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