully creamy and brought a tangy richness to the party, although an extra half-tablespoon of it per burger would have been okay, too.  The portobello caps added an earthy, meaty chew that also made for a really satisfying mouth feel.

All in all, an exceptionally tasty burger.  Deceptively so, given how unimpressive it appears on your plate.  This Jucy Lucy cousin may look like Plain Jane… but it just goes to prove that, with these girls, it really is what’s on the inside that counts.

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Steak ‘n Shake: Frisco Melt http://www.cheese-burger.net/stories/steak-n-shake-frisco-melt.html http://www.cheese-burger.net/stories/steak-n-shake-frisco-melt.html#comments Tue, 24 Aug 2010 14:46:40 +0000 http://www.cheese-burger.net/?p=3342 Wanna start a food fight?  Wander into an online chat room full of hamburger connoisseurs and announce in all caps that your favorite kind of burger is a patty melt.  Then sit back and watch World War III erupt.

Die-hard foodies will get downright violent in telling you that a patty melt is NOT a cheeseburger. They’ll point out that an authentic patty melt has just four elements, all of them non-negotiable: a thin beef patty, Swiss cheese, sauteed onions, and rye bread.  That’s it, plain and simple.  No deviation whatsoever allowed.  And it must be griddled, not toasted.  To the true patty melt purist, even the shape of the patty is of utmost importance.  (It must be oval to match the rye bread; a round patty means an automatic fail.)

So what’s the thing that pushes the patty melt over the burger fence for these folks?  Rye bread instead of a bun?  That the whole thing is griddled instead like a grilled cheese sandwich, only with a layer of hamburger in it?  Seems like a pretty fine line, doesn’t it?  I mean, if we disqualify a burger as such because of non-bun bookends, then the Luther Burger, currently enjoying a sweet resurgence on the summer fair circuit, would be out.  So would McDonald’s wraps.  Same with the Double Coronary.  Sure, those items may stretch the definition of “burger,” but I don’t know many people who believe they need their own dedicated food group.

Yet, sitting down at my local Steak ‘n Shake recently, I noticed that they have a “Steakburger” menu, along with a separate “Melts” menu.  The SNS Patty Melt is 2 Steakburgers, American cheese, and caramelized onions grilled on rye bread.  “Rogue cheese variety” notwithstanding, it’s as close to the tried-and-true patty melt as you get.  But there’s a pretty devoted following for the next item on the menu, the Frisco Melt:

One Steakburger is topped with American, one is topped with Swiss.  Then comes a layer of Frisco sauce, and it’s all sandwiched between pieces of sourdough.  Patty Melt Nation flips out about the presence of American cheese and the use of sourdough.  The sauce, too, is the cause of great debate. Plenty of old-school diners who do a proper patty melt will slather it with Thousand Island or even Russian dressing, even though the loyalists opine that the use of any condiments is detrimental to the patty melt’s already-perfect taste.  (Most online copycat recipe sites estimate Steak ‘n Shake’s Frisco sauce to be a 2:1 ratio of Thousand Island dressing to either French dressing or ketchup.)

What I know is that the Frisco Melt is a tasty little sammie. Put off by way too much bun on my last Steak ‘n Shake burger, I welcomed the flattened sourdough toast, which seemed much more proportionally-appropriate to the double Steakburgers.  I liked the interplay of the two cheeses, with the American and Swiss working well together in a kind of United-Nations-of-Cheesy-Goodness.  And while I’m generally not a big condiment fan, the Frisco sauce provided just the right tangy kick.  I’ve always been a Frisco Melt fan, and this latest visit reminded me why.

Maybe it’s not a true Patty Melt.  Some will argue it’s not even a legitimate cheeseburger. Call it whatever you want.  But serve it up with some skinny fries and a tall bell glass of Coke-with-a-shot-of-vanilla, and I’m a happy guy.

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Heinnie’s: Best Burger in Indiana? http://www.cheese-burger.net/stories/heinnies-best-burger-in-indiana.html http://www.cheese-burger.net/stories/heinnies-best-burger-in-indiana.html#comments Tue, 17 Aug 2010 09:54:35 +0000 http://www.cheese-burger.net/?p=3298 Elkhart, Indiana knows hardship.  Three times within the past century, whatever industry Elkhart has pinned its livelihood on has dried up and blown away, leaving this small town of about 50,000 with little more than a blue-collar work ethic to fall back on.  (You may recall that President Obama all but named Elkhart the poster-child-city of the Great Recession, and NBC embedded teams of reporters there for over a year to track the town’s struggle to overcome the greatest economic crisis since the 1920s.)  It’s also where I grew up, from the age of 8 until I moved away at 23.  In that time, I never once heard or thought of Elkhart, Indiana as a hamburger hotspot.

So when George Motz devoted three pages of his book Hamburger America to a tiny eatery on West Lusher Avenue there, I was dumbfounded.  I’d been to Heinnie’s Back Barn several times growing up.  I didn’t even know they served a cheeseburger, to be honest… and Motz picked it as the only one to represent the entire state?!? (He highlighted only one Georgia joint, and it just happened to be Ann’s Snack Bar, home of perhaps the best burger I’ve ever had.  So the guy does know how to pick ‘em.)  During my most recent visit home, my mission was clear.

Heinnie’s definitely has that smalltown everybody-knows-your-name vibe.  In my case, that was helped by the fact that my uncle’s shop is literally 100 feet across the parking lot.  He’s there every day.  He and my mom have lunch there once a week.  When I walked in with them on a recent Wednesday afternoon, I heard someone in the kitchen yell, “The food critic is here!” Apparently, my mission had come up in conversation.

Owner Bill DeShone came out promptly to say hi.  He’s a down-to-earth guy who’s a little taken aback by the minor fame his neighborhood place has earned because of Motz’s book.  He says at least 3 people a month come in (from some pretty faraway places) with a copy of the book to do exactly what I was doing: sample the Heinniecheeseburger.

The Heinniecheeseburger may be the one Motz raved about, but it’s not the biggest on the menu. That would be the Claybaugh.  A double Heinniecheeseburger topped with mozzarella, American, Swiss, and cheddar cheeses- plus bacon, mushrooms, and grilled onions… and held together by a steak knife rammed through the center of it- the Claybaugh was named after a local cop who frequents Heinnie’s.  Why?  According to Bill, they’re both “big and full of shit.”  Bill told me he didn’t think that story would be in the book.  (As a writer, I can assure you there was no way that Motz WASN’T putting a line like that in the book.)  But Officer Claybaugh had a sense of humor about it, and Bill showed me his autograph (complete with badge number) on his personal copy of Hamburger America, which he proudly keeps behind the bar.

My lunch came out of the kitchen looking like a thing of beauty, served up with some thick-cut fries and topped with American cheese and onions.

It was plain, simple, and really f**king tasty.  The juicy meat was cooked to perfection by Bill’s best line chef, brought in that day just because I was coming.  I’m not sure I was totally buying the “best burger in Indiana” argument, but I was enjoying the hell out of my double Heinniecheeseburger…

Until Tammy the waitress came out of the kitchen with a horrified look and told me that I wasn’t eating a double Heinniecheeseburger. She sheepishly explained that she had mistakenly written up a mere “double cheeseburger.”  When asked about the difference, she told me that the Heinniecheeseburger uses third-pound patties instead of wimpy quarter-pounders, there’s an upgraded bun… and that the meat has onions and seasonings mixed into the beef before cooking.  And with three bites to go on my double cheeseburger, Tammy told me that my double Heinniecheeseburger was on the way.  That’s right, I’d be using a two-third-pound double cheeseburger to chase down a half-pound double-cheeseburger-appetizer.

My tasting notes on the double Heinniecheeseburger are now kind of lost in a fog of sizzling beef and oozing cheese.  Was it markedly better than the regular double cheeseburger?  Hard to say, as I’d been somewhat beaten into submission by this point in the meal.  But suffice it to say that it, too, was awesome.  In all, a pound-plus of spectacular beef (from a local butcher who’s been supplying Heinnie’s for three generations) cooked wonderfully, surrounded by my family, served by a waitress who treated us like her own family, hanging out in an uber-friendly neighborhood place where the owner paid for both of my burgers as a way of apologizing for the “trouble.”

Best burger in Indiana?  That may be hard to prove.  Best burger in Elkhart?  That’s probably true.  A new tradition for me to look forward to on future visits home?  Nothing hard about that call. (But next time, I might just eat light and get the Claybaugh.)

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