Posts Tagged ‘berkeley’

Triple Rock

Triple Rock Brewery

When my turning-21 good friend said she wanted to celebrate at Triple Rock in Berkeley, I felt silly because I’d never heard of it! An alehouse on Shattuck I didn’t know? Dang, I must be slowing down.

But hey, there it is, right on Shattuck near Hearst. Looks like the kind of place that would have an hourlong wait on a weekend night. Fortunately we were here on a Tuesday night, so we managed to squish six people into a four person booth (at a packed house). The joys of being in your early 20s, right? And I’ve gotta say that after a long day of work in which I darn near sprained my left pinky toe, a burger and a beer was pretty much top on my list of things I could possibly want. Walking was definitely an issue, but eating would be no problem.

This is first and foremost a brewery, so I had to start with a beer. A general rule of thumb for me is that IPAs (or anything that’s really hoppy) pair really well with burgers. Why is this you ask?

IPAs (or India Pale Ales) are very hoppy beers (i.e. they have lots of hops in them) – I’d describe the hoppy taste in the same ballpark as bitterness. As a result, the intensity can be too much for some. Not for me though – I find that an IPA before a meal primes my palate for rich, salty foods. And once I am enjoying said gustatory indulgence, the beer helps keep a nice balance on my taste buds.

I was in luck – Triple Rock’s #1 seller is their IPAX. It delivered on all levels – I love citrus-y, hoppy beers. And sure enough, the more I sipped it, the more I was ready for a burger. So let’s move on to the meat of the matter.

In my experience, breweries tend to be extremely hit or miss on the grub side of business – their food is either great, or decidedly meh. So I approached the menu with guarded excitement. A couple choices stood out for me, but I was pretty easily won over by a great combo sported by The Mesa burger: pepper jack cheese, smoked bacon, and chipotle mayo. I was a little surprised that fries cost extra as a substitution for cole slaw – brought my meal total up to $11. Figure a burger and a beer, with tax and tip, will run you about $20.

Food was brought out quite quickly, which was nice, as I was ravished, and expected a looooooooong wait with the packed house.

My first reaction was that I was a bit thrown off by the state of the cheese. It didn’t seem to be all there, though upon further study, the bun just appeared to be hogging the cheese from the burger. OK…that’s all well and good, but it made evident that there wasn’t much bacon – just two thin strips – not enough to compliment a burger sporting bold flavors in a chipotle mayo and spicy cheese.

Before digging in, I opted to add some ketchup and the habanero hot sauce they provided us. Mixed together, they turned into a fiery Hell Ketchup. The chile masochist in me may have put a bit too much on, but not enough to upset the balance of the meal. A fun little twist on routine.

Ah, but enough is enough, Conrad, just eat your damn food already!

I wolfed it down in five minutes flat. It was definitely a spicy burger, no thanks to me. The meat was conservatively seasoned – the effort was there, although it probably could’ve used a bit more salt. This salt lack should’ve been made up for by the bacon, but my suspicions about insufficient bacon levels were confirmed – just not enough bites with that salty bacon kick. But when all of the flavors (including the bacon) came together in one mouthful, the vision was certainly there. The smokiness of the bacon brought out the meatiness of the burger, mixed with the creamy chipotle may (which had undertones of that deep chipotle spice), as well as the upfront bite of the jalapeno in the pepper jack, and my own Hell Ketchup. But at the same time, that was also frustrating – there was a lack of consistency. The confluence of flavors should show up in most, if not every bite – not just a few. That bugged me.

In the end, there was nothing really bad about the burger, but there was nothing very memorable about it either – good, not great. Could be improved with an extra slice of bacon, if you ask me. Which was evidence against my hit-or-miss theory with brewery food – it wasn’t really either (is that a miss? I don’t know? I certainly left thinking I enjoyed my meal!)

As far as the sides go, I’m glad I made the decision to upgrade to fries, but was a bit irked by the fact I had to upgrade to them. They were fine – served warm, seasoned correctly, and went nicely with the aforementioned Hell ketchup. They did their job.

The service was really on point at Triple Rock. Despite being filled to capacity, our waitress came by all the time, and even the manager was taking care of us with a smile. Then the waitress even bought the birthday girl a 21st birthday beer! This was about the time another dinner-goer gifted his 3/4 full pint of beer to me (side note train of thought: Pinnacle Pale Ale – very light, a bit watery, OK but wouldn’t get it again, good beer for the faint of heart.) Can’t say no to that! Made for a nice post-dinner stroll with the birthday girl!

I’d definitely come back here with a group of people – the beer is great, the food is more than passable, and I felt really welcomed by the staff on my first trip here. Probably won’t rock your food world, but it won’t disappoint for a fun evening out.

To finish, some food for thought: we sat underneath their gigantic “Lunch” sign (stole this picture from the interwebs). When I go to a brewery [during the day], I always think, hey, it’s 5:00 PM somewhere. But you know, it’s always lunch somewhere, too – no reason to be ashamed of a lunchtime brew.


Triple Rock lunch sign

The Last Bite:

Burger Rating: B-

Overall Experience (sides, service, cleanliness, price, etc.): B

Keep on nomming!


Burger Meister

Often times after Scrabble club, we go out for some eats (many of us Bay Area Scrabblers are quite the foodies). And the logical place to go for dinner if you’re at a coffee shop on Channing & Shattuck is Burger Meister! So a whopping seven of us ambled down Shattuck to have a Wednesday night juicy meat orgy…

Burger Meister has long been touted as one of, if not the best burger places in the Bay Area. In my earlier years, it definitely ranked near the top, but I didn’t really see it as THE best. So what feels like a lifetime later, it was time to give it another try.

So if you’ll indulge my tangent a bit more, I used to frequent the North Beach (SF) location back in high school on Friday nights, but stopped going after we were once turned away over half an hour before closing time. The prices were expensive enough for 17 year olds, but being turned away was just silly. Just turn the damn grill back on.

Anyway, the Berkeley location appears to be the first Burger Meister franchise location as per the company website, and maybe that’s a good thing because the vibe is so much better here. The cashiers are friendly, and the food is served promptly. And remember kids, this review is solely based on the Berkeley location.

So yes, at Burger Meister, you order at the counter. The options are pretty run of the mill, and the prices add up fast. I personally don’t want to spent $13.00 on a order-at-the-counter burger, so I tend to stick with a straight up cheeseburger, which runs you about $11 after tax. That was always my issue in SF, and my net worth hasn’t changed since I was 17, so yeah, easy decision. But for all of the hype BM gets, shouldn’t the classic cheeseburger do the job?

If cow location is your thing (you know who you are, Portlandia fans), Burger Meister uses Niman Ranch beef, which probably adds to the priciness of the place. But though I probably don’t know Niman Ranch beef from Harris Ranch beef (hey, read the about me page again, incase you forgot), I’m happy to report that the meat shines through. There is a lot of juicy flavor packed into each thick patty, and there is consistently a really nice sear. They also don’t hold back on the cheese – a nice slice of thick cheddar melted all over the burger compliments it so nicely. The old fat on fat pairing, music to my arteries.

My only complaint with the burger was that it was clearly overcooked. I ordered it medium, and it came out mid well. A friend said his burger was a bit on the rare side after ordering mid-rare. But even though my burger was overcooked,  I left thinking this was really tasty, so I guess they did everything else right. There’s just something really tasty about a Burger Meister cheeseburger. But this is something to be wary of – they don’t always get the temperature right.

Between the 7 of us, the freshness of the french fries varied. Some of us got the end of one batch, the others got the beginning of a new one. The fries from the new batch were delicious (I stole a bunch from Noah) – mine were a bit cold, but still tasty.

The portions are a bit small for what I would expect, but some of my burger-nomming compadres had some leftover fries, so I sated myself with those.

I’ve never had a shake here, and I don’t know anyone who has (already overpaying, I think). But I’m pretty sure the Berkeley location has some decent beers on tap, though. I know it varies by location.  

I may review the North Beach location in the future, to see if they are still as pretentious as they were before – total experience killer. Good thing the Berkeley location is down-to-earth though because I’m near here a lot, and it’s definitely a solid option.

So is Burger Meister worth going to? In general the most hyped places are worth a try, because your results may vary. I’ve always liked getting my own opinion. And in this case, my opinion is that Burger Meister is not the best burger in the Bay.  That said, if you don’t come in with skewed expectations, you will not be disappointed. Do give it a try.

The Last Bite: 

Burger Rating: A-

Overall Experience (sides, service, cleanliness, price, etc.): B+

Keep on nomming!

Bongo Burger

For fear of this blog looking dead, since I make the post date based on the (approximate) date I ate there, I’m gonna start from the present and work backwards as best I can.

After Berkeley Scrabble Club meeting on Wednesday, Noah, Kenji and I were all hungry. We walked around for awhile and finally settled on Bongo Burger, a place Noah had eaten once before. We ended up at the Dwight store, one of three Bongo Burger locations (all in Berkeley).

The restaurant has the typical Berkeley vibe, so I was expecting some good food. I was a bit confused by the prevelance of Mediterranean food, though. We were here for beef, though, and each ordered a burger and split a side of fries and onion rings. A burger, fries, and small drink combo runs about $8.

The first thing I noticed when I looked at the burger was that the patty was incredibly thin. As such, it was quite overdone. My first bite yielded a nice flavor, but I soon realized that said flavor was actually coming from the bun. Really, it was a nice sesame seed bun, a cut above your typical burger bun. But the bun was large, and the patty was so incredibly thin, so all I really got was bun and ketchup.

It seems like an obvious suggestion to make the patties thicker so that they are juicier and not overcooked. Then, use a smaller bun to compensate for the decreased circumference. I feel like this isn’t rocket science.

By the end of the meal, I had a eureka moment in which I realized the burger was a lot like a Burger King burger, except on a much nicer bun.

While Kenji was trying to determine whether or not the meat was prefrozen, he found a large piece of cartilage in his burger. I can’t remember the last time that’s happened, and its a sure sign that the patties weren’t fresh.

The fries tasted a bit like burnt oil, but they were still pretty good and definitely had potential.

The highlight of the meal was definitely the onion rings. They were straight up delicious, and this evaluation was unanimous.

All in all it was pretty disappointing, but with a few simple changes, this place could improve drastically.

Afterwards, we had the real food highlight of the evening, CREAM.

The Last Bite:

Burger Rating: C-

Overall Experience (sides, service, cleanliness, price, etc.): C+ (1/3 letter grade for bun and rings)

Keep on nomming!