Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Recon: THE BURGER LOUNGE

San Diego

The minute I saw the salad menu, I became concerned.

Burger Lounge sits on the corner of India and Cedar, a prime location in San Diego’s Little Italy.  Surrounded by Italian food and specialty shops it stands out with its mod d├ęcor and strictly American fare.  Burger Lounge is certified green, offers only tall grass beef from the Red Buffalo Ranch, and markets itself as the sustainable, healthy, burger alternative.  You can choose between beef, turkey and veggie patties; white cheddar or yellow American cheese, and grilled or fresh onions.  The menu also incudes two salads and chicken tenders for kids. Burger Lounge touted their original Thousand Island dressing all over the menu, so I was excited to try it, and while it was clearly made from fresh ingredients and had a unique, course texture, it tasted exactly like all the other thousand islands I’ve ever had. 

We ordered the half and half for the table, which consists of parsley fries and onion rings, fried in 100% peanut oil. Burgers and fries came out together and fast. The simple menu made ordering a breeze: My dad, brother, stepmom and I all chose the Grilled Lounge Burger. My dad and I went for the grilled onions, which were good, but In N Out’s are better.  My brother went sans onions and my stepmom had the fresh sliced.  I opted for American cheese; Dad went for white cheddar- neither particularly stood out. The neatly stacked, misshapen burg is served with a slice of tomato and iceberg on a half wheat flour/half white flour bun, baked in-house.  The bun was delicious, but the bottom half of mine was soggy before it met my mouth. 



The only real draw here was the “roll-your-sleeves-up” good meat: juicy, cooked on a super hot grill to get a nice crisp exterior with a ‘medium’ interior.  My stepmom asked for medium rare and it came out just right. This was a messy burger, there was definitely ketchup and burger juice smeared across my face for the better half of the meal. Being a bacon and avocado family, we were disappointed in the lack of ‘add-ons’ or topping options. I thought the whole burger was lacking flavor, even though the high quality meat stood out, I got the impression it hadn’t been seasoned.



The half and half came out in a cute Chinese food to-go box; onion rings on the bottom, then fries, then rings stacked on the top. I generally prefer fries first, but they were delicious twice-cooked Kennebec fries, so I’ll let that go. Onion rings had a great texture and weren’t too greasy but didn’t have any unique or interesting flavor to speak of. I appreciate the healthy peanut oil factor, but I’m wondering if in going “healthier” they lost flavor. Maybe the batch of onions they were using that day just weren’t that tear-causing powerful? I asked for ranch and mayo - the ranch was awful and tasted store bought, but the mayo was standard.



As far as drinks go, they have three beers on tap including one called Purple Haze made with raspberries.  I opted for a root beer, but they have several specialty sodas behind the counter.  A few shakes graced the menu as well, but nothing grabbed me. The whole joint is trendy and modern, and I loved orange as their splash of color. The place was filled with families and tourists, and had indoor and outdoor seating which kept the place open and bright.  You order and sit down with your number at any table you can grab.  Our food came out quick, and we were politely “checked on” multiple times.  We weren’t overly full after and it definitely felt like we’d eaten something on the healthier side of life.  Cost came out to about $10 per person, which is reasonable. 


Bottom line: I just don’t know if they can get away with such a plain, health-conscious menu in an industry that’s innovating and experimenting with flavor and topping combinations daily.