Posts Tagged ‘cheap eats’


Brunch Box

Every time I visit Portland, I have a laundry list of new and old restaurants + food trucks to visit. And trying a few new burger joints is always at the top of my list. I’d been seeing Brunch Box near the top of Yelp for awhile now, but I don’t spend much time in SW, so I’d never been. On this occasion we were en route to Beaverton via public transportation – all of a sudden Brunch Box was on the way – AND I was hungry! Good deal.

Brunch Box is located at Food Cart Alley – more than a whole block of food card stretching from SW Stark to SW Oak on 5th street. You could go to a different place for lunch every work day for at least a month. Brunch Box opens at 8 on weekdays because you’ll note they serve breakfast, too (but I don’t think they have a brunch menu *cue snare drum and crash cymbal*).

I was excited to try a grilled-cheese-cheeseburger, which from what I can tell started as a food cart thing. Basically you make two grilled cheese sandwiches, and then throw a cheeseburger in the middle. There is no possible way to make one of these burgers even remotely healthy, so kiss your diet good-bye, at least for one meal.

Don’t worry, not every burger is a grilled-cheese-cheeseburger, but Brunch Box is definitely about outrageous, crazy burgers. As a result, I’d normally have a tough time deciding what to get, but I figured for my first time, I’d try the YouCanHasCheeseburger ($6), and I think it’s a good option. And for all the food that is packed into these burgers, the prices are quite reasonable.

A bit confusing to order at first – you fill out a laminated menu with a dry erase marker, and then leave it sitting there. I came at 2:30 PM, very much off-peak hours, but I’m impressed if they can keep stuff in the right order, since there’s not necessarily someone standing at the front to see who is in line when. I foresee it being an issue, but people seem to love this place, so I guess they have it worked out.

The mystery of how to order solved, I got the burger, and then went to find my friend, who was going for food that was…a bit on the lighter side.

Being that it was 2:30 PM on a dreary Tuesday, there was not much of a line, so I got my burger quickly. Boy does it look delicious – creamy cheese enveloped in Texas toast. Then the glistening caramelized onions, and then the burger patty which has got to be so juicy to make this burger just right. I open my mouth to take a bite…




OH GOD it delivers. Juice going everywhere…er wait is this description helping your appetite?

But yes, this is a well-seasoned, cooked-to-perfection beef patty (with more cheese melted atop the burger). It will make you forget all those times you were served a lifeless industrial frozen patty that was bland and dry. Every bite is packed with flavor, yet somehow the American cheese orgy in your mouth isn’t overpowering of the meat flavor. I imagine the grilled onions have something to do with that. Also, shockingly, four pieces of Texas toast isn’t a ratio-killer. I’d attribute this fact to the makings of Texas toast – soft and buttery bread soaks up all those wonderful juices, but is thick enough to keep the structure from collapsing into a soggy mess.

In the fairness of disclosure, the amount of cheese could cause the overall package to border on salty, so you might opt for a more modest offering if you don’t like salt that much. I, however, finished the burger quite quickly, as umami overload kept me from putting it down. As tasty as it was,  I find myself feeling like my arteries are clogging just thinking about this experience. So keep that in mind, or completely ignore it (might I recommend the latter option?)

Well, that concludes my meal at Brunch Box. Thanks for reading…hm, what? You’re imploring me: Conrad! where are the fries?! You ALWAYS get fries with your burger! Why not now!

Yes, that was the biggest question mark I felt having finished my first grilled cheese burger, too. You’re not alone. But I hate to break it to you: no fries here. No shakes either. 

Before continuing, I’d like to remind you that it’s not that my arteries didn’t feel sufficiently clogged, but rather I was quite surprised by the options offered instead of fries.

See, when I think Portland food truck, I don’t think of Lays potato chips and Coca Cola. Really, I’m craving those fresh-cut organic potatoes and local corn-syrup-free natural sodas. For $2 you can add a bag of chips and a soda (or water). But seriously, it can’t be that hard to throw a deep fryer in there. I want my fries! 😦

But this got me thinking…what aspect of Brunch Box actually is Portland-y? No fries? Heck, my burger came with American cheese! I can’t remember the last time I’ve had American cheese. I couldn’t shake the notion that someone picked up Brunch Box out of LA or Austin or any southern foodie haven and just dropped it in Portland to see if it would cause a hipster riot. Maybe hipsters think American cheese is offbeat and therefore cool? Dang now my head is spinning…

I’m not at all saying there’s anything wrong with not screaming OMGPORTLAND just because you’re located there, but I thought it was an interesting departure from the way things are done in a very proud city with such a vibrant food culture. Especially when so much of the food scene is so hipster, too.

And as I mentioned above, Brunch Box is in a cart pod of 20 or so trucks, so it’s not like you can’t walk five feet and challenge yourself to get a different side. Seriously, if you get a bag of chips and soda with your Brunch Box burger, with all the options on Food Cart Alley, you need to get yourself checked out. You can schedule it with your blood pressure test after you become addicted to the wonderful specimen that is the YouCanHasCheeseburger.

‘Nuff said. Writing this has made me quite hungry. I need to eat lunch, now.

The Last Bite:

Burger Rating: A-

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

Keep on nomming!

Note: Apparently Brunchbox is opening a restaurant soon, according to the online menu. I’ll bet you a Redonkadonk burger that they serve fries.


LBB fries

Little Big Burger

There are two obvious interpretations of the name:

1) Little or Big burger – your choice.

2) Little burger, Big flavor.

When I saw one was opening near my best friend’s house on SE Division Street, I knew a trip there was in my future. My interpretation, without seeing the menu, was 1), but after said friend made a trek there, he confirmed that the intent is 2). There’s an LBB in all 5 quadrants of Portland proper, so you shouldn’t have to go to far, wherever you’re located.

Once I finally saw the sprawling menu (you can see it on the homepage), it seemed like LBB was channeling it’s inner In-n-Out – keep it simple and straightforward. Fine by me, so long as the burger is good! I actually didn’t mind at this particular moment that the burger wouldn’t be huge – it was already pushing 2:30 PM, and I had plans to cook dinner on this particular evening.

I ordered a cheeseburger ($3.75) with chevre, and an order of fries ($2.75). Note there are milkshakes here, but there is a root beer float, as well as a good [canned/bottled] beer selection that’s not mentioned on the online menu.

Unsurprisingly, this is an order-at-the-counter establishment, so we ordered, then sat ourselves at one of the few tables inside. You’ll notice LBB is a decent takeout option.

When I went up to the counter to get my burger, the first thought I had was, yes, it’s little. If I didn’t know what to expect, yeah, I might’ve felt a little let down. But really, it’s just my mind playing a trick on me. A 1/4 lb. burger isn’t all that uncommon – it’s just usually served as a thin patty to cover more surface area. But that often makes for a flimsy dry patty (think typical fast food – those are usually flimsy 1/4 lb. patties). So the way LBB serves the burger, you’re going to get less “bites” (but they’ll be much higher quality, if the patty is cooked correctly).

And boy am I happy to say, the burger was cooked to perfection. Juice oozed out with every bite, and any letdown I felt was immediately replaced with umami. And the x-factor of this burger must not be left out, either. The chevre was a neat twist – not only did it add a nice creaminess, it also mixed really well with the burger as a whole, and gave the burger a bit more depth than your standard cheddar or jack cheese.

The compactness of the burger also forced me to take smaller bites, which led to me eating slower (and savoring each bite more), which led to me feeling fuller – really not a bad thing at all. The “little” burger served here is actually a great idea; however, I think the business just needs to make their product a bit more known to passersby, so that there isn’t that confusion of “wait, that’s it?” Our brains are powerful entities!

That said, I don’t see why the option of a double cheeseburger isn’t on the menu – doesn’t seem like an unreasonable request. But honestly, if you’re OK with getting a double cheeseburger, what’s a few more carbs in that second bun? 🙂

And just so we’re clear:

LBB patty = 1/4 lb.

In-n-Out Double-double (2 patties) = 1/4 lb.

LBB fries


I’m not so sure about the fries ($2.75). It may have just been my experience, but something tasted a little bit off. The fries are served with one of the era’s most polarizing ingredients – truffle oil. I’m not a huge proponent of truffle oil (a bias which may have something to do with my enjoyment of Anthony Bourdain’s writings + No Reservations (see Croatia episode) – he hates it); to me it’s fine, but I don’t really see why it’s a necessary addition to food. My preferred encounter with truffle oil is as a component of a truffle mayo or aioli…

But yes, the fries, something was awry here. I’m not sure if the frying oil was burnt, or if the fries were just overcooked, but something was a bit off – a bit disconcerting. Unfortunately, that wasn’t it; rather, another battle was taking place. The truffle oil and the house ketchup (Camden’s Catsup), didn’t mix well on the palate. The strong, earthy truffle taste was fighting the bold spices in the ketchup, and the result just amplified that burnt sensation, and I eventually just finished the fries without ketchup, and then just ate some of the ketchup. There’s the start of something good here, but the flaws stood out to me, here. That said, the portion size is huge, so you’re probably pretty safe splitting an order of fries, especially if you’re not sure about going for a second burger (you can haz, and you should haz more cheezburger, in case you were wondering). Cost of two cheeseburgers (yes, that’s half a pound) and half an order of fries? Under $9.

As a side note, Camden’s Catsup is really good – spicy, and not overly sweet – definitely a far cry from your standard Heinz Ketchup. But the flavors are really bold, so you don’t need too much of it for the full effect. And as I just mentioned above, it perhaps doesn’t mix as straightforwardly with other flavor combinations as does generic ketchup.

Even as we were headed out the door, I strongly toyed with the idea of getting another burger for the road, but it was a late lunch (almost 3PM at this point), and I figured I’d enjoy my satisfied-but-not-overfull state of being.

My main advice would just be to know what the restaurant name means ahead of time, and you won’t feel “let down” by what you’re served. That’s all mental – if you get past that, you’re going to find a really juicy, flavorful burger. The name Little Big Burger is definitely true – it’s a little burger with big flavor. I just wish they’d make that connotation a bit more obvious to those not in the know.

Will definitely go back, even if for a afternoon snack!

The Last Bite:

Burger Rating: B+

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

Keep on nomming!





To be quite honest, I’m not sure if I should expect a restaurant paying homage to the delicious pig to cook a delicious burger. On one hand, meat is meat, but on the other hand, there are so many things you can do at a pork-themed restaurant before you make a beef burger (not that I am complaining, mind you).

The short answer is that hands down, Lardo makes one of the best burgers this side of anywhere and everywhere. I came upon a recommendation of Lardo from a good buddy in the Bay Area, who was in town early for the same event as me. He just so happened to be walking on the same side of SE Hawthorne at the exact same time as us – complete coincidence. He’d just eaten at Lardo, said the burger was amazing, and that we should definitely try it. We were headed to Cartopia, but burger you say? OK, Lardo it is. I returned a second time that trip, and two more times on my next trip. Half the reason I love Portland is for the food, so if there’s a place I’m going to twice in one trip, you can rest assured there is something at said eatery with which I am simply in love.

So let’s meet my object of affection: the Lardo Double Burger. Two patties stacked with Oregon cheddar, Lardo sauce and a thick slice of, that’s right, pork belly ($8). The burger is definitely not for the faint of heart, as it oozes two types of meat juice in every bite. It’s definitely an umami overload, so be prepared for some serious richness. The Lardo sauce is another rich element, but it has a bit of a kick which has a net cutting-down effect to the dish as a whole.

This delicacy is held together by a fantastic fresh bun which somehow manages to absorb all the juice without becoming soggy. The bun top is pretty big, but the bread is so light that the portioning is pretty much right on. Lest you think the burger is a work of perfect architecture, it is held together with a mini wooden steak garnished with a slice of pickle.

But the best part is when you take that first bite. It’s always a good sign when I bite into a big burger and all these wonderful juices flow into my mouth, onto my plate for fry-dipping, and quite possibly onto my clothes, as well. Maybe I’m getting that extra bit of melting sensation from a thick slice of cheese. But what’s this extra juicy, melty, salty thing sending my taste buds over the savory edge?  Why, that’s the humble pork belly – until not so long ago one of the most underrated ingredients…ever. Because the pork belly, when correctly cooked (as it is at Lardo), will melt in your mouth, it offers a more sublime burgering experience than its extremely close relative of bacon. Pork belly just sings umami, and add it to this burger, and you’ve got umami overload. And you just might get some crispy bits too, which add for a nice change of pace while you’re chowing down.

Another neat thing about this burger, is that despite all the different elements going on here, the size is not too big, and not too small, and everything really works in perfect harmony…if you’re down with very rich flavors. But I think you get the point about the richness by now. As a side note, I didn’t realize that “double burger” actually referred to two patties – I thought it was patty + belly. Which just goes to show you the soundness of architecture this burger boasts – both patties balance nicely!

And don’t you DARE forget the fries. Naturally, the Lardo fries ($4) are fried in, well, do I even need to make you salivate any more? Not only that, but they’re topped with parmesan and deep-fried rosemary. Deep frying fresh herbs is one of the best little cooking secrets around, in my opinion, as it makes stringy herbs crunchy and very edible without taking away their namesake qualities.

Deep fried rosemary on fries? Puts them over the top as some of the best fries out there. There’s also an amped up version, the Dirty Fries ($6), which also have pork scraps. I should try those one day…

One small gripe I have is that there’s no small portion of fries. If you’re coming here by yourself, you’re kinda stuck getting the one size, and it could be a little much with your main dish. My thinking is that it would be convenient to have an “add fries” option. Given the portion size, though, I have no complaints about the price, and also, just come with a friend: a burger + splitting an order of fries is only $10 + tip. Seriously, this sizing is my only slight complaint, if you can even call it that.

There’s also a good selection of beers and barleywines, and I’m pretty tempted by the mimosas by the pint. Yeah, I had to read that a couple times myself, too.

There isn’t much seating inside, unless you want to wait for a few minutes (Lardo is order-at-the-counter, so waiting for a table a few minutes works fine), but come in the warmer months and there are tons of tables set up outside for slow-paced gatherings, and in the winter, the same tables are covered from the elements with easy access to the restaurants interior.

As an aside, on my various trips here, my friends have eaten most of the menu, and while there hasn’t been a miss yet, the burger has yet to receive less than three thumbs up. So if you aren’t looking to clog your arteries, why are you coming here you’ll probably find something else a bit less intense to suite your pork fantasies. I’m not sure if I’ll ever try anything else beyond a taste of a friend’s because, well, read above. There’s also a milkshake food truck associated with Lardo, if you desire some sweet with/after your meal.

But yeah, who am I kidding, this is one of my favorite burgers out there. I literally have not a single complaint with it, and the accoutrements simply elevate it to an umami-nirvanic heaven.

It is one of the most flavorful burgers I have ever had. I can give it no other rating.

The Last Bite:

Burger Rating: A+

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

Keep on nomming!



Pearl’s Deluxe Burgers

I was bumbling around SF and the Peninsula one day after watching an exciting Giant’s game at Phone Company Park. After picking up some people in Millbrae, a motion was set in favor of eating dinner. Oddly enough I wasn’t that hungry, so I was not vocal about where we’d go. But as fate would have it, everyone else decided on burgers! They in fact chose Pearl’s, which happened to be near the top of the list of Bay Area burger joints to try. So color me hungry – sure I’ll have a burger!

I was feeling a bit adventurous, so when I saw the Spicy Sly burger with a pumpkin habanero sauce? Yes, please! Opted to mooch a few fries and sip of milkshake off a friend.

There’s not much room to eat at this Pearl’s – it’s a small restaurant, and you should be prepared to wait. We actually lucked out and found room for the 6 of us – perhaps we were on the early side for dinner in urban San Francisco (about 6:30 PM). The place is clean enough, and it’s on a nice enough street, so I’d be fine coming here after dark.

I knew I was in for a serious burger when it was served. Literally, sauteed onions and peppers falling all around a juicy burger, and nice firm bun (Acme, I believe). It reminded me a lot of a Philly Cheese Steak, especially with the consistency of the melted cheese smothered all over the burger.

But what I got, in fact, as I bit into this serious meal, was a big kick in the mouth. The habanero sauce was very vinegary, reminiscent of a Texas-style BBQ sauce, except with the addition of a substantial amount of habanero. Mind you, I am certainly not a spice wimp; rather, I am more than willing to endure a post-pepper temporary numbness in my mouth for the sake of deliciousness. And by the time this big boy was done, my mouth was pretty much numb. And the sauce, let me tell you, was really, really good.

But how was the burger as a whole, you ask? What, you mean cheeseburgers aren’t made out of peppers?

So my honest opinion is that there was too much sauce on the burger. As time went on, everything got a bit soggy, as it became soaked in this spicy sauce. Couple that with the abundance peppers and onions which already contain liquid of their own, and you start to run into a problem. My burger definitely got soggy. Also, because the sauce IS so potent, a smaller amount of sauce would create a much nicer harmony of flavors. All the ingredients are made for each other – chili sauce, peppers, onions, jack cheese, burger patty, sesame seed bun. But balance is key when you’re combining salty, spicy, and sweet.

The problem is that because the sauce was so overwhelming, it’s hard to talk about the nuances of the rest of the burger. I can say that the meat was definitely juicy, but the seasoning of the beef was lost, so I don’t really know if the proper seasoning was used (Yelp reviews would suggest it is). Also, there were so many peppers and onions, that their texture took over the melt-in-your-mouth feeling of a great burger patty. The once-crispy bun quickly became a bit soggy as well, so more texture was lost.

So overall, plenty of flavor, but a bit lacking in execution. Judging by the intensity of the sauce, I’m guessing this is the hardest balance to get right of all the burgers on the menu. I can look past the flaws in execution if the flavor is there, but next time, I’d really prefer a tidier burger – a reasonable portion of sauteed veggies, and less spicy sauce, and you’d have a home run, here.

As I noted above, I only tried a few fries, and an onion ring, and I was satisfied with them. The fries were thick and soaked up lots of habanero sauce, and the onion rings passed the homemade test. Success!

I tried a sip of milkshake (Oreo Cookies n’ Cream), and it was very good. I probably wouldn’t get a milkshake if I was having a burger with sweet toppings, but with the right burger goes the right milk shake! My friends recommended the Nutella milkshake, for what it’s worth.

I feel like I’ve been fairly harsh on Pearl’s. Everything was really good – the ingredients are there, the talent is there, and the price is right – everything was very tasty – but in this case the subtlety and balance was off.

I would come back to Pearl’s again, but maybe opt for something a little more…shall we say…standard.

The Last Bite:

Burger Rating: B+

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

Keep on nomming!


Evie’s Hamburgers

This entry is being posted a bit on the late side, trying to get the archives unloaded here!

The Northgate area of Walnut Creek isn’t usually a destination for people who live outside the area. The only reason I ended up at Evie’s was that my dad and I were early for a home inspection, and I’d noticed this place online before.

Evie’s screams rural roadside drive-in. Put this place in any small town in Texas or the midwest, and it’d be the go-to hangout. Not that Northgate is by any means the “old” Walnut Creek, but given the never-ending makeover of downtown, the east side of town has begun to feel…older. In a sense, Evie’s fits better here. (Note that Evie’s itself is a restaurant in a generic plaza, there’s no drive in or anything – it’s just the emotion that was evoked once I was inside).

So I’ll have to invite you to picture what the inside of Evie’s looks like, as I didn’t want to be too foodie crazy during a work lunch. But suffice to say it’s a fairly typical diner, with big old menus behind the order-at-the front cash register. The first thing you really notice is the price. On a budget? Hamburger and fries is $4.60. Feeling splurgy? A large order of fries and double cheeseburger will run you…$6.80. In this particular case, I opted for a double hamburger with a small side of fries, for $5.60.

When I visited Evie’s the burger meat was listed as “Kobe beef patties”. You can find my analysis of the “Kobe beef burger” scam here. I’m happy to see that since I ate here, the menu now lists the meat as “our special blend of select beef.” I don’t know what that means, but you’re not getting overcharged here, so I don’t really care (as long as the burger tastes good!)

Food came pretty quickly, about as I expected for a half-full burger place around 1 PM on a weekday.

My first impressions of my meal were what evoked the images of the roadside joint – simple food served in the red-striped boats. Thin broiled patties with sesame seed buns and thick golden fries. Brought back memories of a roadside place near my home in Connecticut in the 90s.

So with all this nostalgia, how good was the actual burger?

My double hamburger had its ups and downs. In hindsight I wish I’d ordered a double cheeseburger, due to the cooking of the patties.

Often, people will press the spatula down on the burger patty while it’s on the grill to cook it faster. The problem with this practice, especially with thin patties, is that all the good stuff is getting pushed out of the burger, and you’re left with a dry, overcooked flimsy thing. Unfortunately, that’s a NEGATIVE memory I associate with roadside drive-ins, so my nostalgia was augmented in this regard. The patties were definitely thin. They had that nice charbroiled taste on the outside, but the inside was pretty clearly overcooked, and quite dry. I can’t help but think a spatula was pushing them up against the grill for too long.

As a result, the burger was quite bland – the nice char on the outside just couldn’t compensate for the grey interior. Unfortunate, really. Some cheese would definitely have mitigated the dryness and blandness, but ultimately I’d just prefer a properly cooked burger. If the patties were cooked properly, with some cheddar cheese melted over them, I could see a huge improvement in my opinion, since I’m a sucker for a bargain, and the prices here are second to nothing but In-n-Out.

Sizewise, I have a big appetite, so the second patty is a must in my book, as a Big One isn’t really very big. A Double Big One, however, is a good size, and I recommend the double side of cheese added to it. You can see for yourself in the above picture that the portions aren’t very big; that said, they’re more than fair for the price.

Not too much to say about the fries. They’re pretty standard thick cut fries. If I had my guess, I’d say they’re frozen, but you can escape with that if they’re fried well. They were fried well, but were quite lacking in salt. Yeah, big deal, so I salted them on my own at the table, but shakin’ them up in a silver bowl with some salt really would’ve elevated all that soft potato inside the fried outside, since they pretty clearly understand how to fry potatoes to perfection!

There’s not much in the way of service, since you order at the counter, and the only real interaction after that is the serving of your food in those iconic red striped boats, but I get the feeling that Evie’s is a family affair, and the staff seemed to enjoy what they were doing.

It was a quick lunch, but I like what Evie’s represents, and I think there’s some potential here. It seems like they have a pretty loyal following, and for people who do live out in the back of Walnut Creek, this is one of a couple good restaurants nearby. I don’t think I’d come back again unless I’m in the area, but if you’re feeling nostalgic for simpler times, I’d definitely recommend Evie’s to you.

The Last Bite:

Burger Rating: C+

Overall Experience (sides, service, cleanliness, price, etc.): A (fantastic fries, memorable service+experience): B-

Keep on nomming!

Rico’s Diner

My friend Pete invited me to check this place out back in October, but we couldn’t make it work until now. His claim was that Rico’s is better than my favorite burger place (which he quite enjoys, too) – Val’s. Why haven’t I written about Val’s yet? I couldn’t tell you. But this entry is about Rico’s Diner.

Rico’s is located in Downtown Oakland, fairly close to Lake Merritt. It’s a little diner amongst a bunch of tall buildings. Kinda cool actually.

I let the expert tell me what to do. In this case, it ended up being a cheeseburger, fries, and a peanut butter milkshake. Burger and fries is $8, milkshake is $4.25. $8 is a price I can deal with. But spoiler alert, the peanut butter milkshake is one of the absolute best tasting concoctions I’ve ever had.

Being the cheapo that I am, I was concerned when a milkshake was served to me with no refill tin for over four bucks. Internally I was thinking, this better be good. But I knew Pete wouldn’t let me down. And, I had a sip. It was a creamy fresh rich peanut buttery feeling in my mouth that I never wanted to end. Perfect texture, too – no spoon required, yet it felt nice and thick. Yeah, yeah, that’s what she said, I get it.

So naturally, you finish the shake pretty quickly. But it’s rich enough where you realize that the portion size is right. The key, as Pete says, is not to drink it too fast, and save some for when your burger comes. Which I kinda succeeded at.

So, now for the actual meal.

While it’s clear the the shake stole the show, I still enjoyed a very good lunch. My first note, unfortunately, was that the burger was well past the medium I had requested. It still had a lot of good taste, but was lacking a the juiciness factor that makes the best burgers the best. If it was at medium, I don’t think it would have had this issue.

Now, the burger was served on a good bun, and Pete confirmed afterwards that it was in fact an Acme bun. Auto bonus points for nice buns, am I right?

I have to make this review based on the burger I was served, but I bet next time if it’s cooked correctly, I’ll be singing a more positive tune.

To finish off the meal, the fries were good, but probably the least memorable part f the meal (pardon me while I daydream about the milkshake some more). May get garlic fries next time.

I think Rico’s has an additional vegan menu or something, but in case you missed the memo, this blog does not cater to herbivores. Though I’m sure my good friend Jesse would be thrilled to learn that there is a vegan pulled pork sandwich made with seitan. And when I say thrilled, I mean he’d be frightened.

I definitely want to come here again, and suspect I’ll meet Pete for lunch again not too far in the future. Will ask for the burger to be rarer next time, and I bet I’ll walk away even more satisfied.

All in all it’s a cool joint, and I recommend it to anybody who is searching for that perfect unpretentious milkshake. Seriously. It was so good.

The Last Bite: 

Burger Rating: B (will be moved up if cooked right next time – stay tuned)

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

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!

Hungry Burger

I didn’t do too much research before my trip to Asia. I really just wanted to play as much of it by ear as I could. But ultimately, I couldn’t help but add one stop to my list when I learned that there was a burger food cart in downtown Vientiane. I mean seriously, how could I NOT try it?

The excitement level was high as trip went on, but I began to discover that the beef quality in Southeast Asia is very poor. As the stop in Vientiane was in the last week of my five week journey across the world, I knew what to expect quality-wise.

So after wat-hopping around the scorching hot city for a few hours, we found Hungry Burger on a random street corner. I think my friends Jesse and Gabe thought I was a little bit nuts (they’re right), but I ran right up and looked at the menu.

I’ll let you decide for yourself, but Hungry Burger is like straight out of Portland. The menu is all in English, so it clearly caters to a certain crowd. But for a brief moment, I was swept back across the world to Oregon. I bet these guys are doing a pretty good business because the whole experience is totally a taste of home.

And given that street food standards in Southeast Asia aren’t all that high, I was relieved to see that Hungry Burger was kept in immaculate condition.

Seriously, there wasn’t anything Laotian about this place except the workers, who ironically didn’t speak a lick of English.

But B^4, enough about your epiphanies, how was the freakin’ burger? Well, let’s check it out.

I ordered the Jumbo Burger, which is akin to a Big Mac (not that I’ve ever had one – seriously I haven’t). At 22,000 kip, you’re dropping about $2.75 USD for this burger – which is expensive likely because you’re having a lot of luxury foods in Southeast Asia when your order a double cheeseburger!

Through no fault of Hungry Burger, the beef quality wasn’t very high. The beef in general just isn’t very good. My suggestion would be to use water buffalo, as I’d enjoyed some of that the night before at dinner, and it was delicious. The cheese was cheesy, and the bacon was sadly nonexistent, as they were out of bacon! Sad face!

But fortunately, Laos has kept her French colonial tradition of making great bread, so the bun actually made the burger. It was soft enough to soak up all the juices, yet thick enough to not get soggy.

Ultimately, it seems like everything in Southeast Asia [that isn’t congee] has flavor. Even though you have this low-quality beef, it was still a flavorful burger, and knowing that the quality wouldn’t be that high, I had my expectations set just right. It actually kinda hit the spot. If I’m ever in Vientiane again, well, c’mon how could I not go back? A little taste of Portland…in Laos.

The Last Bite:

Burger Rating: C (Remember, this isn’t really their fault…they’ve done a good job given what they realistically have – hence the higher rating below)

Overall Experience (sides, service, cleanliness, price, etc.): B (I wish there were fries! And aargghh – out of bacon!)

Keep on nomming!

Super Duper Burger

(Eek! I realized I forgot to post the entry from Super Duper Burger from last October! Better late than never!)

There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of grease!

Super Duper Burger has a few locations throughout SF proper. We ended up at the Market Street location, near the border of the financial district/SOMA. I figure SD would be a good place for dinner, as it had come recommended by a friend a few weeks prior. We actually sat outside, right on Market, which was pretty fun, and quite nice in the late October evening breeze. It’s far enough from the sketchy neighborhoods where sitting outside is actually a nice change.

I ordered a burger with grilled onions. Also garlic fries, because, well, garlic fries. For an almost-hipster San Francisco joint, being served a loosely-formed slightly greasy diner burger was a great surprise. Wait, slow down here…a diner burger? What on earth do you mean?

Well, I’d say the Super Duper burger is a great example of what I mean:

-thin, loosely formed patty

– a bit on the salty/greasy side

– gooey cheese

– a mound of grilled onions

Obviously, Super Duper is not doing my arteries a favor, but that diner burger always satisfies my taste buds. It’s not a huge burger, but it’s rich, so I found myself fuller than I thought I’d be upon first looking at the burger. Restaurants could take a page from the SD book – the diner burger is an art form. Does Super Duper have a clue what I’m talking about when I describe the style of burger they make so specifically? Who knows. But in my repertoire, there’s a place for a juicy, slightly salty burger such as this one. If you like that diner kind of burger, you’ll like Super Duper.

Garlic fries were a nice accompaniment to the main meal.

Noah ordered a milkshake, but it was a big disappointment. Extremely overpriced for a single glass of milkshake with no refill tin. Glad I skipped on that overpriced item.

I do want to return here!

The Last Bite: 

Burger Rating: B+

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

Keep on nomming!

Jasper’s Cafe

Yikes! It appears I have not been blogging about burgers like I said I would. Not really sure anyone is reading this blog, but hey, it’s still fun to do.

My next burger stop was en route to Oakland from Portland. Noah and I stopped for lunch at Jasper’s Cafe in Medford. My research said this was the best burger in the area, so it seemed like a natural spot. As per usual on this road trip, Noah and I opted to split two burgers, which we ordered at the front counter.

My choice was the Tuscany burger – prosciutto, Toma cheese, and granny smith slices. Noah went for the Texas Ranger – chorizo, guacamole ranch, salsa, and pepper jack. Each burger comes with fries and a drink for $9. Not a bad deal, as the portions are plentiful.

First up, the prosciutto burger. Definitely my favorite of the two. I thought the green apple might be an overwhelming taste to the beef, but it felt like the prosciutto served to minimize this issue. Quite frankly, the combination was delicious. There wasn’t too much apple, and there wasn’t too little prosciutto. I realize now I failed to get any apple in the picture, but it was very thinly sliced, and actually worked quite nicely.

The chorizo burger, in my opinion, was not as much a success. Granted, the chorizo was quite tasty, but it completely overpowered everything else (except maybe the pepper jack cheese). As a customer, I want my money’s worth of topping, but it was just too powerful a sausage to work in this case. It felt like I had ordered just chorizo, which isn’t something I’d do. I think that with a smaller portion of the sausage, the burger would’ve been a success. At least it was good chorizo!

The fries were piping hot, and certainly up to my standards.

Noah also got a milkshake. I forget what flavor it was, but he enjoyed it.

I think it’s safe to say this will be a good pit stop if I find myself on the endless I5 drive from Oakland to Portland anytime soon. Definitely a great lunch stop.

The Last Bite:

Burger Rating: B (A for the Tuscany Burger, C for chorizo)

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

Keep on nomming!