Charlie's Hamburgers, Folsom, PA


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...

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Shake Shack, Paramus, NJ

Where: Shake Shack, Paramus, NJ
What: Double Shackburger & DogMeister 
Build: 100% all-natural Angus beef double patty topped with lettuce, tomato and Shack sauce. (all burgers are cooked medium unless otherwise requested).
Build: 100% all-natural hot dog topped with Shack Cheddar and American cheese sauce and crispy shallots. (The dogs ar split and griddled).
Comment: Good, but overpriced. And knowing that Jake's Wayback Burgers are easily on par with the freshness and flavor of the Shake Shack burgers and at prices that won't hurt you when you want to treat your kids to a burger, I won't be back anytime soon.  The burger patties also have a weird softness to the bite. (same as the one I had in NYC).  The meat can't be any higher than a 70/30 meat-to-fat ratio because it was (can't believe I'm going to say it) almost "too" greasy. (I said "almost"). The softness of the meat is the same soft, border-line mushy texture that a Checkers burger has. Not a fan. I'm also a bit in the dark on why SS has such a great reputation for "awesome" burgers, I mean they're very good, but there are others out there pumping out burgers that are just as good or better with less than half the hype - (if I had a burger joint, I'd check out who's handling SS's social media). I can see why SS does so well in NYC - they are charging under $5 bucks for a burger in a city that averages anywhere from $10 on up to $20 (and beyond) for a decent burger so there is little wonder as to one of the reasons their lines are out the door. $5 bucks is a great price for a burger, if, you're getting a good sized burger. The small size of the burger patty at SS absolutely requires that you order a double burger if you want the taste of the meat flavor to come through the toppings. (the double is a "must" folks).  A double? sure, just add another $3 BUCKS for that extra patty. Really? $3 bucks for one of those little patties? So now my burger has me out almost $7 and a half bucks. Geeeezzzz.  This is a prime example of how high prices like Shake Shack's are going to push families back to the fast food chains. 

Here is another reason why:

The demand for burgers is at an all-time high in this country and as the market keeps trending upwards there are new burger joints popping up everywhere. With that said, let's remember what no new business (large or small) can escape, the Stages of Product Life Cycle :

1 Introduction

2 Growth

3 Maturity 

4 Decline   


This is true for the life of any business and if you are not thinking about new ways to re-invent your product(s) by recognizing the Maturity point, you may find yourself riding the death spiral to Decline.  
The reason I'm pointing this out is because while eating at the Shake Shack this week, for the first time, I realized the burger market may be beginning to hit it's Saturation point. Why? Because I found myself eating a burger that was delicious, but yet, fell short in the "value" department. What this means is that I am no longer waiting patiently in line for over 30mins or more just to sample a burger. I am now conscience of price-for-product, AKA "value" and if I'm stepping back to say: "this is an okay burger, but not worth the wait and/or the price" then, others must be too. 

Back to the burger... Again, places like Jake's Wayback Burgers and Steve's Hamburgers are every bit as good, if not, better than Shake Shack but since SS has enjoyed so much praise from the burger-eating public it seems to me that anyone disagreeing will be looked upon as crazy.

Listen, SS has a great tasting burger, but the value left a bad taste in my mouth.  9.3/10

PS:  I need to mention the Hot Dog which I also ordered? The "Dogmeister"..... yeah, not really - it sucked, big time.  Just another reason why you should never order a hot dog at a burger joint... "what was I thinkin?" 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Blue Star Burgers, Tenafly, NJ


Blue Star Burgers, Tenafly, NJ

WOW Burger

1/2 pound 80/20 seasoned fresh ground chuck, pickle slices, raw onion, all on a bun made of 2 grilled cheese sandwiches. (somebody pinch me)

Blue Star Burgers has a fantastic attitude for building a truly great burger biz, but before I go any further, I'm going to state my one and only gripe as Jason and the folks at BSB deserve for their review to end on a high note. I am not on board with the "seasoned" meat - There, I said it. If a "seasoned" burger (garlic & onion powder most predominant) was one of the menu items, I'd definitely get around to trying it out, but it would be my choice to stray from a juicy ground chuck burger and wander off down the seasoned, (meat-loafy), burger path. I was salivating at the special burger of the week on display on the front counter when I walked in. The King Kong burger had me at hello, but I stayed with my original choice, the WOW burger even though all the burgers on the Signature Burger menu had also grabbed my attention. Long story short, BSB is onto something very special here, they have all the makings of burger greatness, (minus the seasoned beef). If the meat were pure ground chuck cooked in all it's juicy glory and seasoned with only salt and pepper I believe bollards on the sidewalk would be necessary to corral the line of people waiting to get in. But hey, like every other one of my now 163 burger reviews, that's only my opinion and we all know what opinions are like - nuff said. Before I forget, you can order the burger by size, 1/4 or 1/2 pound single or double which is a huge plus - (love that). The bun, toppings, ambiance, fantastic attitude, price, etc., were just what you look for when craving a great burger. Kudos to a valiant effort and I hope to have an "unseasoned" burger (if only on the special menu) at BSB one day...
This burger gets an 8.5 on the BC rating scale...

(for me, unseasoned meat would yield 10/10 ratings across this menu)

The aptly named, King Kong...

This is the BBLT (crispy smoked bacon, romaine lettuce, sliced tomato, bleu cheese dip) which my work colleague ordered.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Chili's, Riverdale, NJ

Where: Chili's, Riverdale, NJ
What: Mushroom Swiss Burger
Build: 6oz burger (I'm guessing) Smothered with garlic sauteed mushrooms, melted Swiss cheese, sliced red onion & and mayo.
Comment: Not worth the 1,300 calories! This was a very poor attempt at serving a good burger but it's seems that Chili's has a preoccupation with being trendy which for me, is the beginning of the end. However, my hat's off to Chili's for serving what I would estimate a 70/30 fat content burger, but geeeez for God's sake, season the damn thing! Just a little salt and pepper goes a long way. 
Side Bar: 
Through trial and error, I find salt mixed into the raw meat before cooking, then peppering the meat after cooking (to prevent the pepper from burning) yields the best, most flavorful burger you can produce with simple, basic ingredients. 
Back to the burger:
Check out the photos and you'll see what appears to be a great burger, but it definitely falls short. I ordered the burger medium/rare and it was served a perfect m/r. The toppings were everything the menu promised also, but I walked out of the place thinking I have to write the review quickly because there was nothing about this burger that would stay in my memory very long. Average chain restaurant fare...  7/10 on the BC rating scale. 

Burger King, Park Ridge, NJ

Burger King, Park Ridge, NJ

Big King

The new BIG KING Sandwich features two fire-grilled beef patties, topped with melted American cheese, fresh cut iceberg lettuce, crisp onions, crunchy pickles and features a sweet thousand island style dressing, all on a warm, toasted, sesame seed bun.

Well, that's all partially true... and my buddy Capone pretty much nailed it in his emailed review to me.... (nice job Chris). And I'm glad you now know about ordering "off the grill" or as some BK locations refer to it: "off the fryer". When you request this, your burger sidesteps the steam drawer and goes directly from flame-broiled grill to sandwich. This makes for a much fresher tasting burger and some days, when I'm lucky, my burgers are even a little pink inside (see the photo of my receipt below).

Back to the burger...
I agree that the bun-to-burger ratio was unbalanced with too much bread, specifically, the middle bread slice. The raw onions did, in fact, over-power the sandwich to some degree. McDonald's Big Mac onions have a very distinct flavor, as do White Castle's onions (I believe they use reconstituted onions in both cases) which are almost impossible to replicate. And lastly, the thousand island dressing on my Big King was almost non existent. There you have it, two people trying the same burger at locations 50 miles apart - the good news is that BK is maintaining consistency across its locations (NJ at least) - the bad news is that the Big King is just an "okay" fast food burger. One more thing in the interest of fairness; if you were to compare a bacon cheeseburger at a North Jersey tavern vs. a bacon cheeseburger from a South Jersey tavern you would most likely experience two very different meals. 

The Big King/Big Mac duel is more like an impersonation than it is a comparison of "like" ingredient burgers. Lastly, and for the record, I did my best not to compare the two burgers, but rather to simply taste Burger King's "version" of the Big Mac with an open mind and an optimistic palette. In the words of the ever-stoic Vinny the Cat: "yeah, not really". 7/10 on the BC rating scale.

Out first Burger King stop on the Garden State Parkway (Exit 173) was very disappointing...

Ahhhh, the wildly celebrated yet all but unknown mark of ordering your BK burger "off the fryer"

The center cut roll is a bit too much bread...

Could've used a bit more sauce...

Damn handsome burger....

It's legit, you can order off the fryer....

Friday, November 8, 2013

The '76 House, Tappan, NY

This is an awesome historic tavern with awesome stories tied to it and they are serving up an awesome burger, and yes, our table was haunted...

Today's outing was so interesting I've attached a brief history of The '76 House below. But this blog is first and foremost about burgers and the pursuit of finding better ones, and since I don't want to stray too much from the burger in this review, I'll leave it up to you, the reader, to decide if you have a few extra minutes to read on the background of such a cool historic tavern.  If you can't be bothered and want to get right to the "meat" fully understand - just scroll down to the burger review.... either way you won't be disappointed.

The oldest bar in the country was built by Dutch immigrants in 1668 and has been serving the public ever since. Because Tappan, in the Catskill Mountains just north of New York City, was an important place during the Revolutionary War, the Old ’76 House saw a number of famous guests, including George Washington himself. Its most notorious guest, however, was British spy, Major John Andre, who was jailed at the tavern and put on trial at the church across the street (he was subsequently hanged about two blocks away). This place is a must visit, not just for the history and excellent food, but also because part of the actual bar is still original. You can literally sit and drink at the same exact bar that George Washington once tipped back a few drinks of his own.

The Old '76 House is not simply one of America's oldest taverns. Built in 1668, The Old '76 House had a profound effect on the outcome of The Revolutionary War. Through its long use as a meeting place for patriots, The Old '76 House established itself as safe ground for Americans when the air was rife with revolution and the tavern itself served as the "prison" of the Revolution's most notorious spy, Major John Andre. That is why The Old '76 House is often referred to as "Andre's Prison", not a real prison, in fact never having been a place of incarceration for anyone before or since. On the contrary, The Old '76 House has been a haven for many a weary traveler for more than two hundred years. This great tavern has accommodated on various occasions, every General of the west wing of the Continental Army including Commander-in-Chief General George Washington who, with his chief provisioner Samuel Fraunces, dined in the comfortable atmosphere of The Old '76 House. 

The story of Major Andre and Benedict Arnold is one strewn with deception, fateful remorse, and mortal consequences. It is also a story which could have changed the outcome of the Revolution. Andre, a charming, handsome, young man, was adjutant general to General Sir Henry Clinton, Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in North America. Arnold was a brilliant and respected general as well as a great friend of General Washington. 

General Benedict Arnold, having been severely reprimanded by Congress and, in fact, court martialed, had become embittered and ready to betray his country. Truly a brilliant general, he realized the strategic importance of West Point and, drawing on his longterm friendship with Washington, sought to secure the command of the fortress. Washington, who regretted the treatment and reprimand of Arnold, granted his request and thus Benedict Arnold was placed in a position to betray his country. 

Arnold began to correspond secretly with General Clinton about his plan to let West Point fall into British hands. As a result, Clinton sent Major Andre up the Hudson in the British Sloop-of- War, Vulture, on September 20, 1780 to meet with Benedict Arnold. Andre was rowed ashore at the long cove just south of Haverstraw, where the two men conferred until sunrise. Their plans for the handing over of West Point still not complete, they rode on horseback to the home of Joshua Hett Smith, which stood on what is now known as Treason Hill. There it was agreed that Arnold should have one of the links removed from the great iron chain which stretched across the Hudson from West Point to King's Ferry to prevent the passage of British ships up the river. Arnold planned to replace the iron link with rope, on the pretext that the chain needed mending. 

Plans were completed and Andre hid his papers, showing the fortifications of West Point and the placement of soldiers, between his "stockings and feet". Toward evening he asked to be rowed back to the Vulture, but Smith said it was too dangerous and persuaded Andre to cross the Hudson at Stony Point and proceed to the British lines by land. Near Tarrytown he was stopped by three American soldiers who discovered the incriminating papers and took him to the nearest commanding officer. From there he was taken to Tappan, where Washington had placed his headquarters, and imprisoned in The Old '76 House - then called Mabie's Inn.

After a trial in the Dutch Church in Tappan, a court of inquiry reported that Andre ought "to be considered a spy from the enemy and that, agreeable to the law and usage of nations, it is their opinion he ought to suffer death." He was marched up the hill to a gallows at noon on October 2, 1780. As he stood beneath the gibbet he said: "All I request gentlemen is that while I acknowledge the propriety of my sentence, you will bear me witness that I die like a brave man." In 1820 Andre's remains were brought to rest in Westminster Abbey, London where he is regarded as a hero. Benedict Arnold died in London in 1801, shunned by friend and foe alike.

Burger Review Starts here.....

Where: The'76 House, Tappan, NY - (Not only is The '76 House the oldest tavern in the country, it is one of only 5 taverns still in operation which are "older" than America itself)
What: The '76 Tavern Burger
Build: 1/2 pound black Angus beef smothered with caramelized onion, mushrooms, bacon, Bordelaise and Swiss cheeses.
Comment: I was afraid the reputation, history and ambiance of the '76 House would all have easily overshadowed the burger they are serving here, but nay nay. The burger holds up just fine to all the tyranny, betrayal and haunted spirits that walk the dining room. The chef's choice of toppings help to make this an easy contest winner. After all, it's hard to go wrong with caramelized onions, 2 types of (non-processed) cheese, thick cut bacon that is both crispy and chewy and mushrooms sauteed to perfection in award-winning sauce. Take these toppings and pile them between what I can best describe as an artisan Kaiser bun. All you have to do is tuck a good quality beef under all that and you are a hero. And that's exactly what happened to me today, on this seventh day of the eleventh month in the year of our good Lord, two thousand thirteen.  If Andre' would've just tasted the burger he would not have had any interest in giving up West Point....geeeeez, some guys. Seriously, you need to try The '76 House, it's the closest you'll ever get to traveling back in time. 
Easy 10/10 on the BC rating scale.

Can you tell which painting is the traitor John Andre?

Ironically, there were modern-day soldiers that stopped in for lunch....

Banquet Room

Bar where Gen. Washington and others drank and ate. The rail at the counter's edge is the actual hitching post which was once outside the tavern and use by the forefathers of the revolution.

Close up of the hitching post: you can still see strap marks...

Partial list of historic visitors to the tavern.

300 yr. old rifle

Our haunted table - table #2
Paranormal Claims Per
Employees & patrons alike have had experiences at the tavern for many years. One of the most reported claims has to do with the glass hurricane lamp on table 2. The lamp itself has been found intact on the hardwood floor next to table 2 when the employees arrive for work. Its as if it were gently placed on the floor. A presence is felt near the bar area and around table 11. It has even been thought that there were patrons remaining in the dining room at closing time, but the Inn is found to be empty.  

Further reading on the haunting of The '76 House:

Let's see, bacon, caramelized onions and smothered with cheese... you just can't go wrong....

The sauteed mushrooms had a very light hint of Magi sauce.... very nice touch....