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Hopdoddy Burger Bar Edition

Arizona, Austin, Burgers, California, Chain, Colorado, Gourmet, Los Angeles, Texas, West Coast By August 6, 2016 No Comments

I’m really scratching my head on this one. As I struggle to tickle the keys on my beat to hell 2007 Macbook, I face the stark truth that I am about to give props to the one burger joint in Austin that seems like it came out of the Wachowski brothers’ Matrix trilogy: Hopdoddy Burger Bar. The customers don’t wear nearly the same amount of leather as Carrie Anne Moss, and I’m pretty sure open carry in Austin’s City Limits doesn’t include Matrix level hardware, but the almost too perfect polished feel of the place seems jarring enough for me to take the red pill. In this case, the “red pill” meant taking on three(actually 4) burgers to see how deep Bang for your Burger Buck can go here. And how deep does the rabbit hole go at Hopdoddy? Let’s just say by the end I was waxing poetic on these burgers with the Mad Hatter and Alice.

On paper, places like Hopdoddy are why I began the search for Bang for your Burger Buck. The $10 and up burger trend was shifting burger discourse away from beautifully imperfect burger stands to chef driven concepts dripping with start up cash from dudes in Teslas who just started saying the word “dude” again after a 5 year hiatus post college/grad school. With a full bar, boozy milkshakes and several well positioned monitors blasting ESPN, the temptation to stay awhile and get loose at Hopdoddy is great. $50 later you may find yourself asking how a burger and beer experience bordered on a light sushi dinner. Well, it’s not really a conspiracy on the part of joints like Hopdoddy. They figured out awhile back that people will spend money in all kinds of settings, whether they be quiet white table cloth lined dining rooms or a burger joint with kobe on the menu and kobe highlight reels on the TV. So why should you spend your hard earned buck here? Because in this instance, the crowds indeed gather for good reason: their burgers rock. Their burgers are also all over the map. In fact, it kind of irks me when a burger joint can’t pick one burger version and run with it. In Hopdoddy’s case, they have 12 burgers that showcase extreme topping creations versus that one single interpretation of what they believe a great burger truly is. After an initial dud, I honed in on three burgers that struck me as compelling on their own and fine to compare and contrast. Like shopping for a car or a Mac(hint hint), budget will drive your journey. So here are three great Hopdoddy burgers, in ascending order of Bang for your Burger Buck, that are indeed worthy of your hard earned buck. And I freaking enjoyed eating every one of ’em too.

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Mighty Fine Burgers – Austin, TX

Austin, Burgers, Chain, Texas By June 16, 2016 No Comments

The Vitals:
the burger:The Classic” 1/2 lb Meyer Ranch Angus hormone/antibiotic free natural chuck, shredded Iceberg lettuce, off the vine tomatoes, sliced white onions, crinkle cut pickles, “white”(mayonnaise) and “red”(ketchup) on a standard issue hamburger bun
the bucks: $6.29

In the year 2016 . . .

For those of us old enough to marvel at hearing those words being said out loud, we know that our present is in many ways the very exciting future of our past imaginations. Just watch an episode of the original Star Trek, on your smartphone, and have a trippy existential kind of moment when Captain Kirk flips open his tricorder as you think to yourself “there’s an app for that ” .  .  . which brings me to the latest find for Bang for your Burger Buck: Mighty Fine Burgers, and a growing realization that burger chains are being reinvented in very very good ways in the 21st century. You best believe this is one burger that even Spock and Bones would agree is a solid deal. 

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The Shake Shack Edition

Burgers, Chain, Nationwide By May 6, 2016 2 Comments

Shake Shack, Shake Shack, why do I love thee so? Let me compare thee with thy competition:

  1. Are you are better than In-N-Out?
  2. Are you are better than Steak ‘n Shake?
  3. Are you are better than Five Guys Burger and Fries?
  4. Are you are better than Smashburger?

Ok, enough of this burger bashing tuned to a PBS series stuck in iambic pentameter. Choosing between national, better than your average, burger chains that operate under different price points and levels of service is silly, it’s unfair. Many of these burgers have their place, though if I had all of these burger options in front of me at once, I would choose Shake Shack. And it’s kind of un Bang like of me to pick Shake Shack because it is by far the most expensive option. It is also the choice that boasts the highest quality of ingredients, the best bacon cheeseburger, oh and they serve beer, good beer. But one must be cautious, vigilant even, as to the ways one can pay and pay for a Shake Shack experience. With burgers that can cost up to$10, plus beer, tempting shakes and crinkle cut fries all aiming to rack up your tab, you really need a plan of attack when you step up to this Shack. Good thing I went through 4 burgers to find the path to Bang for your Burger Buck. Let’s start with one of the best bacon cheeseburger concepts I have ever come across.

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The Smashburger Edition

Burgers, Chain, Nationwide By March 10, 2016 3 Comments

The Vitals:
the burger: smashed double cheeseburger on an egg bun, american cheese, custom sauce, lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickle, ketchup
the bucks: $7.99
the coordinates: tested in Austin, TX(locations nationwide)

For some, patience is a virtue. I think it’s kind of overrated. I didn’t always feel this way, certainly not in the days of my moderately spoiled youth where I would turn coming home with an “A” on a book report into a trip to KB Toy Store(that’s the 80s version of Toys R Us in case you’re a Millennial). Harnessing the power to persuade while gingerly finagling is all about patience and patience was so often the key in convincing my parents that a $60 Transformer was instrumental to my path of mastering the works of Ernest Hemingway. Today, in our food crazed world we certainly wait for food, in which case patience is paramount. The other day I waited 3.5 hours in a line for BBQ. This act not only demonstrated my own patience, but that of my wife’s for putting up with a man who single handedly altered her weekend with an act of lunch. Which brings me to Smashburger, a burger chain who I patiently waited to try, even though I longed for their style of smashed burgers when I lived in Los Angeles, a town surprisingly deficient in such style. The great burger of my youth was Steak ‘n Shake, and in the 20 years I lived in LA, I would dream – literally dream about finding a branch of the Midwest burger chain somewhere in the outer environs of Southern California. It took me just over a year to make my inaugural trip to Smashburger. And then it took another two years before I gave it the requisite second and third Bang for your Burger Buck trials. I suppose the reason for my lag in return visits was that I wasn’t initially blown away. And while $8 for a double cheeseburger, not cooked to temp, may not scream deal of the century, I have to say that my patience with Smashburger is indeed your reward because I ultimately did find a version that really exemplifies the smashed burger style. I suppose patience isn’t too overrated but I’m going to let this burger justify all that.

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The Fatburger Edition

Burgers, Chain, Nationwide By January 16, 2015 No Comments

The Vitals:
the burger:
 double medium with mayo, lettuce, tomato, pickle, onions, relish, and mustard 
the bucks: $7.63
the coordinates: tested in Los Angeles, CA (with locations across the country and globe)

Welcome to Bang for your Burger Buck: The Fatburger Edition. Long cherished in Los Angeles, thanks in no small part to Ice Cube’s “Today was a Good Day”, Fatburger sometimes falls in the shadows of some formidable burger competition like the ever affordable In N Out, or the top shelf concept burger empire, Umami. It’s never easy being the middle child I guess, just ask Jan Brady, but believe me when I tell you that there is Bang for your Burger Buck to be had at this middle of the road burger temple. You will have to chart a careful course through a menu riddled with costly add ons like that black vat of tepid chili that seems to be lingering for the late night drunk crowd, confusing size options like XXXL that bring to mind memories of Ice Cube’s stint as an Action star more so than the weight of a burger patty, and then there are those legitimately tempting milkshakes. But rest assured, my friends, for I have plotted the perfect course around these tragic topping obstacles and sadly, you will have to get one of those tempting milkshakes on another visit. But it’s gonna be ok, because the double medium burger with every house topping delivers real deal Bang for your Burger Buck.

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One from the Vault: Dog Haus Biergarten – Pasadena, CA

Burgers, Chain, from the Vault at LA TACO, Los Angeles, West Coast By October 15, 2014 No Comments

Upon taking your first step inside Dog Haus Biergarten just off the main drag in Pasadena, you will pretty much get the place in 30 seconds or less. Flat screens playing sports, full bar and a food dude centric menu. What you may not get, at least until you sink your teeth into one of these over the top burgers is that the topping combos actually work together. And considering that some of these topping combos resemble an upper tier meal at KFC for the $7 mark, well, Bang had to make a trip to the 626 . . .

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