Sunday, August 31, 2014

Topolobampo -- The Verdict

For $19, a pricey but delish burger-related experience awaits at Rick Bayless' Topolobampo.  Even our lowest scorer found it a "totally unexpected pleasure."  A creative and well-layered mix of flavors, high-quality ingredients, and perfect execution made this Mexicanized torta de hamburguesa a welcome destination in our burger journey.  We all found the execution perfect, and the combination of flavors tasty.  Indeed, we forgot to get too many photos before there was no torta left on the placa.  The yucca fries garnered more appreciation in concept than execution, but the accompanying salsa and aoili would make roofing tar taste great.  Low of 81; high of 93; average of 88.

Exhibit 48 -- Topolobampo

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Gage -- The Verdict

"This is the high water mark for burgers in the loop.  In between the glisteningly buttery bun is something close to burger perfection."  High praise from one reviewer, but the group as a whole was similarly entranced.  Solid.  Well proportioned.  Tasty.  "Best cheddar I've ever had on a burger."  A particularly compelling accomplishment given the large scale of the restaurant itself and its touristy location.  Even where one of our special orders was slightly off, our group was still forgiving:  "in hindsight, [the missing lettuce] would have just been in the way.  The Gage knew what I wanted better than I did."  If you can average above 90 with this group, you've got something special.  "Keep your pot of gold, put a put of these burgers at the end of my rainbow."  Low of 84; high of 94; average of 91.  (The low light did not do the photos below justice.)

Exhibit 47 -- The Gage

Farmhouse -- The Verdict

Farmhouse really wants you to know how cool and fresh it is.  There's a palpable sense of effort, from the waiter's farm0fresh pledge to the parade of Pitchfork(TM) approved indie tunes on the sound system. The burgers even photograph well.  The good vibes continued through the apps, with the cheese curds garnering particularly strong commendations.  For the burger itself, alas.  Positivists liked the beef flavor and preparation.  Negativists found it lumpy and overcooked.  All agreed that the burger veered to the salty side, and the homemade ketchup wasn't worth the homemade effort.  The fries, also, were disappointing.  Well, at least it looked good.  Low of 62; high of 79; average of 70.

Exhibit 46 -- Farmhouse

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Sweetwater -- The Verdict

A welcome addition to a but of a touristy dead zone on Michigan Ave.  The pepper-stuffed burger offering was well received; tasty and surprisingly well constructed.  The patty melt, however, didn't impress, with a poor beef-to-bun ratio.  The basic burger was fairly basic, but we wouldn't kick it out of bed for eating crackers --know what I mean?  Good beef.  All offerings were cooked to order, and served swiftly, with friendly service.  Compared to the prior tenant, a Benningan's, it's a step up.  "No regrets in eating here but I might not remember to come back."  Overall:  solid pub grub, bub.  The fries, however, need a bit of work.  Low of 73; High of 81; Average of 77.

Exhibit 45 -- Sweetwater

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Chef's Burger Bistro -- The Verdict

It's early days for this burger boĆ®te, with a concept that suggests potential.  A burger-centric focus, a full menu of creative options, and a kitchen crew that knows their stuff.  But, the kinks were still present for our visit.  A tone deaf waiter recommended a special burger for "the girls" at our table, which send our experience in a Southernly direction.  Putting aside the service faux pass, once we got past that awkwardness (like a bad first date, you might laugh about it years later, but that doesn't mean the evening was a success), the burgers were out quick and to order.  Nice presentation, too, with a steak knife holding the concoction together and a lovely ceramic ramekin for the fries.  As to the merits of the burger, our group split on the beef flavor, some finding it tasty; others, a bit bland.  A common refrain, though, focused on the beef-to-bun ratio, which lacked symmetry with a hefty patty overwhelming the in-house baked bun.  "It looked like a man trying on a child's cap," resulting in more than a couple bunless bites.  The duck fat fries also underwhelmed; go with the regular ones.  At least during our visit, the Aristotelian unities were not present.  Low of 61; high of 79; average of 72.

Exhibit 44 -- Chef's Burger Bistro

Saturday, March 1, 2014


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Howells & Hood -- The Verdict

There's a lot going on at H&H.  We didn't sample the 100+ beers, but did enjoy some of the many quotations carved into the spacious "ultra picturesque spot."  The rest of the menu looked good, and the place had a nice vibe about it.  Turning to the burger itself, there was a bit of a divergence.  "This burger had admirable aspirations and failed by achieving them."  Some found it a bit salty ("Holy salted salinity, folks.  This burger was hit by a Morton's truck."); other found the seasoning flavorful and well prepared.  Said one:  "There's a good burger in here, just waiting to get out.  Unfortunately, the over fried onion ring topping distracted, and the bottom bun couldn't handle the pressure."  "Sloppy but worth it," said one.  Low of 71; high of 80; average of 75.

Exhibit 43 -- Howells & Hood

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Hub 51 -- The Verdict

Much to like here, starting with friendly service and great appetizers.  Several variations of burgers also scored well.  We all liked the thick burger options:  flavorful, generously sized, and so juicy the bun could hardly keep up.  Good, creative options were well perceived.  (The "skinny" didn't do as well -- "smashed beyond recognition.")  Good vibe, but in such a cavernous space, it would be hard to call this a find. The fries were controversial.  While one of our group like the "corn nut" flavor, most of us didn't.  We also couldn't quite figure out how to describe them ("fry confetti, dusted with an unadvertised Old Bay-eqsue seasoning"; "nubbins -- to herbed"; "cold icky Cajun spice"; "salty and strangely seasoned.")  Low of 69; high of84; average of 78.

Exhibit 42 -- Hub 51