Burger Archive

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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...

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Hill Country, Manhattan, NYC

Hill Country on Urbanspoon
Where: Hill Country, Manhattan, NY, NY
What: Brisket sampler and other assorted goodies...
Builds: Beef Brisket, Ribs, 1/4 Chicken, Corn Bread, Longhorn Mac & Cheese, Green Bean casserole, cole slaw. 
Comment: Very cool place for ambiance, and that great smokey beef aroma hits you the second you are in the door. My Wife and I, along with my Son and Daughter-in-law went to check out Hill Country on a last minute whim this Saturday to blow off the steam of a long work week and enjoy the city. We had a blast, but I gotta tell ya, as much as I wanted this place to be outstanding, it definitely fell short. First up, the ordering process - it sucks, plain and simple.  They seat you and then give you a meal ticket. Okay, I get it, we're in NYC and you want to take us away from the sewer smells and homeless bums for a while by giving us an atmosphere of  Texas style BBQ. But a meal ticket? And no wait service other than drinks? We had to figure out what we wanted to eat from a small (greeting card sized) menu and then get up and wind our way through very closely spaced tables (excusing ourselves along the way) in an effort to get to the serving counter. Here, they politely take your "meal ticket' , slice your meat in front of  you and place it on parchment paper, then they wrap it and you move along to the "fixin's counter" where you order your side dishes in cardboard cups ranging from 8oz to something like 12oz. You then grab your over-sized cafeteria tray and make your way back through the same crowd, excusing yourself for banging the poor guy at the next table in the head with the corner of your Wisconsin-sized tray. Once you finally arrive back to your table the unwrapping begins and you get that wonderful aroma filling your nostrils with wood-smoked goodness. (I think Disney's Wilderness lodge has a patent on that smell.) Without further ado, (or any type of manners for that matter) we unwrapped our south-0f-the-border goodies. Our hunger got the best of us and the yummy noises were excessive from from the start. However, a few minutes into our feeding frenzy and our taste buds were catching up with our appetites. That's the point where reality sets in and you get a much clearer understanding of what you are eating and how it tastes vs. how it should taste. To make a longhorn story short, the ribs had enormous potential but had so much salt that they could have doubled as a salt lick for some deer hunting buddies of mine. The Brisket comes "Jersey Beefsteak-Dinner" style with slices of plain white bread and unfortunately, the meat was very dry... had I known to order the "moist" brisket for $3 more, I would have. Why an establishment would even bother to serve "dry" brisket instead of just the good stuff is beyond me. But there I was, drowning my brisket in BBQ sauce so I could choke it down. Don't get me wrong, the flavor of the meat was there with a great pink smoke ring around the perimeter, but it was just hard to swallow without some lube. My wife's chicken was actually turning out to be "best in show", it was moist and tasty and the portion was ample. The Longhorn mac & cheese was okay, (little dry) but not to my personal liking... there was a sweet spice I couldn't exactly place so that was "game over" for me. If I had to guess, I'd say it was a slight pinch of Allspice or Nutmeg (not my bag baby). The green bean casserole with it's 1950's style cream of mushroom soup and french fried onions on top was very good... (fresh green beans). The corn bread was a force to be reckoned with... it was very dense and moist with just the right about of cornmeal texture and it was served with a cinnamon infused butter, the two were a match made in heaven. And finally, the coleslaw... my wife liked it, I thought it was watery and a bit bland (because it was). Overall, a fun, different place with a nice atmosphere to try once. Once. Although I really wouldn't mind hanging there with a few beers and my friend Jim, for some of the bands... The food, - not so much. Proper wait service would have been a big plus in this cool Big Apple establishment. I totally get they want you to get the full hometown Texas BBQ experience, but geeeez, you're  really not in Texas, you are in New York and New Yorkers want to be served when they are dinning out.... you might want to cater to the regional expectation of your customer base. The desserts looked good, especially the apple crisp topped with a dollop of vanilla ice cream, (the woman sitting across from us was destroying one).  I had already met my quota so dessert was out. Overall, there's no getting around rating this food on the low side of good - 7/10 Try it out and you'll see how this review is "spot-on"....


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Zinburger, Clifton, NJ



Zinburger, Clifton, NJ

The Plain & Simple Burger & The Kobe Burger (or maybe not)


The Plain & Simple Burger:
"Certified Angus Beef" (approximately 6oz) Lettuce, Tomato & Mayo, Brioche Bun.

The Double: 
Double Patty, Double American Cheese, Minced onion, Lettuce & Mayo.

Zinburger falls into the same category many burger joints do, they have too young, too inexperienced people working for them who know little to nothing about the product they are serving.

Now sit down and get comfy, this is going to be a long one....

My wife ordered the Plain & Simple Burger which was served to her liking but didn't have enough burger flavor to give her enough reason to ever come back to Zin.

Now, on to my debacle... I inquired about the Double Burger because I'm a fat guy who likes burgers and the word "double" on a menu always gets me crazy so I asked about it. Our smiling waitress said it's two 4oz burgers that are thin and are served cooked well. Humph. I said, I don't do "well" so give me the Kobe Burger because I heard good things... I've been wanting to try it for a while but I really wasn't on board with the toppings... I liked the toppings of their double burger, so I very CLEARLY ordered the Kobe Burger with the toppings from the Double which are simply, American Cheese, Minced onion, Lettuce & Mayo. Simple, right? Wrong, wrong, wrong, this is how it went down: "I'll have the Kobe Burger with the toppings of the Double burger, is that okay?" Our smiling waitress answered in the affirmative and all was right with the world. I went on jib-jabbing with my wife and eating breaded fried zucchini while sipping my Cabernet. That's when it hit the fan. I was served the burger you see below and began to feast. At first I was unsure if this slab of meat was mutilated on the grill or if it was just some mal-formed burger that they tried to piece back together rather than waste it, but I eventually realized it was two separate pieces of meat that were cooked quite well. Then, after my second bite, it hit me... somebody screwed up the order and I was eating the Double burger instead of the Kobe. Damn. Damn, Damn, Damn. So being the good hearted slob that I am, I let it go. I ate my burger and tried to enjoy it for what it was thinking I'd just let our server know the mistake when the check came because I'm not the type to send food back. Let's pause here to check out some photos below... don't they make the burger look good and yummy? We'll get to the that in a minute. And the ketchup... who the hell puts ketchup on a burger without announcing it on the menu????? I'm a NFK guy so this was a bit devastating for me. First, I have the wrong order, now it's got K on it. Really? And btw, their idea of a double burger is to take a regular sized burger, cut it in half and stack it. Really Zin People? So now I'm eating this pseudo double burger with ketchup I didn't expect (or ask for) while thinking I should be eating a damn Kobe beef burger. My wife saw me smoldering and immediately started to try to calm me down. I have to admit, I was cool about it... I waited till our server came back and asked her if the Kobe burger was always served as a double. She immediately went into survival bullshitting mode and said she was going to ask the chef. (Yeah honey, you go ask that high school junior what he did). She came back and said, "nope, that's the Kobe alright, we cut them in half because the fat content is so high we cook them well and stack them". Reaaaaally. (what the hell that meant, I have no idea) I still kept my cool, but saw that my wife was now fuming across the table. Here she was thinking I'm the guy that was going to be nasty and now that she's being lied to her face by a high school cheerleader, she's foaming at the mouth and asking for a manager. (God I love that woman). So now the more mature (19yr old) manager comes out and my wife begins to stutter because at this point she's ready to stick a fork in this girls eye and tells her what happened, ending with: "keep the extra money we never need to come back here again". Now keep in mind, I'm watching this whole thing go down from across the table thinking, this poor chick is dead meat, once she's on my wife's wrong side she'll be wishing she was never born. This petite little manager girl sees so much fury in my wife's eyes that she can't enunciate a single syllable and just walks away. Now we are left wondering what the hell is going on. Finally, our original cheerleader comes back and says they took off the extra money for the Kobe up charge. So even though they compensated a little and all should be right with the world once again, it was too late, the entire experience was already in the toilet. And the meat? Not sure what all the press is about. I just read an article that Zinburger is the "sweet sixteen" of the up and coming burger chains and will give the "big boys" a run for their money. I say, "Oh, Nay Nay". This joint won't come near the big boys. Zinburger definitely spends more time and effort on being trendy than serving good burgers. How you get an 80/20 burger swimming in grease is beyond me. Too greasy and not nearly enough burger flavor. (and it's VERY hard to get me to say a burger is too greasy) And don't let the pics fool you kiddies, although the bun was awesome, the burger is exactly what I described. Def lacked seasoning and flavor.... For me, I have to factor in the expectation I had from all the hype, both in written press and online, So I'll have to give this an EPIC CRAP FAIL for lack of flavor 5/10. I really wish this had been a review of the Kobe Burger... After all these fancy surroundings and big talk, a hot fresh Wendy's Double Baconator beats them hands down any day.... Just goes to show you how the liberal media can sway your thinking - (If you let them).

PS... At the time of this review, Zinburger's web site offers no "contact us" or nutritional information... hmmmmm.

See the tiny little double in that big bun?

Seriously, who cuts a burger in half, stacks it, and then calls it a double burger???

Friday, March 22, 2013

Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza, Ramsey, NJ

Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza on Urbanspoon
Where: Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza, Ramsey, NJ
What: Lunch Size Pizza "Well Done for One".
Build: Traditional pizza consisting of Mozzarella cheese, Italian plum tomatoes, Romano cheese, basil, olive oil.
Comment: Disclaimer: I realize a pizza review may not sit well with some of my readers so please allow me to politely remind you of the use of the word "mostly" in the title of this blog, and if you are still a bit upset, I think you should seek professional help because you're even a bigger burger geek than I am.  
I've been wrongfully resisting the patronage of this establishment for a while now, all because my brain is wired to think in only one dimension of food - burgers. I kept saying to myself,  "although I absolutely love pizza, pizza is not a burger" then finally, a colleague at work was able to talk me down from the flat grill and off we went to sample Anthony's pizza this week. Very glad I did. This company-owned, (non franchise-able) business was a refreshing change from most pizza joints in the northern New Jersey region.  It's fresh ingredients reminded me of some of the best pizzas I have ever eaten where quality not quantity is key and apparently the personal mantra of owner, Anthony Bruno. This delicate yet ample crust is baked to perfection with a few well-done areas that create a host of different flavors just in the crust alone. The tomatoes are very fresh tasting and not overly  flavored with handfuls of dry Italian spices like so many pizza joints feel the need to do. The Mozzarella is a low moisture type which is perfect for this application and the sprinkle of Romano screams "game over, stick a fork in me, I'm done". Both the basil and olive oil flavors take turns peeking through the cheese and tomato which adds to the pizza bliss. This pie is a text book example of "keep it simple" and "less is more." Fresh ingredients cannot be made better by adding more flavors so (with the exception of baking desserts), why turn simple, delicious, fresh food into a science experiment? Isn't life complicated enough? 
But I digress....
The pizza's are slid into the 800 degree oven and cook in one minute. (How nice is that when the place is packed and you need to bang out those pies?) Anthony Bruno's motto for the business is "I'm only as good as my last pizza" -  So true and yet another very refreshing attitude to have in this world of finger pointing, self indulgent, lazy asses raised with an unrealistic sense of entitlement.  Anthony's continues to receive very good-to-excellent ratings with the Zagat Survey (now I know why).  Mr. Bruno first opened a coal fired pizza shop in Fort Lauderdale Florida where he was able to expand into many states and has never looked back. God bless.
Well done, Mr. Bruno, Well Done. 

PS... The staff is as friendly as they are helpful at this Ramsey, NJ location... thanks Christa.


This tip comes to you at 3:25am because I can't sleep...


Keep in mind, the only reliable way to get a truly fresh sandwich at a fast-food establishment is to order it during their busiest time - lunch.

realized the secret about 30 years ago. Now most of you fellow burger aficionados and grease freaks already know the "big" downside when ordering at a fast-food establishment - if you order when lunch hour is a it's peak, you can rest assured that you will get a hot, fresh burger every time. However, if you order during off-peak hours, you are most likely getting a sandwich from under the dreaded heat lamps.

Now here's the tip, so listen up....
The fool-proof work around for ordering off-peak hours: 
Order your burger with some type of custom topping that can't possibly be sitting, waiting for you under the lights. (This is what originally got me ordering things with NFK). 

Example: You find yourself craving a BK Whopper at 3 in the afternoon and you follow the urge to the BK counter - all you have to do is order the Whopper with no ketchup and you'll see the grill master begin to prepare you a fresh burger because you've just caused him to side-step the pre-made stuff sitting under the lights - simple right? But it never fails...

(you owe me)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Wendy's Old Fashioned Hamburgers, Wayne, NJ

Wendy's on Urbanspoon
Where: Wendy's Old Fashioned Hamburgers, Wayne, NJ
What: Baconator
Build: Two 1/4 lb. patties, 6 strips of applewood smoked bacon, 2 slices American cheese, pickle, lettuce, mayo, bun. 
Comment: This is the second time in a month I've found myself at a fast food institution and the second time I avoided the drive-thru window for the same reasons I did in my last review.  Anyhow, I've had the urge for the flavor of the Baconator for some time now and since I was home running errands all day I figured now was the time to kick that urge in the butt. Wendy's Baconator is a triumph - although Wendy's is considered a fast-food chain, I believe the Baconator represents the first true cross-over from fast-food to slow-food restaurants like 5 Guys and Smashburger. It contains all the "claim-to-fame"  ingredients that the slow-food chains brag about: fresh meat never frozen, fresh ingredients made to your specific order etc., but in most cases you can get it 24/7   at the fast-food window. That's huge, in fact, that's awesome. If you haven't had a Baconator in a long while as I have, try it, you won't be disappointed, and with the added value of the $1 menu to add a few tasty kickers, you'll see how your wallet doesn't take a big hit when ordering quality food that is on par with the new slow-food giants. 
On to the burger...
I couldn't handle this heavy little nugget of goodness for a few minutes as it was so darn hot from being freshly picked off the grill. I unwrapped it and stared in awe at the oozing cheese, mayo and cow juice. The aroma was excellent and I grabbed my camera while waiting for it to cool. This baby was so hot the mayo was melting into the burger's juices... um um um.  I ordered mine with my usual pickle, lettuce and mayo to compliment the burger juice and cheese (next time I'll add raw onion too). The hint of butter flavor on the toasted bun, although slightly artificial tasting, is a nice touch and doesn't leave a film or aftertaste in your mouth. The burger can definitely do without it, but it works well just the same. Three slices of bacon on top and three in the middle of this beauty is just perfect for spreading that pork goodness through and through. The cheese fore and aft is always a huge bonus in my book and the mere weight of this little sucker was substantial enough to get my jowls pumping. As much as it broke my heart to do it, I cut it in half for the autopsy shot and to my surprise it wasn't a God-awful well-done but more of a medium-well... and remember, I drove 2 miles to get home while this was still cooking - had I eaten it there I just may have enjoyed my first medium temperature fast-food burger! Again, it pains me a bit to call this beauty fast-food because it is definitely miles ahead of Mickey D's mystery meat sandwiches (it's just hard for me to call them burgers). All said and done, this burger hits the spot... priced slightly less than the big slow-food chains, I think this is a great bargain. I am very curious to see what the future holds for traditional fast-food chains now that the slow-food giants have put a good sized hit on their revenues. I think burgers like the Baconator are, or at least should be, the wave of the future for the FF chains which I'm sure will have to increase their pricing if they want to keep up with the Joneses quality, but hey, keep the cheap crap mystery meat burgers on the value menu and you'll keep everyone happy, no? All in all, it's going to be very interesting to see where this all leads.  It's my own fault this burger missed the perfect rating... had I eaten it hot off the grill at the restaurant I wouldn't be able to find a thing wrong with it... but since I had to drag it home to photo it, it lost some freshness. My bad - 9/10.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Pop's Burgers, Washington Township, NJ



Pop's Burgers, Washington Township, NJ


1/2 pound certified 100% Angus beef burger patty, lettuce, tomato, raw onion, sesame seed roll.

I love trying new burger joints, especially Ma & Pa burger joints because you never know when you're going to strike gold. Meet Terri, our counter girl-
Pop's is a burger joint with potential, but I gotta tell you, they need to step it up just a bit and they'll do very well. My only constructive criticism would be: if you're taking the time to ask how a customer wants their burger cooked... it should come out that way. I ordered my usual medium/rare and got my burger med/well. Other than that, Pop's was a good experience and I hope (with a little tweaking) that Pop's succeeds. On to the burger...
the meat was a bit too tightly packed for me... I prefer a loose-pack burger but it was very tasty none the less. The toppings were fresh also and the bun was very different... in fact, I've never quite had a sesame seed bun that looked like a soft hamburger bun but had all the attributes of a round Italian roll. Make no mistake about it, this is not a bun, this is a roll. The bread was dense and resisted compression when I picked it up and my first thought was it was going to overpower the meat big-time. Not so; it actually worked pretty good so don't let my photos fool you. The burger-to-bun ratio was okay and I ended up enjoying it. Had the doneness of the burger been what I ordered, this would've gotten a higher mark but for now, it gets a 7.5/10. I hope to get back there soon to try the Tempura Hot Pepper Rings. Great concept no? Not sure why the hell I didn't order them.
PS - the fries were killer.