Review: Original Tommy's
Speeding toward Original Tommy's at Beverly and Rampart at 3 a.m. early Sunday morning, the first thing my drinkin', dining, 'n' driving companion and I spotted was not the blaring red signs famous across Los Angeles for marking the location of the city's favorite chiliburgers nor the parking-lot shack that started it all 54 years ago. What really caught our eye was the ring of about forty cops standing in the neighboring lot, as more and more squad cars pulled up for support. Had the Crips and Bloods backed out of their truce? Was Robert Downey Jr. on the loose and jonesing again? Had the Governator flipped a circuit and gotten stuck on kill mode?
Tommy's considerable legend began when first-generation Greek-American Tommy Koulax opened his shop in 1946 and praise spread through word of mouth, as it does still does today, as Tommy's does not advertise. Known for its legion of imitators and for the hamburger-eating contest it supports at USC, it is recommended that you ward off charlatans using and abusing the Tommy's name by looking for the shack on the red sign. This location, the first of 27 Tommy's, serves more than 15,000 hungry burger lovers a week, according to well, Tommy's.
We took our place in the considerable line, made up completely of well-dressed and even-better coiffed Latino twenty-somethings (think Y Tu Mama También, not American Me) and the gorgeously put-together chicas who love them. Three thugged-out and tattooed security guards clung tight to one another in anticipation of some skulls to bust, buoyed by the presence of the entire LAPD next door.
As the line speedily snaked along, the parking lot provided more than enough scenery to take in, with a collection of bangers and bros getting together to talk cars, girls, and burgers. Plus, as you get closer to the heat of the grill, you can watch the burgers a-cookin' by the white-uniformed staff. Although faint shit-talking was detected, possibly spawned by the length of the line or the presence of an out-of-favor army of Rampart cops, the love emanating from the kitchen was palpable. Once our five-minute wait was up, the burgers were our only point of focus. Stepping up to the repetitive-motion-stressed cooks, we made our order, which was met instantaneously by our delectable chili cheeseburgers being plopped in our hands for under $2 a pop. Could they be using the new HyperActive Bob technology or are they just "that damn on it" at Tommy's? We can only wonder.
The strategy behind eating one of Tommy's delicious burgers after a night of copious liquor, quaffed to the tune of an 18-piece Brazilian band at Little Pedro's Blue Bongo, is questionable for sure. Even more so when that sucker is unwrapped from its thin wax paper at the chairless counters that dominate Tommy's. Chili gets everywhere. Yes, everywhere. The bite is what matters though, and Tommy's does not disappoint. Although the patty and bun look a little more Ronald than Angus, the taste is simultaneously comforting and new, warm chili contrasting brilliantly with the fresh toppings of a double-cheese, pickle, onion, and beefsteak tomato.
Sometimes a messy burger is in order, and the generous amount of oozing chili intermingled with the soft patty and melted cheese at Tommy's make for an unrivaled taste combination that is both delicious and nutritiousOK, well, one out of two ain't bad. As the burger quickly soaked up a stomach of vodka and Newcastle, I was tempted to go for a second, something my stomach and the other passenger in the car would undoubtedly regret.
Scarfing down the last bites, it became apparent what some of the adjacent fuss was about. Although 50-plus cops seems to be an overwhelming response to one skinheaded gangbanger, it was one more dude off the streets and a lesson to those who seek to menace hamburger lovers the world over. Overlooking Rampart one last time, my partner and I jumped in the low-key Nissan Maxima and headed West toward a new horizon, a new day, and new burgers.
Location: 2575 West Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles CA
Pop It Like It's Hot
Pop Burger is still as hot as ever with celebs. According to our fave gossip column, Page Six, Leo DiCaprio and Gisele Bundchen made a casual appearance there last Thursday. They were "chowing down at the counter," proving that beautiful people eat burgers too (at least mini ones). We'd kinda noticed Leo's consumption of something was up, but it's good to know he's chosen to get fat and old on burgers and Bundchen and nothing too notorious. While that would make for better gossip, we were satisfied to also read that comeback comedy king Bill Murray was simultaneously enjoying his time at the neon establishment chewing the fat with owner Roy Liebenthal. (And who can forget Mr. Murrayalong with John Belushi and Gilda Radnerin the famous "Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger" sketch on Saturday Night Live?)
Hot 'n' Spicy
Determined to become queen of the screens (movie, TV, and computer), Paris Hilton, who has already graced the tube in nothing and next to nothing, turns up in a black Versace-esque swimsuit eating a hamburger in a TV ad today. The commercial is for West Coast chain Carl's Jr. and will be shown in a "Making the Video" style segment on Entertainment Tonight.
But the news doesn't stop there. As she eats the chain's new spicy burger, which is topped with a signature zingy barbecue sauce and fiery fried jalapeÃ±os, Ms. Hilton describes the sandwich in the best way she can. You can guess, I won't bother telling you here. Throw in the fact that, during all of this, she's washing a black Bentley to a punked-up version of the song "I Love Paris in the Springtime" and all we can say is that either Carl is having a midlife crisis or Paris just really is "that hot."
Brad Haley, the burger chain's executive vice president of marketing, explains the shameless scheme:
"The ad plays more like a music video than a typical television commercial. And the message is very simple: Paris, the situation, and the Spicy BBQ Six Dollar Burger are 'hot.' Paris was chosen to star in the ad because she is an intriguing cultural icon and the 'It Girl' of the moment. She fascinates Carl's Jr.'s most loyal customers, 'young, hungry guys,' as well as 'young hungry gals.' "
Personally, I liked that little star dude, but I guess when it comes to making money, you need a bigger star to get the point across. All we can say is that we hope things don't cool down for Carl anytime soon, 'cause we like their smoky, char-grilled fast-food patties.
'Paris Hilton Touts Spicy Burger in TV Ad' [ABC News Online]
photograph from the Associated Press
COME AND GET IT!!!
Welcome to A Hamburger Today, a new weblog dedicated to hamburgers. And cheeseburgers. And anything burger-related. We've been posting on the DL for a little more than a month now and finally felt that the time was right to unleash our grease-addled opinions on the world. Many thanks to AHT staffers Matty, Hadley, and Honey P. for all their hard work these last few weeks.
A Hamburger Today is sister site to Slice, "America's Favorite Pizza Weblog," but has a new host of names behind it. To meet the staff, visit our About page. To learn more about AHT, visit our FAQ page.
We hope you'll like what you find here. It's been fun building the site and populating the pages, and we hope to keep bringing you plenty more burgers ... all with ketchup, mustardand opinion.
A Hamburger Today: Special. Saucy. Since May 2005.
Recommended Site: The Burger Club
Thanks for all the response we've been getting today. So many people have linked to us on our debut day and so many smart, critical burger fans have seen the site that we really will have our work cut out for usand will be under close scrutiny.
One site I wanted to highlight before going live was The Burger Club. This crazy in-depth bulletin-board site started as the Burger Club thread on eGullet, where we often liked to lurk to pick up juicy pointers. We lost track of the thread while obsessing about pizza but were pleased to pick it up again thanks to eGullet's Jason Perlow.
It is a must-visit for burger fans.
Review: Shake Shack
Believe the hype. Said hype, which was reported on before, made the entire staff of AHT twitch with desire. The long lines held us off for only so long, but the staff gave in last week.
The burgers at Shake Shack, like Blue Nine, follow the west-coast style. What really separates them from the pack is their choice of meat. Instead of ground chuck or something similar, they use a mix of sirloin and brisket, which is freshly ground across the street at Danny Meyer's Eleven Madison Park. The unusual choice results in a higher fat content, which produces a fantastically tasty burger. Although it's fun to pile a burger high with condiments, this one can stand alone. My favorite part is that although the burger is juicy, the hot griddle seals it in so the juice gets in your belly and not on your plate.
Having been twice now, I tried both a plain burger and a Shack Burger, which includes their Shake Shack Sauce. The sauce is mayo-based, but the ingredients are secret. It was good, but not an essential part of the experience. I'm more of a mustard guy, anyhow. All of the other condimentslettuce, tomato, bunwere tasty. The bun was very plain, but a perfect compliment for the flavorful burger.
The line is, as expected, long. From my local scouts, the line is still about half an hour during the peak lunch times (12 p.m. to 2 p.m.), but when I've visited at 2:30 p.m., I was ordering in about 10 minutes. When I visited for dinner Shake Shack is now open until 9 p.m. for the rest of the summerI hardly waited at all. Don't worry about grabbing a table right away as there are usually some available and turnover is quick if there aren't.
Shake Shack is an essential part of the NYC burger experience. It is not to be missed.
Location: The southeast corner of Madison Square Park at 23rd St.; New York City
Hours: Daily, 11a.m. to 9 p.m.
What's Cookin': The hamburger. Don't dirty it up the first time you try it. In non-burger land (what's that?), the fries and shakes are also excellent.
Extras: More photos from the Shake Shack trips; Liao Yusheng's shack trip
Review: Island Burgers and Shakes
Purists, be gone. If you're looking for a lump of meat between two pieces of bread, turn around and find another burger joint, because Island Burgers and Shakes is all about the toppings. Unlike Blue 9 Burger, where you have three choices on the whole menu, Island has over 63 burger combinations. In the last three hours, I've tried all of them. OK, not really, but my dining companion and I each had one, so that should get you started.
One could spend hours poring over all the options, deciding on the best concoction. Instead, I went with the first one that looked good. When you're hungry and there are hamburgers on the premises, time is of the essence. I chose the Tijuana burger, which is topped with bacon, Jack cheese, guacamole, and sautÃ©ed onion (with an optional hooker on the side). Jori, my dining partner and then some, had the Mike's Pool Hall, which is served on dark rye bread and comes with Jack cheese and onion.
The whole affair is served open face, which is a nice touch. It lets me piece together my burger without having to pry the top bun from the cheese. Once assembled, the burger was quite tall. Tall enough that I wished I could unhinge my jaw. Since I cannot, I applied the smashing technique, which is exactly as it sounds. The guacanike serving was plentiful, which meant I had a green goatee after my first bite. The mix of toppings was tasty. I definitely made a good choice.
The meat was pretty good quality. Nothing special, but it was fresh, juicy, and actually medium-rare, as I had ordered it. The flavor was difficult to decipher, as the burger was smothered in avacado-y goodness. I'm fairly certain it was cooked on a flame, but even that was difficult to tell. The fire was likely a bit too hot though; one side of my burger was a bit overcooked.
Unlike my favorites in the city (Shake Shack, Soup Burg), I walked away from Island Burgers a little unimpressed. Everything tasted good going down, and the presentation was nice, but the burger itself just wasn't anything special. Good, but not great. Still, it beats the pants off Silver Spurs, which is also known for its plethora of burger combinations.
If you're in Hell's Kitchen and looking for a fun burger spot, this is a good pick. If you're in from out of town and hitting up the best burger joints in New York, you can leave this Island unexplored.
Photo: This will be you. The burgers are totally messy.
3 Cheers for the Cheeseburger Bill!!!
Two things continue to make this country what it is: hamburgers and litigation. However, we agree with our nation's normally befuddled legislators that they are two great tastes that don't necessarily go great together.
Consider this A Hamburger Today's endorsement of the Cheeseburger Bill, currently trying to squeeze its way through the refuse-strewn small intestine of Congress. The Cheeseburger Bill (not to be confused with our nation's 42nd president) seeks to curb obesity lawsuits against fast-food restaurants.
Passing the bill, officially known as the Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act, would be welcome news for McDonald's, one of the only companies so far to have seen (unsuccessful) legal action taken against its restaurants. However, that particular case is down but not completely out, and, combined with attacks from the Morgan Spurlocks and Eric Schlossers of the world, gives the perception of a wave of defiance spreading toward the quick and delicious junk food that present-day America was built on.
Striving to ensure respect for and fear of the nation's beloved and beleaguered burger, heavy lobbying by the restaurant industry has resulted in more than 20 states taking legislation into account that would reduce obesity suits against restaurants and food manufacturers or would sentence them completely to the fate of the McRib.
Although I'm always on the hunt for the next frivolous lawsuit that's going to enable me to "super size it" for eternity, it's time people take responsibility for and pride in their fast-food overindulgences. If we want to be a nation of fatasses, we should be free to be just that, dammit! With motorized scooters to back us up for long trips through the grocery store. After all, we know what freedom smells like, and it reeks of partially hydrogenated grease and secret sauce. The day we have to sue Grimace and the gang is a day when children weep for an innocence that once was. You're either with us or against us, folks!
For more information on how a bill is passed, please refer to School House Rock.
Recommended Site: Burger Club
The Burger Club is a bulletin board forum dedicated to, you guessed it, hamburgers. So far, most of the topics on the site are New Yorkcentric, but we're sure that as more folks become aware of it and join, that will change.
So take a gander at the site join the club of hamburger aficionados, if you please.
Review: Lucky Burger
Always keen on restaurants whose menus include nothing but burgersBurger Joint, Blue 9, and Corner Bistro come to mindI was thrilled to run across Lucky Burger on a recent Saturday in New York City's East Village while on my from purchasing a bicycle. (Pizza and hamburgers have started to take their toll on my waistline.) I vowed to return at a later date, unburdened by two-wheel conveyance.
At work the following Monday, I mentioned Lucky Burger to A Hamburger Today senior editor Honey P., who had heard good things about the place. "It's said that these guys strive to make the best burger and are very concerned about freshness." That sounded good, but I just couldn't make the time to hit the place up, and so for the rest of the week I dreamed about what goodness might lie ahead.
But when a friend and I finally made it to Lucky Burger, we couldn't have been more disappointed. Though a hand-lettered sign on the door read, "The best burger in town. No question. No doubt," there were anything but. First, there was an odd barbecue flavor to the burgers. At first, I thought it was only present in the special "Lucky Sauce." A taste of the concoction by itself confirmed this, but, breaking off a piece of the actual patty to taste alone, I noticed it there, too. Having grown up in Kansas City, I've got nothing but love for the BBQ, but I don't want it on my burger. And with the flavor infused in the meat at LB, there's no avoiding it.
Moreover, my friend and I found our patties dry and tough. Perhaps this was a function of not specifying our preferred doneness when ordering. Then again, shouldn't a place specializing in burgers ask you how you want them done? In trying Lucky Burger again, I'll be sure to make my request at order time. Still, it will do nothing to alleviate the strange barbecue flavor in this burger.
Breaking my own rule about not ordering fries when taste-testing burgers (that aforementioned expanding waistline prohibits it), my friend and I split an order of the golden crisp delectable potato product (left). They were very good, of the thick-cut, crinkly variety. Meaty yet light, and perfectly salted. Unfortunately, they don't begin to make up for the hamburgers here. After all, the place is not called Lucky Fries. With such a long build-up and so quick a let-down, I felt truly unlucky.
Location: 91 Avenue A, New York City NY 10009
Hours: Daily, 11 a.m. to 5 a.m.
Payment: Cash only
What's Cookin': Strange barbecue flavor in both special sauce and meat and dryness of patty left A Hamburger Today feeling anything but lucky.
Menu: Click here for offerings
Review: Burger Joint
A Hamburger Today loves Burger Joint. How could we not? Besides serving some of the best hamburgers we've had in New York City, the place has a kookyif very deliberatedown-at-the-heels charm (right) that runs squarely at odds with its surroundings, namely those of fancy-pants hotel Le Parker Meridien (top left).
While Burger Joint is a touch difficult to find, tucked away behind a curtain to the north of the lobby desk with only a small iconic neon sign pointing the way, it's never empty. Between besuited Midtown businessfolk on lunch break and travelers grabbing dinner downstairs from their rooms, you're lucky to grab a stool or a booth in the wood-paneled, '70s rec roomstyle diner. The Meridien, just off Sixth Avenue, has doors on 56th and 57th, and though its easier to access Burger Joint from the 56th Street side, we recommend you make a grand entrance from 57th Street. That's because you'll find yourself in a soaring mirror-walled atrium with marble floors (top right)all the better to enhance the cognitive dissonance you'll experience once inside the restaurant.
We also recommend grabbing any open table right away, if you're with someone who can hold it while you stand in line to order. It's counter service, and there's no host to seat you or take names. While you stand in line, you can contemplate your order, but that won't take long. The menu's simple: a hamburger or cheeseburger (both $5 at the time of this review) topped with any or all choices of lettuce, tomato, onion, mayo, pickles, mustard, ketchup, or mayo. Also on the menu: Fries, shakes (after 3 p.m. only), beer, and brownies.
On a recent afternoon, I visited Burger Joint to grab some photos along with a late lunch. I ordered a hamburger, cooked medium-well, keeping in mind that Burger Joint's doneness scale skews toward the underdone, at least from what I've observed. A medium-well here, for instance, comes out more what I'd call medium; a medium more along the lines of a medium-rare, etc. While we're talking about doneness, Burger Joint is not a place that denies your wishes. While eating my burger, I witnessed a fellow connoisseur order a burger and a cheeseburger rare, to nary a bat of an eye from the BJ staff.
That's probably because, as all good burger places should, Burger Joint uses fresh, high-quality meat in its hamburger sandwiches, and those sandwiches are among the best I've hadplenty juicy and thick, but not annoyingly thick. The bun gets a light toasting over the same flame the patties cook over and is otherwise soft and fluffy.
While taking photos at my hard-won table, I attracted the attention of another Burger Joint patron. "Excuse me, but may I ask why you're taking photos of your burger?" he asked. Turns out this fellow was none other than filmmaker George Motz, the man behind burger biopic Hamburger America. Mr. Motz and I had been in contact since I placed an order for the DVD of his movie, and when I revealed my photographic motivation, he knew at once who I was. After suggesting moving my burger to a spot with better lighting (which still didn't help in the dim light of Burger Joint), he told me that his movie had been picked up by for airing by the Sundance Channel. So, congrats to Mr. Motz, whose film we review here.
Had I been in a better headspace, I would have chatted more with Mr. Motz and asked him for his thoughts on Burger Joint. As it was, I was late in getting back to work and had to rush. As I rode the subway back to the office, I couldn't think of anything Burger Joint could do to improve upon its formula. The men and women behind the curtain run a grade-A operation. If only New Yorkers and hungry hotel guests would pay no attention to them, then A Hamburger Today editors could more easily walk the road to this hamburger haven.
Location: 118 W 57th ST, New York City NY 10019. Which is to say, in the lobby of Le Parker Meridien hotel, behind the curtain to the north of the check-in desk
Hours: Sun.-Thurs., 11 a.m to 11:30 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m. to midnight
Payment: Cash only
What's Cookin': This hidden gem serves some of New York's best burgers. Don't let the fancy address put you off: You'll feel right at home in the rec roomlike dining area of this burger shop. The burgers tend to come a little less done than you ordered; that is, a medium burger here might be more like a medium-rare burger elsewhere.
Menu: Click here for offerings
Review: Blue 9 Burger
Blue 9 Burger is often compared to California-based In-N-Out Burger, and for good reason: Both shops use fresh (never-frozen) beef, select the freshest ingredients for toppings, and, for fries, hand-cut the potatoes in-house.
While this reporter has never had the opportunity to sample In-N-Out* and cannot, therefore, make a head-to-head comparison, I do know that the freshness Blue 9 Burger strives for makes all the difference and, surprisingly, doesn't add that much to the price of a typical hamburger meal.
After asking if I wanted onion (yes, please), the cashier gave my order to the cook, and I had a chance to take some photos while my burger was grilled (like any good hamburger place, but unusual for a fast-food joint, Blue 9 makes your food after you order it, not before). This gave me time to read the shop's mission statement, writ large on its southern wall, avoidable only by the blind:
At Blue 9 Burger we believe fast food should be made from scratch. We start with 100% beef which is never frozen. Every burger is made to order. At Blue 9 Burger there are no heat lamps or microwaves. Your french fries are cooked from fresh potatoes and are peeled and diced in the store. At Blue 9 Burger we only use the highest quality, freshest ingredients to make the world's most delicious burgers and fries. Blue 9 Burgeralways fresh, always delicious.
I've had Blue 9 many times before and have always enjoyed it, but have never really eaten it with a palate toward criticism. When my burger arrived, accompanied by lettuce, tomato, and raw onion, I found that the test subject upheld my favorable impression. Lettuce, tomato, and onion were noticeably crisp and fresh, providing just the counterpoint to the soft bun. The meata thin patty with a bit of exterior crunchtasted fresh, as well, and was very good, if a bit dry. I then recalled that I hadn't been asked how I wanted my burger cooked. Perhaps in the future, I will specify medium or medium-rare and see if that makes a difference.
BLUE 9 BURGER
Location: 92 Third Ave., New York NY 10003
Hours: Sun.-Mon., 11 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.; Tues.-Wed., 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m.; Thurs., 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.; Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m. to 4 a.m.
Payment: Cash only.
What's Cookin': The Blue 9 Burger (double cheeseburger) can get a bit messy. They deliver, but there's a $6 minimum, which shouldn't be too hard to make. Click here for menu.
Extras: Photo outtakes from Blue 9 trip.
Fifteen Pounds of Delicious Burger Goodness
File this entry under things that will either make you preemptively nauseous or salivate with delight. Denny's Beer Barrel Pub in Clearfield, Pennsylvania, is now serving a 15-pound burger, the Beer Barrel Belly Buster, which comes with 11.5 pounds of meat, 25 slices of cheese, a head of lettuce, three tomatoes, two onions, and more. It can be yours for only $30.
Denny's Beer Barrel Pub had offered a six-pound burger, with five pounds of toppings.
In February, a 100-pound female college student became the first to eat the burger within the three-hour time limit. One month later, a New Jersey diner introduced a 12.5-pound burger.
Denny's Beer Barrel Pub responded with the Belly Buster, which costs $30 retail.
Over the weekend, four men took the challenge but couldn't get through the entire burger.
There was no word on what happened to the burger after its TV appearance.
In Honor of National Hamburger Month, A Recipe
Is it pure coincidence or is it fate that May, the month in which AHT will make its official debut, happens to be National Hamburger Month?
It's probably a mixture of both, but there's no sense wasting time in pondering that, what with Memorial Day around the corner. Yes, the unofficial start of summerand the grilling season is upon us, so it was fitting that AHT senior editor Matty found this thread on Ask MetaFilter: Why are my hamburgers falling apart on the grill?
As is the case on Ask MetaFilter, an offshoot of the popular community blog MetaFilter, responses were abundant and helpful. The consensus seemed to be that the original poster was using too-lean beef. Respondents recommended going with 80 percent lean and established an upper limit of 85 percent lean. As "uncleozzy" said:
Agreed about the fat -- 85% lean is the absolute maximum you'll want for making hamburgers (I usually use 80%). Too little fat and your burgers will be dry, flavorless, and fall apart. You definitely do *not* need egg or breadcrumbs to make hamburgers. Those are for making meatloaf.
We wholeheartedly agree: Fat = juicy. And fillers distract from the taste of the beef.
On one of the handful of pleasant days we've had this spring, this reporter fired up the grill for the first time. (see photo). I used 80 percent lean beef, grilling my burgers to medium. Here is the recipe I follow:
The Flickr Burgr
What's that strip of photos in the left-hand sidebar, you ask? Maybe you didn't, but we're going to tell you about it, anyway.
It's a stream of constantly updating pictures from photo-sharing site Flickr. Flickr's a strangely addictive site that allows you to upload your photos and share them with friends, family, and pretty much whoever wants to go look at the site. The neat thing about Flickr, though, is the ability to "tag" photos, or assign keyword labels to them for easier sorting and viewing later. A couple of AHT's editors use the service and find it helpful in organizing and publishing photos for this and other sites. (And we probably shouldn't tell you this, but you can often get a sneak preview of what reviews we're working on by monitoring our Flickr accounts.)
So what's so cool about "tagging" your photos, you ask? Well, you can go to Flickr and search for photos by tag and then see photos of specific subject matter taken by users all over the world. In addition, you can build a "badge" for your website that displays the latest X-many photos tagged with whatever keyword you want to see. We chose "burger" for the sample badge to the immediate left here and for the one that appears in the sidebar.
It's fun to see the random stream photos that people are taking and uploading to the site. And if you click on the badge images, you'll be taken to that image's Flickr page, where you can view it at a larger size and, if the user has added comments or notes, learn more about what's going on in the picture.
But just because we specified "burger" in our search parameters doesn't mean we'll always get a hamburger. The cat in the example badge at left here is named "Mr. Burger."
It's not foolproof, but it's fun. Enjoy!
Recommended Movie: 'Hamburger America'
I first heard about burger biopic Hamburger America in a January 26 story in the New York Times. I promptly filed the info away in my mind and hard drive for what was then a castle-in-the-air burger blogand then promptly forgot about it.
It wasn't until reading this story that my memory was jogged and I was prompted to order the DVD for review.
Hamburger America is delicious. Brooklyn filmmaker George Motz has captured eight unique family-run burger joints in this sweet little 54-minute paean to the patty. From Connecticut to Chicago to Santa Fe, we meet some of the most unpretentious yet serious burger artisans this country has to offer.
There's Ted's Restaurant in Meriden, Connecticut, where the burgers are steamed, thereby cutting the fat while retaining juiciness. Head out west a bit for a 180 on the fat philosophy at Solly's Grille. There, just outside Milwaukee, the specialty is the "butter burger," whose top bun is slathered with an insane amount of the namesake dairy product before gracing the patty. The butter then melts and oozes down the sides of the burger and onto the plate. (Yes, that's a butter burger on the DVD cover above.)
Perhaps the most endearing burgermeister in the film is Joe Maranto, owner of the Meers Store in Meers, Oklahoma. Mr. Maranto raises his own grass-fed Texas longhorn cattle for the restaurant's beef. It's actually quite touching to watch Mr. Maranto talk to one of his cattle, stroke it under its muzzle, and make kissing sounds to it while telling the camera that the animal is "the future of the Meers Store." With his respect for the animals he'll soon be feeding customers and his connection to the land and knowledge of its history, there's no doubting that the Meers Store turns out some lovingly crafted burgers.
You'll also meet the Sianis family, owners of the Billy Goat Tavern, the Chicago eatery made nationally famous as the inspiration for the well-known John Belushi "cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger" skit on Saturday Night Live. (And yes, it's the same family that also spawned the Curse of the Billy Goat.)
Other hamburger joints featured are: The Wheel Inn (Sedalia, Missouri), Dyer's (Memphis), Louis' Lunch (New Haven, Connecticut), and the Bobcat Bite (Santa Fe).
Cost: $16 + $2 S/H via Mr. Motz's site or $19.99 + S/H via Amazon. (We recommend buying it via Motz's site; as he probably gets a bigger cut of the money that way.)
[Photo of Texas longhorn from hamburgeramerica.com.]
Review: Corner Bistro
What is there to say about Corner Bistro that hasn't already been said? Constantly landing at the top of most best-of lists when it comes to New York City burgers, they are delicious, if a bit hyped.
The Corner Bistro, located in New York City's Greenwich Village neighborhood, is an unassuming little joint that serves some serious sandwiches. Cooked in a small broiler just to the left of the bar, these burgers have been a friend to boozers for years on end.
The fat patties are served open-face on a toasted bun with onion, pickle, tomato, and lettuce resting on the roll top. This serving arrangement allows you to choose which toppings you'd like to dress your sandwich with, instead of making you open the roll to pick off those you don't. This, of course, is critical if you order a cheeseburger, as discarded toppings (if any) won't then stick to the gooey stuff.
This reporter and his friend tried to visit recently on a Saturday night but were discouraged by the packed house and what promised to be an hour-long wait for a table. Feeling a touch of the anxiety coming on, I convinced my companionafter a grouchingly minor rowto come back with me the following day. We did, and though the place was less crowded, the only spot we were able to secure without measurable wait was at the bar. (It appears that there is no good time to go to avoid a crowd.) Our barstool seating was fortuitous, however, in that we had a nearly perfect view of the burgermeister at work in the "kitchen" area (left). His technique was to place the raw burgers on a slide-out grate for a measure of time under the broiler, at which mark he flipped them to cook on the reverse side. At some point, he removed the burgers to add a tray of buns for toasting.
We each ordered a cheeseburger, cooked medium, and while the taste of the meat left nothing to be desired, it was a bit dry. The patties were a tad thicker than I like but weren't so thick that I couldn't fit the burger in my mouth. (Oversized burgers are the bane of my existence.) I left feeling satisfied, even with the small debacle of the night before, but feel that I've had better burgers here in New York City.
I know that Corner Bistro is a hot topic when it comes to Big Apple burgers, so this won't be the final word we say about the place here on AHT. I hope my esteemed colleagues weigh in. Until then, enjoy some outtakes from our visit.
Location: 331 West 4th St., New York City NY 10014
Hours: Mon.-Sat., 11:30 a.m. to 4 a.m.; Sun., noon to 4 a.m.
The Future Is Chow!
Big Brother is watching youall to get that Quarter Pounder into your gut a few seconds sooner.
With the advent of ubiquitous surveillance cameras in our lives, it's almost refreshing to see observation technology being put to such delectable use as it is in "HyperActive Bob." Bob is the newest high-tech doohickey from Pittsburgh upstart HyperActive Technologies. Employing rooftop cameras, the system alerts the kitchen when the drive-through is on its way toward a traffic jam, then specifies how much food to prepare.
Currently being tested in Pittsburgh-area Mickey Ds, Taco Bells, and Burger Kings, Bob also seeks to make predictions based on personal and vehicle demographicswhether it be incoming Escalades full of rappers with Big Mac munchies or minivans full of post-AYSO Happy Meal and orange drink fiends with salad-prone chauffeurs.
According to the Associated Press, the technology has been a success with owners, employees, managers, and customers so far, slashing wait and training times dramatically. The company's website states, "HyperActive Bob directly commands kitchen workers, through touch screen interfaces, to produce just the right amount of food at just the right time, ensuring that restaurants never run out of hot, fresh product, while minimizing food waste."
We're all for increasing the efficiency of getting burgers in our gullets as quickly as possible, even if it means yet another situation where profiling by type and invasive technology are utilized in the United States. We're tired of so-called "fast" food restaurants whose inept bungling keep us waiting endlessly for substandard burgers. It's time we use 100 years of industrial know-how for something we can chow on.
You Buy, I'll Fly
Some of you might recall an ad campaign a few years ago -- was it for Burger King? -- in which a couple of Gen X slacker guys are sitting around, watching TV or playing video games when one of them is like, "Burgers! You fly, I'll buy."
Well, this story gives new meaning to that phrase while turning it on its ear. Twice a week, an 80-year-old pilot in Cleveland flies his buddies to acclaimed diners in neighbor states to eat lunch.
The pilot, Roger Levering, and his pals call it the "$100 hamburger lunch," for an obvious reason: While the burgers might cost a few bucks, the fuel to get there jacks the price, well, sky high.
80-year-old pilot takes buddies for "$100 hamburger" lunches [WOOD-TV NBC 8]
Blue 9 Burger Opens in Greeley, Colorado
What do Greeley, Colorado, and New York City have in common?
Blue 9 Burger. The fresh-obsessed burger shop located near Union Square opens a second location there today. Why Greeley? Seems that Blue 9 owner T.J. Villano has a golf buddy out there who convinced the man to go west.
Mr. Villano says the Greeley Blue 9 Burger will adhere to the same principles that brought acclaim to the New York City branch: never-frozen patties and buns, fries that are cut by hand in store, and the freshest toppings available. A cheeseburger meal will be cost about $6, he says.
Interestingly enough, Greeley is known for being home to the nation's largest beef-processing plant, which, some reports say, doesn't exactly leave the town smelling of roses, and that's not before getting into the treatment of the animals and workers there. Let's hope Blue 9 gets its beef elsewhere.
That said, we've got some beef with Mr. Villano: While we don't begrudge Greeley its good fortune, we wish he would have opened a second location somewhere in the Big Apple.
BLUE 9 BURGER
Location: 3531 10th St., Greeley, CO 80634
Blue 9 Burger opens today [Greeley Tribune]
Hamburglar Back in Custody!
A low-profile arrest last week brought good cheer back to the Fremont Rural Volunteer Fire Department in Fremont, Nebraska. As reported in the Fremont Tribune, consternation blazed through the house when their life-sized statue of Hamburglar disappeared from the yard of one of their peers.
The house's valued mascot, reserved for making appearances only on special occasions, had been placed in the front yard of a firefighter celebrating his 30th birthday. The effigy typically sees the light of day only once a year as a gag for anniversaries and birthdays.
The fugitive's aforementioned stealth caused Fremont Policeunaccustomed to the sight of a giant, masked, pinstriped burger-addict stalking the suburbs for beefto act with extreme prejudice. Spotting the Hamburglarâs head peeking from the yard, the police came in for a closer look.
Figuring the figure had been shanghaied from a local Mickey Ds, the cops felt they were reapprehending the 'Burglar, whose visage is infamous to authorities the world over for a decades-long career in attempted petit larceny, doing his best, but ultimately failing, to steal hamburgers from under the nose of one Ronald McDonald, resident of McDonaldland. Although at the time of the report, the Hamburglar had not yet been returned to the Freemont Fire Department, hopes are high that the Hamburglar will make his way back to its jurisdiction.
The Hamburglar, apparently unremorseful for his crimes, past and present, could only emit a high-pitched giggle when asked for comment.
$134 for a Burger? The Burger War Goes International
According to an Austalian news service, the British restaurant Zuma is serving a $134 hamburger. I have yet to confirm if this is U.S. or Australian dollars, but it's still a ridiculous amount of money to spend on a ground beef sandwich.
A restaurant spokeswoman said: "Our wagyu beef comes from New Zealand, where the cows are reared on beer and massaged until they weigh three-quarters of a tonne, more than double the weight of an average cow."
Big whoop, I say. One person who won't be happy to hear this is restaurateur Daniel Boulud. In early 2003, we experienced the great burger wars with Boulud's burger finally winning out at $50. Trumping his own $29 burger and the Old Homestead's $41 Kobe beef burger, Boulud's sirloin burger includes regular truffles, braised short ribs, foie gras and fresh black truffles. Today, the burger goes for $59 or $99 for the double truffle version.
Boulud is not one to be bested, so we're bound to see some new concoction relatively soon. Don't be surprised if you can soon order a burger stuffed with caviar and wagyu beef from cattle massaged by Boulud's own hands.
Oh, and if anyone wants to sponsor a trip to London to try the most expensive burger, I would be willing to make the sacrifice and go.
Burger, Fries, and a Float
Mr. Siber removes the poles from his photographs to render a surreal effect that emphasizes the iconic and ubiquitous nature of roadside advertising while forcing the viewer to pay closer than usual attention to the actual designs in question.
Most of his de-poling work is done on fast-food and gasoline establishments' signage. Click over there, and you'll find Jack in the Box and Burger King are among his subjects as well.
[Via Cool Hunting]