Monday, August 2, 2010

Day 10 - Burger's Up: Mary's Notes

Our intention this day was to visit another of Nashville's traditional burger dives, but the hours listed on the web were wrong and we needed something that was open already at 10:30. So we drove from the Nolensville Road area to Melrose and our second choice wasn't open yet, either. Went four streets over and Burger Up, the new venture from the owner of the Frothy Monkey, was unlocked and ready for business, or at least it was ready to serve a margarita. Here's how it went:

Juiciness - 6. Most of the 1/2 teaspoon or so of drippage was in the form of grease more than juice.

Flavor - 10. There it is, finally, a 10 from me. Local, grass-fed beef flavor wins out. Burger Up's basic cheeseburger adds caché name-brands Jack Daniels for ketchup, Cabot's for cheese and über-hip (for Tennessee foodies, anyway) Benton's bacon; I'm pretty sure the burger would have tasted just fine without them.

Attractiveness - 7. It was a lovely burger. It was ordered medium rare and appeared to have the texture of a medium-rare but the meat was suspiciously grey, not pink.

Atmosphere - 9. Very 12 South; matted steel with some vintage wood thrown in and public-house style seating.

Digestivity - 5. Getting some pangs. I'm not sure if it was from the beef, grease from the bacon or the French fries, which, by the way, were seasoned with truffle shavings. Major points on the foodie scale, for both of the latter.
All photos ©Mary Brace 2013. All rights reserved
Overall experience - 8. In spite of finally finding a burger with flavor that beat out Dalt's (which will make all of my hipster friends very happy with me) the overall experience was brought down by two things: the above-mentioned pangs and the less-than-stellar margarita.  Burger Up's margarita seemed to venture too much into screw-driver territory. The $11 price tag on the burger can be justified by the gourmet burger craze, the $10 inferior cocktail, not so much.

afternote: this review was written in June but circumstances prevented posting it. On a return trip the burger was just as good, and no pangs. I don't get the margarita anymore, and it's a 10 every time.

update Dec. 2011. After Burger Up! we pretty much stopped rating Nashville burgers because nothing else we'd had up to that point could touch Miranda Pontes's burger in quality. Still, the Nashville burger universe is ever-expanding and if a great one is found, I'll write about it in the future.

Burger Up on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Burger Up!

“Now I can't complain… I've got to admit it's getting better… A little better all the time…” Paul McCartney and John Lennon

A pleasant surprise is Burger Up and 12th and Paris. I had never HEARD of this place. It IS rather new. They need to print the back story on their menu. The beef is local out of Franklin. You will pay a little more for this place and you will enjoy it. Enough foreshadowing?

The Digs: It’s an open bright big windowed clean place. The extensive selection at the bar makes you know you will probably be paying a bit more than you normally would for a burger. I had a glass of wine with my burger that fit perfectly. The staff is damn attentive and they really make you feel like they WANT you there (without being clingy.)There wasn’t a BIG crowd but definitely some regulars at 11am.

At First Sight: I did not go for my usual condiments… I don’t think they could really ‘roll’ that way. But the ‘Woodstock’ burger, medium-rare looked great. It had some hickory bacon, cheese and barbecue sauce on it. It was NOT smothered, just enough of each ingredient to make a statement about the flavor. The TRUFFLE fries came in a cute little aluminum cup. (It's not about the fries, but they were ok.)

At First Bite: It wasn’t PINK inside but definitely medium-rare, the meat wasn’t too grey and it tasted fine and fresh. My FIRST bite was overpowered by the hickory bacon but as I continued with the burger, all of the flavors came out. So much so, I wanted to keep biting… and really wished I could have had more (though there was PLENTY burger there…)

The Finish: I have never been happier to spend 9 bucks on a burger (plus wine and some baby spinach so I can feel healthy?). For the first time in many weeks I am not disappointed by my visit to an establishment. Maybe I had no expectations? I HAVE to say it is certainly getting better. Burger Up was Mary’s call – I had better come up with a great suggestion for our next visit.

Score: 9.25

Monday, June 21, 2010

Gabby's - a little hideaway...

“I know a dark secluded place. A place where no one knows your face…” Hernando’s Hideaway from the musical ‘The Pajama Game’

OK not-so-dark but rather secluded is Gabbys… best described as ‘up behind Greer Stadium.’ I like the back story on this place. A corporate guy who wanted to spend more time with his family, he opened a burger joint. The lunch hours in the beginning were mid to late week only lunch but as business has caught on, the hours are slowly expanding. Good for them, NOW – how does this stuff taste?

The Digs: Not dark but oh so fluorescent light bright. Tile floors and people get there early. A lot of blue collar workers along with city employees and some law enforcement all frequent this place. A great mix of folk and no one you would know. The folk who work there have great attitudes and are perfect for the place. If you want to be anonymous, this is a good joint.

At First Sight: I didn’t get medium rare, but I got as rare as they could go… pretty decent. It did not look as juicy as I like and the burger is a tad smaller than I like, but decent flavor. The fries were those ‘skin on the end variety’ – not my fave but it completes a meal.

At First Bite: A fully cooked burger. But not DRY. Cheese mixed well with the condiments for a better than fast food burger. The bun was a bit big BUT the bun actually added to the overall flavor of the burger for me. I guess it helps when everything is fresh.

The Finish: Gabby’s is an oddball little place. And I mean that with love and respect. It’s bright with tile… you can almost smell the Lysol on the floor. Maybe in 20 years and few less mop swipes it will settle into the cement brick greasy burger joint it can be… but the burgers are good enough not to disappoint. You can go there and hang in a crowd – everyone will smile at you and no one will care who you are. Sometimes that goes great with a decent burger.

Score: 7.7.

Red Robin?

“You can find your way across this country using burger joints the way a navigator uses stars.” Charles Kuralt

“Suspense is worse than disappointment.”
Robert Burns

I am not sure I would agree with the Poet Burns on the above quote.
Red Robin is touted as a great burger place, gourmet even? And they seem to be popping up all over. I must say their PR is GREAT, I had never been, and the commercial make it feel REALLY fun! Let’s continue...

The Digs: I experienced my burger twice. I had no time to meet with Mary so I called ahead grabbed the burger to go and hit the road… more on THAT in a moment. When I went back in I saw a place that wants to be fun… it is certainly a place the kiddos can go. Plenty of room for the Fam.

At First Sight: My first take out burger was flat and dry. I decided that I had not upheld my part of the taste-the-burger- in-the-restaurant pact so I cancelled this experience except to say… no take out. Burger I was given IN House… not so flat but still looked kind of dry. I DID ask for as rare as possible, this time.

At First Bite: As I have stated I am a mustard, onion and pickle kind of guy on those cheeseburgers. I am thinking that maybe some mayo or BUTTER would have freshened up my burger a bit. It wasn’t a desert but kind of dry… what f I dunked it in my diet coke?
The Finish: I was certainly expecting more… I certainly cannot believe my friends have such low expectations of burgers – but it did NOT hold up to its hype. Red Robin NOT rockin’ all night long!

Score: 5.0

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Day 9: Gabby's - Mary's Notes

The International Culinary Tourism Association defines a destination restaurant as a "restaurant so interesting, different or special that people travel just to eat there." If sitting in the middle of one of Nashville's last remaining dead zones, within city limits, doesn't automatically qualify a place to claim that distinction, then perhaps Gabby's Burgers & Fries has enough of its own bizarre charm to carry it over the threshold.

Situated a block or few down Chestnut past Greer Stadium, the building that houses Gabby's reminds me of the makeshift cabins my friends and I sometimes fell across while exploring the woods of the Adirondack foothills. A base. Some two-by-fours covered over with the thinnest plywood imaginable. This shack takes it further by slapping a coat of paint on, adding a few tables, and hanging photos of country stars, probably leftovers from the days when the building housed Hap Townes, a legendary meat & three. Higgins and I have written of some places as divey, with cheap wood paneling. What separates these places, as classic burger joints, from Gabby's is that the more typical operation tries to hide the cheap surroundings by dimming the lights. Gabby's waves its freak flag high, in florescent glory.  On with the meat.

Juiciness: 3. Gabby's didn't fare well here. It probably didn't help that it was a five ounce patty, squished thin.

Flavor: 7. In spite of the dryness - and I don't know if it would have made a difference if I'd ordered medium rare, as I wasn't asked how I wanted it - the hand-formed patty was plenty tasty.

Attractiveness: 7. With the small size, the burger did threaten to get smothered in bun but overall it was a nice package. .

Atmosphere: Eeeeesh. Tough call. I'm still not sure if it's so awful it's great, or if it's just plain awful. The people behind the counter are a treat, though, absolutely. Staying neutral. 5.

Digestivity - a little after-burgerness is lingering, but not bad. 8.

Overall experience - 7. This is a place I'd return to, especially if I wanted to avoid certain people. And I would return for a burger at least once, to see if I could get it a little less well-done. 

Gabby's Burgers & Fries on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Day 8: Red Robin - Mary's Notes

And then there are the times when a thing misrepresents itself so much that you have to speak up. The Red Robin burger, even more than the Burgers'-n-Cream burger, is a fast food burger billed and disguised as "gourmet." I chose RR because it was recommended by a friend whose taste I respected until about two hours ago.

I've read, in recent times, on internet message boards and industry mags about how processed food producers are employing research - both nutritional and anthropological - to induce consumers to buy and eat and buy and eat and buy and eat. For exmple, it's known that we like foods that are crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside. We like sugar. We like fried fat. We like salt. If a food producer can give us everything we want in a small dense portion, that costs next-to-nothing to make, we'll return to the trough again and again without a thought. That information came to the forefront, almost from my second or third bite of an appetizer that offered a mix of two greasy and sweet and salty and crunchy exteriored and soft interiored items - onion rings and mozzarella sticks. Funny thing though, these foods had all that we love except any real flavor, unless you put them in the restaurant's dipping sauces. They looked beautiful though; perfectly formed and presented in a neat holder. Enough of that, let's get to the burger.

Juiciness - 3. This was a pre-made patty and "medium" was the restaurant's lowest-temp served. I looked closely to see if I might have been missing something but the interior was like Lake Lanier circa 2008. A little water, but not enough to float a boat.

Flavor - 4. There was some, in two areas where brown bits managed to form on the grill and mingle with the cheese.

Attractiveness - 9. This was a very pretty burger, as was all the food. Minus a point for pre-shredded lettuce.

Atmosphere 7 - The restaurant also was attractive, in an ADD Pizzeria Uno meets Hanna-Barbera kind of way.

Digestivity - 5. All that grease adds up and lingers.

Overall experience: 4 minus. I know that there are people who like this kind of place and this kind of food; they feel safe eating here, because if you've got a chain of restaurants across the country, you must be doing something right, right? You must be doing something that a lot of people all over the country like, right? As Oscar Wilde wrote, "for those who like that sort of thing, it's the sort of thing they like." If you're not, I'd recommend you try one of the other places - even the chains - Higgins and I gave better grades to.

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Day 7: McCabe's Pub - Mary's Notes

Some people, when they don't like a thing, really really really hate that thing and have to let the world know.

I'd rather just forget, and that's why it's taken so long to get around to posting my notes on the McCabe's Pub burger. I do want to point out there are other things on the menu: I had, as an appetizer, a plate of nachos and found it far preferable to the burger.

Juiciness - 6. I can't remember too much, it seems like it was adequately moist because ... (see below)

Flavor - 3. It didn't have very much, and this may have been because the burger nearly mooed at me! After spending a weekend in North Carolina where they have to, by law, serve medium well, you'd think one might better appreciate a rare burger. I do appreciate that McCabe's serves a rare burger, I just wish they hadn't served it to me, because I ordered medium rare. The other issue is that they had Dijon mustard out and Dijon doesn't really go well with cheddar. An alternative would have been nice.

Attractiveness - 7. It looked fetching. 

Atmosphere - 5. Something about the place reminds me of 1970s suburban basement.

Digestivity - 6. Really, I can't remember. See above.

Overall experience - 5. I'd go back, but would have something else off the menu. McCabe Pub on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 27, 2010

McCabe Pub - Higgins

"I rose politely in the club / And said, "I feel a little bored; / Will somone take me to a pub?"
G.K. Chesterton 'A Ballade Of An Anti-puritan'

McCabe Pub on Murphy Road in Nashville… this is another one of those places you would have gone when you were little and your parents had friends to entertain. OK that’s MY family. It’s a PUB, but it is a meeting spot. That Dark paneled look just takes me back.

The Digs: The lunch crowd was hopping by 11:30. It looks like a mix of duffers from the course practically across the street, neighborhood folk and business people who are looking for the specials. A bit of an older crowd but everyone was friendly.

At First Sight: It was another fix-it-yourself burger and I had Dijon mustard at the table (ooOOoo!) I had cheddar on the burger and it was nice and melty, a good sign they put the cheese on the burger while it’s still on the grill (I like that.) It comes with chips (fries or another side are extra) and I am fine with that, it’s all about the burger anyway.

At First Bite: It was a bit on the rare side of medium rare. In fact, I bet if I had ordered a Medium burger it would have been a perfect medium rare. The menu says the burgers are served well-done unless the customer specifies otherwise, I bet they don’t get too many medium-rare requests. The taste has a good burger burst. I usually do not like red onions but these were sliced thinly and it seemed to work.

The Finish: It was too rare. But I liked the flavor… great melty cheddar. I want to try this one again medium rare this time, not moo-ing.

Score: 6.8

Hard Rock - Higgins

"The regulars can’t keep away from the Hard Rock Cafe” Carol King

Hard Rock Café Nashville certainly does NOT feel like Nashville. I hadn’t opportunity to go since they remodeled. It looks hip in a we’re-not-really-trying sort of way, cool and expensive… Coupling the new look with the fact that the Hard Rock kept their employees on payroll while they shut down to remodel (all they had to do was put in the same hours with a volunteer organization.) I really should be coming here to support that kind of franchise.

The Digs: The new place looks bigger and really pulls you in. I noticed in my conversation with Mary that the music was loud ‘above our head’ but not so loud that we could not talk at the table. You can get a private conversation in without a bunch of people hearing it. Took a sec for the server to get to us, but hey they opened 5 minutes late too.

At First Sight: I went for the ‘regular’ 8-dollar burger. Medium rare done nicely. I HAD TO PUT ON MY OWN MUSTARD. That’s not a hardship but it’s just nice when they ‘make’ a burger how you ask them! Toasted bun - It was a burger ready to go.

At First Bite: The medium rare meat had good flavor but was reminiscent of a ‘good patty’. The bun was toasted but I think it had been toasted during prep and held so it could be fresh. It was NOT stale mind you but it seemed to be ‘pre-toasted’? It didn’t soak up all the burger juice I was getting from that burger. The condiments (mustard, pickle, onion) mixed well.

The Finish: I would not turn this burger down. Add to that the feel of the place and it’s a great place to get a burger or anything else you might want to pay a little more to look cool whilst eating. In the end, the burger was fine but not the greatest. Given the surroundings, I am glad to say I want to come back and have another. Cool Place.

Score: 6.8

Monday, May 24, 2010

Day 6: Hard Rock Cafe - Mary's Notes

Oy! Sometimes you get an idea into your head and it's just hard to let go. When Nashville's Hard Rock Cafe re-opened earlier this spring, after closing several weeks for renovations, the restaurant that first made us drop our collective jaws with a $7 burger (oh, how innocent we were in 1994) has raised the stakes by offering a $13 burger ($13.95, actually). Although I wasn't there for a burger at the discovery visit, just as Lux Interior once asked, "What's inside a girl?" I wanted to know what was between the buns. This afternoon, in the name of gastronomical investigation, I found out.

Juiciness: 5. This was not a dry burger by any means, but apparently the buns are pre-grilled for "fronts" and stored warm. As a result, maybe the bun soaks up whatever juice the burger would normally drip onto the plate. Or my shirt. No drippage at all.

Flavor: 7. Okay, tough call here. It was a good burger. It had a clean, fresh taste. It was well-seasoned with pepper. But it didn't have a very beefy flavor.

Attractiveness: 7. Nicely put-together and good looking but I have to admit: it was just too much for me. The difference between the $8 (inflation) and the $13 burger at the Hard Rock appears to be about 4 ounces of meat and a matter of toppings.

Atmosphere: 10. The Hard Rock re-designed everything about the place and the new look is fantastic. Even with all the eye-catching displays, the overall look manages to be comparatively minimalistic for Nashville, with lots of clean lines. Major props.

Digestivity: I'm giving it a 6, but it's just hard to tell how much is because I just ate fatty red meat and how much is because I ate 10 freaking ounces of it of my own free will. I suspect it could be much worse.

Overall Experience: 7. Thank you sir, but if I do have another - and I likely will - it will be the 6 ounce deal.

Hard Rock Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Rotier's - Higgins View

"Comfort is the only thing our civilization can give us." Oscar Wilde

Every time I walk into Rotier's I wonder why I don't go there more often. The wood panelling and 'stuff' cluttering the walls reminds me of those diners and cafes my grandparents took me as a kid. It's a comfort food palace. The crowd is a very familiar one, even if you only show up now and then... same for the wait staff.

The Digs: A little dark in the place, at least that is how it FEELS. You really aren't a stranger when you come in. Mary and I get there early, the place is already filling up. Jay Phelps (former Lightning Traffic Anchor) joined us on this outing and HE ordered a meat and three... he went for the comfort food, not the burger-joy.

At First Sight: I got the burger on the french bread. I can honetly say I never had this burger before. It was poppy seedy, and didn't look like french bread much. The burger itself was already dripping - juicy in the plate. The condiments were on the burger and correct. They let you get a 1/2-1/2 order of fries and onion rings here, homey and economical.

At First Bite: French bread a little hard, burger a little soft. A very juicy squish. The meat tasted like hamburger but that is about as far as I can go. Not really flavorful and maybe a little flat. It WAS medium rare and very juicy, maybe one could call it greasy. I actually used the french bread to soak up the juice but I must say it didn't add to the flavor much at all.

The Finish: Lots of 'juice' without much flavor. I have said that the white bread buns make the burger, maybe I should go back to Rotiers and try it with a regular ol' bun? After all of the hype about that french bread roll burger, I am not ecstatic. And if I have the grease, I want the flavor. I won't try to interpret the 'How's and Why's' of it... It was a diner burger and that is about all I can say for it. I was really 'rooting ' for Rotier's as I have had the cheeseburger over the years. However, today's visit was a disappointment.

Score: 6.0

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Day 5: Rotier's - Mary's Notes

Today we took on Nashville's most famous burger joint in its most infamous neighborhood (prior to the rise of East Nashville, Elliston Place was renowned as the "Rock Block" for decades). What makes the Rotier's burger is that it's one of the few - maybe only - in Nashville that's freshly ground on-site; you really can taste the difference.

Juiciness - 10. When you pick up your burger and two-three teaspoons of deep reddish, brownish juice spill out on your plate, you know you're in good hands and the cook hasn't been flattening your patty with the spatula. 

Flavor - 4. I've had Rotier's on several occasions and while today's burger had as much old-fashioned hamburger taste as any other day's might, it also carried a trace of "meat sat in the refrigerator one day too long" taste. Not enough to send it back, but to make me think that I might not want to return early in the week, if you know what I mean.

Attractiveness - 6. It looks like a real-burger burger, but the French bread bun it's supposed to be famous for was disappointingly un-French breadlike. Next time I'll happily settle for the plain-bun bun.

Atmosphere - 9. Awesomely divey, with wood paneling, Christmas tree lights, neon signs and booths.Good beer selection, too.

Digestivity - 4. Another area that disappointed me today. Maybe the meat did, indeed, sit one day too long.

Overall experience - 6. I want to specify this being judged on today's - and only today's - meal. Now that we're comparing all these great places side by side, or meal by meal, this was a real disappointment. Come on, Rotier's, you can do way better than this.

Rotier's on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Day 4: Ruby Tuesday - Mary's Notes

Thanks to life and then the May flood, this review was so late in writing, I needed to go back for seconds and get a fresh take. I didn't mind having to, for the record. As most are aware, Ruby Tuesday is a national chain restaurant serving up acceptable food trends to Americana eaters, with a slightly modern approach to presentation.  The menu offers regular burgers ("Classic") and more upscale, USDA prime-beef burgers. We had those. I also had their signature drink, the "Ruby Relaxer" which, in spite of having a name that sounds like an adult toy, has earned a place at the table.

Juiciness: 7: Granted, much of the juice was rendered fat ("grease" just isn't fair to use when we're talking about prime) but there was some color on the plate and there was plenty of it, overall. I went through two napkins.

Flavor: 7: This burger had a big beefy taste that was enhanced by cheddar cheese. However. I don't normally order burgers with tomato anymore, because what comes on them is some hard, pinkish or orangish thing that's been in a refrigerator. Ruby Tuesday's menu says they use seasonal vine-ripened tomatoes, so I chanced it. It did add a little to the overall beast, but still didn't come anywhere near to what local tomatoes would add.

Attractiveness: 8: Look at that pic. Doesn't that look like something you want in your mouth?

Atmosphere: 7: Your basic chain restaurant. Solid. Dependable. They have a few booths. 

Digestivity: 9: In spite of it being a rather large size, no sluggishness to report. Perhaps it was the cocktail.

Overall: 8: I'm not entirely sure this is a $10 burger but the whole experience — good burger, good fries that automatically come with it, good drink, good service — easily makes it returnable.

Rotier's on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 30, 2010

Higgins: Ruby Tuesday - Triple Prime Threat?

“The sudden disappointment of a hope leaves a scar which the ultimate fulfillment of that hope never entirely removes.” Thomas Hardy

"I still haven't found what I'm looking for..." Bono

Mary and I have this running conversation that there is no Ultimate burger and we may be past the age at which one decides "THIS" (wherever this may be) is THE Burger. I beg to differ. I am trying to pull my Burger Buddy out of her Medium-rare Existentialism and SAVE her with Hot Greasy Cheese Burger Evangelicalism... OK maybe we don't go that far, but that Best Burger is out there. Ruby Tuesday in Green Hills. Another chain burger. But the Triple Prime Burger, the name says it all, yes?

The Digs: It's a sit down restaurant. It's Ruby Tuesdays. I arrived late and the place was full. Mary had graciously ordered my burger ahead and I timed my late arrival perfectly.

At First Sight: It was nice enough, the bun looked a little bigger than the burger (and the burger was a nice size.) Cheese (cheddar I think) was melty on the side which made it look even better. Again, with the hand cut fries, but they are 'endless fries' and they came in a nice little cup-ish bowl thing. It made the presentation look nice and 'restauranty'. They had the condiments I wanted on it (Mary got a little extra from what I hear...)

At First Bite: Great Medium Rare Burger for me. I was surprised on first bite the flavor kind of jumped out at me. Grilled taste mixed well with the condiments... and I had my first drip on my shirt. Now mind you, I like a greasy burger. I am not wont to wear the grease all over my shirt. Maybe it was the day maybe it was the burger - if I had been at a bar having a beer, I would not have minded the drippage. What am I saying? I Love a good greasy burger! My Tide Stick worked overtime after the meal.

The Finish: After a few bites of great medium-rare meat, I started to taste the condiments as much or more than the burger. My greasy manna started to wane. And the bun? It seemed flakier like a croissant; I did not notice it at first because of the burger flavor... No croissant-y buns for me, please. It was a great first few bites then started to fail a little. I WORE that burger, some might complain, not me. I will blame it on the perfect meaty medium-rareness of it all. It was Juicy.

Score 7.75

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Burgers-N-Cream - Higgins View

"It is one thing to hear for oneself a sweet lute, sweetly played, and quite another thing merely to hear about it." Henry Suso

Burgers-n-Cream is big among my friends who like burgers. They told me the burgers were fantastic. I REALLY wanted to try try this great burger. Burgers-n-Cream in Cool Springs, here we go...

The Digs: When you walk into a place at 11am it's going to be clean. The stainless steel look is great. It's kind of a get your own drinks and stuff-you-want-at-the-table kind of place, which is fine - give me the food. Interestingly, we were there for 35 minutes and were the only ones IN the place... the lunch crowd doesn't come early, or did I hear incorrectly about the food? Because of the word from my friends I was so into the menu I forgot to ask for CHEESE on my burger... they have an American Burger which is almost perfect. I asked for no ketchup and got my mustard pickle and onion burger. The cheese I added after the first bite...

At First Sight: It's a double burger, which I like, but it's the same amount of meat as most burgers and thinner patties, we weren't asked and did not get to order the medium-rare meat. The onions were real sliced onions, the bun toasted. Fries are those hand cut peel-on-the-end fries. I added in onion straws for variety. You get a LOT of fries. Did I mention the place is clean?

At First Bite: Flavor combination was good. The double burger had a good meaty flavor, not juicy but not overcooked. A good flavor on first bite but I was expecting something a little more memorable. The cheese I added on the second bit but 'official first bite' of the cheeseburger. It made me think of my hometown cheeseburgers. I think some more grease may have helped it.

The Finish: I got a good fastfood burger... but I paid a little more for it. I was REALLY rooting for these guys. The backstory story about the place is great and don't get me wriong the food is not BAD. I would rather go here than a lot of other places. And it looks cool. But when I finally got there? It made me want to find a better burger.

Score: 7.00
Quick edit... ok, it feels like piling on but maybe my disappointment is exponentially increasing. The more I think about it, the more the score drops. Check out my comment to Mary's post, but in the afterglow and now disppointment... my score is lower and it COULD be have been even Lower, but I was REALLY hoping this was a great burger! New score: 6.0

Monday, April 26, 2010

Day 3: Burgers-n-Cream - Mary's Notes

Today was Higgins' choice and he picked a franchise place in Cool Springs. Although we are mainly Nash-centric on this, we will occasionally investigate chain burgers for you. And us.

Apparently there's a story behind this fast-casual-style restaurant and I'll let Higgins tell you about that, if he chooses. I'm here to tell you about the burgers.

Juiciness - eh ... what's that? Typical of what you'd get in a fast-food place. It wasn't dry, it just wasn't juicy, but there's a reason for it: your basic BNC burger is actually what you'd get when you order a double at BK or McDs or Sonic. That said, it wasn't exactly dry. 3.

Flavor - Actually, it was very tasty and beefy. It probably helped to have all that cooking area (two patties) exposed to the grill. 9.

Attractiveness - 7, and the lettuce was done right. Not pre-shredded, not wilting. Something I want to be anal about, here: lettuce should go on the top when there's not a tomato in the vicinity, in my experience. A number of places increasingly put lettuce on the bottom of the burger, which is great when you don't need your toppings sliding around on the cheese, but I think a lot of places copy the action without understanding the reasons for it. Just sayin'.

Atmosphere - I didn't really care for the set-up and decor, it was like eating in a cafeteria. It was clean-looking, I'll give 'em that.  5

Digestivity - Unfortunately, I can still taste my burger a small bit, five hours later. The good news is that at least it did taste good. 5

Overall experience: 5. I would return, if I was with someone who insisted. The set-up is similar to places where you place and pay for your order at the front and a server brings it to you later, while not exactly waiting on you. Considering that, I'm not sure this is what I'd expect of a $6 burger. Seems if you're going to pay that much, you ought to be able to get a margarita or a Yazoo to go with it.

on edit: I'm taking it down to 4 and here's why: Higgins' cheeseburger didn't come with cheese. Ordinarily, when a restaurant — even a fast-food place — messes up your order, they will take it back in the kitchen and fix it. Instead, BNC brought the cheese slices to us and Higgins had to insert them, himself. Poor form.

Burgers -n- Cream on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dalt's - The Next Step

Butter is "...the most delicate of foods among barbarous nations, and one which distinguishes the wealthy from the multitude at large."Pliny

Dalt’s on White Bridge road served up a mean burger. I am a big guy, I like a bigger burger, they delivered. I am still calculating a score as I prepare this missive… let’s go with the flow:
The Digs: We got there early and the place filled up for lunch quickly. It’s clean, a little sterile but comfortable. You can hold a conversation there but plan on crowd noise. The waitress got the food to the table quickly and took care of us, stuff like that doesn’t REALLY affect a burger taste (but you know it really does.)

At First Sight: The burger LOOKED nice. It came open faced with diced onions on one side and burger and cheese on the other. And I must add a buttered grilled bun looks great. Since I am a mustard-onion-pickle guy I was disappointed that the ‘pickle’ was a pickle spear. I don’t mind that I had to put on my own mustard, but how hard is that? The problem was construction. My diced onions flew all over the table when I tried to put my ‘onion-sided’ bun on my ‘burger-sided’ bun.

At First Bite: I never had a Dalt’s burger before so this was new territory the burger was Medium Rare done right. I have had juicier (I only needed my one napkin.)There was some spice in it - more than just salt and pepper that lingered with the meat after every bite. The buttered and grilled bun took me back to hometown burgers. The cheese made it almost a creamy texture, great for a cheeseburger like this. I missed my ‘perfect taste’ of onion, mustard and pickle (pickle spear, no pickles on the burger) but the BURGER flavor made up for this.

The Finish: Dalt’s was impressive. It’s a great place to lunch or take the Fam, NOT a place to carouse. Flavorful burger, condiments have something to be desired (diced onions are not the best to put on a burger.) Burger flavor? Great. I have no problem talking the time to construct my own burger but I sure make a mess for the waitress to clean up!

Score out of 10 points: 8.75

Monday, April 19, 2010

Day 2: Dalt's - Mary's Notes

Dalt's is one of those places that's so ingrained in your knowledge, if you've lived in Nashville for any length of time, that you almost feel as though you never have to actually eat there to understand the experience and appeal. If that makes sense. ie, it just seems like a standby place in a standby location (White Bridge Road, by Target) that's going to get plenty of traffic no matter what, so you don't expect a whole lot. Dalt's was a surprise. A nice one.

Juiciness: 5. This is where the Dalt's burger got its lowest mark. It was plenty moist, but not very juicy at all, especially for a cooked-to-order medium rare. A few drips on my plate. At least it wasn't dry, though.

Flavor: 8. The bun may have been the greater contributing factor; it was buttered & grilled and added a minor saltiness to each bite. Overall it was a really well-balanced taste (like last week, fixings were mustard and lettuce and cheese - American).

Attractiveness: 6. Pretty bun, good-looking burger but again - factory-shredded lettuce that spills out all over the place. What's up with that?

Atmosphere: 8. Classic-diner-come family restaurant look and we got to eat in a booth.

Digestivity: 8. I didn't feel bloated or groggy at all and could actually concentrate fairly well an hour after eating. On the downside, several hours later, I still feel like I had a burger for lunch. You know what I mean.

Overall: 8. I'd easily return for another.

Dalts Classic American Grill on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Brown's Diner - Higgins Odyssey

“Hunger is insolent, and will be fed” HOMER - Smyrns of Chios
"A pot is cook, but the food no 'nough;" Bob Marley - Them Belly Full (But We Hungry)

The Odyssey has begun, and we are looking for the best cheeseburger in Nashville. Without a lot of rhetoric, I like food, I like to eat and I love a good cheeseburger; medium to medium rare if I can get it. But it doesn't matter; a good burger is a good burger. I don’t have a lot of expectations or requirements for the Best Cheeseburger in Nashville, but I think it unfair to say "I'll know it when I taste it." So I will lay out some things I look for...

The burger itself, flavor (beefiness?) texture and how it tastes after I finish that first bite.
I never have been a 'bun-man' and if the bun overpowers the burger what's the point? My condiments-of-choice are mustard, onion and pickle. That's how Bennies Burger Barn and the Drinkery in my hometown served them and that's how it should be. However, if the condiments overpower the burger, again, why have a burger at all? So what we are looking for is a taste combination of meat and cheese that is only complimented by anything else it has with it. (Fries shouldn't be a part of the equation but I am partial to those of the crinkle cut or steak variety.)

On with the Show:

First up is Brown's Diner on Blair Boulevard, off of 21st Avenue South. It fits the definition of 'greasy bar' and 'Everyone' has been there. It was easy to order medium rare (no problems with that order here) and The Cheeseburger came to the table in short order.

Mary says: If Codes goes after them because you published "medium-rare," it's all your fault, you know ....

The Digs: I love the feel of the place. I can slow down and NOT have wi-fi. It is dark place to escape the real world for a while.

At First Sight: It looked like a greasy bar burger (no misconceptions here) not a particularly BIG burger (maybe a quarter pound) on a white plate next to some shoe-string fries.

Mary says: you think? I haven't been in McD's in years, but thought it was a little more than 1/4. Perfect size, whatever it was.

At First Bite: A REALLY Medium Rare piece of meat (someone on the grill knows how to cook medium rare!) and tasted like a Burger. Plan on extra napkins it's nice and greasy (that's a compliment.) Good meaty, beefy flavor that hits the taste buds and then, sadly, it becomes just another burger.

Mary says: really good description on the what the flavor does.

The Finish: The Brown's Diner Cheeseburger has a great reputation. If you want a greasy need-extra-napkins burger this is the place. This burger was good, and it stayed good after the meal but it makes me want to find THAT burger. I'll come back, but I’ll keep looking.

Score out of 10 points: 7.5

Day One: Brown's Diner - Mary's Notes

Brown's Diner habitually scores near the top of most published Nashville "best burger" lists, so we went there first. I had a regular cheeseburger with mustard and lettuce.

7. A tiny bit to the point of greasy, but not enough to complain about. I got 3-4 dribbles on my shirt.

6. Nothing to write home about, but still superior compared to the average Nashville burger. It did have some of the beefiness one used to taste before the cattle industry went nuts.

4. Honestly, it was kind of sad-looking. The lettuce was the pre-shredded variety and not the freshest.

8. Awesome dive. Dark, wood-paneled room with tile ceilings and you just know the place would have been completely filled with smoke back in the days when it was still legal to be. Also, great service from our waitress and I might add that my burger was cooked perfectly to order.

8. For right now. There's still another nine minutes to go, but overall I'm pretty clear-headed and non-lethargic.

7. An additional pleaser was a normal-person-sized drinking glass, Pepsi - not Coke, an anomaly in the South - and no straw to encourage over-indulgence.

Brown's Diner on Urbanspoon

The Great Burger Odyssey

Just a short while ago, morning traffic guy Michael Higgins and I went to Brown's Diner for the first installment of The Great Burger Odyssey. It's our quest to try to find out who really does have the best burger in Nashville. We intend to meet once a week to suss out what's out there and report back.

The first order of business was to try to decide exactly what the burgers are to be graded on. Higgins will report later on his yardsticks, but mine are these:

Flavor - hamburger flavor.
Digestivity - how do I feel an hour after I've eaten?
Overall experience

First tasting notes are on the way.