Thursday, July 2, 2009

Johnny Rockets

Johny Rockets

3rd Street Promenade
1322 Third St.
Santa Monica, CA 90401

Richard's Take:

My Burger: The bacon cheddar double: two patties, bacon, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion & special sauce.

The Side: regular fries. Decent, nothing to write home about, but they are all-you-can eat.

Verdict: We were a little time-pressed on this patrol, so we walked over to Johnny Rockets. I braced myself as we went in and sat at the counter... especially when I asked for medium-rare, and got back, "We don't do that." The fact that they are more concerned about a lawsuit, than serving a good burger says something about the quality of beef.

Still the waitress plead my case, and my burger was cooked medium-rare. This burger was significantly smaller than the other burgers we've patrolled. The patty was pretty small and thin. I think I equated it to a McDonald's Quarter Pounder (but not as bad). The bacon, however, was surprisingly good - kudos to their buyer! It was so good, that I would get a BLT should I go again. Overall, it was a good burger, but nothing to get excited about.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Hole in the Wall Burger Joint

Hole in the Wall Burger Joint
11058 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025

Rosa's Take:

My burger: Angus beef patty cooked medium-rare to juicy perfection, with house-made zucchini pickles, mustard, cheddar cheese, and onion mayo. This one had greasy, meaty juices running down my hand. A good thing.

The side: None. My way of avoiding the usual post-BurgerPatrol food coma.

Verdict: This was a BurgerPatrol’s second time at Hole in the Wall. Just like the first time, once I had the first bite of my burger I started plotting a return visit and wondering what combination of toppings to get next time.

The meat patty was seasoned and cooked perfectly. I found the onion mayo gave a good depth to the burger without the annoying tendency that sliced onion has of falling out of the bun. The cheese slices, at least the cheddar, are so thin they barely register. I’ll next try a cheeseless burger to see how much the cheese contributes to the salty goodness of the burger.

Overall, I find this is the best combination of flavor, quality ingredients, and value we’ve tried. Add in the pleasant outdoor seating (aluminum chairs under a hanging white sail; a glimpse of blue sky beyond the nearby office building) to make this my current top choice for Lunchtime Burger.

Steve's Take:

My Burger: Bacon Cheeseburger with chipotle mayo.

The Side: Fries

Verdict: Taking advantage of the Friday free add-on special I selected bacon as my extra. This was a good addition. After a second visit to the Hole in the Wall, I felt basically the same: high quality meat with a tasty bun and a satisfying overall experience. The burger was cooked medium and was still juicy enough to be very flavorful; I'll order it medium rare next time and it can't come too soon.

Since I can't really complain about the burger, I'll whine about the drink situation. I've noticed that more and more restaurants are offering soft drinks in a can, and Hole in the Wall is one of them. I cannot wash down a whole burger with just a can! I can't tell if this is a way for them to save money by not purchasing a fountain drink machine, or if they're trying to make the experience that much more minimalistic. In Hole in the Wall's case I imagine it's the latter. Either way, it is an absurd notion to think that someone can wash down a large cheeseburger and fries meal with only 12 ounces of liquid.

TVE's Take:

My Burger: 8oz medium burger add apple wood smoked bacon with red onions, lettuce, and ketchup.

The Side: nothing

Verdict: The patty was over cooked but that was no one's fault but my own because all burgers are cooked medium unless otherwise specified. It was a good size flavorful burger. The bun was had good consistency and held the patty nicely. I went with the regular old Heinz ketchup because their house ketchup wasn't as good.

The outdoor seating was a nice addition. Their weekday specials gave you at most $1.50 saves, not very persuasive.

Overall, it was a good burger at a decent price. This goes into the "repeat visit" category.

Richard's Take:

My Burger: Bacon Cheeseburger on a pretzel bun, with lettus, tomato, onion and pickles.

The Side: Sweet potato fries. They were OK, not great. The regular fries, I think, are a bit better.

Verdict: Damn this is a good burger! This is our second visit (we didn't start the blog until after the first trip), and it did not disappoint at all! A couple of caveats before I talk about how good it was. One: the pickles suck. Just plain bad pickles. Don't order them. Two: the house ketchup sucks. Flavor wise, It's like eating Hunt's Tomato Paste right out the can.

The pretzel bun is a unique thing (unique to me. I haven't seen it anywhere else.), and it really works with the burger. The meat is great. I forgot to ask for medium-rare, and the burger came more done than I like, but still fantastically juicy and flavorful.

I am already looking forward to going back!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Tulip Cafe

Tulip Cafe
1319 Colorado Ave
Santa Monica, CA 90404

Rosa's Take:

My burger: Cheeseburger cooked medium, with lettuce, tomato. Thin, diner-style patty was oddly dry and greasy at the same time.

The side: Onion rings, the type with cornmeal coating. Standard frozen rings; fried, then salted. Biggest disappointment here was the ketchup. I'm no ketchup fanatic (not that there's anything wrong with that) but I do like a good squirt of Heinz. The Hunt's ketchup on offer did not satisfy.

Verdict: This place has a great vibe, and what seemed like happy regulars. But it's no place for a burger. By the end of lunch, I wished I'd ordered eggs and toast or one of the Tex-Mex specials.

This was the lowest-priced burger we've had. All the best we've tried so far have been thick, 1/3 lb patties of name-brand beef costing in the neighborhood of $10. I'd like to think we'll find a delicious burger in the middle ground; something with a good sear, beefy taste, but of a size that won't send us into food coma for the afternoon. Do In-N-Out and Fatburger have this space all to themselves?

Richard's Take:

My burger: Bacon-cheeseburger cooked medium-rare, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and mayo.

The side: Onion rings from a bag - really heavy breading, and bleah onions.

Verdict: I really wanted to enjoy this burger. The diner had a really nice vibe to it - the waitress was really nice, the place seemed very homey. When we walked in, I wanted it to be a great burger discovery. When we walked out, we all said we would go back to have breakfast, but we would never order a burger there again. This was the worst burger I have reviewed. Bad patty, bad bun, bad fries, bad onion rings - two of the reviewers complained that the ketchup was bad.

All in all, a very disappointing burger experience.

Steve’s Take:

My burger: Bacon cheeseburger cooked medium with light mayo.

The side: Giant pile of fries. There were so many fries, my smallish burger could’ve hidden completely underneath them. Best part of the meal.

Verdict: Despite the unassuming, locals-only feel of this diner, I can’t recommend the burger here. It looked almost exactly like a McDonald’s quarter pounder with cheese before I got started on it, but ended up tasting worse and proved more costly. In fact, after tip, my meal ended up costing 12 bucks! The meat was a strange grayish color (always concerning), the cheese must’ve been a Kraft single and the bacon was undercooked to the point of being almost clear. Not a good combination.

If I had eaten this burger in Europe I would have said it was somewhat acceptable. In the Land of Burgers, however, it’s just really not that good.

TVE’s Take:

My burger: medium rare burger, add bacon and a fried egg .

The side: fries.

Verdict: The patty was over cooked. Everything was frozen (from the meat patty to the fries). Everything tasted either bland or greasy (if that's even a flavor); very much like cafeteria food. The ambiance was very nice; a small town cafe with friendly smiles and courteous employees.

Overall, don't go there for the burgers. I would definitely go back and try some other foods because the atmosphere was great.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Barney's Gourmet Hamburgers

Barney's Gourmet Hamburgers
225 26th St
Los Angeles, CA 90402

Rosa's Take:

My Burger
: A bacon cheeseburger cooked medium-rare that started out with onions, lettuce, tomato. Ended up stripped of toppings and doused in ketchup and mustard.

The Side: The spicy curly fries were the
highlight of the meal. Crisp, hot, and fresh. And served with a side of ranch dressing that also ended up on my burger.

Verdict: Have my taste buds died? I tried hard to taste this delicious-looking burger, but the signals were not coming through. First I removed the large pile of cold and leathery bacon. How can bacon not taste like bacon? Off came the overly wet lettuce leaf, then the too thick slices of red onion.

More ketchup, more mustard, more pickle. That helped, and I powered through as the bun fell apart. Finally, I finished the large, boring, pink burger and called it a day.

Steve’s Take:

My Burger: A blue cheeseburger cooked medium-rare topped with bacon. Lots of bacon.

The Side: The “Steak Fries” I ordered were separated-at-birth twins to the “Fat Fries” from Fat Burger. Maybe Barney’s wants them to appear healthier by not referring to them as “fat.” I like these fries, but with the French burger the proper side would’ve been the sweet potato fries with ranch dressing that Richard had.

Verdict: Amongst the daunting array of available burgers I zeroed in on the “French” Burger as it came just the way I like it – with no veggies. Overall I was more satisfied with my burger than the rest of the group. The French comes with a French bread bun which held up much better than the standard buns and complemented the meat pretty well. While the bacon wasn’t the most flavorful, at least there was a ton of it. Because of the fact that it didn’t have a strong taste, it didn’t overwhelm the burger like bacon sometimes does.

The biggest complaint I had was that there was a minimal amount of blue cheese. Factoring in the price, however, it’s hard for me to recommend Barney’s. For almost $16 including the fries and coke, I could’ve had three In-N-Out meals. That’s hard to justify in this case.

Richard's Take:

My Burger:
The standard bacon-cheeseburger with cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickle. I smeared on a bit of special sauce (standard thousand island).

The side:
Sweet potato fries. These were pretty good, thick cut fries, much better than the standard freezer fries everyone else got. As a group, we decided that the spicy fries were best, followed by the sweet potato fries. We would not order the standard fries again... and DO NOT order the garlic.

Verdict: I asked for my burger medium-rare (as usual), and it came rare... very rare! The burger was so juicy, it eventually made the bun disintegrate. The bacon clearly had been made hours before, and crumbled onto the burger. The texture of the bacon was like little rocks made of pig. The veggies were ok, but the burger patty was good. Really good. At the end of the meal, I was absolutely stuffed.

Now that I think about it, the best way to sum this thing up is to do pros and cons. Con: relatively expensive ($15 meal), horrible bun, horrible fries, and amazingly horrible bacon. Pro: great, great patty. I think the burger itself transcended the cons. I would give Barney's one more shot to make me a regular, which is better than any of the other burgers I've reviewed here. It could have been the area, it could have been the sunny day, but I had a pretty good time with my crappy burger.

TVE's Take:

My Burger: Medium-rare patty (that ended up being beef tartare), with excessive amounts bacon, 1 leaf of lettuce, and red onion on a regular bun. Added ketchup.

The Side: Garlic fries where the skinny fries were topped with a scoop of out-of-the jar chopped garlic. BLEAH!!! They didn’t even bother heating up the garlic. The extra $1 I spent for the garlic was highway robbery!!!

Verdict: My “medium-rare” burger was still moving and bleeding all over my brittle already disintegrating bun. Giving up on the conventional way of eating burgers (with your hands), I tried to “de-bun” my burger for a formal eating method (knife and fork) but remnants of the bun glued itself to the patty. That wasn’t the worse part. The excessive amounts of bacon normally would whet my appetite. However, excessive amounts of 2-day old fried flavorless bacon did not have the same affect. It’s pure talent to mess up bacon. Overall, it was my worst experience yet!

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Counter in Santa Monica

The Counter
2901 Ocean Park Boulevard
Santa Monica CA 90405

Richard's Take:

My Burger: Medium rare beef burger (the 1/3lb patty) on regular bun with Tillamook Cheddar, dill pickle chips, grilled onions, tomatoes, lettuce and horseradish mayo.

The Side: Half Regular French fries and half sweet potato fries. Even though this is only the second posting, Burger Patrol got started a couple of months ago. Of the six burgers I've eaten the fries at the counter were the best. That does not mean they were the best I've ever had, just that they were damn good.

Verdict: The burger was enjoyable. Nicely cooked, good bun/burger ratio, very filling - definitely the right size. However, the experience was just OK. Two things put me off... First, the seating arrangements felt very chaotic. When we got there, we were asked to put in our orders and then wait for a table. And we waited, and waited... all the while wondering if they were just going to hand us our burgers while we stood there (they didn't). The second problem I had is that the restaurant has the acoustics of a high school locker room. The Counter is the second loudest restaurant I have ever eaten in. Not a place for conversation.

This was my second visit to The Counter, and it still doesn't make my list of places that I would be a regular at.

Rosa's Take:

My Burger
: Medium rare beef burger (the 1/3lb patty) on regular bun with Tillamook Cheddar, dill pickle chips, grilled onions, tomatoes, avocado and spicy sour cream. Added some ketchup.

The Side: Half Regular French fries and half sweet potato fries. I ate all the last bits of the sweet potato fries. Great flavor, though the sauce that came with them did not contribute a thing. The red- spiced regular fries were a bit salty, but hot and crisp.

Verdict: I can only blame myself. Caramelized onions were too sweet and too many. The spicy sour cream was less exciting than I’d imagined, and not great on the burger.

But the meat was awesome -- perfectly cooked with a juicy pink center. In the end the burger tasted best when I scraped off the onions, moved the sour cream sauce aside, and went back to basics.

I’ll be back. But before the lunch rush, with my order in mind, and for a seat at the counter.

TVE's Take

My Burger: 1/3lb medium-rare patty, with baby greens, sliced carrots, boiled egg, and red onion on a regular bun. Added ketchup. The selected sauce on the side: Dijon balsamic

The Side
: regular French fries and sweet potato fries. Both types of fries were fried perfectly. Their sweet potato fries will change the minds of any hesitant sweet potato eater. YUM!

: The patty was tasty and well-cooked. The selection of free add-ons were mediocre. The premium add-ons (ie: fried egg, bacon, guacamole) are well worth the $1 extra each. There was a wide selection of sauces to choose from. I made the mistake of picking the Dijon balsamic sauce which was good but not suited as a burger sauce.

The 1/3lb size patty was plenty big enough (I didn’t finish). But for the hungry, they also offer 2/3lb and 1lb size patties. The boiled egg was a strange idea and really didn’t add to the burger. Just pay the extra $1 and get the fried egg! They were a bit skimpy with the red onions; I didn’t taste it at all.

The system to order and get a table needs to be revised. It seemed somewhat chaotic and can cause frustrations. Smaller groups (2 or less) would find a seat quicker. The price of the burger was slightly on the high side. Overall, it was a good burger but not worth the hassle of the crowd.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Library Alehouse on Main Street

Library Alehouse
2911 Main St
Santa Monica CA 90405

Richard's Take:

My Burger: Angus, medium-rare, with cheddar cheese and bacon. Added ketchup, dijon, and mayo. The burger also included the standard vegetables - tomato, a slice of red onion and a lettuce leaf.

The Side: Plain old french fries. Kind of bleh. During lunch I remarked on how difficult it must be to make good french fries, because so many places have bad ones. I would not order them again.

Verdict: This was a pretty good burger. Nicely cooked - pink and juicy inside, very nice poppy seed bun - quality stuff. The meat was well seasoned, and the whole thing was well presented.

I will give the burger one demerit because the fries sucked... and then I'll say I probably wouldn't go back because of the price. This was a $14 burger for lunch in a beer bar! This was a good burger, but not a $14 good burger.

Rosa's Take:

My Burger: Angus, medium-rare, with Stilton blue cheese and sauteed mushrooms. Added ketchup, dijon, and mayo.

The Side: Sweet potato fries. Crispy, salty, perfectly fried.

Verdict: My type of burger; very beefy patty, blue cheese was perfect salty tangy counterpoint, and (sourdough?) bun absorbed grease and condiments to achieve something just this side of disintegration. Messy eating, but memorable burger. Price puts this into Special Treat category, though.

TVE's Take:

My Burger: Angus, medium-rare, with bacon and sauteed mushrooms. Added ketchup.

The Side: Mashed potatoes. Good consistency but needed salt and pepper

Verdict: It was a great burger, perfectly cooked. The flavor of the patty was excellent. It was a good portioned patty and burger; maybe more along the lines of a dinner burger. The bun didn't distract from the rest of the burger. The provided red onion added a sweet kick! Overall, great burger but on the pricey side ($14). Great for an occasional splurge.