Posts Tagged ‘local chain’

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!



Burger Joint

Burger Joint

I should’ve posted some of these reviews months ago, but I’ve been lazy. So in my attempt to blog more about food in 2013, I will throw in some older unposted entries from 2012. More burger love (or hate) for all.

Admittedly, I hadn’t done my research ahead of time. My friend and I were looking for a place to watch Game 3 of the 2012 World Series (which took place in Detroit). Headed to a party later in the evening, we didn’t particularly need to eat at a pub either. I’d heard of this place before, so when I saw open seats at a burger joint (literally, a Burger Joint), with the game just getting underway, I made the suggestion, and in we went.

Burger Joint is an order-at-the-counter establishment, so I was excited to see there was no line to grab a burger (unlike every other TV-sporting restaurant on King St).

The menu seemed pretty generic at first glance, though I appreciated the fact they serve some microbrews (I did not think to catch what was offered at the time – again, I was preparing my liver for some seriously Halloween partying later that evening).

I opted for a cheeseburger with pepper jack and fries. $9.45 before tax…OK, seems fair…especially because they’re quick on advertising Niman Ranch beef on family-owned, sustainable farms. This should be good, right?

Now it’s rare that I don’t Yelp a place before going to it, but this night called for a TV and a place to sit quickly. After we were seated I Yelped the place and my heart skipped a beat. But so as not to bias myself any further, I read no reviews…

As we were waiting for our food, I noticed that nobody was getting kicked out after they’d finished their meal to make way for other hungry baseball fans. I thought it was cool they didn’t rush people, but then I realized…hey, there’s nobody waiting for tables. Why does every other restaurant on King Street [with a TV] have a line out the door? At this point my expectations were not what they’d been when I had the idea to eat here.

Our food was served reasonably quickly. Sadly, I’ve eaten enough burgers that I knew approximately what this one was going to taste like without even taking a bite. I know an underseasoned thin diner patty when I see one. It was much smaller than I expected, and brought the word “flaccid” to mind. It was quite bland – I had to use a lot of hot sauce to make up for the lack of beef flavor. That’s a little trick I do with bland burgers (blandness is not a prereq, but use caution with a tasty-as-is burger): load them up with hot sauce, and you get this combination of spicy and fatty that’s overloads your taste buds. Goes GREAT with a hoppy beer.

In short, the meal was oddly identical to extremely average roadside diner food you’d find off an Interstate in anywhere, USA. A very clean diner, with friendly service, and Giants games on the TV.

But hey hold on, brain, I wasn’t done ranting about my dinner yet. This isn’t a one paragraph Yelp review – I was just about to give a little lecture on burger-making 101.

Let’s go B^4ck to Basics:

If you’re going to make a burger patty, add some salt. Salt is your friend. I promise. A little bit of salt won’t make your dish too…salty (what’s a good synonym for salty? NaCL-y?). Rather, a bit of salt will enhance the flavors of a dish – in this case, it will accentuate the meatiness and richness of your burger patty. And don’t forget salt’s bff pepper is a nice compliment, too…

So at this point you’ve probably figured out this isn’t a terribly positive review. Well, you’re right. But what exactly was holding this burger back from greatness?

The prognosis: FPS (Frozen Patty Syndrome) –

– Underseasoned patty

– Perfectly flat and unusually symmetrical patty

– Lack of char and loose edges – the lack of these welcomed imperfections set off the flat/symmetrical observations, and then the alarm bells go off.

– Lack of texture – there’s no interplay between fatty, melt-in-your-mouth divinity and lean meat heartiness. Instead, it’s reminiscent of an untextured flattened blob.

But even a prefrozen patty tastes better with some salt added on top. Seriously, it’s that basic.

And if these actually are fresh patties, which one would think they are, then I’m at a loss for words – I’ve had Niman Ranch beef hundreds of times, and it has NEVER been this tasteless and textureless. I don’t think Niman Ranch was having an off day. Frozen or not, something’s gotta change…

At this point I think you get the idea about the burger. So onto the fries.

You’ll note that there is a huge white space on the plate. I’ll take some responsibility in admitting that I had some fries before I remembered to take a picture; that said, you’re looking at a good 3/4 of the fries right there, so form your own opinion while I tell you mine: at least the fries had been salted. My suspicion is that they are prefrozen too, but I don’t feel quite as strongly about this fact (and you can usually get away with passable prefrozen fries, anyway).

I read some Yelp reviews after dinner, too. Yeah…whoops. But hey, we got edible food and a good seat to watch the entire Giants game on TV, and never felt pressured to leave. So there’s that.

And in the end, the Giants shut out the Tigers in game 3 (WS champs again!!!!). There was then an amazing Halloween party full of debauchery which isn’t really relevant to this blog, so the verdict: on this Saturday night, everything except dinner rocked.

The Last Bite:

Burger Rating: C

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

Keep on nomming!

Side note: The initials bj in lower case letters really never ever work. Everybody has a 12 year old inside of them; everyone, except the owners of Burger Joint, apparently.


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!

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!

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!