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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Stephan Pyles - August 26, 2010

Last week's burger adventure took us to downtown Dallas to try the burgers at Stephan Pyles. Normally Stephan Pyles is a place you think of for Southwestern cuisine but we had been told that the restaurant serves a great burger at lunch. We were greeted by a friendly hostess who seated us at the bar overlooking a large kitchen full of energetic people preparing lunch for a fairly full restaurant. A few seats down from us, chefs were preparing for the nights service of Fuego which is Stephan Pyles restaurant within a restaurant concept. Our friendly server greeted us and told us about the daily specials and asked what we wanted to drink. A few minutes later she returned with our drinks and then I ordered a cheddar burger cooked medium with a side of spicy onion rings. Stephan Pyles features a Kobe beef burger cooked over hickory wood for $12 with a choice of fries or onion rings. All burgers are served with house made pickles, pickled carrots, onions and jalapenos. About ten minutes after taking my order, the server brought me a selection of house made ketchup, mayonnaise and must and a few minutes later, the following burger was placed in front of me:

The thick patty with prominent grill marks was a placed on top of lightly toasted house made bun and then covered with a thick slice of melted cheddar cheese. It was fairly simple in presentation but I have found that with Kobe burgers, simplicity is usually a better choice. Taking a bite, I tasted a hint of smoke from the wood grill and a light seasoning of salt and pepper in the beef. The patty was cooked to medium and was juicy but slightly dense in texture. The flavor of the Kobe beef overpowered the cheddar cheese so I would probably save two dollars and order a hamburger in the future. The bun was one of the best buns I have tasted on a burger. It was dense enough to stand up to every bite of the burger but it was still light and fluffy with a great flavor. The server told us that the make the buns fresh every day. Finally the sides served with the burger were hit or miss. The pickled vegetables were extremely good and while I think they would over power the burger, they had a great flavor by themselves. Unfortunately, the onion rings were not that good. Thin slices of onions were lightly battered and fried and then dusted with a blend of chile peppers and salt and served in a large mound next to the burger. The onion rings lost their heat very quickly and while good while hot, they ended up being lifeless once they lost their heat.

Overall I thought that Stephan Pyles prepared a nice burger but it did not provide the burger experience that makes me think this a great burger. The Kobe beef was seasoned well and cooked to perfection but the overall patty was too dense and the cheddar cheese got lost in every bite. The highlight of the burger was definitely the bun - lightly toasted, flavorful, fresh baked that morning and was the perfect holder for the burger. For a gourmet burger offering, Stephan Pyles serves a good burger but in the future, I would probably choose one of the other offerings on the menu.

Ratings (1-25):

Bun - 23, light and fluffy, great bun

Meat - 17, nicely seasoned but a little too dense, fresh meat

Appearance - 18 great grill marks, pickled vegetables were very pretty, bun had a nice shine on top

Taste - 17, good burger but something missing, flavors just didn't blend together perfectly

Overall - 75
Stephan Pyles on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

12 Burgers - August 21, 2010

Last week's burger rave took our group to the northeast corner of Preston Road and Belt Line Road to visit 12 Burgers which was recently named one of the top burgers in Dallas by the Dallas Morning News. 12 Burgers is located in small building that appears that have been a Taco Bell or Taco Bueno in past lives. The restaurant features an open kitchen with a flat top grill to cook burgers and fryers to cook up fresh cut fries and other appetizers such as hot wings, onion rings, cheese sticks and stuffed jalapenos. We were greeted at the register by a friendly employee who took our orders. I ordered a bacon cheddar burger with grilled onions and mayonnaise which was priced at $5.45 on the menu and for another $2.75, I upgraded to a combo which included fries and a drink. We were given a number and after getting a drink, I waited about ten minutes before the following burger was brought to the table:

An overlly thick layer of mayonnaise coated both the perfectly buttered and toasted top and bottom buns. The hand formed half-pound patty was covered with melted cheddar and two small slices of bacon. Lightly grilled onions were then heaped on top of the bacon. Taking my first bite, the burger was overpowered by the flavor of the mayonnaise so scraped off most of it and then went back to eating the burger. In the future, I would make a point to order light mayonnaise. The flavors of the burger were pretty good but were missing something. The patty was lightly seasoned and cooked to just above medium but it needed a little more seasoning and since it was made from a leaner blend of beef, it wasn't super juicy but it had enough fat in the meat to keep it from drying out. The cheddar cheese was a mild variety and was melted nicely on top of the patty. The grilled onions were only slightly cooked and didn't have the caramel color found on other burgers. The flavor of the bun was fairly neutral so it did not detract from the flavors of the meat and cheese on the burger. The bun also held up well to every bite. Finally you could taste that the fries were fresh cut every morning but they did not have much flavor.

Overall, I thought that 12 Burgers prepared an average burger but I applaud them on using fresh ingredients for their meat and fries. The burger could have used a little more fat in the meat and more seasoning and the mayonnaise should have been used a little more sparingly on the hamburger. I can see the potential in these burgers but there is still work to be done.

Ratings (1-25):

Bun - 20, perfectly toasted, soft and fluffy inside

Meat - 18, well cooked, needed more seasoning, bacon was used sparingly

Appearance - 19, nice looking combination of meat, melted cheese and grilled onions, golden brown bun looked really nice

Taste - 18, flavors didn't blend together as well as expected, fresh ingredients don't always mean the tastiest burger

Overall - 75
12 Burgers on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Tramontana - August 10, 2010

This week's burger quest took us to Preston Center to James Neel's restaurant Tramontana. Tramontana is a small bistro that is open Tuesday through Saturday and has an eclectic menu of locally sourced ingredients with French and Southern takes on the food. We walked in the restaurant and were promptly seated by our server who then told us the specials of the day which was a pasta dish and a red snapper dish. We all decided to order the Chef's Burger with double cheese and bacon which was priced at $10.95. While we waited on our burgers, the server brought us house made breads with a garlic red pepper butter which made for a nice snack while we waited. About ten minutes later, the following burger was brought to the table:

The burger was served open face so you could see the fresh lettuce, tomato, pickle and onion which I promptly turned into a nice side salad. A selection of mayonnaise, Dijon mustard and ketchup was served on the side in small ramekins. The half pound patty was served on a lightly toasted artisan bun. Two slices of American cheese were melted on top of the patty and then two crispy slices of bacon were crossed on top of the cheese. The patty appeared to be hand formed and taking a bite of the burger, I tasted a juicy patty seasoned with salt pepper and garlic. The patty had also been cooked to a perfect medium with the right amount of pink in the meat. I am not sure what meats Chef Neel used in the blend but it was fresh and flavorful. The American cheese was melted perfectly and while it didn't add much flavor to the burger, it worked well. The thin slices of bacon were smoky and cooked crispy. The hamburger bun had a good flavor and held up to every bite. Finally the french fries with crispy shoestring fries that had been lightly salted. They were too perfect to be hand cut but the generous serving was a good accompaniment to the burger.

Overall I thought that Tramontana cooked a well seasoned juicy burger. It isn't the cheapest burger but the ingredients were high quality and the burger was perfectly cooked. If you are in Preston Center and looking for a burger, Tramontana would be a great choice.

Ratings (1-25):

Bun - 19, good flavor, held up well to the juicy burger

Meat - 21, fresh hand formed patty, seasoned well, crispy smoky bacon

Appearance - 20 - great presentation, cheese melted nicely, colorful vegetables

Taste - 21, great seasoning, juicy patty, high quality meat

Overall - 81
Tramontana on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Neighborhood Services Bar & Grille - August 2, 2010

This week's burger adventure took our group to newest location of the Neighborhood Services group of restaurants - Neighborhood Services Bar and Grille. This location recently opened on the southeast corner of Preston and Royal and in September will the first of the group to be open for lunch. When we entered the restaurant, we were promptly greeted by a hostess who put our names on the waiting list and then pointed us in the direction of the bar. The menu at this location is very similar to the other locations and consists of a variety of grilled meats, pastas, fish dishes, daily specials. We found seats at the bar which was placed in front of an open kitchen which gave us some wonderful smells and sights as we waited. We were hungry so we decided to eat at the bar instead of waiting for a table and I ordered the cheeseburger ($15) cooked to medium which is served with a side of hand-cut French Fries and secret sauce. After ten minutes of watching my burger being cooked over the flame grill, the following burger was placed before me:

The hamburger patty is made with a mixture of chuck and brisket that is ground daily at the restaurant and placed on top of a bed of lettuce covering the toasted bottom bun. A thick slice of cheddar cheese was slightly melted in the middle of patty which was then topped with thick slices of fresh tomatoes, purple onions and homemade pickles. The burger was then topped with the crown of the toasted sesame seed bun. When I took my first bite, I tasted a very juicy and flavorful patty that had been cooked slightly under medium. The fat in the brisket and chuck mixture gave a the patty a great flavor which blended well with the mild cheddar cheese and the fresh bun. The patty also had a nice char on it from being cooked over flame. The cheddar cheese was probably my least favorite part to the burger. While it had a good flavor, it had a gritty texture in every bite that I took. I also would have like for it to have been melted a little more evenly over the patty. Next the sesame seed bun held up well to the juicy patty but it did not overpower the flavor of the meat. Finally the French fries that were dusted with red clay sea salt were very good especially when dipped in the spicy secret sauce. They weren't as crispy as other offerings but I enjoyed the fresh hand-cut fries.

Overall, I enjoyed the hamburger offering from Neighborhood Services Bar & Grille. The fresh ground beef was seasoned well and worked well with the toasted bun. The cheddar cheese was not my favorite but it did add to the gourmet quality of the hamburger. This is one of the more expensive burger offerings in the area but I would order it again when having lunch or dinner at Neighborhood Services Bar and Grille.

Ratings (1-25):

Bun - 19, nicely toasted sesame seed bun, good flavor

Meat - 21, great combination of brisket and chuck with good fat content, juicy patty

Appearance - 20, nice char on patty, fresh ingredients

Taste - 20, good seasoning, flavors of beef cheese and bun melded nicely in each bite

Overall - 80
Neighborhood Services Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 2, 2010

Lakewood's 1st and 10 - July 29, 2010

This week marked one year of our quest to find the ultimate burger and we decided to visit Lakewood's 1st and 10 on Mockingbird Lane in East Dallas. 1st and 10 features typical bar food such as burgers, chicken sandwiches, grilled ham & cheese, fried pickles, cheese fries, hot dogs and a few salad choices. When we walked in the darker bar, we were greeted and the server said we could sit anywhere that we would like and see suggested that we serve ourselves to the complimentary black-eyed peas and hush puppies as she took our drink order. The peas were tasty but the slightly spicy hush puppies were are little past their prime. They probably would have been best when hot from cooking. A few minutes later, the server brought our drinks and asked for our orders. I ordered a bacon cheddar burger with mayonnaise and grilled onions cooked medium with a side of cottage fries. About ten minutes later the following burger was brought to the table:

At first I thought that maybe she had given me the wrong burger but going around the table, we realized that all of our burgers were not how we ordered them. A cheeseburger that was ordered plain and dry was served with mayonnaise and my burger was served with lettuce, tomato, pickles and mustard. We tried to get her attention but we decided that it was not going to happen so we ate what we had been served. I was impressed that the burger was cooked to a perfect medium and after removing the extra toppings, I took a bite and tasted a very flavorful patty and sharp cheddar cheese. The mustard was spread a little too thick so it overpowered the overall flavor of the burger. I also wish that the cook had not cut the burger in half. It was nice to see that the meat had been cooked perfectly but all of the juices in the patty ended up on the bottom of the serving tray. The hamburger bun had a good flavor but the bottom bun did not hold to the amount of toppings placed on it. We forgot to specify point burgers so we received skinny burgers but I wonder if they use different buns for the larger size. If they do not, I wonder if you could actually eat a point burger with your hands. The grilled onions were thin slices of onions that had been caramelized and were placed on top of smoky cheddar cheese. The melted cheese and grilled onions were a great compliment to the patty.

Overall I think I would have been impressed with the burger offering at Lakewood's 1st and 10 but it was hard to get really excited with the screw ups in the kitchen. I realize that mistakes happen so I will probably go back during football season but when ordering I would suggest that the server read back the order and if it comes back wrong, get it fixed immediately upon serving. Also if you want the bigger patty, make sure to specify the Famous Point Burger. Finally I would also ask the kitchen to not cut the burger in half before serving.

Ratings (1-25):

Bun - 17, good taste but didn't hold up well to the toppings

Meat - 19, nicely seasoned patty, cooked perfectly, juices ran out after cutting in half

Appearance - 20, fresh toppings, good combination of grilled onions and cheese on patty

Taste - 18, good flavors, would have enjoyed more if the burger I ordered was the burger that was served

Overall - 74
Lakewood's 1st & 10 on Urbanspoon