Wednesday, November 13, 2013


New York, New York

Located on the Upper East Side, the old school establishment has a crowded dining room, an old mahogany bar and a watermelon motif throughout the space. The red tin ceiling and traditional American menu give the place a nostalgic, cozy vibe.

After a long morning of museum-ing, the Canuck and I headed to JG Melon to meet our friend Scott for a burg. They wouldn't seat us until we were all present, which is a testament to the dense popularity of the joint- even at 3 in the afternoon it was packed. The Canuck and I opted for bacon cheeseburgers, cooked medium, and Scott went with the standard burger cooked medium-rare. We ordered cottage fried potatoes for the table, and of course I asked for a side of mayo.

The potatoes were definitely comfort food. And let's be real, I added a little salt. They were solid; not mind blowing, but a solid addition to the meal.

Burgers came out, looking hot and beautiful. The cheese was nicely melted, bacon stacked on top. They're served with red onions and pickles on the side, so you can add to your taste.

The Canuck thought the bacon could have been crispier, but I was satisfied. It was definitely a great, traditional burger. It didn't get soggy, it hit all the right notes. The pickles and onions really cut through the richness of the meat and cheese, creating a nice balance. The Canuck is a major pickle fiend so he was thrilled to have a plate littered with them. I'm slowly coming around to them, but only if they're super crisp/crunchy. I liked the toasted bun, and skipping the lettuce and tomato worked for me. I go either way on lettuce & tomato, and they definitely would have been superfluous here. And this wasn't a greasy burger- the meat was juicy, but it wasn't sliming my fingers and dripping everywhere. Really well done.

Scott ate most of his burger, picked it apart a little; I don't think he was quite as starved as the Canuck and I. The Canadian thought they skimped on the beer, and technically the glasses were smaller than normal, but really, I just consider them Mallory-sized. (I once bought mustard in a mini glass beer mug, slowly ate all the mustard, washed out the glass and now use it as a Mallory-sized beer mug.)

If you are in New York, or visiting, I highly recommend popping over here for some grub after a morning or afternoon spent classing it up on museum row. Great escape from a cold wind or the unwelcome rain.

Friday, October 18, 2013


Denver, CO

Recently the Canuck and I had the chance to go to Denver for the weekend to visit some pals. Day One we walked from Coors Field, through town and across the river in the rain, to My Brother's Bar. It's an old joint, with lacquered wood tables that slope, dark wood walls covered in signage and framed photos, and rounded wood chairs that my grandmother has in her kitchen from the 60's. It was crowded and cozy with all the regulars hiding from the rain, but we got a seat right away. The menus were photocopies of a handwritten menu that I doubt has ever been altered.

We ordered a couple pitchers to start off and two fries and rings combos.  They come out in paper trays on these awesome condiment containers from the 60's. You can add pickles, fresh onions, mustard, ketchup, jalapeños etc to your fries and burgers. The fries were standard- as expected. The onion rings were fantastic. When you bit into them, the onion didn't come sliding out the whole thing and they were perfectly crunchy. 

A couple of us ordered the Ralphie (can't pass up bison!) and a few chose the JCB.  I of course added bacon, and it was an excellent decision. The burgs come out wrapped in paper - no plates. I think the BRCB means Bacon Ralphie Cheese Burger.  

I unwrapped mine and it looked gooey and amazing, but I added some onions, pickles, mayo, mustard and ketchup in keeping with the classic flavors of the American Cheese, bison and bacon.

This is a true, classic American cheeseburger. Excellent grill flavor, tender meat, crunchy bacon. The onions and pickles cut through the richness of the cheese and sesame bun. It would be fair to say it was kind of like eating a bit of history. If you are in Denver, I highly recommend stopping at My Brother's Bar to grab a cheeseburger and a beer!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


Santa Monica, California

While walking to California Shabu Shabu (totally recommend), the Canadian and I saw a new burger joint called Pono Burger, so we did some googling and discovered that it was founded by a husband and wife (Chef Makani) team with a focus on organic, locally-sourced ingredients. We went back the next day... and the weekend after.

First off, when a restaurant claims to have organic, high quality ingredients, sometimes you can taste it, sometimes not and it can elicit a major eye-roll from me. At Pono Burger, you can taste it. You are eating a cheeseburger, but it tastes clean.  

On our first trip we ordered the Pono Burger and added Hook's 1 Year Old cheddar, wood smoked/caramelized onions, and the Niman Ranch bacon. The burg comes with green leaf lettuce, ripened tomato, thin sliced white onion, crisp pickle slices and housemade Pono sauce. I have to say, the tomato was delicious and the pickles were the best I've had on a burger. They are sliced super thin, and very crisp, not falling apart in the middle, or getting juice everywhere.  I also appreciate the one piece of lettuce, as opposed to a stack of it, or a chunk. The meat was really tender, but it didn't crumble apart. The whole combination was awesome. I didn't add any ketchup/mustard/mayo... but I may have dipped the burg in the aioli for the fries... Like I said, it tasted clean, full of flavor, and not greasy at all.  

Obviously, we got the fries (Russet Potato version) and they're tossed with thyme, parsley and salt. I loved them, the addition of thyme to the seasoning mix really made these fries stand out for me. They are served with an aioli that I very much enjoyed, but there is organic ketchup available for you die-hard ketchup folks. Ahem, Canadian.

On our next visit I ordered the Pono Burger with Mycella Blue Cheese and Niman Ranch bacon.  This burger tasted the way a beach bonfire smells. That is the only way to describe it. I don't know if it was just an amazing batch of bacon, or the combination of bacon and blue cheese but it was fantastic!  

The Canadian ordered off the Specials menu: the Wahine Burger, a spicy burg made with wasabi, avocado and ginger, and it was like eating sushi in burger form. It was a little mind blowing actually, the transfer of those staple sushi flavors into a burger. "I'm biting into a burger, but it tastes like sushi, but its a burger, but the wasabi, but the red meat ... "

Pono has a small selection of beer and wine (Scrimshaw pilsners for us!) but I also ordered the House Milkshake with salted caramel sauce and Niman Ranch bacon bits. They asked if I would like the shake at the beginning, middle, or end of the meal and I chose middle. Unfortunately they don't quite have the kitchen timing/service down yet. Everyone is friendly and helpful if you ask for things, but its still disorganized. They just haven't found their rhythm. However, the quality of the food is so great, I imagine the rhythm will follow, or they'll succeed despite themselves. After being told the shake machine was down, they brought out the shake and it really hit the spot. They also said there should have been more bacon in it, so I'll have to have it again. (Twist my arm!)

Pono Burger is definitely stiff competition for the Santa Monica burger market (Umami, Father's Office, R+D Kitchen and Hillstone - not to mention a pending Stout - will it ever open?!)  I can't wait to go back and try another burger with a crazy new flavor profile!

Monday, March 4, 2013


Venice, CA

The Canuck and I were hanging with Mr. Chicken and In-Like-Flynn, debating our party plans for the night. Not in the mood for the high energy of First Fridays, we walked over to Barlo at Hotel Erwin for a boozy dinner. The hotel itself caters mostly to tourists. They're a little disorganized and understaffed but the location (and rooftop bar scene) keep them going. Barlo is a small space, with simple-industrial decor and a full bar. In-Like-Flynn and I started with the Applewood cocktail, a delicious mix of bourbon, apple butter, apple juice and lemon. The boys opted for Scrimshaw pilsners. We started with the deviled eggs (yum!) and the truffle fries (duh) and were not disappointed. Both were well-flavored, and the fries were medium crispy. 

I chose the Barlo burger, while The Canuck and In-Like-Flynn opted for the Chicken Burger. Ironically, Mr. Chicken did not order the Chicken burger, but surprised us all by ordering the Barlo burger!  

The Barlo Burger was the clear winner of the two. It's prepared with herbed goat cheese, tomato marmalade, arugula and bacon caramel. The bun was well-toasted and if you got a bite with everything, it tasted fantastic. But that was just the problem: un-even topping distribution, or not enough toppings. If you put caramel bacon on your burger, I want to taste it in every single bite, cut with the goat cheese and the tomato marmalade. More, more, more!  Don't be so stingy!

Because we had started with the fries, I chose to have a 'wedge' salad with my burg.  Do not do this. It was a lazy, half-assed salad that looked like something Denny's would serve next to an over-cooked steak. Order different appetizers (maybe the shrimp and grits?) and make sure to get the fries with your burger. (Plus this way, no sharing!)

The Chicken Burger was a disappointment. It was insanely dry (as lean meats can be) and they didn't even try to compensate for that with a marmalade, sauce or dressing. It was just really bland and The Canuck and In-Like-Flynn were not pleased! Lean meats lack fat and thus lack flavor. Most chefs will account for this by adding "fat" like bacon, cheese, sauce etc.  

Overall, Barlo has a little work to do, but I would order the burg again and ask for EXTRA toppings.  

Monday, January 7, 2013


Santa Monica, CA

Most of us west-siders have been to The Misfit for drinks, but you might not know that they make an awesome burger. The Canuck and I popped in to the usually-crowded Misfit for lunch on Saturday and were seated in the belly of the the restaurant, opposite the bar. The decor inside reminds me of an old-school American clubhouse. Dimly lit with dark wood and leather, the bar extends high into the second story, giving the illusion of a library wall. Since it was noon, I ordered a Bloody Mary, but the Canuck went all in and ordered the Clocktower Manhattan. [What can I say? We were in a post-holiday season funk and needed some pick-me-ups.] We started with the "shoestring" fries and of course added the Maytag bleu cheese- it's the only way to go. Since we've both had the burger twice before, we branched out. The Ahi Tuna Burger for me and the Fried Chicken Sandwich for him.  

I do have a special place in my heart for the bleu cheese fries, they're skinny and crispy, which is how I like it. However, the bleu cheese crumbles don't melt enough and its hard to get bleu cheese in every bite. Might I suggest melting it slightly, perhaps a 60 second oven blitz, or instead of serving with a honey mustard, serve with a light bleu cheese dip? I will eat my fries with a fork if it means bleu cheese in every bite, but I'd prefer to use my fingers.  

Let's start with the Ahi, because this subject requires discussion, extending beyond the Misfit's menu:

I understand that most places that offer an Ahi Burger are mimicking a beef burger as best they can, but ground Ahi is mushy, lacks texture, and its such a light clean fish, it adopts whatever flavor you add to it, which means SEASON THE GODAMN THING. Ironically, everything else on the burger has a lot of flavor to offer. They're usually topped with  avocado, daikon sprouts, lemon or wasabi aioli, teriyaki, tomato, lettuce etc- tasty ingredients! But the fish itself isn't bringing anything to the bun, if ya know what I mean.

The Misfit's ahi burger tasted fresh, clean and healthy, but it wouldn't hurt to season the tuna, and add a spicy mayo or wasabi. The other real issue is that Ahi has almost no fat, but fat is a key ingredient in burgers, besides being a flavor builder, it holds the patty together. This is why ahi burgers tend to fall apart after the first bite. Needless to say I ate the entire thing with a fork and knife. And while the Misfit beef burger is great on the sliced, grilled bread, the ahi burger needs a different kind of bookend. Something softer, that won't squish the patty when you bite it.  

Let's move on to the fried chicken sandwich. We saw one come out of the kitchen before we ordered it, and it was stacked tall with goodies. It starts with pickles and apple slices, then the fried chicken breast - very crispy but not particularly moist - then the fennel-apple slaw, and a spicy mayo. The spicy mayo was a winner here, and the breading on the chicken had a ton of heated flavor. BUT overall, the sandwich lost out to: (drumroll please) R+D Kitchen's chicken sandwich. Don't get me wrong, the Misfit's fried chicken sandwich was a solid entry in the competition. It is by no means a bad sandwich, it just wasn't as good, and it wasn't unique enough to negate the obvious comparison.

I have a lot of respect for The Misfit, there are so many tasty items on their menu: the lobster nik niks, the mac n' cheese, the beef burger... and the salted chocolate chip cookies are unbelievable, but they still have some work to do!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

RECON: National Cheeseburger Day (2 of 2)

Santa Monica, CA

Today, seven of my best coworkers and I jaywalked across the street to The Counter to celebrate National Cheeseburger Day like proper Americans. The Counter employees were unaware of the religious holiday, but we brought them up to speed. We painstakingly poured over our menu options, debating toppings and sauces, then we began to eat our way through two plates of The Counter's "fifty-fifty" sweet potato and regular fries. Now, lets get down to business:

The HillBilly opted for a Burger Bowl with feta, hard boiled egg, black olives, roasted corn and black bean salsa with balsamic dressing.  This healthy Greek and Mexican mix was well received, although a fried egg might have improved the combo.  The HillBilly had this to say about his burger, "My burger got up and danced before we partied. It was that good." Comment open to interpretation.

L-Swizzle chose a Burger Bowl as well, but kicked up the heat a few degrees. She went with onion, roasted corn salsa, sprouts, tomatoes, avocado and jalapeño jack with habanero salsa. The habanero salsa on this mexicali bowl was delish, and really brought the ingredients together to work as a flavor team. Yes, 'flavor team' is a new phrase. I am also working on spreading the slang term for avocados: 'cado, if you'd like to be a trendsetter in your group of friends...

Ace-Dawg went gourmet with her Burger Bowl and then surprised us all and brought the funk at the very end: a turkey patty, with spinach, sprouts, avocado and fried egg plus: Hot. Wing. Sauce. Ace-Dawg is one of our pickier eaters, so this was a really unexpected combination in my book, but she said its definitely the way to go.

Bran-the-Man did it up right on a burg bun with pepperoncinis, tomatoes, spinach, bacon and sautéed onions topped off with sweet BBQ sauce. However, he said the pepperoncinis were sliced thin and got lost under the meat. Bran-the-Man also encountered a common burg consumption problem: disappearing bottom bun. Not surprisingly, the disappearance of bun is a problem that affects 1 in 4 burger eaters. Because everyone's mouth is shaped differently (and because a lot of us did not wear our retainers like the orthodontist wanted) we bite our burgs with a slight underbite or overbite, causing unbalanced bun-loss in the process. I have personally found that the best way to combat this travesty is to flip the burger and take every 3rd bite with the top bun facing the plate. (This technique also works for Subway sandwiches and Sausage Egg McMuffins.)

The Missus rallied and got her burg on a wheat bun. She built the most beautiful burger at the table: gruyere, fried onion strings, mixed greens, and tomato with a sun-dried tomato vinaigrette. While the vinaigrette was ordered to cut the salty-ness of the gruyere and onion strings, it didn't make it to her burg due to the mess factor. In fact, she had to remove a few onion strings just to pick up the burger, but the flavor combination was tasty. In the future, she might sacrifice texture for eatability, which are really two much bigger debates about 1) the crunch factor and 2) whether or not its morally wrong to eat your burg with a fork and knife. 

Trandall-the-Vandal made a Burger Bowl that packed a punch, with horseradish cheddar, jalapeños, hard-boiled egg, black olives, sautéed onions & mushrooms, and chipotle aioli.  Shockingly, this combo wasn't too hot for the Vandal (I would have died!)  AND he wins Best Photo of the lunch.

Seth-Sizzle opted for a burger bowl with swiss cheese, roasted peppers, cucumber and  dijon balsamic. This mediterranean flavor profile was both pleasing to the eye and the stomach; a light, clean, satisfying combination.

AND you know I got my burger on the bun. I wanted something rich and luxurious, so I opted for blue cheese, avocado, bacon  and garlic aioli. I added pickles at the last minute just so I'd have a little acidity. The combination was fantastic. The crunch of the bacon with the creaminess of the blue cheese and avocado was perfect for me. The burger itself was a little overcooked; the flavor of the meat wasn't totally able to come through. In hindsight, it was almost a Cobb salad burger, something I'll have to consider for the future...

Nat'l Cheeseburger Day (Post 1 of 2)

Santa Monica, California

Get hungry loyal burg fans!  It's National Cheeseburger Day.  A select group of burger samplers and I will be hitting up The Counter ('cause it's right across the street from our office) to properly celebrate this holiday and of course I'll document it right here for you.  

 Also coming this month in Burger Recon: The Misfit

Stay tuned...