Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Hangover at Bang Bang Burgers- Charlotte, NC

There's a pretty simple formula to building a good burger- start with freshly ground beef, quality cheese, fresh toppings, a decent bun and cook it so it stays moist and juicy. However, building an amazing burger is a bit more of a challenge and it seems like new kid on the block Bang Bang Burgers has this figured out.

Bang Bang Burgers- Charlotte, NC
Bang Bang uses ground beef supplied by famous NYC meat purveyor Pat LaFrieda. LaFrieda is known for supplying beef to some of New York's finest restaurants. They are also known for offering custom ground beef blends to numerous burger joints including the famous Shake Shack burger franchise. For those of you that aren't familiar with the Shake Shack you can read my review here.

It's not easy to be the new game in town. Competition in the Charlotte burger scene is fierce with the likes of Burger21, Bad Daddy's, The Cowfish and BT's Burgerjoint all vying for a share of the higher end burger crowd. Differentiation, providing a good product and a great experience is what leads to a loyal customer base, and the spread of word of mouth, which is something that Bang Bang is delivering on.

Bang Bang has an ample selection of burgers that will suit most pallets on any given day, they even offer a number of vegetarian burger options for those looking for some lighter options or due to dietary choices.

The Hangover at Bang Bang Burgers
I tried the Hangover ($9), a single burger topped with cheddar cheese, potato bacon hash, caramelized onions, an over easy egg and "bangburger" sauce (a hybrid ketchup/thousand island type sauce) all served on a brioche bun.

The burger was cooked to medium and had that funky rich beef taste that you'd expect from well aged beef ground from short rib and chuck. The patty was seared with a slight crust on the outside and moist and semi-crumbly inside. Ample salt and pepper seasoning brought out additional flavor. The over easy egg was runny and blended into the burger with each bite. The bun- a toasted brioche roll, was as soft as a pillow and, with the caramelized onions, added a slightly sweet element. The potato bacon hash added a crunchy element to the burger. Although the bacon wasn't easily discernible, the potato flavor was...kinda like putting fries on a burger, but doing it more elegantly. Everything just worked. The Hangover is a damn good burger.

Judging from their fresh ingredients, the signature Pat Lafrieda burger blend, the unique flavor combinations and a general attention to detail, the other burgers at Bang Bang are equally likely to impress.

At Bang Bang Burgers your prayers for a great burger have been answered.

I'll be going back again.

Aburgeraday rating- 7.5/10

Bang Bang Burgers on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Best Damn Cheeseburger at 4505 Meats- San Francisco, CA

The San Francisco Ferry Building Farmers Market is a virtual food cornucopia, a foodies dream come true, a place where local Bay Area farmers and vendors peddle their wares- and where some of San Francisco's most famous chef's come to shop. It's not uncommon to spot familiar Food network TV personalities or some of the Bay Area's top sports celebrities. I've spotted famous chef Chris Cosentino at least twice but that could be due to his ownership of Boccalone, a Ferry Building cured meat shop that features "Tasty Salted Pig Parts" 

4505 Meats at the Ferry building farmer's market
The story behind 4505 Meats is an interesting one- the idea was born from Michelin five star chef Ryan Farr and brother Cessalee. Their full story can be found here, but eventually led to the opening of the 4505 butchery location in 2011, however to this day, they don't operate a full time restaurant, but rather an outdoor stand at the farmer's market.

The Farmer's market menu is limited to only a few items- a featured burger, hot dog, sausage on a bun and fries. 4505 does like to include seasonal vegetables as enhancements to popular menu items- in this case it was Heirloom tomato.

I ordered the Best Damn Cheeseburger ($9) and added a sunny side up egg ($2). The burger uses 100% grass fed, hand butchered beef and is served on a homemade buttery sesame scallion bun topped with Gruyere cheese, lettuce, onion, sliced red onion and secret sauce.

Best Damn Cheeseburger at 4505 Meats
The burger arrived in an unassuming cardboard fast food tray with a couple of toothpicks holding it together. To the average passer-by it would just look like your run-of-the-mill burger...but boy would they be wrong.

The meat was tightly packed and cooked to a perfect medium. The patty had a subtly gamey, grass-fed taste to it however this was not off-putting at all- in fact, it was the start of something wonderful. The heirloom tomato was as sweet as candy and with each bite, mixed with the burger's oozing juices, the runny egg yolk, heavenly melted gruyere cheese, and special sauce to deliver what I think is the widest flavor profile I've ever experienced in a burger. This burger was so juicy that it would run down your arms if you let was nothing more than- well just spectacular.

I don't give out too many ratings this high...I mean the burger needs to be really special, memorable, craveable...Oh best damn cheeseburger, how I dream of you at night!

Aburgeraday rating: 9/10

4505 Meats on Urbanspoon

Black Truffle Cheese Burger at The Cowfish, Charlotte, NC

Hungry for a burger? Hungry for some sushi?, Hungry for a sushi inspired burger?- well at the Cowfish you've come to the right place. With Locations in Charlotte, NC and now also in Raleigh, The Cowfish is a trendy high-end burger-sushi bar that serves a fusion of Asian inspired sushi and traditional North American style burgers all under on roof- and doing both very, very well.
The Cowfish Charlotte, NC
(photo courtesy of
The Cowfish only uses Meyer Black Angus antibiotic and hormone free, humanely raised cattle for their beef burgers and every burger is cooked to order and served with your choice of a side which includes choices like fried pickles, bacon slaw, onion strings and sweet potato fries just to name a few.

I went for the Black Truffle Cheese Burger ($13.00)- a 8oz beef patty served with lettuce, roasted shallots, truffle-infused sauteed mushrooms served on a brioche bun with roasted garlic aioli .

The Black Truffle Cheese burger at The Cowfish
This burger is the epitome of indulgence- it was juicy, flavorful, but not too rich. Each of the ingredients compliments each other and there isn't any one thing that jumps out at you other than- man this burger is damn good!

The truffle is ever-so subtlly 'truffley'
The mushrooms a bit earthy,
The cheese a touch "tangy"
The shallots a bit sweet
...and the garlic mayo rounds it all out.

I have to say that this Cowfish burger qualifies as one of the top 10 burgers that I've ever tried- an I've tried TONS of burgers.

Highly Recommended.

One tip- The Cowfish is a popular place so make sure you are prepared to wait a while even during off-hours- We were there on a Tuesday at 11:45 AM and there was already a 30 Min wait- luckily there is plenty of seating around the bar, but if bar seating isn't your cup of tea a 30 min wait is well worth it here.

Aburgeraday rating: 8/10

The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar on Urbanspoon

Bacon Cheesy Burger at Burger 21- Charlotte, NC

Burger 21 is an upscale Florida-based burger franchise that is the brainchild of the owners of Melting Pot restaurant's Inc. Their entry to the burger market is another addition to what seems to be an ever growing, yet highly competitive Charlotte fast-casual burger market. With the first franchise opening in Tampa Florida in 2010, Burger 21 has begun national expansion with recent additions up the Eastern seaboard all the way north to NYC and newly announced locations as far west as Phoenix.

Burger 21
The menu includes a number of things you'd expect from a higher-end burger joint- hand-made burgers, fancy thin-cut fries (like the cheese ale fries with bacon, cheese and scallions) and hand spun milkshakes. There's also a few surprises like their dipping sauce bar that features a number of sauces and ketchup's to dip your fries in or drizzle over your sandwich.

The Condiment Bar at Burger 21

Burger 21's name originates from the 21 burger options available on the menu- 10 beef burgers, and 10 that are not beef +1 monthly special that changes the 21st of each month.

Burger 21 uses only hormone-free certified Angus beef that's never frozen, ground fresh daily and seared on a flat-top grill.
The Bacon Cheesy Burger at Burger 21
Today I went for the Bacon Cheesy Burger ($7.49) topped with pickles, lettuce, red onion, tomato. (mayo, mustard and ketchup are optional). The burger came out cooked to medium and featured a crumbly patty. The burger blend seemed pretty basic and was reminiscent of ground chuck but seasoned just right and juicy. The American cheese was fully melted and the bacon thin, crispy with a slight chew. The brioche bun was slightly sweet but could have been a tad bit fresher, but apart from that, the Bacon Cheesy Burger was a pretty tasty burger that I'd come back for again.

Aburgeraday rating: 7/10

Burger 21 on Urbanspoon

The Culver's Deluxe at Culver's- Fort Mill, SC

Opening it's first location in Wisconsin in 1984, fast food chain Culver's can now be found throughout America's heartland. Culver's new location in Charlotte, NC is conveniently located just off I-77 right on the SC border with quick highway on/off-ramp access. At time of writing this review the location was brand-spanking new with plenty of indoor and limited outdoor seating.

Culver's is known for it's burgers and for it's fresh frozen custard that gets spun into a variety of frozen treats.

Culver's Charlotte, NC
Burgers are made with fresh, never frozen 100% US beef and are flat top cooked with light seasoning and served on a toasted buttered bun given it it's "butter" burger name, also, burgers that come with cheese feature Wisconsin cheese.

I went for the Single Culver's deluxe topped with mayo, lettuce, tomato, pickle and American. The burger arrived quickly and had a phenomenal crust- far more crust than I've ever had which added a different taste and texture dimension. The crust didn't dry out the burger at all, in fact it locked in all of the juices. Patties are thin and I'd recommend opting for the double, or even the triple if you're bringing a big appetite, but for a quick lunch bite, the single was perfect. The buttered bun was a nice touch. Add the mayo and the cheese and you get a decadent crunchy crispy, cheesy melty combination.

The Culver's Deluxe burger at Culver's
Overall, Culver's ranks near the top of regional burger chains that I've tried and even thought they don't fall into the gourmet category they still produce a good quality product. Add the fact that they serve custard and other tasty frozen treats and it makes Culver's a great destination for the whole family.

Aburgeraday rating: 6/10

Culver's on Urbanspoon

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Southern Style Big Block Burger at The Diamond- Charlotte, NC

Featured on George Motz's hit food show 'Burgerland' The Diamond is a classic American diner that opened way back in 1945 and serves up home cooked diner food with regional inspirations.

The Diamond is located near Charlotte's Uptown neighborhood of Plaza Midwood, the location of an active bar and after hours scene.
The Diamond. Charlotte, NC
Burgers, dogs, sandwiches, and classic diner meals like meatloaf are staples on the menu, while fried pickles, pull pork sandwiches and calabash fried fish add regional food flair.

The Diamond only uses 100% Angus beef and their burgers vary in size from 1/3 lb Small block size to the full blown 1 lb Hemi. I went for something in between- the Big block ($6.95) with 2 x 1/3 lb patties ordered "southern style" topped with chili, mustard, onions and slaw. I added pimento cheese a southern cheese favorite- which is a spread consisting of processed cheese, cheddar cheese and mild pimento peppers. 

The burger patties are hand formed and are reminiscent of the shape that mom used to make 'em- shaped like fat little hockey pucks. 

The meat came out cooked to medium-well, juicy and flavorful. The no-bean chili was a welcome addition. It added some additional complexity that was quickly cut by the coleslaw, layered with onion pimento cheese and mustard. All on a soft burger bun. No brioche bun here...the bun was nothing special, but it was fresh, and sometimes that's all that matters.

The Southern Style Big Block Burger
This is what you'd expect from a classic diner that's been open for over 60 years- good and simple regionally inspired home style cooking served without attitude. Highly recommended.

Aburgeraday rating: 7.5/10

Diamond Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 22, 2013

BT's Cheeseburger at BT's Burger Joint. Charlotte, NC

It seems like these days a decent burger is never located too far away and with the likes of Smashburger, In-N-Out, Five guys and now expansion of Shake Shack- should the traditional national chains start worrying about these upstarts taking away their share as they deliver great value, better quality, and come with a cult following? Now I don't think that McDonald's is going to radically alter their strategy- they have such a monumental lead in fast food market share, but they are noticing, adapting and adjusting their menu to stay relevant in the ever changing fast-food space.

Some places don't need to adapt, they just need to deliver a consistent good quality product that's affordable, tastes good, has good service and friendly staff and that's recipe enough for success. Enter BT's Burger Joint- a relative newcomer to the NC burger scene with 2 Charlotte and 1 Asheville locations. The brainchild "of two regular guys who like great burgers and don't like to wait" BT's goes beyond just burgers and fries by offering a selection of salads, hot dogs, chicken and cheese steaks.

The BT's location in Ballantyne is squeaky-clean and offers ample indoor seating as well as a covered patio area to enjoy when the weather is nice.

BT's Burgerjoint Ballantyne location
BT's sized burgers are made with 8oz patties, while regular burgers are 6oz. All burgers are seared on a flat-top, and are made to order. One thing burger aficionados will love to see when visiting BT's is the sign at the cash register that displays how you can have your burger cooked- and this list, my friends, includes the option for rare. Some might not think this is a big deal, but if you are a burger lover you need to appreciate that the quality of beef used at a restaurant that serves a rare burger- its usually pretty good- and at BT's this was no exception.
I ordered the BT's Cheeseburger ($6.35)- rare with mayo, grilled onions, lettuce, tomato and pickle. The burger arrived cooked rare- as ordered formed into a perfect circle and packed tightly with a little crumble that held together nicely through each bite. The burger had good seasoning of salt and pepper and it was very easy to taste the quality beef which was arm-dripping juicy, meaty and flavorful. The 2 slices of American cheese could have been given a bit more melt and was likely caused by having the burger cooked rare but hardly a showstopper. The egg brioche bun was a star in this show- it was slightly sweet and velvety fresh.

The BT's Cheeseburger
BT's follows the formula for getting repeat customers- the burgers are excellent, the cost affordable and the service is great- a must try in my opinion.

Aburgeraday rating- 8/10
BT's Burger Joint on Urbanspoon