Phil’s Icehouse – Austin, TX

Austin, Burgers By August 27, 2015 No Comments

The Vitals:
the burger: Mini Burger Sampler Basket: three topping concept driven sliders from a selection of eleven different renditions plus a 50/50 mix of regular and sweet potato fries
the bucks: $9.49
the coordinates: Austin, TX

Sliders and the restaurant “Playland”. Two crucial components to Phil’s Icehouse. Two elements that are frankly way undervalued in the burger world. After recently completing a 1500 mile road trip from Los Angeles to Austin with a three year old, I came to appreciate the power of the Playland. An appreciation that came with a cost. One can only imagine the legendary Chicken Fried Steak or BBQ Brisket I passed up because the aforementioned diner or shack failed to offer a slide and climbing wall. A regret that seems actually more bearable than the thought of enjoying the most blissful bite of fork tender beef brisket only to turn into chewing gum once your 3 foot tall dining companion commences a meltdown. So for those 1500 miles I ended up eating more than my share of Chicken McNuggets, Square hamburgers and fake milkshakes. But hey, that’s part of the sacrifice of being a Parent right? Wrong. Leave it to some smart entrepreneur who recognized this ridiculous disparity of fine food and fun times for the ankle biters, and set up a place like Phil’s Icehouse. And speaking of fine food, how about fine tuning about 11 compelling burger combinations then offering them in miniature form, aka sliders? Sound like a good idea? Well, it tastes like one too.


Belcampo Meat Company – Los Angeles, CA

Burgers, Los Angeles, West Coast By August 19, 2015 No Comments

The Vitals:
the burger: Double Fast Burger: two 3oz patties of enlightened grass fed beef, house made American cheese, custom burger sauce, lettuce, tomato and onion
the bucks: $8
the coordinates: Los Angeles, CA

One of the most compelling debates on how to make great food erupted perfectly on Twitter a few years ago between Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert over which factor was more significant: technique or ingredient. Bourdain’s argument for technique sort of “won”, as he pointed out that whole cuisines developed around humbling circumstance thereby elevating “lesser” ingredient into what we now know as American Soul Food or Countryside French. Ripert’s retorts for the case of ingredient highlighted the fact that in the food world of today, Chef’s who demonstrate good technique have an almost unparalleled access to fine ingredient, making the debate somewhat moot: Technique and Ingredient are equally significant though don’t always exist in perfect harmony.

The debate haunts my mind with every great meal I encounter. Few times is there true balance between technique and ingredient, and when it comes to Bang for your Burger Buck, often it is technique that is taking the spotlight. Perhaps I’m oversimplifying this fine debate but ingredient comes down to bucks, and saving a few means technique has to step up. There are loads of excellent burgers that I don’t cover and the reason is price. Though I don’t want to think of Bang for your Burger Buck as a “$10 and under club”, it kind of is. Because of this journey that is driven by value, of feeling compelled to make “the find”, I have deprived both you and I, the pleasure of encountering and documenting an “ingredient” driven burger. Until now. After visiting many a burger joint, primarily in Los Angeles, I have come to a place where I am overwhelmed to make the following declaration: the Fastburger at Belcampo Meat Company is the best Bang for your Burger Buck in Los Angeles. Yup, I said it. I don’t do the stars thing – every burger in here is a case for value, but the Belcampo Fastburger is the best deal in town and this is because the burger embodies the balance of excellent technique and superb ingredient. Even crazier than making that kind of contentious “throw down the gauntlet” kind of statement is that the sheer greatness of this burger, the Bang for your Burger Buck, does not stem from the quest of making a great burger but rather from the philosophy of sustainable food. Ethical farming seldom enters the forum of Bang for your Burger Buck but exemptions are made when a burger tastes this good. Add to that an asking price of $8, and this double cheeseburger is an exception welcomed with jaws and wallets, wide open.


Big Mouth Burgers – San Francisco, CA

Burgers, West Coast By July 24, 2015 No Comments

The Vitals:
the burger: The Big Mouth Burger: a 1/2 pound of USDA Prime All Natural Chuck, charbroiled and served with lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickle and mayo
the bucks: $8.95
the coordinates: San Francisco, CA

Most of the country would balk at a cheese-less burger for $9, even if it was a 1/2 pound of USDA Prime all natural chuck and came with fries. But most of the country ain’t got nothing on a warm sunny day in San Francisco, which could just about sway almost anyone that you might be in the greatest city in America. This well reputed metropolis surrounded by natural beauty, enriched in culture, and well recorded in the history books, just about owned the food movement in America, if not the world, for the latter part of the 20th century. Farm to Table took root in the Bay Area first thanks to Alice Waters and spurred a whole generation of chefs to come. The Asian pantry collided with European cooking sensibilities here. I won’t even get into the whole wine thing, but I will say that when one looks beyond all the vitricultural brouhaha, the beer made in these parts is just as good. Yeah, San Francisco is a hell of a town, and an even better one if you are hungry. Finding a great burger is not a hard thing to do. Finding Bang for your Burger Buck – well that was kind of a conundrum.


Matt’s Bar – Minneapolis, MN

Burgers, Midwest By July 2, 2015 No Comments

The Vitals:
the burger: The Jucy Lucy: a burger stuffed with american cheese, topped with grilled onions and thinly sliced pickle
the bucks: $6.75
the coordinates: Minneapolis, Minnesota

The search for Bang for your Burger Buck can certainly take you places. You may find yourself so deep in the hood your Spidey Sense might be tingling to the tune of a scene from Training Day. Or you could find yourself smack dab in the middle of fly over country, at a modest looking neighborhood bar that somehow has drawn the likes of major Food TV personalities and the President of the United States. Like the slogan of the site says – it’s about the journey as much as it is about the burger. Cheap Eats, and certainly great burgers, come in unexpected places. And speaking of, this is one solid griddled to perfection serving of ground chuck, stuffed with American Cheese for $6.75. Like the City of Minneapolis, the Jucy Lucy at Matt’s Bar seems like a quick read. But after you sink your teeth into both burger and the city, you will find that what seems to be antiquated food traditions, are in actuality paying dividends in our current foodie renaissance. Before I get too carried away with all that let’s talk about how the Jucy Lucy at Matt’s Bar evokes White Castle and why that is actually a good thing.


The Silo on 7th – Austin, TX

Austin, Burgers By June 5, 2015 No Comments

The Vitals:
the burger: The Eggs Benedict Burger(Angus beef and pork breakfast sausage patty blend, topped with a poached egg, hollandaise sauce, lettuce, tomato and onion)
the bucks: $8.50
the coordinates: Austin, Texas

Two foods that we all know, love, and trust have been conducting a covert takeover of menus across the country.

Yes, I’m talking about Bacon and Eggs.

When spoken in the same sentence one quickly dismisses them as two pals who take morning strolls in the neighborhood together. Much like Peanut Butter and Jelly do around lunch time, or what Meat and Potatoes often do after dark. But unlike PB&J or Meat and Potatoes, Bacon and Eggs are splitting up, and showing up in all manners of food, at all hours too. Beyond the over the top and lets face it, the outright obnoxious trend that is the meat straw in a Bloody Mary, Bacon can show up pretty much anywhere at anytime, and it’s welcomed. Bacon on burger? But of course! Bacon on fowl? They call that a Turkey Club and even the most paranoid Tea Party toter will say that’s as American as Apple Pie. Bacon on Pork? If I could count the times Ina Garten wrapped a pork tenderloin in bacon in anticipation of Jeffrey coming home from a hard day of yachting then I could, well I could count a whole lot, like Rain Man did when the box of toothpicks hit the ground. But back to bacon and eggs and really, back to eggs, because despite their long history of showing up in a plethora of dishes and cuisines around the world, their appearance in the food world of today qualifies it as a bonafide food trend. Eggs show up for lunch and dinner. Pizzas, Pastas, Vegetable side dishes – here they pretty much take the role of Foie Gras for the vegetarian. So, if it’s no longer a big deal for eggs to show up for lunch and dinner, why not have a burger show up for breakfast? The peeps at Silo on 7th seemed to think so and with that I present to you the Eggs Benedict Burger and a Bang for your Burger Buck taste of East Austin.


Hinano Cafe – Los Angeles, CA

Burgers, Los Angeles, West Coast By May 15, 2015 No Comments

The Vitals:
the burger: double cheeseburger with house toppings(lettuce, tomato, red onion)
the bucks: $8.50
the coordinates: Venice Beach, CA(12 miles west of Los Angeles)

It has been said that etiquette may well be a thing of the past. And perhaps images of young men holding open doors for the elderly or school children rising when a teacher enters a classroom are indeed as frozen in time as those crude etchings of Wooly Mammoths found in the caves of Southern France. Contrary to this notion, I do believe that, in certain instances of modern context, etiquette still does occur, though in ways that may seem more subtle or unexpected to our forbears. Take for instance the dive bar. That hallowed home away from home where the working man or woman spends some quality time and dollars, in libation and revelry, with fellow working men and women. A place where convenience, affordability and joy intersect. The dive bar is more than just a bar, it is a pseudo private club for the blue collared. They are places that are claimed, that are deserved of our loyalty. It would be poor etiquette to covet another man’s dive bar. Therefore I cannot honestly claim Hinano as my own because it aint in my hood. I am no beach dweller, and it may well be at least a lifetime or two till the day when I can afford to hang my hat walking distance to the beach. But I can visit. I can pay to park so I can essentially pay to put my feet in the sand. And since I have an hour or two left on my meter, I might as well go crush a burger.