The Oinkster (Los Angeles, CA)

Reviewed by: Kevin

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It’s Burger Week! Well, by the time you read this, it will no longer be burger week. It will be just some week. But for me, as I type these words in the past, it is Burger Week. And as far as weeks go, they can get a lot worse.

The Oinkster in the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles is a “slow food fast” restaurant, which is supposed to mean they serve food that tastes as though a lot of time and care has gone into it, despite the speed in which it arrives at your table. But today The Oinkster is a “slow food slow” restaurant, because much of Los Angeles has shown up for their annual Burger Week. Believe me, I’m not complaining.

The premise is this: The Oinkster is proud of their burgers, and once a year they craft seven unique, not-normally-on-the-menu burgers to satisfy their creative urges and my stomach. Each day, a different burger is showcased. To LA burger enthusiasts, this week is truly special, leaving participants anxiously awaiting the new burger profiles and clamoring for the burgers of old. If you, burger-loving reader, can make it to The Oinkster all seven days of Burger Week, you get a t-shirt and the title of #BurgerLord. Read on, constituents of my lordship. I shall tell ye of my quest become a #BurgerLord.

Let’s start with…

Monday

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On the first day of Burger Week, The Oinkster gave to me (for the almost reasonable price of $14.44), the Cheesesteak Burger of Philadelphia. This burger, topped with sliced Nebraska Angus chuck (think the meat from a Philly Cheesesteak), provolone cheese, and grilled peppers and onions. There were things to like and not like about it, thus I ended up somewhere in the middle.

For starters, the bun was soft, yet sturdy enough to hold a moderately greasy burger (thanks mostly to the sliced Philly cheesesteak meat) together easily. Taste-wise, it did not grab my attention one way or the other. It was merely functional. I appreciated The Oinkster’s generosity with meat, piling the sliced chuck atop the burger patty. However, the sliced beef added no new flavors to the burger. I had trouble distinguishing the patty itself from the sliced chuck.

The grilled peppers and onions were good, and provolone is my favorite cheese, so no complaints there. But all in all, the patty and sliced chuck came together to make this burger very one-note. It was a pretty good, but definitely not great, start to Burger Week, and it successfully whetted my appetite for a week’s worth of burgers.

 

flavor

Burger Flavor:  2/5

bunBun Goodness: 3/5

 

valueBurger Value: 3/5

 

toppingsToppings: 3/5

 

xfactorX Factor: 3/5

3star
 
 

Tuesday

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On the second day of Burger Week, The Oinkster gave to me a HotBurg on a Stick, a cornbread battered, deep-fried angus patty stuffed with cheese. The Oinkster went full-on fair food on Tuesday, and as an Ohio native who had his twelve year streak of Ohio State Fair attendance broken upon moving to California, I was excited about it. There were no butter cows to be found, but there was fried food on a stick. What could go wrong? As it turns out, a lot.

I’ll start with the good. The cornbread batter was an inventive approach to the bun, and it was delicious – crispy, with a great balance of sweet and salty. But even the batter was flawed. After a few bites, it didn’t hold up on the stick. It tore and slid, and I was forced to manually hold it to the stick to get a cohesive bite.

Inside the batter was an Angus patty stuffed with cheese. What kind of cheese? I couldn’t tell you, but if I had to guess, I’d say “Hamburger Helper Powder”. Honestly. Take away the noodles in the cheeseburger flavored Hamburger Helper mix, and you’ve got the contents of the HotBurg. The meat was subpar – barely seasoned, clumpy, and all-at-once completely bizarre. The cheese was watery and very un-cheese-like. The limited-time-only Limeade they served with the burger had been prepared well in advance, to the point that the ice in my cup was almost completely melted when I received it. As a bonus, it tasted a lot like Kool Aid.

When I was seven, I loved Kool Aid, and I had similar feelings for Hamburger Helper. But I’m an adult now, and so are the people who prepare the food at The Oinkster. The HotBurg gets points for creativity, but the execution gets a large, gloved, Hamburger Helper thumbs down.

 

flavor

Burger Flavor:  1/5

bunBun Goodness: 3/5

 

valueBurger Value: 2/5

 

toppingsToppings: 1/5

 

xfactorX Factor: 3/5

2star
 
 
Wednesday
 

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On the third day of Burger Week, The Oinkster gave to me the Turducken, a turkey patty topped with a chicken breast, duck pastrami, cherry gastrique, and rosemary garlic relish on a potato bun.

Recently, I went to a Jason Mraz concert, and it was the strangest, saddest concert I’ve ever been to. Jason (can I just call him by his first name?) spent the majority of the evening playing songs from his album to be released in July, entitled Yes!, and from his most recent album, Love is a Four Letter Word. Here’s the thing about these two albums, though. The casual listener doesn’t know anything about them, and they’re not very good. Eventually, in the encore, he closed out the night with I’m Yours, his most recent relevant single.

And yet, despite being disappointed when he unveiled a song about dirt – literally, just dirt – I was not truly sad until I’m Yours. As soon as he played the first few notes, the crowd ignited. This was the first song he played that they cared about. I thought about how that must feel – to show a new set of songs you’re truly proud of, and have an entire auditorium meet them with blank stares. And I vowed to never again confuse unfamiliar with terrible.

When I told friends about Wednesday’s Burger Week offering, they thumbed their noses at it. A burger with cherries on it? Gross. But I didn’t want the Turducken to fall victim to Jason Mraz’s fate – to be laughed off because it wasn’t familiar. I went into The Oinkster on Wednesday with an open mind was met with a successful burger. The Oinkster triumphed where Jason Mraz failed by providing a new product I could really sink my teeth into. Pun intended.

The Turducken was the best burger of the week. I particularly enjoyed the chicken breast. It wasn’t too salty, and it matched the other toppings well. The cherry gastrique provided a sweet, juicy jolt into the burger, but didn’t overpower the other more delicate toppings. My favorite topping though, was the relish. The rosemary paired perfectly with the chicken, and brought a unique herbal flavor to the burger. It really tasted like Thanksgiving.

The duck pastrami, however, was mostly flavorless, and the burger patty itself offered even less. I’m noticing a pattern with The Oinkster. The flavor of the burger patty is consistently disappointing. All things considered though, this was an enjoyable burger – one I would order again if it ever came out of The Oinkster’s Disney-like vault.

 

flavor

Burger Flavor:  2/5

bunBun Goodness: 3/5

 

valueBurger Value: 3/5

 

toppingsToppings: 4/5

 

xfactorX Factor: 4/5

3star
 
Thursday & Friday
 

In my last review, I wrote of my apathy for soccer. “I’m an American!” I boasted. “I don’t understand it!” I whined. And yet Sunday, as the World Cup came to a close, I was glued to the television, watching a match that would produce no goals until the 113th minute. A month ago I might have complained about a goalless soccer match, but today I’m completely swept up in the spectacle.

Burger Week at The Oinkster could have swept me up in the same way. As far as burger-celebrating goes, Burger Week had a similarly grand scale. But I couldn’t buy in. The patties too flavorless, and the drinks too weak. When I woke up on Thursday morning with a terrible stomachache that would not subside until Friday afternoon, I decided to forego those burger offerings, and I felt no remorse. The Oinkster had done little to prove their burgers were worth the pain of continuing to eat them.

So I took a two-day hiatus, and I would go on to skip Sunday as well. No, I’m not a Burger Lord, but I don’t think the title is worth the gastrointestinal pain.

 
Saturday
 

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On the sixth day of Burger Week, the Oinkster gave to me The Smoinkster. The Smoinkster features a smoke-infused angus patty, topped with bacon, smoked cheddar cheese, smoked white onion, smoked ketchup, and fried pickles on a Kaiser bun.

This ended up being my last burger of the week, as The Oinkster’s commitment to mediocrity shone in this burger like it’s brethren before it. Once again, the bun was hardly noticeable. The smoked ketchup was actually successful, though a little sweet. It put me in mind of the Hickory Sauce featured on my favorite burger at The Apple Pan. Ultimately, though, this comparison is the worst The Oinkster could have drawn for me, as the patties of each could not be further from each other in quality. The Apple Pan features a smoky, uniquely flavored patty, but The Oinkster’s, per tradition, was quite boring. Instead of causing me to enjoy the Smoinkster, this smoky ketchup just made me long to be elsewhere.

The smoked onions worked. The cheese really worked. The fried pickled weren’t the worst I’ve had. But all I wanted was a restaurant capable of combining these inventive ingredients on a delicious burger, and The Oinkster wasn’t up for the task.

 

flavor

Burger Flavor:  2/5

bunBun Goodness: 2/5

 

valueBurger Value: 3/5

 

toppingsToppings: 3/5

 

xfactorX Factor: 3/5

3star
 
 
The Week In Review
 

The Oinkster’s Burger Week is clearly fun. Each day I went was a celebration. Fathers lined up with their sons, each wearing armfuls of bracelets marking their achievements. Burger Week veterans sported hats and t-shirts gilded with pins of burgers old and burgers new. It would have been so easy to become wrapped up into the fun of it all – there was so much to enjoy. But all this show was proven for naught, as no burger impressed me enough to buy in. I wish a fun week to The Oinkster and their fans each coming year, but I will not be joining in. Perhaps I am no Burger Lord, but titles are rarely worth it anyway.

So, readers, what burger joint deserves a burger week? And what team should I root for, now that I, inexplicably, enjoy soccer. As always, the comments are below.

 

Battle of the Burger (Nashville, TN)

Reviewed by: Kate

 photo photo3_zps4059d2e8.jpg Last week, Nashville Lifestyles hosted the first annual Battle of the Burger competition in the Gulch. Over 400 people showed up to sample 11 burgers from local restaurants and vote for their favorite. As a burger enthusiast and burger blogger, I had to go! Participating restaurants included:

360 Bistro

Bar Louie

Burger Republic

Hard Rock Cafe

Hoss’ Loaded Burgers

Kitchen Notes

M.L. Rose

Music City Tippler

Riffs Fine Street Food

Urban Grub

Whiskey Kitchen

I thought I had tried a lot of burgers in Nashville, but prior to this event I had only tried Burger Republic’s burger from this list. I was excited to get to try and compare several new burgers at once. The Gulch holds several Pine Street Festivals, but this was the first one I attended so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. Admission was $20 and that included sampling of as many burgers as you wanted, a free Goose Island beer, free burger swag at various booths, and there was lively entertainment from the Hard Rock Cafe. Each restaurant served their burgers differently. Some created slider versions of their burgers, while others created full size burgers and then cut them in half for sampling. Let’s just say these samples were NOT bite size. They were pretty decent portions, and admittedly I was too full by the end to try ALL of the burgers. I had a feeling this might be the case when I got there, so I was strategic in which burgers I tried. Here are my thoughts on several of the burgers I sampled:

Riffs Fine Street Food:  photo 2490282a-ac0c-4cdb-bfd9-c6e6209db924_zps4a7181f9.jpg Riffs started off as a local Nashville food truck, but they recently opened a cafe at Highland Ridge as well. Their burger is just one of many food items on their menu. They have quite the variety from burgers to Korean BBQ Tacos. The burger they chose to feature used beef from Porter Road Butcher. The burger was topped with deep fried pimento cheese (yes, you read that correctly. DEEP FRIED PIMENTO!), green tomato and red onion pickles, Riffs animal sauce, all on their housemade brioche bun.  While this burger was delicious and very flavorful, it was just a little much. The ratio of everything was off, but to be fair this may have been contributed to the slider version of the burger. The flavors of the toppings took over and it was hard to actually taste the beef itself, which we have mentioned time and time again, should always be the star.

Music City Tippler:  photo 47cb1a36-915c-4103-b87a-aac617d1a9e7_zps5e5fb132.jpg I had heard all about Music City Tippler from my good friend and ex roommate, Lauren. Lauren loves donuts like I love burgers, and Music City Tippler has a burger that has 2 glazed donuts as buns. While this sounded a little too rich (and sweet) for me, I felt I had to at least try it. They converted this burger into a slider version with mini donuts as the bun to sample. It was topped with bacon that was cooked with jalapenos to add a nice spice, homemade pickles, onions and pimento cheese. While all the individual parts were delicious (especially the jalapeno bacon), it was just way too hard to eat and didn’t translate well to a slider size. It was nearly impossible to take a bite of everything at once without the entire burger falling apart. I could tell that if I could take a full bite of everything together there would be a nice contrast between the sweetness of the donut and the spice of the bacon. Lauren was actually with me, and she said this mini version didn’t do the real donut burger justice. I guess I will just have to go try the full size version myself!

M.L. Rose:  photo df90568e-b440-4612-be7b-42c147845064_zps8662625d.jpg I have been wanting to try ML Rose for a while now. They have two Nashville locations- one on Franklin Pike and one on Charlotte Ave. in west Nashville. It’s a restaurant that specializes in two of my favorite things: burgers and craft beer. M.L. Rose chose to feature their Nash Vegas burger for the Battle of the Burger competition. This burger has a sweet potato bun and was topped with pimento cheese (pimento cheese seemed to be a theme. What is it with southerners and pimento cheese??), crispy tabasco onions, and BBQ sauce. It was really tasty. I don’t know what spices they put in their meat, but it had a subtle sweet taste. The sweet taste of the beef paired with the sweet potato bun contrasted nicely with spicy onions which were perfectly crispy. I’m excited to go to M.L Rose in the future to try some of their other burgers and craft beer.

Hoss’ Loaded Burgers:  photo a2d41023-c144-44d2-96a3-0f08e6d6dfd5_zpsd50a37af.jpg Hoss’ is another Nashville food truck. They specialize in gourmet stuffed burgers, and their beef is 100% grass fed and local. I honestly didn’t have high expectations for Hoss’. In my mind I was thinking, “Aww this small little food truck is competing with all these well known Nashville restaurants”. Boy, was I wrong! Hoss’ burger blew all the other burgers at the competition out of the park. The Jackelope burger, like Riff’s burger, used Porter Road grass-fed beef. It was topped with pepper jack cheese,, benton’s bacon, avocado, and house made jalapeno honey mustard, all on a hawaiian bun. YUM! There was a nice spice from the jalapeno honey mustard and pepper jack cheese, but it wasn’t overwhelming. The patty was one of the best, most well-seasoned patties I’ve ever tasted. It had a peppery taste that reminded me of the homemade beef jerky my dad always made growing up. I will definitely be visiting this food truck in the future to try one of their stuffed burgers.  photo 97b46908-2691-44a3-9d62-c89ba3f154e3_zps33380546.jpg While Lauren and I both agreed Hoss’ was the best burger we tried, Burger Republic won the battle. You can read Kevin and I’s thoughts on Burger Republic here. Hoss’ did come in second place though, followed by Kitchen Notes (located in the Omni Hotel).

To read more about Nashville Lifestyles Battle of the Burger, visit their website. It was a lot of fun, and I look forward to next years battle! As always, leave comments in the comment section below. We would love to hear your thoughts on these burgers!

12 South Taproom and Grill (Nashville, TN)

Reviewed by: Kate

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The 12 South Taproom is a popular hangout for many Nashvillians. Located in the popular 12 South neighborhood, they have an extensive selection of craft beers on tap, as well as canned and bottled beer. They have your typical bar menu, but they have a reputation for serving quality food that has care and thought put into it. I was happy to learn that they serve organic, local, grass-fed beef. Having lived in Nashville for 6 years now (wow! has it really been that long?!), and for being somewhat of a foodie, you would think I would have gone to the 12 South Taproom plenty of times! Especially with my Alma Mater within walking distance. Nope! It wasn’t until last week that I went to the Taproom for the first time.

To be honest, I wasn’t planning on ordering a burger when I got to the Taproom. I was there to get a drink with some friends, but when I got there a burger sounded good so I decided to give it a try. I ordered the Black-n-Blue burger with my expectations set pretty low. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t expecting a bad burger. I just expected a typical burger from a bar. Satisfying, but not memorable.  The menu didn’t give some fancy description that uses a bunch of words you don’t really understand. You know those pretentious menus I’m talking about? Where you only really recognize half of the words, but it sounds like it could be good so you just order and hope for the best. The Taproom kept things simple, and the description just read “hot melted bleu cheese, grilled onions on bun”. I appreciate descriptions that are straight and to the point. I ordered parmesan mashed potatoes as my side.

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This burger far exceeded my expectations! The toppings added a nice flavor, but did not take away from the flavor of the beef which was seasoned exceptionally well. The burger:bun ratio was perfect. My last bite was equal parts bun and burger. If I had one word to describe this burger it would be “balanced”. I do wish the bun was a little sturdier. While the bun was a good size, it was a little flimsier than I would like leaving the potential for it to become easily soggy. The parmesan mashed potatoes were delicious!  I definitely recommend them if you are looking to mix it up from the standard fries with your burger. I tasted the gouda macaroni which was also delicious, but seemed too heavy to be paired with a burger.

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The overall atmosphere at the Taproom was great for a summer night. They have a really nice patio we sat out on that has a laid back vibe, perfect for hanging out with friends.  So the next time you are at the Taproom sipping a beer while catching up with friends, order the burger! Then let me know what you think!

flavor

Burger Flavor:  5/5

bunBun Goodness: 3/5

valueBurger Value: 3/5

toppingsToppings: 4/5

xfactorX Factor: 4/5

4star
**Coming soon**
Later this week I am going to Nashville Lifestyles’ Battle of the Burger in the Gulch! There will be a live burger competition as local restaurants battle it out to be deemed Nashville’s Best Burger. I am excited to try all of the burgers competing and share with you my thoughts! Be on the lookout for a new post next week!

Abbey Burger Bistro (Baltimore, MD)

Reviewed by: Kevin

Has it really been since February? My sincerest apologies, dear readers, and many thanks to Kate and Cameron for stocking (see what I did there?) the blog with incredible guest posts and annual recaps in my absence. Anyway…

I need to reveal a secret to you. A dark secret. A secret that will show you just how much cooler you are than me. Are you ready? I don’t like soccer. *Gasp* I know! Someone with a trendy food blog, who has better taste in music than you, and who wears only the most fashionable haircuts doesn’t follow the trendiest sport of all – Fútbol? So imagine my leery-eyed confusion when I walked into Abbey Burger Bistro, an Arsenal bar, in the middle of a match with Tottenham Hotspurs. If you don’t know why that’s significant, that’s alright. You’re an American, just like me.

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But Kevin, you live in California. What brought you to Baltimore? Is it the soft shell crab?

No. Well, yes, but not primarily. I was in Baltimore interviewing for jobs. And while none of the jobs panned out, Abbey Burger Bistro made the trip completely worth it.

A friend and I entered the restaurant –me a poor, unenlightened American and he, even worse, a Tottenham fan – and were shown nothing but unbelievable hospitality and great food. Being the only two not wearing red could have made us feel out of place, but I felt totally at home. The server, a friendly, robust, very Irish man, sat us and explained the extensive beer list and exotic menu. Despite a variety of unconventional meat options (elk, bison, boar, etc.) I opted for traditional beef, pairing my beer – Banana Bread by Wells – with the Peanut Butter Burger.

Let me stop right there, because I can see the horrified looks on your faces through this computer. Peanut butter? On a burger?! Madness! But consider this – the sweet and salty combo has been around a lot longer than this blog. Do you like Hawaiian Pizza? BBQ sauce is often much sweeter than peanut butter, and it has been put on countless burgers without objection. And if you’re not tracking with me on those two things, we’ll probably never agree. You probably don’t dip peanut butter sandwiches in your chili either, you monster. Wait, is that just me?

So this burger. Topped with thick, applewood smoked bacon and slathered with creamy peanut butter, this burger was a dream. The patty was juicy, salty, and cooked perfectly. The bacon added a smokiness a contrasting texture to the patty. And the peanut butter brought it all together, turning the saltiness on its head, bringing a unique peanut-y flavor to the burger, and, in true peanut butter fashion, bringing the whole burger together like glue. It was delicious. On the side I ordered – no kidding – the best sweet potato fries I’ve ever had. A perfectly velvety inside held in by a crispy, buttery skin. Delicious.

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All in all, this was an incredible burger, in a fun, personality-filled restaurant, located in a charming part of town. If you find yourself in Baltimore, skip the crab and go to Abbey Burger Bistro.

Here’s where you come in, readers. Want to judge me for not liking soccer? Think I’m crazy for liking peanut butter on my burger? Want to tell me I have a nice smile? As always, the comment section is below.

flavor

Burger Flavor:  4/5

bunBun Goodness: 4/5

valueBurger Value: 4/5

toppingsToppings: 5/5

xfactorX Factor: 5/5

4star

Stock & Barrel (Knoxville, TN)

Reviewed by: Kate

I’ve mentioned in previous reviews that one perk of having a burger blog, is that I get to scout out new places to try whenever I travel. This past Easter I traveled to Knoxville to visit a friend and decided to give Stock & Barrel a try. Stock & Barrel takes pride in the fact that they partner with local farms and businesses to promote local economic sustainability within the Knoxville community. All of their beef comes from Mitchell Family Farms in Blaine, TN. The family farm raises Holstein cattle that are all-natural and hormone-free. Unfortunately, after digging a little deeper, I learned that their cows are not grass fed. Bummer.

Stock & Barrel has a great selection of unique burgers to choose from. I was having trouble deciding. I asked our waiter for his suggestions, and he said I had to try The Greek burger. Of course he would recommend one of the most expensive burgers on the menu. It did sound very different from anything I had ever tried before so I decided to give it a go. It was a lamburger, topped with kesseri cheese, caramelized onions, tomatoes, greens, and tzatziki sauce. Simply put, this burger was incredible. While I’ve tried burgers that were half beef, half lamb before, this was my first fully lamb patty. It was definitely worth the extra money. The meat was very flavorful and was perfect for a Greek inspired burger. There were so many different flavors, but they all complimented each other perfectly. The tzatziki sauce was probably my favorite part. Stock & Barrel also gets props for their bun. The bun was toasted just enough, and held everything together well.

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Have you ever had a burger that as you are consuming it, you just have to pause because it is THAT good. This was that kind of burger. I remember thinking “this is a burger I will dream about later”. I have only had one other burger experience like this (if you know me you know I talk about this burger regularly and it was the burger that inspired this blog. One day I will share the experience with you all). Anyway, if you have never had that kind of burger experience, you have never experienced a truly phenomenal burger. You may have tried a great burger, maybe even an incredible burger, but everyone needs to have a “take a moment and take this in” kind of burger experience at least once.

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While The Greek Burger at Stock & Barrel doesn’t claim the title as my #1 burger, it comes in a close second. If you are ever in the Knoxville area, Stock & Barrel is the place to go!

flavor

Burger Flavor:  5/5

bunBun Goodness: 5/5

valueBurger Value: 4/5

toppingsToppings: 5/5

xfactorX Factor: 4/5

The Bistro at White Rock (Gisenyi, Rwanda)

Guest Review by: Cameron Collins

Muraho from East Africa!  My name is Cameron and I’m a friend of Kate’s currently living and working in Northern Rwanda.  As one of the first fans of The Burger Diaries, I jumped at the opportunity to offer the blog’s first international guest post.

A quick Easter trip to Gisenyi seemed to be the perfect excuse for me to check out the burger at The Bistro at White Rock.  When you walk up to the restaurant, you first notice the stunning view.  Most of the tables are located on the edge of a covered patio providing a scenic view of Lake Kivu and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  The décor was tasteful with a nice blend of European and African styles that complemented the panoramic view.

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The White Rock menu only lists one burger, which is served with chips (french fries to you Americans), so I really had no idea what to expect.  When the burger arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to find a generously sized patty and an enormous bun.  The burger was served with your standard tomato, ketchup/mayonnaise sauce, and cheese.  The patty was extremely succulent and tender with a unique blend of spices, but the bun was pretty bland and much too large for the burger.  Rwandans know how to fry potatoes and the french fries at White Rock did not disappoint.  They were simple and had the perfect level of crunchiness you expect in quality fries.

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Overall, the meal was simple and well-executed, but lacked the pizazz of some of my favorite American burgers.  The atmosphere of the Bistro at White Rock outshone the burger, but I left the restaurant full and content.  While I wouldn’t travel to Rwanda for this burger, if you’re in East Africa and start to crave a little piece of home, The Bistro and White Rock will definitely hit the spot.

flavor

Burger Flavor:  4/5

bunBun Goodness: 2/5

valueBurger Value: 5/5

toppingsToppings: 2/5

xfactorX Factor: 2/5

Thanks for the guest review, Cameron! If you are interested in reading more about Cameron’s time in Rwanda, I strongly recommend you check out his blog: http://muzungumusings.wordpress.com/.

 

Interested in writing a guest review for Burger Diaries? Contact us!  

Happy Birthday, Burger Diaries!

Reviewed by: Kate

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Has it really been a year already? In honor of our birthday and Throwback Thursday, today’s post is going to be a bit different. I’ve eaten a lot of burgers in the last year. I don’t post about every burger experience on this blog- usually you just hear about our first impressions. But guess what? Sometimes first impressions are wrong. I wanted to take this opportunity to look back on the year, and reevaluate the burgers I’ve tried. So here are the Top 3 Nashville Reviews I felt needed some revisiting (pun intended).

3. Burger Republic

My feelings on Burger Republic really haven’t changed. I’m still not a fan of their burgers, or their playlist. The only thing I’ll say is that they DO have incredible milkshakes. We mentioned this in our joint-review, but really. They are delicious. Take my advice- skip the burger, just order a milkshake.

2. The Pharmacy

When I first wrote this review I had only tried 1 burger at The Pharmacy: The Pharmacy Burger. While it was a good burger, I wanted to try something more unique. I have since been back (MANY times), and have fallen in love with the Mission City Burger. This burger has guacamole, pico de gallo, slow-cooked black beans, and horchata crema fresca- all topped on their 100% TN beef. The first time I tried this burger I was a little hesitant about the horchata crema fresca sauce and almost asked for it to be taken off the burger, but the waitress insisted it remain on the burger. I’m really glad I left it on, because it makes the burger. It has a slight cinnamon taste and is inspired by the Mexican horchata drink. It sounds weird, but it adds a nice contrast to the flavors of the guacamole and pico. I have loved this burger so much that I haven’t tried anything else. Everyone tells me how much they love the Farm Burger, so I’m making it my goal to try it sometime in the next year.

Overall Assessment: The Pharmacy is the place I would take friends or family visiting from out of town. It simply has the best overall experience of burger joints in Nashville. It has a fun atmosphere, great burgers, and great service. It represents Nashville well. That being said, it is not my favorite burger in Nashville.

1. Burger Up

Recently, I have really been loving Burger Up. In fact…I might even dare say it’s my favorite BURGER in Nashville so far. I still order the Black and Blue burger, and find myself craving that particular burger more than any other burger in Nashville. I’ve tried several burgers in the last year with blue cheese on them, but none of them top Burger Up’s. I complained about the size of the burger, and the burger:bun ratio in my previous review. I take that all back. I find this to be the perfect size burger, and the ratio is perfect. I must have just hit an off night the first time I went to Burger Up, because now I leave perfectly content. I have also joined the bandwagon, and have recently fallen in love with their truffle fries. Yes. Those fries I didn’t talk very highly of when I first reviewed this burger? They’ve stolen my heart, and I’m sorry for ever bashing them. That being said, while the Black and Blue burger might be my favorite Nashville burger, that does NOT mean Burger Up is my favorite burger place in Nashville. There are still a lot of things about the overall experience that I don’t love. While the wait time at Burger Up has significantly dropped (and the wait time at The Pharmacy has significantly increased), there still isn’t a good place to stand if you do have to wait for a table. It’s still very claustrophobic, and it’s hard to even walk through the restaurant. I just don’t find it very relaxing or comfortable.

So that’s it! I would love to hear your thoughts, so let me know in the comment section!  Happy Birthday to Burger Diaries! We are excited for this next year, and the new burger adventures it will bring. Thanks for reading!

Hole in the Wall (Santa Monica, CA)

Reviewed by: Kevin

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“It is our goal at Hole in the Wall Burger Joint to provide the public with healthy alternatives to corporate fast food.”

When I read that sentence, I laughed so hard I nearly choked on the deep fried mac n’ cheese I was eating. Look, I work at a College. I love a good mission statement. But at least make it kind of accurate.

I know that reads as a criticism, but I don’t mean for it to. Well, I do mean it to, but it didn’t take anything away from my enjoyment of the restaurant. If anything, the ready availability of deep fried mac n’ cheese actually made me enjoy Hole in the Wall even more. Three sizeable lumps of macaroni and cheese, deep fried, and covered in a creamy house made cheese sauce. In fact, this emphasis on making things in-house – the cheese sauce, the ketchup, almost everything – contributes to Hole in the Wall’s mission to provide their patrons with healthy alternatives. According to Hole in the Wall it isn’t deep fryers and cheese sauce that is keeping us down. It’s corporate America.

But was Hole in the Wall’s burger as revolutionary as their ideology? No, but that doesn’t prevent it from still being really good. I ordered a standard burger on a pretzel bun, with lettuce, tomato, cheddar cheese, and bacon. If you’ve read the blog before, you’d know that pretzel buns are trending upward in popularity, and for good reason. The bun was soft and doughy, and brought a healthy dose of, I don’t know, pretzel-ey-ness, to the burger. The patty was juicy, and the toppings fresh. Overall this was a really good burger. To top it all off, and Hole in the Wall gets major points for this, I washed it all down with a Cheerwine.

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Hole in the Wall offers a pretty great burger, with incredible deep fried macaroni and cheese and a healthy variety of rare bottled soda. Well, not healthy as in good for you, healthy as in… never mind.

flavor

Burger Flavor:  4/5

bunBun Goodness: 4/5

valueBurger Value: 3/5

toppingsToppings: 3/5

xfactorX Factor: 4/5

4star

Stella’s Lounge (Grand Rapids, MI)

Reviewed by: Kate

This past weekend I ventured to Michigan to visit a friend I hadn’t seen in almost 2 years. Joey was actually with me when I discovered my love for burgers in Colorado. We spent the weekend traveling around West Michigan touring breweries and enjoying the company of friends. Joey has been telling me for a while now that I have to go to Stella’s Lounge in Grand Rapids. GQ Magazine named Stella’s Lounge the “Best Burger in America” in 2012. With a proclamation like that, I had to try it for myself.

Stella’s is located in downtown Grand Rapids and is easy to miss. It’s located in an alleyway, and honestly looks a little sketch-tacular from the outside. This place definitely has a bar ambiance. It’s not huge, dark interior, and even has a small arcade at the front of the bar. Stella’s is known for their whiskey selection- they have over 200 to choose from on their menu. We were greeted shortly after being seated by our waiter who I could instantly tell was from the North. Being a yankee myself, I dont mean this as an insult. He was just direct and spoke what was on his mind. He was quick to take our drink orders, but after that disappeared for a while before returning to take our order.

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When we finally did get to order, I ordered their top selling burger- The Stella Blue. All of their burgers are made from 100% black Angus Beef from farms in Indiana and Ohio, and are stuffed with delicious goodness. The Stella Blue is stuffed with bleu cheese and bacon, and then topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, sliced pickles, and an onion ring- all on a brioche bun.

This burger was not only huge, but delicious! I have decided that I am a fan of stuffed burgers. It allows for the patty to have so much more flavor.  I was worried the bacon and bleu cheese might be overwhelming when mixed together and stuffed in the burger, but it wasn’t. In fact, I felt like it was a perfect balance and the flavors mixed together well. To me, the bacon added a subtle and unique BBQ taste to the patty. My only complaint is that the burger:bun ratio was off. There was just too much patty and not enough bun.
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I have to mention the “Chronic Fries” that were served as a side. They were perfectly crisped fries, topped with a “secret spicy seasoning” that tasted like jalapenos. They were amazing! The spice was subtle and hit you up front. I would go back just for those fries!

I can’t give Stella’s the title of “Best Burger in America”, but it does make my top 5 favorite burger list. If you are ever in Grand Rapids I recommend giving Stella’s a try!

flavor

Burger Flavor:  5/5

bunBun Goodness: 3/5

valueBurger Value: 4/5

toppingsToppings: 4/5

xfactorX Factor: 5/5

4star

Shout out to these guys for joining me on my burger adventure!

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417 Union (Nashville, TN)

Reviewed by: Kevin & Kate

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Not many people would walk 4 blocks in -10 degree weather just to try a new burger, but we love burgers that much.

Kevin was in Nashville for New Year’s which meant we obviously had to take this opportunity to do the rare, joint burger review. We chose 417 Union because we had heard good things, and neither of us had been there before. If you are wondering where it is- the name is a good hint. It’s at 417 Union St. in downtown Nashville. There was only street parking, which is why we ended up walking 4 blocks during the Polar Vortex to get to 417 Union. Side note: if you are ever in downtown Nashville and need a cheap parking option, the library garage is a great choice! Just get your ticket validated in the library (which you stamp yourself), and you get an hour and a half of free parking! But hey, you didn’t hear that from us…

Continuing on…

There’s a distinct oldness about 417 Union.  And by old, we don’t mean nostalgic.  We mean old.  Because nostalgia has a charm – a warmth – that, when you’re faced with it, finds its way into your heart.  Perhaps I’m lending too much credibility to the Polar Vortex, but there was little warmth to the familiarity.

We were seated at a table, but to our left was a bar.  And at this bar sat two men, separated by solitude and a handful of barstools.  It wouldn’t surprise me to find that these men spend every lunch at this bar, alone, in routine.  In fact, it seemed most 417 Union patrons had made this establishment part of their routine.  Because while our waitress was notably friendly and kind, she was, more than anything, surprised to see us.  We weren’t regulars, and to her that was weird. In fact, if we had to describe the burger in one word, it might be “regular”.

Kevin’s thoughts on the food:

Don’t get me wrong; this was actually a pretty good burger.  But there was something about it that seemed fixed.  Static.  Like the men at the bar, this burger had passively accepted its fate.  But despite this, seriously, strangely, it was actually a good burger.  I was, and am, conflicted.

I ordered the Smokehouse Burger, topped with “house-made” barbeque sauce, bacon, cheddar cheese, and onion straws.  There was a distinct saltiness to the burger that I really liked.  And while the “cheddar” cheese seemed more “Kraft Single”, and the house-made-ness of the barbeque sauce did little to distinguish the flavor from its store-bought counterparts, I didn’t mind.  It came together in an old-timey way.  Not old-timey in a great way, as I’ve written before, but old-timey in a pretty-good-despite-its-flaws way.  I’ll take it.  Especially because the fries, like the burger, were well salted and quite delicious.

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Kate’s thoughts on the food:

While Kevin chose a more adventurous burger with southern flare, I decided to stick with a more traditional burger. I ordered the Great American Cheeseburger, and while it was a good burger, nothing about it made it stand out as “Great”. It was a decent sized burger, topped with all the standard toppings- lettuce, tomato and american cheese. I really enjoyed the bun, which I later learned was from Provence – a local Nashville bakery. I’ve mentioned before that The Pharmacy also uses their buns. Overall, I would have to agree with Kevin- the fries were delicious, but the burger was just “regular”. If I wanted a “regular” burger I would go to Steak ‘n Shake where I would pay $4 as opposed to $10.

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One friend described 417 Union as “the best place to eat in the inner loop of downtown Nashville” (whatever the inner-loop is…), and another expressed his approval, placing 417 Union in the top 30% of burgers in Nashville.  While we think both claims are a bit too strong, 417 Union offers a decent burger for the lonely old man in all of us.

Kevin’s Star Rating:

flavor

Burger Flavor:  4/5

bunBun Goodness: 3/5

 

valueBurger Value: 3/5

 

toppingsToppings: 3/5

 

xfactorX Factor: 2/5

3star
 
 
Kate’s Star Rating:
 

flavor

Burger Flavor:  3/5

bunBun Goodness: 4/5

 

valueBurger Value: 2/5

 

toppingsToppings: 2/5

 

xfactorX Factor: 2/5

3star