One of the fascinating things about Portland, ME is the niche community of food bloggers who are actively pursuing their interests in food, whether it be dining out at hole-in-the-walls or upscale establishments, cooking anything delicious or anything locally grown, etc. My interests in blogging, let alone food blogging, have been cyclical and partly driven by my free time (or more appropriately lack thereof) and my motivation to keep up my other passion, photography. So when A invited me to join the group of bloggers who publish their thoughts on one restaurant at a time on a monthly basis "like a boss," I was both daunted and intrigued. So here I am, part of the conglomerate to attack the newest theme of the year. This certainly goes against the sporadic frequency that is my blogging, but I like the challenge.
So, thankfully, I dodged a major bullet since 2010's endeavor was Thai-o-rama - an adventure to attack all 12 (or was it 13? Either way, it was probably 12 too many, in my opinion) Thai restaurants in our little city of Portland. I have had my fair share of pad thai, drunken noodles, and Thai iced tea during my college days and most everyone knows how much I "love" Thai food. But this year's theme seems doable: hamburgers. This, I can do. Or at least I say that now - I should probably reassess in four months' time. Instead of all the bloggers evaluating the same restaurant each month though, this year's theme is meant to explore as many restaurants as possible within the parameter's of the month's sub-theme. You still with me? For January, the burger must come from a diner/sandwich shop joint. And as we chug along, pubs, fancy joints, and alternative burgers will come down the pipeline. Hey, where's the month for fast food chain burgers? Just kidding. Maybe.
Sadly, my attempts to get a burger were thwarted not once, but twice as I set off to find both Hot Suppa! and Marcy's Diner closed on the day that I wanted a burger. Sadly, it wasn't meant to be. Instead, I headed down to Becky's on the waterfront, defeated but still optimistic that a burger was in my near future. I sat down and ordered myself a cheeseburger, fully loaded, but with mustard on the side. Classic yellow was all they had to offer, and I'm a Dijon fan. As I sat in the booth hungrily awaiting my beef patty between two buns, I began to think about how exactly one was supposed to review a burger.
Now, I am by no means a burger connoisseur, and I certainly don't inspect and appraise my burgers as seriously as say, A Hamburger Today does over at Serious Eats. They are serious about their noms after all. Burgers are also one of those foods where some folks will deviate harshly on a number of things - whether a soft bun or a firm, crunchy bun is appropriate, griddled or grilled, all condiments or add-your-own, onions raw or caramelized, diced, sliced, or ringed? Jeebus, what did I get myself into? Thank goodness the burger came in short order and I immediately plunged into the assignment head first.
What appeared before me was a 4-inch behemoth with crispy lettuce, thick tomato slices, super thick bread-and-butter pickle chips, and a slathering of something on the bottom bun. Luckily, I've learned enough through AHT to know the importance of taking a look halfway in or knifing it in half to inspect the cross section properly. For a medium rare order, it was halfway between a medium rare and a medium well. The American cheese wasn't quite melted enough for me to be excited, but I was completely distracted by the slathering during the entire eating experience.
In contrast to the simple butter griddled top bun, the bottom had a thick layer of mayonnaise, ketchup, some relish, and diced onions. I generally love a good saucy condiment to give my traditional burger some tang, even if it is just ketchup and mayo or ketchup and mustard mixed together, but this soft, fluffy bun wasn't having it. Not even halfway through the burger, I was slipping and sliding all over my plate. *plop* An entire tomato slice laying on my fries, spurred by the saucy concoction. *plop* My crunchy lettuce leaf sitting in a mustard bath. By the time I got to the last three bites of my burger, the pressure applied by my hands desperately to keep the burger together had completely divided the beef patty into two. And this made me realize something - a semi-intact burger is important to me. Thinking back to the burger itself, I can say that the veggies were fresh and crisp, the patty juicy and cooked to the desired temperature, and the slathering on the bottom (with the occasional hit of mustard from the side) was damn good. But when a triangle piece of beef patty and tomato was sitting abandoned on my plate while I had a third of the burger still in my hand, I was a bit bemused. Honestly, did I squish it that hard to disintegrate a portion of the patty? The finger-licking and lip-smacking moments were certainly enjoyable (especially since it was already 3:30PM and my body just wanted to inhale the whole thing), but wouldn't the experience have been better if I could one-hand it and eat fries with the other? And even then, that little pleasure was denied because of the crinkle cut fries that were undeniably mass-produced and flash-frozen somewhere in the Midwest, only to be over-cooked and underseasoned on my plate. *sigh*
But even through the seemingly endless rambling about how the soft bun couldn't handle the 3 inches of ingredients in between, I was still happy with this burger. Certainly not wowed by any stretch of the imagination, but it still quite satisfied. A traditional, American-cheesed, 1/3-pounder hamburger with all the fixings you'd see at any barbecue. It'll be interesting to see what I think of it 11 burgers down the line (assuming that I make it that far!). The $6.75 (plus tax and tip) sticker price makes me wince a little bit because it was so much on the traditional side, but by the time I left the diner, I was feeling fat and sassy. That'll do for now...
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