Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Burger Vinaigrette

If all you watch is 7 seconds, watch from 1:44 until 1:51. That's just a nugget of gold, right there.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Bud's Bar - Sedalia, CO

Bud's Bar in Sedalia, CO (only a short 20 minutes south of Littleton) is a historic little joint that's previously made one of Denver's "Best Burger" lists.  I went last Friday, and experienced a great burger with some interesting twists that I wasn't expecting...

Another place you can read about Bud's Bar is in a book called Hamburger America, by George Motz.  (There's also a film, an iPhone app, t-shirts, etc...this guy is serious about burgers.)  Anyway, George traveled around the US of A reviewing burger joints and making a movie about it or something like that...and Bud's Bar is the ONLY Colorado burger joint that made it in the book.  They've got a nicely worn copy of it on hand for their diners to peruse.

This burger is like the primeval archetype of burgers.  You want produce on your burger?  Not here.  All they've got is white onions (raw or grilled) and pickles.  Lettuce?  Nope.  Tomato?  Nope.  Wheat buns, mayo, even french fries on the side?  All a big NOPE.  (On request, you can get a little plastic ramekin of pickled jalepenos.)  So what DO you get at Bud's Bar?

You get a burger made from the most basic, time-tested, elemental components.  A burger that scoffs derisively at the over-hyped and over-priced  "gourmet" burger restaurants out there. You get a toasted white bun that they source from Sam's Club, piping hot fresh local beef from Castle Rock Meats, and molten American cheese.  Ketchup and mustard are on the table.  You get a bag of Lay's potato chips also.  It all comes out on a piece of white paper in a little red basket.  PURE SIMPLICITY!!!

My double cheeseburger arrived at my table in all of it's gloriously unfettered simplicity...so steamy hot that I couldn't bite into right away...I was forced to just admire it visually whilst my tastebuds screamed in anticipation.

The cooking method is definitely worth a quick discussion, and is what introduced a few surprises for me.  Here's how they do it, and it really affects the finally product.  The burger patty is made in-house, and goes onto the flat top griddle.  It's not smashed, but here's where it gets weird.  The cook places a toasted bun top onto the patty while it cooks, and this bun top apparently soaks up the grease from the patty.  Then, they discard the bun top!  It serves that singular purpose.  Then the cheese goes on, and on top of the cheese is the bun top that you actually eat.  Bud's claims that this use-a-disposable-bun-to-soak-up-grease method is what allows this burgers to be really juicy but not greasy.  I can agree, it was juicy but not greasy.  All in all, quite interesting.

The next step is also a distinguishing characteristic of Bud's: they place a bowl over the patty/cheese/bun and let it steam.  (Some places do this with just the patty, like Ted's.)  Have you ever bought a hot dog at the amusement park, and it comes wrapped in tin foil, and the hot dog bun is steamed and moist?  Then you'll know how the buns are at Bud's Bar.  They are super soft, steamed, moist buns.  From a review standpoint, I would consider this to be the weak link in Bud's Bar.  I like moist buns (sorry I keep saying "moist buns") on a hot dog, but not on a burger.  I'd rather the bun be toasted and springy.

Moist buns aside, I have to give a lot of credit to Bud's Bar for their sheer simplicity and focus on lava-like American cheese and piping hot fresh beef.  A little grilled onion and a dash of mustard or ketchup, and you've got one great way to spend $5.50.

I wish I would've made this video.  The gal at the end was my waitress on Friday!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Matt's Bar - Minneapolis

Today's guest review comes from a good friend of mine, Paul Scrabeck, who used to live in Minneapolis.  While his comments regarding the distinguished nature of this blog are dubious at best, I think he is right on in his assessment of Matt's Bar.  I had the wonderful opportunity of trying the Jucy Lucy last summer, and it's a real treat!  Without further ado:

First of all let me say that being published on such a distinguished blog is an honor.  The only thing that makes me a worthy contributor is the recent opportunity I had to break bread at Matt’s Bar and consume the subject of today’s article: The one and only Jucy Lucy. 

Let me begin by saying that the contrast between the temperature of the air outside of Matt’s and the temperature of the cheese inside of (yeah, that’s right, INSIDE) my Jucy Lucy was vast.  My visit to Minnesota just happened to be during the middle of January and a frigid Arctic front was blowing in from the North Pole.  Brings up the question, how much do circumstances and atmosphere play into how good a burger tastes to a person? A topic for another entry perhaps?  In my case, conditions were perfect for a great experience.  I was in Minnesota on a business trip and found myself with a friend in south Minneapolis where Matt’s Bar happens to be located.   We were cold, hungry, and since I am from Minnesota but live in Colorado, something nostalgic is always nice when I’m back visiting and Matt’s was one of my favorites when I lived in the Minneapolis area. After a short dialogue about what we were hungry for, we decided on Matt’s and made the trek down Lake Street in my rental car to see if there was a table available at the regional favorite.   Much to our joy, there was.

The Jucy Lucy is a bit of a different creation than any other burger.  The only time I’ve eaten a burger with a pocket inside of it is when consuming a Jucy Lucy.  There are plenty of other creations that include a “pocket” for the ingredients, but the only one that is 100% beef is the Jucy Lucy.  For those not familiar with a Jucy Lucy, it is a burger with a “built in” pocket in the middle that is completely sealed (by meat) around the outside.  The inside is filled with melted, when fresh off the grill, boiling cheese.  For those still not tracking, think jelly donut except with hamburger and cheese. 

This Jucy Lucy was grilled to perfection.  There was a thin crust externally on the burger.  It was not thick, but it was evenly coated with a little bit of crust, the kind of crust that comes from searing the outside layer of meat with the hot grease on the grill.  It gives a little more texture to the hamburger.  It is a technique I am fond of.  The meat itself in a Jucy Lucy is usually cooked well done given the nature of the structure of the Jucy Lucy.  With cheese inside of the burger to melt and thinner outside walls than a normal burger, by the time the cheese is melted sufficiently, the burger is cooked with no pink left.  Most burgers cooked with no pink become dry and may feel like they’ll plug your esophagus as peristalsis begins its motion through your GI tract.  Though the Jucy  Lucy is not pink and cooked thoroughly, the loads of cheese melted inside provide plenty of moisture and lubrication for a smooth entry as the  Jucy Lucy prepares to meet her destiny.

One of the other things I think is unique about a Jucy Lucy: it has no “fixings”.  Matt’s gives you an option of onions or no onions.  I chose no onions as I am maybe what you might call a purist: I like my burger because of the hamburger, not all of the extra things that can drown out the actual taste of the hamburger.  Other than onions, they have mustard and ketchup at the table.  For a burger purist, this is all you need.

In conclusion, we need to discuss the bun.   Matt’s uses a simple white bread bun bought from some local distributor I’m sure.  It is not what sets your meal at Matt’s apart, as it's average at best.  What sets Matt’s apart is the atmosphere and the uniqueness of the burger.  For a great experience and a really good burger that is different than pretty much anything else, try a Jucy Lucy at Matt’s Bar in Minneapolis next time you are there!  On your way out you may see a sign with this clever little saying to leave you with a smile, “The best burger on earth coincidentally has a molten core.”

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Hey everyone!  Now there's an easy way to get to the blog.  The new web address is www.theburgerbaron.com!

This will make it really easy to tell your family, restauranteur acquaintances, college roommates, gorge buddies, kids, fellow burger lovers, and arch enemies about the blog!  And anyone else you can think of!

www.theburgerbaron.com.  Where burger nobility and chivalry live on!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


I've been looking forward to trying Elway's burger ever since my friend Jeff tried a bit of one at the Denver Burger Battle this last August.  Renowned as a great steakhouse (and rightfully so, it's probably the best filet I've ever had), they've also got a "smash burger" on their menu for $13.  Add fries, you're at $19.  Add a drink or two, with tip, and this is one expensive burger.  Is it worth over $20 for a burger and fries?  Read on...

My buddy Jeff and I visited the downtown location at the Ritz Carlton, and both ordered the Smash Burger cooked medium rare, with a side of fries (hand cut, fresh, parmesan/parsley as an option).

The first thing I noticed was the simplicity of Elway's offering here.  I love it.  You get one choice of cheese (cheddar), a brioche bun, and lettuce/tomato/onion. That's it.  There're no "specialty" burgers at Elway's, and I am actually grateful for that fact.  The simplicity is only reinforced when the waitress brought out 4 ramekins of mayo, ketchup, yellow mustard, dijon mustard.  No house made aioli, no red pepper ketchup, just the BASICS.  (All things considered, I have to deduct points from Elway's for not offering American cheese.  It seems weird, considering everything else is so basic and traditional.)

 When the burgers arrived, I was immediately struck by something that's never hit me before: this burger was FRAGRANT.  I mean it...I could instantly smell the meat and the bun as the burger was placed on the table.  It says a lot, and really got my engine started.  Jeff immediately noticed that the tasty, slightly sweet Grateful Bread Co brioche bun was a good margin bigger than the patty.  It was helpful in forming a type of pocket that contained the 9oz patty and produce.

The cheese was perfectly melted, but as mentioned I wish it could've been American.  I'll ask for 2 slices when I go back, as the meat-cheese-bun ratio was ever so slightly off kilter.  It says a lot about Elway's attention to detail that they had a great cheese melt on a medium rare patty, because the patty was cooked to perfection. (Note: the pics make it look medium to medium well, but don't be deceived by my iPhone.  It was red center, medium rare all the way.)

The produce was wonderful.  Red onion, hot house tomatoes, crisp pickles, and green leaf lettuce all fresh and tasty.

Now, onto the patty.  What we're looking at here is 100% fresh ground sirloin, 30% fat content, griddle cooked.  Although they call it a "smash burger", don't go to Elway's looking for that true, thin, crispy-edged smashed patty.  This patty is thick and only smashed once (lightly, it would seem).  However, there was a nice thick crust on the patty, and it truly tasted "steaky."  And here is the most confusing thing about Elway's patty:  it wasn't very juicy.  You can see in the pics that there was a few droplets of juice, but overall Jeff and I were befuddled as to the general lack of moisture.  It was by no means dry, but you'd expect a 9oz medium rare patty to be dripping juice everywhere.  Not so.  Maybe it's because the meat is dry aged?  Who knows...but I found it to easily be the biggest thing lacking about this burger.

In short, Elway's nails a few key components to a great burger:  attention to detail, commitment to quality, and a simple burger with a focus on the patty.  My biggest complaints are the cheese (ratio and type) and the lack of overall juiciness, but neither were deal breakers.

As Jeff said: "Price not included I would choose this burger over ANY other in the city.  But at 20 bucks for a burger and fries, I would have to think about it."  I'm not sure I'd pick this burger over any other in the city, but I think I am comfortable giving Elway's an A-.

You'll find it tough to go wrong with a burger at Elway's if you've got $20 to burn on a classy evening on the town.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Great Tip

From the Burger Lab:
"So what's the moral of the story? Unless you like your burgers with the resilient bouncy texture of a sausage, refrain from getting the meat anywhere near the salt until just before you cook it. In a way, this totally makes sense. Sausage meat is seasoned well before grinding in order to perform this very function: breaking down the meat proteins to form a tighter, more cohesive structure.
A burger's joy lies on the other end of the spectrum. A loose, coarse, open structure is a desirable characteristic, allowing the meat to break down into small pieces in your mouth, while providing plenty of hiding spots for hot juices to collect inside the patty, ready to gush and dribble out the moment you bite into it."

Thursday, January 12, 2012

We Should Feel Lucky

I've previously reviewed Steak 'n Shake on this blog, one of my childhood favorites.  It's in Denver now, and we should feel VERY lucky.

Here's PROOF.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I made Double Doubles

I've been sick.  For weeks.  Even the burger-saturated center of my brain -- the part full of neurons unceasingly firing information about meat, cheese, and bun -- even that part of my brain shut down for about 10 days.  It was horrible.

As the antibiotics kicked in, my desires reawakened and I found myself back in my familiar state of mind: battling daily with an insatiable burger lust.  So last night, my wife was out with friends and my kids were fast asleep, and I decided to indulge once again.  I made In-n-Out Double Doubles.

I used a tried and true recipe which you can find here: RECIPE.  I made a few small adjustments, since I don't normally order Animal Style when I visit In-n-Out.  I nixed the pickles, I was out of tomato (usually do it though), and I don't cook the beef in mustard.

Keep in mind, if you try this, and you should: caramelizing onions is gonna take you a good 30-45 minutes to get them properly gooey.

Well, that's my night last night.  I sat alone at my kitchen counter and gorged myself on Double Doubles.  Two of them.  Yes, two.

It's good to be back.