Friday, July 31, 2015

Nashville Scene's Burger Week — Quick(ish) Notes 2: Dino's

   For my visit to a second of the participating Nashville Burger Week restaurants in the Nashville Scene's recent contest, I went to an old dive with new owners, one of whom was partly responsible for the place that set the bar for Nashville burgers in the 21st Century: Miranda Whitcomb Pontes of Burger Up. Pontes and partner Alex Wendkos took over the spot and opened it to the public this past January, to far less roar than was heard when Pontes' first burger joint starting serving, or other subsequent restaurant openings.

 A second craving Dino's serves is late-night food, with operating hours of 4pm-3am weekdays and noon-3am weekends. Even at most places that are open past 11, most Nashville kitchens close by 10; there's reason to cheer, here.

     Atmosphere: 9. Cheap burger joint at its best: 1970s thin wall paneling; diner-bar seating; the front window looks like it hasn't been completely cleaned since Bill Clinton was President. Friendly kitchen staff.

    Attractiveness: 9. Maybe it's because I was there for the late afternoon's light, or maybe it's because of the filtered goodness of the storefront window, but even onions and grocery-store-bought tomatoes couldn't detract from the immediacy of this burger's appeal.

Flavor: 8. There's nothing on Dino's website that indicates grass-fed, but I wouldn't be surprised if this is. If not, whomever's playing in the kitchen has hit on a perfect play of seasonings to bring up beef flavor that stands out, even with the above-mentioned toppings.

  Juiciness: 9 ... plenty of moisture, requiring extra napkins but not so much it bled over to the fries (which were also excellent). The burger was perfectly cooked, ordered medium-rare and it came that way, throughout.

Digestivity: 10. Happy to report, nothing lingered longer than it should have.

Overall: 9.

I'm trying not to get too excited about this, but the Odyssey just might have a new burger champ. By the numbers, it sure looks like it. But generally the only thing one might ask for to improve the burger is stick local tomatoes on, or have none at all. My initial impression is, this belongs right up there with Brown's Diner, Twin Kegs, and Burger Up.

Dino's Restaurant
Gallatin Pike, East Nashville

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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Nashville Scene's Burger Week — Quick(ish) Notes 1: Park Cafe

   Our local alt.weekly, the Nashville Scene, just ran a promotion for Nashville Burger Week. Some 15-20 restaurants put up the goods and invited eaters to vote for the champ, who will be selected to go on to represent Nashville at the World Food Championships (who knew this was a thing?) in Miami.

No word yet on the vote. 

   I've already given the rundown on a number of the participating restaurant burgers but there are several new places that I had/have yet to try, or old places I still hadn't gotten around to ... Anyway, by the end of the week, I managed to add three new burgers to my repertoire, at least one of which I'll return for more. And again.

  First down was the burger at Park Cafe, on the commercial strip where Murphy Road turns and becomes 46th. Never having been there before, my immediate impression (and nothing changed it) was that it was one of the surprisingly bubba-centric watering holes due to its proximity to McCabe Golf Course.
   Park Cafe's burger offered TN Hereford beef, onion-bacon jam,  cheddar cheese, Duseldorf mustard & the usual accompaniments. I tossed the pickles. The result was a somewhat unevenly cooked (all burgers are ordered medium rare), but otherwise solid burger with a unique, sharp bite to its flavor.
   Attractiveness: 8 ... it's nice but not at the level that screams, "EAT ME!"
   Flavor: 7
   Juiciness: 5 ... I wouldn't say it was dry, but there were maybe two drops on the plate. Maybe.
   Atmosphere: 7 ... It's a nice restaurant way more than it's a burger joint. If we were rating wine bars, it'd score a 10 for casual chic.
   Digestivity:  9 .... some of the condiment flavors lingered for an hour or more but over all it went down soundly with no repercussions.

Overall: 6 ... solid, but would be better from a chef who believes a burger can be a gourmet statement on its own.

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