Friday, September 13, 2013

Cheeseburger in Paradise

Cheeseburger in Paradise 

 Date: September 3, 2013             
Time: 12:00 pm
Weather: Sunny, Really nice 85 degrees
Patronage:  20 people
Lighting:  Dim
Attendees:  Me and my sister Jenn
Total Bill: About $34 (roughly $17/person)

This started out as a lunch date with my sister, and on a whim decided on CBIP.  I have only ever eaten there once before and wanted to try it again.  Obviously this is a chain restaurant, and to be honest one that I didn't really want to like. 

I had visions before ever stepping foot in the place, that they would play nothing else besides Jimmy Buffett music.  I also had predetermined a scenario that at the top of every hour the entire staff would come out and perform some sort of routine to song that birthed the name.  Luckily I was way off on my vision, because I would have walked straight out of the venue.

Me being the music snob that I am, actually has nothing against Parrotheads.  It isn't my thing at all, but I get that people do enjoy it.  Now they do play some Buffett songs. In fact Jenn asked if that's all they play, so I'm sure that she was curious about that too, as of course a Buffett song was on at the time.

The d├ęcor makes you feel like a tiki bar/hokey beach feel, that is surprisingly cheesy, yet totally acceptable.  It does a good job of instantly making you relaxed and wanting to enjoy your time there.  Almost a vacation feel to it, and maybe that is because of traveling and actually going to restaurants in San Diego that are on the beach.  There must be some sort of connection that I can't make, but it works.

On to the food.

We chose not to order an appetizer for our lunch, but I do want to say that I am a huge sucker for fried pickles.  Namely the fried pickles that you can get at the Dundee Dell, which is a whole other story.  The first time that I went to CBIP I did get the fried pickles.  They do appear to be frozen and not made fresh, but I really did enjoy them.  They are Claussen hamburger style pickles, but they had great flavor and nice crunch. I will say that the other apps on the menu are very generic fare.  Nachos, chips and dip, quesadillas, and the sort.

Jenn decided on getting a Mushroom and Swiss burger, but you can get a couple different meat choices other than the usual beef.  She went with getting Kobe beef.  Now Jenn likes her hamburgers bloody rare, but usually orders mid.  When she requested it the waitress said that they tend to cook more to the rare side, and Jenn lit up like a kid in a candy store, as it is difficult to even order a burger cooked to mid.  You do get a side dish with your meal and she was sold on the teriyaki broccoli.

I went with the Good Egg.  It is American Cheese, Grilled Ham, and an Over easy egg on top.  I am a sucker for an egg on a hamburger.  If you have never tried it you are truly missing out.  I also wanted mine mid rare.  For my side, how can you go wrong with fries?

We were both enjoying a beer when they brought out our meal. 

They were not lying about cooking to the rare side.  It was really nice to see a burger properly cooked from a chain restaurant.

Jenn said that her burger had really good flavor.  It was cooked to perfection.  I will admit that it did look amazing.  Her broccoli was really fresh.  The only issue with her dish was the sauce on the broccoli.  There either wasn't enough, or it wasn't thick enough to get a good coating on the florets.

My burger was perfectly pink and the flavors of the ham, cheese, and egg go so well together.  My egg was surprisingly over done.  Instead of over easy, it was virtually over medium.  No runny yolk, but the flavor was good, I was just hoping to get the runny messy yolk.  The mark of an extraordinary burger is if it can be dripping down your chin.

The remainder of the menu does look interesting from salads and sandwiches to some standard restaurant seafood and dessert.  I will firmly say that if you go to CBIP for your seafood fix your vision of perfect seafood comes frozen, breaded, and oven cooked.  I do not mean to offend anyone, but seriously, I could never respect anyone that does go there for the seafood.  If you want seafood then go to a seafood place. 

The desserts look about as unimaginative as you would expect.  It always appears that restaurants view desserts as an after thought.  I would never recommend you to waste your time on this category.  The massive benefit to CBIP is it's location.  You can enjoy your meal, and even a few libations and walk around at a great open air mall.  Literally next door to CBIP is a Cold Stone Creamery, and that by far is the way to get your sweet tooth cravings taken care of.

I would ultimately rate this place as a place that I would go to again. Just get the impression that this place will change your life about hamburgers.  Take it for what it is worth, and you just may walk away feeling like it was a vacation.
Pictured above is Jenn's Mushroom Swiss with Kobe beef, and the Teriyaki Broccoli

My Good Egg burger and fries

Thursday, September 12, 2013



Date: August 20, 2013                
Time: 5:15 pm
Weather: Sunny, Hot 90 degrees
Patronage:  12 people
Lighting:  Natural mostly as they have large windows
Attendees:  Myself and lovely wife and our wonderful kids of course
Total Bill: About $30 (roughly $10/person)

This venture was brought about by my wife just saying "let's go get a burger", and who am I to refuse her!  We were in the area and decided to swing by the L street location, which is located about 124 and L street.  (They do have another location that is found at 72nd and Jones)  It is a nationwide chain but they do cater to local flavors to an extent.

First off if you have never heard of Smashburger, than let me explain what their catch is.  Much like their namesake, they literally smash the burger on the griddle.  They use Angus beef and by smashing the burger down it gets an amazing sear on it.  I wouldn't say charred or crunchy, but it has a great caramelization on it.  They don't cook to order and in this case, I am completely ok with that.

Much like other restaurants that I like, the menu isn't massive.  When you start to dive into it and read the descriptions of the items you do start to swim and get confused.  My advice is go with your gut in this case.  It is very easy to change your mind about 15 times and then you second guess yourself.  To throw another wrench into it as well, you can build your own burger with any number of toppings that you so desire.

I mentioned that they cater to local flavors, and they do slightly.  They have a husker burger.  Obviously being a "steak" state.  That particular hamburger has A-1 steak sauce and a haystack of fried onions on top.  I have had this burger in the past.  Yes I'm the person that absolutely hates onions.  In fact if I could eradicate them permanently from food I would.  Anyone that knows me knows this.  For whatever reason on that particular day I decided to go that route and I really enjoyed it.

On to this particular visit.

I went with a simple sounding Truffle Mushroom and Swiss.  I am a huge sucker for mushroom and swiss burgers.  The kicker in this equation is the simple word "truffle".  I don't know how many people have had the pleasure of enjoying truffles.  They have a very distinct flavor to them, but it adds such a depth of flavor to food.  Truffles are extremely expensive, but luckily they are so strong in flavor, you don't need much to go a long ways.  On this hamburger it is truffle infused mayo.  It doesn't sound exotic at all, but believe me when I say that this burger will blow the top of your head off with flavor.  Without the truffle element it would have been an o.k. burger, but just the little bit of infused mayo made it a very wise choice for me.  It isn't overpowering at all, it just adds another dimension to the profile of the burger.  The mushrooms are the typical button style that you would expect on it to begin with.  The cool thing with mushrooms is that they assume the flavor of the food they were cooked with.  Almost like an edible sponge.  That just added to the fascinating hamburger.

Robyn went with "Rob" style.  All of her ingredients looked garden fresh and perfectly ripe.  It is difficult to review her particular hamburger as they aren't cooked to temp order.  The one area that could have broken this meal is the topping being "off".  Happy to report that as usual her hamburger was devoured before mine (I eat very slow, except just one time in my life).  When she says nothing about her hamburger, it means it was just what she wanted.

The fries are deceptively incredible.  They have a very light coating of powdered ranch dressing on them that is just a great compliment.  You can also get, and I highly recommend, smashfries which are rosemary, olive oil, and garlic tossed.  They are simply amazing. 

All in all for being a chain restaurant you get a definite gourmet feel out of it.  It is almost refreshing to get these kind of flavors out of a fast food feel restaurant.  All of their burgers look amazing and sometimes it's good to step out of the box.  If you have never had truffles and have always wanted to try the flavor, you really can't go wrong for just $7.  You need to try something new and different, because you only live once.  Next time you are around a smashburger, check them out and be amazed at the amount of flavor in every bite.

Here is an image of my Truffle Mushroom and Swiss.  I really enjoy putting "real" pictures in my posts.  It's horrible to see a picture on a menu and your food looks nothing like it.

I copy their website in all of my reviews so that you can check them out and see for yourself.  I will try to get better about talking about other things on the menus as well.  I just can't review something that I haven't put across my lips.  If anyone wants to see something in these posts let me know.

It's been far too long

It has been WAY too long since I have posted last.  I am happy to report that I have not fallen off the face of the earth, at least not yet. It seems that life has gotten extremely busy between getting my oldest son into school and a very hectic and busy time at work.

I am very happy to report that I will be posting two new burger blogs that I have been sitting on for a few weeks.  So yes I have still been enjoying a good burger here and there.  The next two blogs will be featuring Smashburger and Cheeseburger in Paradise. 

I am still looking for any new burger places that you have come across.  It can be anything that you thought was special or fantastic.  I do know of a new burger joint opening this month and I am excited to try that as soon as I can.  That place is called Bulldog Burger and frankly from what you can find on-line seems interesting and delicious.  More on that to come after sampling their menu.

On another note I am saddened to report that Tommy Colinas has been closed.  They have been closed for a while, but I was hoping it was relocating and not a closure.  They were probably still in the top spot for the best burger in town, but now that title is up for grabs.  They did set the bar incredibly high, and hopefully after you read these blogs, you go right out and try them, as they may not be around forever.

So just like anything in life the sun will still come up and there will be a better burger around the next corner.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Five Guys Burgers and Fries

Five Guys Burgers and Fries
Date: June 30, 2013         
Time: 6:01 pm
Weather: Sunny, Warm 80 degrees
Patronage:  8 people
Lighting:  Diner feel
Attendees:  Myself and lovely wife and our wonderful kids
Total Bill: It was 22 to feed the 3 of us ($7.37/person)
It has been way too long and I've been sitting on this review for a while in hopes to post a few more.  Been very busy this summer with a lot things going on, but hope to get back into the swing of things.  Comments are always welcome and let me know what you think about this blog.
We visited the location on Dodge Street for the fact that we were at the Furniture Mart looking at bedroom furniture.  Robyn suggested that we hit Five Guys for a burger and a blog.  How is a guy going to say no to that? (Isn't my wife AWESOME!)
Five guys has a diner feel to it.  I'm not a huge fan as the nostalgia does nothing for me.  It is very relaxed and the entire kitchen staff greeted us as we walked in. They have huge boxes of peanuts and bowls that you can "snack" on while you wait.  I've never done this as community food bowls are just a harbor of viruses, or so I think.  Being at the Dodge location we did see a student come in fill a huge bowl of peanuts and purchase a soda.  I would assume a lot of UNO students might do the same, as the staff didn't even bat an eye at this.
What I love about Five Guys is the simplicity of the menu.  It is very straight forward and you get it the way that you want.  They have a huge list of "free" extras for toppings, so it can take a minute to try and build my flavor profile the exact way that I want.  My wife knows what she is getting every time and that would be a nice thing to have, but I am me, and that means COMPLICATED.
I chose to go with the bacon cheeseburger with my list of condiments being tomato, grilled mushrooms, ketchup, mayo, and pickles.  Robyn choose what I now will be dubbing "Rob" style.  Which of course is a hamburger, with lettuce, tomato, and mayo.  We always get fries, which are unique only in the manner in which they are served.  You never really know what size of fry to order as they fill a cup and put it into a bag and then continue to scoop fries into the bag until they feel that its full enough.  My oldest son ordered a hot dog, as is his pretty standard fare.  My youngest is at this point only getting his hamburger fix via milk, thusly making him the cheapest date around.
It only takes a few minutes for them to get the order together and by the time you get your beverages they are calling your number for your food.  The burgers are all wrapped in foil plus the mega bag of fries.  At this point your mouth is watering from the amazing smell and you can't unwrap you food fast enough.  Now these burgers are not "neat" to eat.  I always feel like I need a shower after eating them.  One bite and my chin is covered in grease.  Greasy in an amazing way.  Sometimes you need a really juicy, greasy, messy burger.  There is something almost Neanderthal when you eat a hamburger that is drippy, messy, and uncouth.  It is almost sexy and I mean in a food way.  It feels naughty to eat a hamburger like that.  After about 7 bites you almost can't handle what is going on and the flavor is numbing on your tongue.  It gets "muddy" and that is from all of the juice.  The way to prevent this from happening is diving in to the grocery sack of fries.  The starch balances out and cuts through everything.  It isn't about eating these as fast as you can.  You need to sit back and enjoy them.  Have a conversation and just enjoy the flavor.  If you eat at the correct tempo the flavors don't "muddy" and you don't get too full from just eating slow.
Overall it's a good place to take the family out and just relax.  When we looked at our receipt we compared it to McDonalds price not food.  If we eat and McD's it costs us about 17 bucks and change.  Here at Five Guys we spent 22.  They aren't even on the same playing field for food quality and quantity.  It was hands down the best 5 bucks that we could have spent.  Sometimes "fast" food sounds the easiest and cheapest option, but if everyone would just think outside the box and discover something different.  I know that my family would much rather have this than any fast food and it's worth the little bit of a drive from my house to get to one.
I have never had a bad Five Guys and we usually hit one first thing when we go to Great Wolf Lodge in KC for lunch.  You can actually order your food online, the way that you want, pay for it and just go pick it up.  They even have an app for that.  It bridges the old diner era while embracing the new technology. 
It couldn't be easier and faster, beat that McD's

...almost forgot the pics

"Rob" stlye

 Now this is a hamburger!


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Dinker's Bar

Date: May 23, Thursday         
Time: 2:00 pm
Weather: Sunny, breezy 68 degrees
Patronage:  There we about 12 people, not too busy
Lighting:  Complete Dive feel, open doors
Attendees:  Myself and lovely wife
Total Bill: It was free for me as it was my birthday lunch (my wife paid).  It was under $20.00 ($10/person)

It has been a while since I have blogged as life has been a little busy with graduations, etc.  I have been craving a good burger and my wife surprised me with a day early birthday lunch, so we went to Dinker's. 

For those that may be unaware, Dinker's is a legendary burger venue in town.  It has been around for 60 years or so, and a hotspot for Creighton fans as well as College World Series fans.  It is located right off the interstate so it's proximity to downtown is nice.  It has been voted "Best Burger" by multiple sources and organizations. 

So I am ashamed to say that this was going to be my first visit to Dinker's.  I have been really looking forward to conquering such a legend, and finding out just why it is repeatedly voted number 1.  When we walked in you could almost feel the legend itself in the air.  It is a dive spot, and remember that this is not a knock against it, as most dives are famous or infamous for something.  They have age and wisdom about them that newer places just don't have.  They also sport a grill/griddle that has been seasoned for multiple decades and that lends a lot to flavor.  Just don't walk in to Dinker's and think that it is new, modern, or contemporary.  Dive places are typically neighborhood friendly and have a devout loyal following. They do have 6 HD televisions showing sports, but I didn't get a sports bar feel to it, although it would be a great place to watch some football or baseball.

So the other thing to be aware of Dinker's is that you pretty much do it yourself.  The menus are all out on the tables and you have to walk up to a counter to order your food.  It's not that uncommon of a practice done at a lot of dive places, just be warned.  If you want something get it yourself.  The same goes for drinks.  You have to go up to the bar and order what you like.  They do have a full bar so order away.  After you order your food you get a number and they will bring the food to you.  They do have waitresses that will make sure that if your drinks get low to ask for a refill.  It is a completely relaxed atmosphere and reminded my wife of our vacations in Colorado.

When looking at the menu you aren't intimidated by it at all.  Nothing fancy, or frilly ingredients.  It's simple and in your face and just reading the descriptions of the food you can almost taste them.  We are Midwesterners and like things to be laid out for us.  We have the best beef in the country and we already know that, there is no reason to try and fancy up a hamburger.  Use top shelf ingredients and let them do the talking when they hit your tongue. 

First thing that caught my eye was Rocky Mountain Oysters for an appetizer. Robyn has never had them and said that she was willing to try them.  (She always amazes me) for our burgers Robyn got the ever faithful plain burger with her trio of condiments (lettuce, tomato, and mayo).  I on the other hand saw something on the menu that said they were known for the Haystack burger.  Which is a hamburger topped with honey ham and an egg, how can you go wrong with breakfast topping a burger? 

It only took about 10 minutes or so for our food to come out to us.  When didn't have the option of temp on the meat.  The hamburgers looked amazing.  They looked thick and juicy.  The fries looked to be cooked perfect and golden.  After the first bite we knew that these were good burgers.  If you have never had an egg on a hamburger you need to try it.  It adds a lot of richness to the hamburger itself.  You can taste the egg, but it really just adds another layer to the meat.  The honey ham was excellent at adding a sweet/salty profile to it as well.  It is very rich, but not too much so due to the ham cutting through the palate.  The meat was cooked to a mid well or well done state, but they weren't dry, lifeless, or flavorless.  I would definitely eat here again.  It would be a great place to go with a bunch of people.  It was surprisingly relaxing even having to do it yourself.  You almost feel that you are a part of your experience here, and they forbid you from taking it out all on them if you do have a bad experience.  The hamburgers are great, I just have a very difficult time saying that they are the best.  I can not make that distinction at this point anyways.

Rocky mountain oysters get a side note here as I assume that some/most have never had the balls to try them, yes pun intended.  They do not taste horrible at all.  If any of you out there have tried chicken gizzards (yes I know that some are put off on this as well) they are similar.  The cool thing is that you don't break your jaw chewing on them.  They are very rich in flavor, and if you happen to have a good hoppy beer, there may be nothing better than that.  Take a risk and try them out.  They are not gamey or bad smelling.  They smell like something that has been deep fried.  They are big, but not whole.  They cut them in thin slices and fry them up.  They come with ranch dressing to dip them in.  For a state that hosts the Testicle Festival you would think that there would be a bigger "ball" presence around, but there isn't.  You just may like them.

My Haystack Burger

 Robyn's Hamburger
 Rocky Mountain Oysters

 This is a pretty amazing picture.  I was 35 at the time and in the backround 36 is approaching.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sinful Burger (Bellevue)

Date: April 28, 2013, Sunday         
Time: 12:30 p.m.
Weather: Sunny warm, breezy, 75 degrees
Patronage: Restaurant was not too busy
Lighting: Dive bar/Sports Bar feel
Attendees:  Myself and Jenn
Total Bill (excluding gratuity): $35.00 ($17.50/person)

I want to start on a different note for this one, that doesn't affect my impression of the venue.  We were going to actually go to a different place today (Stella's), but found out that they were closed on Sunday.  Same with Dinker's.  For those two being legendary burger haven's to be closed on Sunday seemed odd, but then again God even rested on the seventh day.

So we were searching the web for another great place.  We came upon a place that was voted in the winners circle best in Omaha 2013.  In this day and age a website is the key to success.  Their website is horrible.  It does not navigate in a coherent pattern and the information is accurate, but you have to dig to find anything.  In fact we couldn't find their hours so we had to call to make sure that they were open, which they were and so we'll start from there.

You couldn't have a better Sunday with the weather.  It has been the first weekend that cooperated with everything and it seems that the entire city was enjoying a weekend spent outdoors.  When we arrived we were welcomed in by a couple of workers and informed that we can sit wherever we wanted, so we chose the bar.

We were immediately asked for our beverage of choice.  I went with Coke, and Jenn chose the PBR drink special.  Our server then made a comment about how the Detroit Red Wings backed into the playoffs for 22 straight years, upon seeing Jenn's Wings hat.  I enjoyed the fact that he knew what was going on in a sport that I love especially involving my team.  Not that this is a hidden fact with hockey, but in this town if it's not Huskers or Bluejays it's rare.  He also made the comment that basketball fan is barely human, made me like him more.

So on to the menu.  I will be the first to admit that normally I do not like themed anything.  I think it feels fake, hokey, and bordering on ridiculous.  So their play is on the 7 deadly sins for burgers and they appear to be aptly named, but more on that later.  An appetizer did catch both of our eyes so we just had to order.  It was a Reuben Roll.  If you imagine a Reuben sandwich mating with an egg roll you would have it.  It was surprisingly fantastic.  It was a nice re-imagining of a Nebraska classic, completed with a home-made thousand island dressing that is made fresh daily.  The dressing is worth is by itself.  It was lighter on the relish and had a nice horseradish tang to it and it completed the Reuben to perfection.

Now the meat of the review and yes pun intended.  The play on the seven deadly sins was sort of refreshing and you could see the thought that was put into each one.  Jenn went with Pride a large burger with mushrooms and swiss and she requested mid-rare temp.  She did substitute her condiment from spicy mustard to a garlic mayo as well as added some grilled onions and a side of sweet potato fries.  I went with Sloth, a monstrous burger, three 1/4 pound patties, American, cheddar, and pepper jack cheese, thousand island dressing (read above, worth a gallon of it) and bacon (as if that wasn't enough).  I chose mine carnivore style, nothing from the garden, and regular fries.  I opted out of naming my temperature just to see what the restaurant felt was a good temp to serve.  I am assuming a risk because I have been served my fair share of well done burgers and they are just lifeless, tasteless, and boring.

The food was served as we were finishing our appetizer, which again is about all you can ask for.  It tells me a few things about the kitchen and staff.  They were watching us and not hovering and that they didn't fire our food immediately as we ordered our app at the same time of our burger.  Our food wasn't left on the hot plate to die while we were eating our appetizer and we weren't served both at the same exact time defeating the purpose of the appetizer. 

Jenn's hamburger looked amazing and was cooked perfectly to mid-rare.  The salt shakers are full of seasoned salt, which of course is all the king of the salts.  Not knowing the temperature of my burger beforehand was a little stressing, but I am pleased to announce that it was a nice incredibly flavorful medium.  It was not lifeless, it had the great char that comes with a medium burger.  Every tier had it's own molten cheese and the profiles from each is apparent.  The jack cheese adds a nice spice level as does the home-made thousand island dressing.  The burger is huge at just over 3/4 of a pound (reminder that this is not the Gluttony burger, and more on that later).  The fries are what you wanted.  Shoestring style slightly overdone, like the kind you find in a typical dive bar and a great compliment to the burger itself.

Now this restaurant does have the ever popular food challenge, much like you would see in Man vs. Food.  Called the Goliath and this thing will kill a lesser individual.  The burger is 4 pounds plus eat a pound of fries in an hour.  If you fail your picture goes on a wall of failure holding what you didn't finish, plus the $25.00 bill for the burger.  If you finish your burger is free and you get a shirt.  If you beat the current time of 6 minutes 43 seconds you get $100 bucks cash.  Not bad for just 6 minutes of work.

The Gluttony burger is a beast by itself and I only mention it in passing because of what exactly it is.  It is two half pound patties with cheese in the center of the patty.  Topped with bacon of course someone has to keep the cardiologists employed in this town.  Now the real kicker is there is no bun with this devilish concoction.  In it's place are two grilled cheese sandwiches.  It looked really good, but I prefer to stay on this side of the ground for a while longer.

All in all it was a nice play on the sins.  It wasn't over dramatized and they let the food do the talking.  You have lots of choices, but if you are a vegetarian this is not the place for you.  You can also get any food item "evil" which looks like incredibly sweet hot sauce.  I love the dive feel to this place and they had T.V.'s with sports on all over.  A really friendly staff that was attentive, but not overly so. 

The food was amazing, and yes I am a sinner.  I plan on sinning more for what it's worth

Jenn's Pride Burger
Here is my Sloth Burger
 My Reuben Roll cut open and the delicious dressing:

Jenn's Reuben Roll

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

So I was thinking

I naturally tend to do this to a point of counter-productivity.  I have really been enjoying trying to think about how to take this blog to a new level. 

Obviously I am going to be posting photos of what it is that we have ordered.  Just for the fact that nothing ever looks like it does on the menu.  I have always thought that is a form of false advertising. 

I also want to add a note of we are not going to every single burger place in town.  Meaning not every bar or restaurant.  This is just reserved for those places that specialize in the burger front.  We could literally be eating hamburgers for the next 8.4 years.  The one concession I will make is if someone truly says that so and so has the best, then of course, we will check them out.