Bill Cianci's (mostly) Burger Reviews - Real Food Photos - No Fluff and No Food Snobbery
My goal is for you to taste exactly what you read about here when you order your food. I make a constant effort to publish non-biased, honest comments. All too often I've read reviews from "burger experts" praising a burger only to be disappointed come judgment day. For this reason, I do not go into a burger establishment with cameras blaring, announcing who I am... maybe that's the difference, you decide...
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No Bull Burger Purist - Born and raised in NJ, the heart of the tri-state area and home to the oldest (and best) burger joints in the country. I don't need all the frilly toppings, happy servers or trendy decor, just a good burger...
Where: Chick-fil-A 2065 Paramus Park Mall, Paramus, NJ 07652
What: Chicken Deluxe Sandwich
Build: Chicken on a toasted, buttered bun with dill pickle chips, lettuce, tomato and American cheese
Comments: I've wanted to try Chick-fil-A for quite a few years now, and I finally got there a few weeks ago.
I'm not going to drag this out; the sandwich was okay – just okay. I'm really not sure what all the hype is about. My sandwich was kind of thrown together. The cheese was not melted and the toppings were on the bottom. Overall, for a quick service restaurant (QSR for you novices) this is a very tasty chicken sandwich, although the chicken does have that slight resistance to the bite that chicken gets when the meat is tightened up by marinating (I'm not saying it is prepared from a plastic Cryobag, but I kept picturing it being prepared that way).
It’s a good sandwich, but does not live up to its reputation…and it's definitely overpriced.
This is Chick-fil-A's menu photo showing toppings on top where they belong...
Build: Slider beef patty, red onion, American cheese, waffle fries, Texas petal sauce, half-sour pickle, coleslaw
Comments: The Pompton Queen Diner will likely remain one of the best diners in NJ as long as they continue to experiment with new items on the menu. I was recently at the PQD for lunch when I picked up the menu and saw a little quote cloud with the word "new" next to "Waffle Fry Sliders" which immediately caught my attention.
In a nutshell: Sliders and waffle fries have been sitting next to each other on diner dishes for years; it's about time someone thought to marry the two. While the concept is great, these were poorly executed. Had the burgers not been cooked to oblivion, this would have been a solid meal with a novelty twist.
Build:I chose the half pound beef burger with smoked Gouda, Thousand Island dressing, scallions, dill pickle chips, on the Hawaiian bun.
Comments: I've been wanting to try The Counter for quite a long time now, and a few weekends ago on a rare occasion when my wife was in the mood for a burger, I saw my chance.
Our first impression walking into The Counter was that it had a very ZinBurger-esque feel to it. So much so in fact that it looks as though there could be an affiliation between the two. Both have trendy fixtures and finishes, both serve alcohol, both have a very young wait staff and both have burgers that are "just okay".
Once seated and perusing the menu I asked my wife what was missing in this place. She looked around and then asked me "what"? I said "the absolute absence of any food aroma whatsoever" - she agreed. I told her that if we were to close our eyes we wouldn't be able to tell if we were in a burger joint or a department store. Strange.
If you turned your nose up at what I chose for toppings on my burger, it's what I felt like eating, so deal. And after our waitress's suggestion for me to choose the Hawaiian bun, my anticipation was growing thinking the sweetness of the bun would contrast with the smoked Gouda nicely. However, a few minutes later our waitress returned to our table and apologized to me saying that they were out of the Hawaiian buns - Strike one.
I ordered my burger medium using the cool chalk drawings on the blackboard which depicted burger temperatures by using cows colored from red to pink to black. Our food took a solid 30 minutes to serve which was very annoying - Strike two. When I cut my burger in half for an autopsy photo, it was quite well done. I tried it, took 2 bites, but had to send it back - that was Strike three (and I hadn't eaten yet).
They brought me another burger a few minutes later (I guess they really can cook a burger in 5 minutes instead of 30). This time the temperature was okay, just okay. The burger was mostly pink inside, (see photos) but strangely, there was an unevenness to the meat. The edges were more pink than the middle. In any event, the meat had a mushy texture which is repulsive to me, it was as if it were frozen then undercooked on a luke warm grill.
I just don't get it, all this designing, building, style, hype, advertising, for what? So you can make a mediocre burger? I'm sorry, but if you're jumping into today's incredibly tough burger market, you've got to be doing something different and better than everyone else. There has to be at least one stand-out feature that no one else is doing. The Counter will not be around long in NJ.
This burger gets a 6.8 on the BC rating scale.
Some of the photos below are of my wife's sandwich, "The Melt Down" which was actually very very good. They'd do better as a sandwich joint that also serves burgers rather than vice versa.
And don't let my photos of the french fries fool you, they were served cold.
The Melt Down was actually very good.
These would have been great if they were hot...
Temperature was better, but the meat had a very mushy texture, almost tasted waterlogged.
Where: Cars Delivery 114 East Main Street Ramsey, NJ 07446 (201) 871-8600
What: Build your own Burger (Lunch Special)
Build: Quarter pound, hand-formed, ground chuck patty served with lettuce, tomato, and Cars secret sauce (I added cheese and dropped the tomato)
Comments: AJ DiBenedetto's family has a good thing going here. This is a late late-night eatery, (and I mean late night; they originally opened at 10pm and closed at 3am) so I'm guessing their patrons are primarily of the intoxicated variety.
But to be fair as well as honest, these fat sandwiches (which are teeming with all our favorite late night munchie foods) are good anytime.
I don't live in the area, so a late night food binge at Cars was next to impossible for me – that's why I was so very happy when a co-worker told me Cars’ new menu includes lunch hours. I couldn't get there fast enough to sample the food I've been reading about.
The burger was very good; fresh ground chuck that AJ gets delivered twice a week with all crisp toppings on a fresh roll. I was so excited to try this burger that I didn't ask for my burger to be cooked to a specific temperature and consequently my burger was on the well side. But much like Five Guys burgers, it was still juicy and full of flavor (next time I'll ask for it medium-rare and see what I get). They were out of potato buns so I got my burger on a Kaiser-esque roll, which was freakin’ awesome, but it did throw off the burger-to-bun ratio a bit.
This burger scores an 8.2/10 on the BC rating scale.
I want to try this again with the potato bun and perhaps a double patty.
Build #2, The Fat Heffer: Chicken tenders, jalapeño poppers, french fries, onion rings, and buffalo ranch dressing on an eight inch hoagie roll
Comments: I tried this sandwich on my second trip to Cars Delivery because although I'm a burger guy, AJ's claim to fame is his "Fat" sandwiches so I bit the bullet and ordered the Fat Heffer.
The sandwich is listed under Cars "Fat Sandwiches" column – and rightfully so. I was afraid it was going to be a disaster in a hoagie roll, with just this and that thrown together to appease late night customers who desperately NEED to get something in their bellies, but I was wrong. Each bite of the sandwich revealed a new and different flavor, which lasted well past the mid-point of the sandwich. I could tell there must have been a lot of trial and error with flavors and ingredients because this crazy sounding combo actually worked. And the bread...very different, very fresh and it complimented the food perfectly. Again, I can't wait to go back. The next time it'll be "The Bigger Mac" which is a cheesesteak with melted American cheese, lettuce, chopped onions, and Russian dressing on a round roll. Oh yeah.
I knew Jersey Burgers wouldn't last... and it's a shame because they had a good beginning and good ingredients...