Burger Shack (Nolensville, TN)

Reviewed by: Kate

Last night I was helping a friend who lives out towards Nolensville so we decided to go to Burger Shack for dinner. Now, this actually wasn’t my first time at Burger Shack, but it had been over a year since I had been there. They model themselves after a “California Burger Shack”. Basically, they are trying to be In-N-Out. The last time I went to Burger Shack I hadn’t experienced In-N-Out yet, but now I have been to several so I feel like I can give an accurate review.  I’m about to say something controversial to all my west coast friends. I love In-N-Out, but I think Burger Shack is just as good. 

The menu at Burger Shack is pretty simple. You can get a hamburger, cheeseburger, double, triple or quad burger. All burgers come with lettuce, tomato, onion and a special “Shack Sauce”, which, as I’ve said, is basically In-N-Outs sauce. I ordered the Cheeseburger without tomato and the Shack Fries which are topped with cheese, grilled onions, and shack sauce. For all my friends who prefer no bun, they do have a lettuce wrap option. I failed to take new photos last night, but here is a picture from the first time I visited Burger Shack in 2015 so you can see what the burger looks like:

The patty is thin, they put pretty much a whole onion on the burger, and the sauce makes the burger. I’m telling you, there is little difference between Burger Shack and In-N-Out. The bun held everything together well. The shack fries were good but a bit much. Next time I would just order regular fries and ask for shack sauce on the side to dip them in. I was able to get out for just under $10 and it would have been less had I not upgraded the fries.

My only complaint about this place is they serve Pepsi. Ew. Gross. WHY?! If you know me at all, you know I’m extremely loyal to Coke and I think Pepsi just tastes flat and terrible. So the fact that I’m able to look past their terrible soda preference and still give them 5 stars says a lot.

If you are craving In-In-Out in Nashville, check out Burger Shack!

 

flavor

Burger Flavor:  5/5

bun

Bun Goodness: 4/5

valueBurger Value: 5/5

toppingsToppings: 5/5

xfactorX Factor: 4/5

5star

As always, if you go yourself I would love to hear your thoughts!

 

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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.

Grill ‘Em All (Alhambra, CA)

Reviewed by: Kevin

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Grill ‘Em All is advertised as the hardest rocking burger joint in the Greater Los Angeles area.  You could say I know a thing or two about the hard rock lifestyle – I got the Grill ‘Em All gift card I used on my trip while cat-sitting for my boss (Rock And Roll!).  And, I must say, it delivers on its claim.

Stepping into Grill ‘Em All is a step into the past, where jean jackets abounded and people actually respected The Eagles.  80’s Rock paraphernalia is slung across the walls, along with the bold proclamation, “Death To False Burgers” in a jagged, bold black-on-red mural.  A hair metal documentary (rockumentary?) showed on the screens.  But the comparison was too fitting, as Grill ‘Em All, like most hair metal, was all flash and no substance.

I ordered the “Jump In the Fryer”, a burger topped with cheddar cheese, bacon, fried chicken, and a maple-and-hot-sauce drizzle, situated between two waffles.  While this burger contained a great deal of unique items, each had one thing in common – salt.  Fried Chicken is salty, bacon is salty, hot sauce is salty, even burger patties are typically seasoned with a dash of Morton’s.  All this sodium made the burger a bit one note, and the waffles, which were soaked to translucency with oil, didn’t help.  Perhaps I need to mind my preference for simplicity over complication when ordering my next burger.

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Despite my below-average burger, I have hope for Grill ‘Em All because they are responsible for introducing me to their anvil fries.  Anvil fries are a play on poutine, which is strange, because there’s nothing less rock-and-roll than the French part of Canada.  Grill ‘Em All’s anvil fries are topped with duck confit, cheese curds, duck gravy, and a sprinkling or crushed cracklin, or pork rinds, and they are truly special.  Should you rush to Grill ‘Em All for a burger?  Probably not, but it’s worth a stop for the anvil fries alone.

What do you think?  Am I wrong about Grill ‘Em All?  Do you think I’m crazy because I don’t like music from the 1980’s?  As always, let us know in the comments section.

flavor

Burger Flavor:  2/5

bunBun Goodness: 1/5

valueBurger Value: 2/5

toppingsToppings: 2/5

xfactorX Factor: 5/5

2star(but the fries are a solid 5/5)

Dog Haus (Pasadena, CA)

Reviewed by: Kevin

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I know what you’re thinking.  Dog Haus?  I thought this was a burger blog, not a hot dog blog.  And you’re right.  Aside from the obvious rhyme scheme bonus, I have no interest in a hot dog blog.  I haven’t been six years old in seventeen years, and I’m not too in touch with my German heritage.  Unless I’m at a baseball game, which is actually pretty frequent because baseball is awesome, hot dogs just aren’t my thing.  And so, just like you perhaps, I was skeptical.  But I’m not known to turn down a dinner invite, so I gave the burgers at Dog Haus a try.

I ordered The Hangover, a burger topped with haus chili, white american cheese, fried egg, and smoked bacon.  But before I get into the figurative (and literal) meat of the burger, I need to touch on this burger’s most important feature.  The bun.

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Some burger places opt to use artisan buns and flatbreads to give an edge to their burger.  But Dog Haus knows what I like.  Rather than bothering with fancy-shmancy buns, Dog Haus situates their burger between Kings Hawaiian Sweet Rolls.  Just let that sink in for a second.  The sweet rolls that you shamelessly devour twelve at a time now are grouped in fours, sliced through the middle, and burger’d.  Kings sweet rolls are soft, they’re delicious, and they make an even better bun than you’re imagining.

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But did the burger match the bun?  Yes.  One million times yes.  The patty was meaty and juicy, the chili, robust, and the bacon, smoky and salty.  And the fried egg!  Some places get their fried eggs wrong and it ruins the burger.  (cough, The Standing Room, cough)  Dog Haus, however, nailed it.  With apologies to The Pharmacy, it was the best on-burger egg I’ve ever eaten.  The saltiness of the bacon and the chili played well with the sweetness of the bun, making for a dynamic eating experience, but the distinct, fresh egginess connected the burger to the bun, creating a smooth, cohesive bite.  It truly was a great burger.

I’ve learned my lesson.  Don’t judge a book by its cover, but more importantly, don’t judge a burger joint by its hot dog-themed name.  What other surprising burger places do you love, readers?  As always, let us know in the comments.

flavor

Burger Flavor:  4/5

bunBun Goodness: 5/5

valueBurger Value: 4/5

toppingsToppings: 5/5

xfactorX Factor: 5/5

5star

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

The Apple Pan (Los Angeles, CA)

Reviewed by: Kevin

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Shut it down.  The Burger Blog – shut it down.  I have found a winner.  That’s right, I ate the best burger of my life – a burger so perfect I’m not sure I’ll ever eat another that comes close to it.  I may never even eat another cheeseburger.

The Apple Pan is located in West Los Angeles, CA.  In 2012, National Geographic named the Apple Pan the best burger in the United States.  Still, I was hesitant.  It’s not a Rainforest or Stonehenge; what does National Geographic know about burgers?  Also, the list itself was not without flaw.  I mean, In-n-Out at #2?  Really?  But I had friend in town that I was eager to impress, so I guided us to the Apple Pan and wished for the best.  As I was handed my burger, I realized my wish had come true.

But let’s take it back in time, because it wasn’t just the burger I fell in love with.  A step into the Apple Pan is effectively a step into the 1950’s.  We were greeted with a U-shaped counter circling the grill, older gentlemen in paper hats and pristine white aprons manning the kitchen, and register so old it could not process credit.  Not to mention the overpowering, heavenly burger-smell.  It was all very nostalgia inducing, and I wasn’t even around for the fifties.

In keeping with the old-timey feel, I was served my soda in a can, with the option to pour it into an ice-filled paper cone, which in turn was nestled into a metal “drink-cone holder”.  Efficient?  Probably not, but it contributed to the feel in a very positive way.  After the drink came the excellent, if typical, fries.  They were served on an individual plate, with a second plate devoted solely to a large pool of ketchup, straight from the glass bottle.

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So many burger joints are so concerned with reinventing the wheel. They will drown everything in truffle oil, or serve their burgers with fig jam.  While I like both of those things, there is something to be said about perfecting the classic.  And if the Apple Pan has done anything, it is perfect the classic.  My burger was simple.  One patty, cheddar cheese, lettuce, pickles (lots of pickles), and Hickory Sauce.  Hickory sauce is something like ketchup, but thicker, smokier, and more amazing.  My only complaint?  I wanted more burger.  Call me The Problem With America, but I couldn’t get enough of this burger, and I wished it were bigger.

I’d like to revisit one thing about this burger – the thing that made it so special.  One of our rankings on Burger Diaries is called “Burger Flavor”.  I realize now that I have been approaching this category haphazardly.  If a patty tastes like meat, I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt and rank it highly on this regard.  But no longer!  What made the Apple Pan’s burger so special was the unique, meaty flavor of the patty.  It wasn’t just a glob of meat, dressed with fancy toppings to take it over the edge.  The meat was the star, as it should be with any truly great burger.

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So where should I go now, Los Angeles?  Are there any burgers that can beat The Apple Pan?  Let us know in the comments!

 

flavor

Burger Flavor:  5/5

bunBun Goodness: 5/5

 

valueBurger Value: 5/5

 

toppingsToppings: 5/5

 

xfactorX Factor: 5/5

5star

Slater’s 50/50 (Pasadena, CA)

Reviewed by: Kevin

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One of the greatest disappointments of my life was the movie Cowboys and Aliens.  Few movie trailers grab my attention the way Cowboys & Aliens did.  And rightfully so – we’re talking about Daniel Craig, as a cowboy, blowing up spaceships!  There was no way it wasn’t going to be great.  And then it came out, and it wasn’t great.  I mean it was ok, I guess, but I don’t go see movies because I like to shrug and search for half-hearted compliments.

In the same way, I had this review basically written before I went to Slater’s 50/50 in Pasadena, CA.  I mean, a burger made of half beef, half bacon?  There’s no way this won’t be extreme and delicious.  I was ready to draw a sweeping comparison to the band Fun., using the bold exuberance of the song Some Nights as an illustration of what makes a Slater’s burger great.  This burger would be fearless and brash, and that’s why I was supposed to love it.

But I didn’t love this burger.  It didn’t feel risky, or audacious, or even a little Fun..  It was the Cowboys & Aliens of burgers, and it left me shrugging and wanting.

I created my own burger with the 50/50 patty (obviously) on a brioche bun with mozzarella, arugula, jalapenos, roasted red peppers, caramelized onions, and fried pickles.  It sounded delicious on paper, and it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t without flaw, either.  The friend pickles were good in theory, and if each pickle hadn’t slid out of it’s breaded casing, I probably would have loved it.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.

The patty itself was cooked a tad unevenly.  Some parts were delicious and bacon-y, but there were too many spots where the patty had burned for me to fully enjoy it.  And, as I’ve already stated, the outrageous-sounding bacon-ness of the patty was less “ridiculous-tasting” and more “balanced breakfast-tasting.”  Not bad, but not what I had hoped for.

There were some great things about Slater’s, however.  In particular, they had a variety of creative, fantastic sauces.  The bacon ketchup was bangin’ and I particularly enjoyed the pumpkin sauce they served with my sweet potato fries.

In the end though, perhaps my expectations were set too high.  But every burger should be cooked to impress, and impressed I was not.

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flavor

Burger Flavor:  2/5

bunBun Goodness: 3/5

valueBurger Value: 2/5

toppingsToppings: 2/5

xfactorX Factor: 2/5

2star