When the next assignment for burgers came up for the crew to devour them in a pub setting, I ran through the list of pubs in my head that I might be curious to test. Although the usual restaurants zipped by with typical clarity, such as Great Lost Bear, Nosh, the Old Port trifecta of Gritty's, RiRa's, and Brian Boru's, I felt strongly that East Ender would be a great place to try. A newish restaurant claiming the old location of Norm's East End Grill (which I sadly didn't get a chance to visit before it closed), I figured that trying out EE with an American staple would be a good way to gauge the kitchen's talent.
Arriving at the beginning of opening hours on a Friday, I met up with a friend and we were helpfully directed to the second floor dining room. If you haven't seen the dining room before, the design patterns are a doozy. I was actually quite intrigued by the work that went into the renovations of the restaurant and I'm usually pretty easygoing about decor and seating arrangements, but when we were seated at the black and white booths, I found the situation to be entirely too cramped and difficult to get into. This is a major problem. Why? Because I'm a tiny, Asian girl who usually has no issues with equally tiny spaces. But with only two feet of clearance between the edges of each booth seat, I was cautious not to kick my companion's shins every time I felt the need to shift my weight. Not good, folks.
In any case, our orders arrived fairly quickly and I was pleasantly surprised by the aesthetics of the Eastburger, described as a beef cheek burger with cheddar, bacon, leaf lettuce, mayo, and mustard with fries.
Now if you're wondering about the proportions of the burger pictured above, you and I are thinking the EXACT SAME THING. The mile-high (okay, it was only two inches tall) top bun was a little distracting. The glaze was absolutely gorgeous and I actually enjoyed the caraway seeds on the glazed brioche bun, but even when it was gripped in my hands and devoured, the top when deflated still created some carb-heavy distractions to the situation.
Ordered medium-rare, the house made beef cheek patty arrived fully brown in the middle, but still nicely juicy for a medium, medium-well burger. A fluffy leaf of green leaf lettuce sat in between a light spread of mayo, house cured maple bacon, shredded white cheddar, and a generous dollop of whole grain dijon mustard. As I bit into the burger, I was happy to feel the meat juices drizzle down my hand, mixed in with the wonderful bite of the mustard. The sweetness of the bacon was surprising, but not entirely detracting from the burger overall. Though it wasn't crispy, the bacon that day wasn't overly saturated and soggy with the maple syrup. So I didn't have a tug of war with my incisors and the piggy strip as another colleague of mine did. The cheddar was so mild and few that I essentially forgot its existence in the compilation of ingredients. The burger was luscious enough that it required none of the ketchup provided on the side. I was surprisingly okay with the lack of a freshly sliced tomato, but as I continued through the burger with each bite, it became clear that the warmth of the burger had turned the lettuce leaf into a limp, oily vessel of wilted sogginess. Blech.
The fries were a pleasant change from the last batch of Sysco fries from Becky's Diner that I suffered through. Shoestring style with nice flecks of sea salt, it reminded me of what many fans do when they order fries at an In 'n Out establishment. Typically soggy and disappointing (albeit freshly cut daily!), one will note that many folks order their Double Double with their fries cooked "light well" or "well done" to get more of a crisp without frying the entire starchy stick into oblivion. These fries reminded me of exactly that. A good browned crisp on the outside, cooked through, but not over-fried. Most of the fries were devoured sans additional condiments (poor lil' ketchup, neglected for most of the meal!), but the most exciting ones were the few strands that had been sitting in the bright magenta, sweet beet pickle juice of the pickle that came with the Eastburger. A bit on the soggier side, the pickle was incredibly tangy and sweet. Not something I could consume with wild abandon, but certainly a surprise bonus from the standard dill pickle.
Looking back now, I was satisfied at the time with the burger's cooking temperature although still perplexed about what it takes to cook a burger medium-rare. But now with the phenomenal experience I had at Back Bay Grill etched into memory, I'm mildly disappointed by the Eastburger. Although satisfying overall with the house-ground beef cheek patty, the abundance of the whole grain mustard, and the somewhat amusing interjection of caraway with every other bite, the Eastburger is almost easily forgettable in the long run. My strongest memories of the Eastburger are the limp lettuce and the overtly ecstatic bun top and that really shouldn't be the case. Maybe another day when spring is in full swing and burger fever is in top gear, I'll drop in again and see how the Eastburger fares this time around. And I would love to drop by the restaurant again to try some of the other enticing dishes on its menu. But for the time being, I think back to that 5-inch high burger and think, "That was nice. What's next?"
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