Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Longhorn Saloon & Grill

(Visited December 17)


Eighty-five miles!

That's how far I drove, 85 miles...for a hamburger!

Am I nuts, or what?

My destination was the "Longhorn Saloon" in Edison, Washington up in the Skagit Valley

Edison is a small, out of the way (and I mean that quite literally) place, and if you didn't know it was there you really wouldn't know it was there.  Hey, it's not even a town! 

(Here's a bit of trivia: newsman Edward R. Murrow graduated from Edison High School.  How about that?!)  

The U.S. Census Bureau calls Edison a "census-designated place" (CDP), but I'd call it a community; a community of 133 people living in 59 "housing units" (more "government speak").  There are a handful of shops, a cafe, a couple of galleries, a liquor store and two taverns/ restaurants.  Our destination, the "Longhorn Saloon", is one of these.

So, if this place is so "out of the way", just how did I find out about it?  Well, several years ago we lived on Whidbey Island and we would go through Edison on our way to Chuckanut Drive for oysters or to go up to Bellingham.  Just about every time we went through Edison we'd say, "We need to stop here some time.", but we never did; we were always on our way somewhere else.

But not today!

While I'd been by the "Longhorn Saloon" on many occasions and it always seemed they were busy, I had never actually heard anything about the place.  I looked them up on the internet and could find no website, but I did find several references and reviews on other sites.  The general buzz was favorable, and that only made me want to see for myself all the more.


Edison Slough

We got there a little after noon and parked in their parking lot out back overlooking Edison Slough.  There were already nearly a dozen customers when we got there, but the place was far from full.


We started out with a couple of shots of Jameson and a couple of beers, Sam Adams Winter Lager for me and a Stella for my wife.  We began our meal with a dozen oysters each, not on the half-shell, although that's how they're billed on the menu, but presented on an oyster plate with an assortment of accouterments. Good, but I prefer the "half-shell" presentation; with that you can be fairly certain that, having ostensibly just been shucked, your bi-valves are quite fresh.  I don't mean to imply in any way that these oysters weren't, I'm just sayin'.

While perusing the burger section of the menu, I had zeroed in on their "Double-Double" (double meat, double cheese, double bacon, along with your traditional garden representatives...lettuce, onion and tomato).  After my experience at Hodad's with their double bacon cheeseburger, and taking into account the dozen oysters, I was expressing reservations at my ability to finish such a burger.  Ron, a rather large fellow at the next table who had ridden his Harley over from Oak Harbor just to wrap himself around said "Double-Double", allowed that, oysters or no, he thought the "Double-Double" was do-able.  Well OK, if Ron thinks so, that's good enough for me!

My wife went for the fish-and-chips, and was sorry she did.  The fried frozen cod was watery.  She was wishing she had gone the way of the burger; I know I was glad I had.  When the burger came I dove right in; hey, I'd just driven 85 miles for this, and I was ready!  Tasty, juicy beef, melted cheese, crispy bacon and fresh lettuce, onion and tomato, all on a bun that, while not "artisan", was fresh and did its job without falling apart.  I'm sorry to say I neglected to get a photo of my burger.  After driving an hour and a half to get this burger, I immediately started in on it and didn't think about the photo until I was half-way through it.  I did take a photo of it at that point, but let me assure you that a half-eaten burger just doesn't have the same visual allure as one that hasn't been ravaged by a famished road warrior.

Ron was right, the "Double-Double" was do-able, and it left my mouth very, very happy.  So, as you might guess, this burger, on my three tier scale of "worth the trip", "worth a stop" or "drive on by", rates a "worth the trip"...even an 85 mile trip!  I can't say that I'd drive 85 miles for a burger anytime somebody drops a hat, but today I was glad I did.


The Longhorn Saloon & Grill is located at 5754 Cains Ct in Edison, WA, where McTaggart Avenue meets Gilkey Avenue.  They don't have a website, but they do have a phone and they can be reached by calling (360) 766-6330.  Don't be afraid of the drive out there; it only seems like it's in the middle of nowhere, and once you've been there you'll know that it's really in the middle of "somewhere".

Longhorn Saloon & Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Randy Jones All American Sports Grill (San Diego)

(Visited November 22)


Randy Jones All American SportsGrill wasn't on my radar, I didn't even know of its existence, but that's where we ended up.  The menu seemed to have something for everybody, it wasn't overly priced and, since it's an "All American Sports Grill", they have burgers!

Randy's is located smack dab in the middle of San Diego's Mission Valley, and seems to be everything one would expect of a hip, relatively upscale sports bar in a world class sports town.  You've got your pool tables, you've got your 22 hi-def flat screens throughout, you've got your 14 ft. projection screen in the lounge, you've got young and attractive wait staff, and you've got your 25 beers on tap, assorted bottled beers and a full bar with specialty cocktails and assorted wines by the bottle, and you've got All-American, National League All-Star, National League Cy Young Award winner and All Around Nice Guy, Randy Jones.  What more could you want?

How about a good burger?

I ordered the "Padre Burger" which is a "hand crafted patty made with fresh Midwestern 100% USA Certified Beef" with American Cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, American Sauce (whatever that is) all on what looks to be a well crafted artisan bun.  A side of "Idaho Potato Fries" is included.

When it was delivered it was a sight to behold, but unfortunately somebody back in the kitchen must have been painting by the numbers because that's where the burger peaked.  The meat was bland and the bun, that "well crafted artisan bun", was stale.  How, in "a hip, relatively upscale sports bar in a world class sports town" do you serve a burger, even a bland burger, on a stale bun?  Did the bread truck not come that day?  Was there such a run on burgers that you had to go the "bull pen" for a stale bun because that's all you had left?  Or maybe you mistakenly grabbed a bun from the pile headed for the local food bank instead of the fresh pile.  I don't know, but this burger, one of the "Big Bopper Burgers" on the menu was nothing more that a blooper, a little dribble down the first base line for a quick and easy out.

This burger, on my three tier scale of "worth the trip", "worth a stop" or "drive on by", sadly rates my first "Drive On by".

Sorry Randy.

Randy Jones All American Sports Grill is located at 7510 Hazard Center Dr. Suite 215 in San Diego's Mission Valley.  They can be reached by phone at 619-296-9600 and on the web at http://rjgrill.com/

Randy Jones on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 25, 2011

Burger Lounge (Kensington Location)

(Visited November 21)

Kensington Burger Lounge

There I was, minding my own business, doing a Google search for organic food in San Diego (organic food is very important, a topic for a different discussion, to be sure, but important none the less), when what do you suppose pops up in my search results?  A burger joint of all things!  What the heck is going on here?!  It's a world gone mad, I tell you, mad!

But in a good way.

From their website: "Burger Lounge grew out of the idea that a hamburger should not only taste great, it should also utilize healthy ingredients produced in a sustainable environment. We provide a simple premium quality menu that appeals to health conscious diners, vegetarians, salad lovers and diners simply 'hankering for a great hamburger'."  And all their beef patties are hand-formed all natural grass-fed beef (no feedlots) from "Tallgrass Beef"...sweet!

"Great taste", "healthy ingredients", "sustainability", "grass-feed beef"...heck, those are all things I can sign on to, and wouldn't you know it, I'm forever getting that "hankering for a great hamburger"!  Hmm, it would seem that further investigation was in order.

The next day we were heading out to San Diego's "Kensington" neighborhood so my wife could visit the area where she spent her "Wonder Years".  As luck would have it, one of the six "Burger Lounge" locations is right there on Adams Avenue...kismet!

It was Monday and it was lunchtime, so a bit of a line was not unexpected; the line wasn't too long and it didn't take much time at all to reach the counter to place our order.

We each had a draft beer, (a local micro-brew that I can't remember the name of...good though!) 14oz for her, 22oz for me.

All their Premium Burgers come with the Lounge Bun, Crisp Lettuce, Fresh Tomato, House-Made 1000 Island, Organic Cheese (White Cheddar or American) and Fresh or Grilled Onion.  My wife ordered the "All Natural Turkey" Burger with a side of their French Fries ("Fresh-Cut, Twice-Cooked in the Belgian Tradition") and I ordered their "Lounge Burger" ("100% American Grass-Fed Beef") with a side of their onion rings.  We both asked for "the works" and opted for the White Cheddar and fresh onion.

Our Burgers

The sides were good, but doing this burger blog I've noticed that sometimes one tends to make comparisons from one place to another, and that's what happened here.  Taking nothing away from Burger Lounge, I prefer the fries at “Matt's Rotisserie & Oyster Bar”, and here's why.  I'm convinced that Matt's also uses fresh-cut potatoes and fries them twice in the "Belgian Tradition", but I think they do it just a little bit better and I prefer their seasoning.  The thing about frying the potatoes twice (in the "Belgian Tradition") is that they're crisp and tasty and they stay that way, even when they go cold.

As far as the onion rings go, I preferred the rings at Hodad's.  The batters are very similar, both using panko bread crumbs, but what makes the difference for me is that Hodad's cuts their onions thicker so that after cooking you know that, by golly, there's an onion in there!  The onions at "Burger Lounge" are cut thinner, so that while the crust is cooked about the same as at Hodad's, the onions are cooked more.

I mention my preference of other rings and fries, not as a criticism, but in an effort to offer honest feedback to the good folks at "Burger Lounge" to do with as they will.  The next time I'm at "Burger Lounge", and there will be a next time, I'll gladly order the fries (or rings) again.

OK, enough about the sides, what about the burgers?  In a word, "outstanding"!  My wife couldn't heap enough praise on her Turkey Burger, and my "Lounge Burger" was fantastic!  Both burgers earned a “Worth the trip” on my three tier scale of “Worth the trip”, “Worth a stop” and “Drive on by”. 

Give 'em a try, be your own judge.  If you're in the San Diego area, with their six locations, there's bound to be one near you.  If you're in the Greater L.A. area, chin up, they say they'll soon be opening locations West Hollywood and Beverly Hills.

"Burger Lounge" can be found online at http://burgerlounge.com/ and has locations in the Kensington neighborhood on Adams Avenue, in the Hillcrest neighborhood on University Avenue, in Little Italy on India Street, in the Gas Lamp District on 5th Avenue, in Coronado on Orange Avenue and in La Jolla on Wall Street.  If you're reading this you're already on the internet...look up their addresses and phone numbers here:  http://burgerlounge.com/neighborhoods/.

Go to "Burger Lounge", check them out and see just how enjoyable eating at a "Certified Green" burger joint can be!


Highchair/booster chair

Inside Burger Lounge

Burger Lounge - Outside

Burger Lounge on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Hodad's (Ocean Beach location)


(Visited on November 19)


Alaska Airlines Flight 232 from Seattle to San Diego landed on time at 9:15 am.  We disembarked, collected our bag and took the shuttle to the car rental lot.  We're in town to visit my sister-in-law for her birthday and Thanksgiving.

We didn't head south to Sis's place; we headed north on I-5, then west on I-8 toward Ocean Beach.  We were on a mission.

We hadn't been to OB for years, many, many years; the place holds memories.

We had last been to the San Diego area to visit Sis in January, and in that time we had seen this profile on TV about a hamburger joint in OB called "Hodad's"; we were intrigued. 

Hodad: noun - A non-surfer who spends time at beaches masquerading as a surfer.  (See also poser)

"Hodad's"...that was our destination.

We found it on Newport Avenue, just west of Bacon Street and parked in the adjoining lot.  It was about 10:50 am; they open at 11:00.  We walked up the sidewalk and got in line; evidently there's almost always a line.  Eleven am came and went and the line hadn't moved...OB time.

Standing on-line

We entered a few minutes after 11:00 and had our choice of booths, a long communal table with benches, two counters, one in back and one in front overlooking Newport Avenue, or the cab of a VW bus that is sticking out of the wall.  We selected a booth.

There are surf boards suspended from the ceiling, a bicycle hanging from one wall, and personalized license plates and other cool stuff (mostly the license plates) adorning almost every square inch of wall space.  They claim to have served “Under 99 Gazillion” burgers; who am I to question that?  There's a sign on the wall proclaiming, "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem!"

Welcome to Hodad's!

Inside Hodad's

I ordered a PBR and my wife ordered a Stella.  I asked our "server dude" if I would be able to wrap my mouth around the Double Bacon Cheeseburger, "Oh yeah, no problem!"  I ordered the Double Bacon Cheeseburger Basket while my wife ordered the Mini-Cheeseburger Basket (the basket comes with fries, but you probably already guessed that).  We ordered a small order of Onion Rings as well.

Onion Rings

The beers came first, then the Onion Rings...excellent!  Some of the best rings I can remember ever having!  When the burger baskets came, the first thing I noticed was that the "server dude" had lied...there was no way I was going to be able to wrap my mouth around that burger!  I called him on it, in a joking way of course...I understood there was no way he would be able to say a negative word about his burger.  I sucked it up, and enjoyed every messy bite! 

Double Bacon Cheeseburger Basket

The fries were excellent, the onion rings, better still, and the burgers...superb.  And plentiful; there was no shortage of food.  In fact, we were unable to finish the fries and onion rings because the burgers filled us up so.  We really had our hands full; that's the closest I've ever come to being unable to finish a burger, double or otherwise.

Now, to the ranking.  Our burgers were definitely “Worth the trip” on my three tier scale of “Worth the trip”, “Worth a stop” and “Drive on by”.  Check 'em out, it's a good time, and I can't imagine anyone being disappointed.  If you don't like standing in line, get there early...like we did!

Hodad's "flagship location" is at 5010 Newport Avenue in Ocean Beach, CA and they can be reached at 619-224-4623.  They also now have a store in downtown San Diego at 945 Broadway Avenue, and they can be reached at 619-234-6323; the hours of operation at both locations are Sun – Thurs: 11AM to 9PM and Fri – Sat: 11AM to 10PM.  You can see them online at http://hodadies.com.

Hodadie Mobile

Hodad's

Double Bacon Cheeseburger and Mini Cheeseburger Baskets


Hodad's on Urbanspoon


Monday, November 21, 2011

Matt's Rotisserie & Oyster Lounge

(Visited on November 11)



I was in search of a burger.

We had just left one establishment unsatisfied and I needed my burger fix, but where to go?

“Red Robin”? Not my kind of place.

Burger King? McDonalds? Jack in the Box? Puleeze!

There were a couple other establishments that came to mind, but parking proved to be an issue; perhaps some other time.

So it is that we ended up at "Matt's"..."Matt's Rotisserie & Oyster Lounge" that is. Matt's seems to be our "go to" place in Redmond when we want a bite to eat, we don't want to go far and we're at odds over just where to go. Eventually one of us will say, "We could go to Matt's", and more often than not that's just what we do...they always deliver.

So, that's just what we did. We didn't know if Matt's had a burger, but were confident they wouldn't disappoint...and they didn't.

Matt's doesn't have a "flight" of burgers like some places...they only have one, but that one seems to do the trick. It's billed as "Matts' Killer Burger" and they say it's "The best burger in town!" You know my position on that appellation, so that's all I'm going to say about that.

We started out with a couple draft Stella Artois while we perused the menu. My wife opted for the Fish & Chips (if you're keeping up, you know she's into Fish & Chips like I'm into burgers) while I zeroed in on the "Killer Buger".

The "Killer Burger" is fresh ground "Painted Hills Beef" chuck seasoned with cracked pepper, barbecue sauce & Dijon mustard and comes with Tillamook cheddar & "the usual suspects" (lettuce, onion, tomato, etc). For health reasons they cook it well done, unless requested otherwise. I requested "medium". I live on the edge; "Danger" is my middle name.

Our food came, and with her Fish & Chips, my wife was happy as "a pig in...", well, whatever it is that pigs are happy in.

I, on the other hand, was quite captivated with my "Killer Burger". It's not too big, and it's not too small...it's just about right. It's very juicy, full of flavor and comes on a bun that not only does its job without falling apart in your hands, it's flavorful, toothsome and has a nice texture.

Oh, and the fries! Oh my lord, the fries are some of the best I've had. When you first start eating them, they don't anounce themselves with, "Tada! Here we are, the best fries you've ever had!" They're a bit more subtle than that. They're good, they taste good, and they have a nice cruch to them. The thing that's subtle about them is that they maintain their flavor and crunchiness as they get cold. You don't get that with the mass produced or hand cut fries you get at most burger joints, be they local establishments or regional or national chains. My theory is that their fries are twice fried in the Belgian fashion, the way fries began and were ment to be.

OK, enough about the fries...this is a burger blog after all, and it's time for me to rate my burger. I'll not say it's the best burger in town; I don't do that and it's not for me to say anyway. What I will say is that it's definitely "worth the trip" on my three tier scale of "worth the trip", "worth a stop" or "drive on by".

Matt's Rotisserie & Oyster Lounge is located in the "Redmond Town Center" on the second level. Their address is 16551 NE 74th St. in Redmond, Washington. You can reach them by phone at (425) 376-0909 and their website is located at http://www.mattsrotisserie.com/.

Matts' Rotisserie & Oyster Lounge on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 18, 2011

Pomegranate Bistro

(Visited November 9th and November 11th)

Pomegranate Bistro

One day last week, I was tasked with staying late at work to support some evening activities.  My wife asked me to stop on my way home and pick up something for dinner.

"What would you like?"

"I don't know; why don't you stop for some burgers?"

"Burgers?!"  (She knows how I feel about burgers!)

"Sure, burgers."

"Where would you like me to stop?"

"Oh, I don’t know...McDonalds?"

"McDonalds?  Don't make me stop at McDonalds!"  (She knows how I feel about McDonalds!)

"Well, do you have any other ideas there, Mastermind?"  (I love it when she calls me "Mastermind".)

"I'll think of something."

I started thinking about a conversation I had earlier in the week with Amanda, yet another co-worker, and she had been talking up this Bistro in Redmond called "Pomegranate".  She said they have terrific food, and serve up the best grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup she's ever had.  So, do you know what I was thinking?  Yep, "Gee, I wonder if they offer up any burgers."

Well, as luck would have it, they do.  One.  They offer one burger.  And do you know what?  One is all they need.  It's called the "Painted Hills Beef Burger" and it's served up on a "house onion bun" (one of the very best buns I've had the pleasure to sink my teeth into) "with bacon, mayo and white cheddar".  Lettuce and tomato come separately (some assembly required) and house catsup, russet fries & slaw come on the side. 

I called them up and asked, "Can I get your burger to go?"

"Of course you can, sir."

Sweet!

I was going to call ahead and have my order waiting for me, but I thought, "Hey, I can order a beer to keep me company while I wait for my order!"  And that's just what I did.

When I got there I placed my order (to go), along with a Blue Moon Belgian Ale (to keep me company).  The Belgian Ale came garnished with an orange slice, just the way the nice people at Blue Moon Brewing Co. suggest.  And do you know what?  That's just the way to serve that particular brew!

My order arrived a little after I finished my beer.  I would've preferred it if it would have arrived just as I quaffed my last, but what can I say...I was thirsty.

I had asked that my order be "double bagged" to help keep it warm on the way home, and they were very accommodating.  I hot-footed it home, less than 15 minutes away, and my wife and I sat down to two extremely well crafted burgers.  We were very, very pleased!

So pleased, in fact, that we decided to stop in a couple days later for the sit-down version.  Sadly, our experience didn't get as far as the ordering of the food, let alone the serving and eating of the same.  Let me explain.

We were seated at a "two-top", right between two other "two-tops" with barely room for elbows to extend without touching the extended elbows at the next table.  We could clearly hear what was being said at the next table, so surely they could clearly hear us.  Add to that the fact that my wife's chair had a terrible wobble, and the bench I was sitting on felt like it was at least two inches too high for comfort and we had a situation where no matter what we were served, we were looking at a less than enjoyable dining experience.

We left.

It's unfortunate, really.  The dining experience is more than the food, and more than the service; it's also where you’re sitting and what you're sitting on.  Your comfort, or lack there of, contributes just as much to, or subtracts just as much from your dining experience every bit as much as your taste buds do.

If their burger is any indication of the quality of their food, they offer some very fine victuals indeed.  I really wanted to like this place, but if we don't feel comfortable, we don't feel welcome.  It’s as simple as that.  Perhaps one day, somewhere down the road, we'll give Pomegranate another shot.  When that day comes, the key to our experience might be to ask for a larger table right from the start.

Now, to the ranking...

This is a burger blog, and as such, I don't rank on anything other than the burger.  The only thing I had to rank were the burgers we had "to go", and those burgers were definitely "worth the trip" on my three tier scale of "worth the trip", "worth a stop" or "drive on by".

My suggestion to you is to do your own due diligence; your "sit-down" experience may be totally different from ours.  It should be noted that their parking lot was full both times I was there.

Pomegranate is located at 18005 NE 68th St in Redmond, Washington.  Their phone number is (425) 556-5972 and their website is: http://www.duparandcompany.com/pomegranate-bistro/

Pomegranate Bistro on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 13, 2011

De Luxe Bar & Grill


(Visited on November 5)

De Luxe Bar & Grill

When I first started this blog I envisioned my burger quest would center around little "Mom & Pop" roadside burger stands.  Naive?  Sure.  Romantic?  Perhaps, but that was what my mind's eye saw.  The reality of it has been somewhat different.  I have yet to roll into a "Mom & Pop" roadside burger stand, and all my stops, save one, serve libations and offer burgers, not as their central theme, but as part of an otherwise rounded menu.  Clearly, my bias runs toward the "Bar & Grill" type of establishment.  I'm not a teenager anymore, and I rarely drink milkshakes.  When I order my burger I'm more comfortable doing so with a beer in my hand.  I have come to accept this.

So it is that the search criteria I used this time out was "Seattle" and "Bar & Grill", which led me to the De Luxe Bar & Grill on Broadway in the Capitol Hill district.  I've driven by the De Luxe any number of times over the years, but I'd never gone in; I'd seen it but it never really registered.  It's been a neighborhood watering hole since 1962, and quite frankly, it looks it; I mean that as a complement.  It's not at all flashy and blends perfectly into its surroundings in an unassuming way. And why shouldn't it?  If you think back to 1962, and some of us can, the bars of the day were places where grown up people went for a drink and maybe some food; perhaps they were looking for some conversation, perhaps not.

Parking can be an issue, and it was for us.  I drove around for a bit until I found a spot on a nearby neighborhood street less than a block away...lucky.

When we walked in I liked what I saw; the place has a comfortable feel to it.  I also liked what I saw on their beer menu; numerous fine selections on tap and all their pours come in pints, unless otherwise noted.  My wife opted for the Guinness and I went for the 32 oz Bitburger; somehow the 64 oz seemed a bit over the top.

Our beers

My wife feels about fish & chips the way I feel about burgers, so that's the way she went.  Her eyes rolled back in her head, so I'm guessing they met with her approval.  But this is a burger blog, so that's all I'm going to say about that.

I ordered their Peppered Bacon & Cheddar Cheese Burger.  It's a "hand formed" 6 oz patty of fresh prime chuck and comes on a "custom bun" (..."baked fresh by Mario’s Bakery and delivered daily!") dressed with green leaf lettuce, sliced tomato and red onion.  Hand cut DeLuxe fries are included.

Peppered Bacon & Cheddar Cheese Burger w/o bacon 

I was enjoying my burger, and was half-way finished before it dawned on me that my Peppered Bacon & Cheddar Cheese Burger didn't have any Peppered Bacon on it.  Nuts!  It took a few minutes to get our waiter's attention, but when I did he was quick to bring a plate of bacon; the second half of my burger had twice the bacon on it, and I had a couple slices to enjoy "straight up".

The less than attentive service and bacon snafu notwithstanding, I did enjoy my burger...very much, and gladly rate it "worth a trip" on my three tier scale of "worth a trip", "worth a stop" or "drive on by".

Will I be back?  Yeah, I expect so.  They have this "Burgerama Wednesdays" thing, but with me on the Eastside and them in the city, it's a bit inconvenient unless I happen to have a Wednesday off.  I do want to try their Kobe burgers, so yeah, I'll be back.

The De Luxe Bar & Grill is located at 625 Broadway Ave. East, at the intersection of Broadway and East Roy in Seattle, WA.  Their phone number is (206) 324-9697 and their website is http://www.deluxebarandgrill.com/index.html.

Deluxe Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon