Zuni Cafe` (San Francisco, CA)

Reviewed by: Kevin

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Kate isn’t the only one who can take road trips.  A few weeks ago, I drove up the coast on the endlessly beautiful Pacific Coast Highway to San Francisco.  In case you’ve never heard of PCH, picture driving with this scene right next to you for seven hours.  The view from my car during the trip was as unbelievable as the Bay Area itself.

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One great thing about this burger blog is that, when in new cities, I don’t have to aimlessly wander around looking for places to eat.  Now, when I travel, I do so with purpose.  I do research, looking for the tastiest burger in town.  Given, burgers aren’t math problems with objective solutions; in a cultured city like San Francisco, there were obviously a great many tasteful burgers vying for the title of “city’s best”.  Still, a few seemed to rise above the fray, so I picked one and set about to Zuni Café in the Hayes Valley section of San Francisco, CA.

In previous posts, I have sung the praises of simplicity.  Zuni, like The Apple Pan, has constructed a seemingly simple burger, in terms of the sheer number of ingredients.  The only things that come standard on the Zuni Burger are pickles and aioli.  I added cheese and asked for the aioli on the side.

Did Zuni’s burger, in its simplicity, come close to the Apple Pan’s?  In short, no.  A million times no.  The patty was obviously made with quality meat, but it had no kick.  It was quite plain.  The cheese was barely noticeable, certainly not worth the extra $1.50.  And the pickles.  The sad, sad pickles.  It was clear they did their pickling in house, as their pickles were both cucumber and onion.  The purple coloration of the onion added an interesting layer to the burger that I liked, but the enjoyment stopped there.  The pickles tasted like a more mustardy bread n’ butter pickle, as opposed to the standard, vastly superior dill.  The strong flavors overpowered every other element in the burger with a faintly unappetizing zest.  I was very disappointed.

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It was a burger without an identity.  It strove for both simplicity and class, and landed at neither.  Simple burgers are great, in my opinion, because there is something homey and classic about them.  They just feel right.  But any homey-ness in Zuni’s burger had been replaced with pretention.  It tried too hard, and it fell even harder.

Lastly, the price.  I realize that living in a big city comes with higher costs, and I do my best to not complain about them.  But this was just ridiculous.  I had my burger with a side of thin, decent fries and a mojito – a meal that totaled over forty-five dollars.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Forty-five dollars.  My Apple Pan Burger was one quarter of that cost.  Of course, they don’t serve cocktails at the Apple Pan, but the price was outrageous still.

This time, my research did not pan out.  I am certain I did not eat the best burger in San Francisco, and if I did, I’m content to keep searching for great burgers in LA instead.  But if I didn’t, I’m totally fine with finding another excuse to head north.  So where did I go wrong, readers?  Is there a better burger by the Bay?  And where should I go next in LA?  As always, let us know in the comments!

flavor

Burger Flavor:  2/5

bunBun Goodness: 2/5

valueBurger Value: 1/5

toppingsToppings: 1/5

xfactorX Factor: 2/5

2star
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The Vortex Bar & Grill (Atlanta, GA)

Reviewed by: Kate

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Several weeks ago I made a trip to Atlanta to visit some friends. It was a wonderful weekend full of touring the World of Coke, eating lunch at CNN, pillow talk, laughter and just enjoying each other’s company. These are friends I don’t get to see very often, but whenever I do we can pick up right where we left off. You know the friends I am talking about — I’m sure you have friends like that too. When I first met up with these friends one of the first things they said to me was “we should get burgers while we are here!” (any friend who suggests we get burgers is a friend I am going to keep around for a while). None of us were from Atlanta, so we really didn’t have a clue as to where we should go for a good burger. I decided to ask the world of Facebook, and multiple people told me we had to go to The Vortex. Several people even told me that it was one of the best burgers they’ve ever had. Now that got my attention.

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So after exploring downtown Atlanta all day, we headed to The Vortex to get one of their burgers. Something to note if you are thinking of going to The Vortex: this is not a family-friendly burger joint. You have to be 18+ to get in, and it definitely has a bar atmosphere. Something this New Yorker always forgets is that smoking is allowed in bars down here. Although I’m not one to typically enjoy a smokey bar, The Vortex had a really fun atmosphere. It definitely had a “thanks for coming, don’t be a jerk” ambiance, which could be a turn off for some, but I found it humorous. Our server was really friendly and the service was fast. I think one of my favorite things about this place was their menu. It was witty, and really funny to read. Here is a PDF of their “Stuff You Really Need To Know Page” to give you an example of what I’m talking about.

Now the real reason for this post. The Burger. The Vortex had all sorts of unique sounding burgers. Their menu was 5 pages long, and 2 of those pages were just burgers.  There truly was something for everyone.  Every time I go to a new burger joint I have trouble deciding if I should order a standard burger, or try something unique. On one hand, I figure if a burger place can’t get the “standard” right, how I can I even consider giving them a good review on this blog? On the other hand, I appreciate creativity, and love trying new things. This particular night my friend, Kaitlin, and I decided to order the Vortex Cheeseburger (with cheddar cheese) AND the Yokohama Mama and split it. That way we could experience the best of both worlds. The Yokohama Mama was topped with a teriyaki glaze, jack cheese, and a ring of grilled pineapple. Both burgers were truly delicious. They were decent sized burgers, full of flavor, great burger:bun ratio, and reasonably priced. The sides were good, but not memorable. I didn’t mind though considering the burger should be the star anyways — which it was.

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I would definitely go back to The Vortex if I find myself in Atlanta again. After all, they have so many more burgers I have to try! As always, leave us comments in the comments section!

flavor

Burger Flavor:  5/5

bunBun Goodness: 4/5

valueBurger Value: 3/5

toppingsToppings: 4/5

xfactorX Factor: 3/5

4star