Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Burger Wars, Week 1: Big Buns & Lucky Strike

Big Buns, NoVa:
As we walked into the restaurant, we were reminded of five guys - but a slightly more upscale version of the similar burger joint. The walls are decorated in bright greens and the wood tables are complimented by casual booths. The menu posted above the counter explains how to order.

Step 1 cautions: "Choose Wisely". Choose wisely indeed. We ordered up the burger and the mahi mahi. You are also given the choice of portabello mushroom or chicken. The surprise of the evening turned out to be the grilled mahi mahi. It was moist and flaky on the inside, and nicely charred on the outside. The burger was cooked all the way through, no pink to be seen, and a tad greasy. It was tasty, but mostly because of the delicious toppings. Not my ideal burger.

Step 2 asks that you choose to have your protein "on a bun or in a bowl" (of romaine that is). We opted to go with the bun, the burger on their brioche roll and the mahi mahi on the wheatie oat. The wheatie oat was a little dry in my opinion. The brioche wins out - it was soft and held up rather well to the grease and condiments. However the mahi mahi or the portabello might do nicely on a bed of lettuce (for those feeling the need for something lighter).



Step 3 tells you to "top it off". A wide variety of toppings are offered: from caramelized onions, mango salsa, and grilled pineapple to the more traditional tomato and pickles. We topped the burger with cheddar, pickles, tomato, lettuce, and caramelized onions. We loved the sweet caramelized onions, which worked well with the tangy honey mustard. The mahi mahi was topped with sweet pineapple and crunchy bermuda red onions - a refreshing way to eat this fish.

Step 4 they lose a little creativity, simply titling it: "Big Buns special sauces and dressings". I understand it can be hard to be creative! The burger got their signature honey mustard and the mahi mahi got the sweet chilli vinagrette on the side. We were glad we waited to pour that on our fish. This sauce was cloyingly sweet. The fish was sweet on its own, especially with the pineapple. The honey mustard had a lil tang and just the right amount of sweetness. I would definitely go with this again. Our fries came with a side of the chipotle pesto aioli. This sauce is deliciously creamy, with just a slight kick. It went beautifully with our crisp fries, and would compliment any burger nicely.

(sweet potato fries!)

Step 5 "Sides, Drinks, Shakes & Malts" - simple enough right? We were torn between the shake and the fries, but ended up going for the sweet and regular potato fries. We had heard great things about there thin sweet potato fries. These were the winner of the evening. If you love sweet potato fries, these are some of the best I've ever had. They are cooked to perfection, thin and crisp. The regular potato fries were good, cut thicker but nothing to write home about.
Overall, we could tell that this was not going to be the winner of the burger contest. The fish, however, was excellent and not something you would expect from this kind of place. The sweet potato fries were awesome and the service was great. "I like big buns, and I cannot lie..." but there are better burgers in our future.

Lucky Strike, NYC:

My boyfriend's entire office generally orders "amazing" burgers from Lucky Strike during lunches, so I knew I had to make a stop at this French/American casual bistro to check out what all the fuss was about. Popping by for dinner after running errands, we were seated immediately at a cozy table for two in the main dining area. The room was small, with mirrored walls, the menu hand-written on a couple of the walls, lending to the place's charm. After reading through an extensive menu, I found what I was looking for - a cheeseburger deluxe (meaning it came with fries, though honestly there's not just a cheeseburger on the menu). No topping options or alternate flavors here - just a choice of meat patty (beef, turkey, veggie), cheese or no cheese, and bacon or no bacon. Condiments are strictly mustard and ketchup that are sitting at your table - the burger comes undressed aside from standard lettuce, tomato, and red onion.

I ordered a medium rare cheeseburger deluxe, with cheddar cheese. Travis ordered a bacon cheeseburger deluxe, rare. A short while later......

the burgers arrived! To my surprise, they are served on a lightly toasted English muffin, a bun substitute that seemed odd at first but then deliciously different upon eating. The burger patties are huge and the cheese is real cheese. The thick tomato slice almost eliminates the need for ketchup although a few bites in I snuck a dip or two of my fries' ketchup onto my burger.

The burger itself is large - almost difficult to fit your mouth around, again the English muffin assisting as its obviously far less puffy than a normal bun. The meat was extremely flavorful, very juicy, and cooked to a perfect medium rare, nice and pink. Travis' was almost a little too rare as his burger kept falling apart into chunks after every bite. I could actually taste a little sharpness from the cheddar cheese and the English muffin's nooks and crannies soaked up the burger juices without becoming overly soggy (at least until about 3/4 of the way through).

The fries are very crispy and thin, a cross between shoestring and normal fast food fries. I personally had to add a bit of salt (which for me is abnormal as I generally find fries to be salty enough and rarely touch the salt shaker) and lots of ketchup (normal for me), but the crispy texture makes them addictive, sort of like classic potato chips. Nothing amazing, but good.

While there isn't a ton of variety available at Lucky Strike, the taste of the patty itself is worth a trip. If you're looking for an above average, classic burger, Lucky Strike more than hits the spot.


neoeon said...

Although the burger at Lucky Strike was falling apart due to the rareness of the burger, the flavor was not compromised. It, in fact, is one of the best tasting burgers I have ate.

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