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Washington Sq. Tavern, Ali's Roti, South End Buttery

Washington Sq. Tavern, Washington Sq., Brookline

A very serious burger, cooked perfectly, great balance of meaty flavour and drippy greasiness. Good dense bun. Crisp, golden shoe string fries. Definitely one of the best I've had. Not outrageous at $13, certainly shames the version at the Bristol Lounge. Advantage of having the burger here is having a juicy earthy shiraz to drink with it ('03 Gatekeeper, iirc). Nice wine list that seems fairly priced by restaurant standards.


Ali's Roti, Roxbury, Boston

Tender oxtail with penetrating tomato-paste flavour, a fairly aromatic goat curry pleasantly spiced, savoury yellow rice dotted with frozen mixed vegetables, warmly flavoured cabbage cooked to a light yellow (tumeric?). A hearty satisfying lunch, nothing mind blowing, but certainly affordable.


South End Buttery, South End, Boston

Nice chocolate cupcake, moderately moist. Buttery frosting. In the realm of fine but not exceptional.

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  1. Sorry, but a $13 burger anywhere outside of Manhattan is an abomination (and even there it's a slap in the face). Don't even get me started on pairing burgers and wines!

    Bring back the Hammond Lounge.

    8 Replies
    1. re: GrowingBoy

      Aside from the fact that the Hammond was a smokey, stale-beer-smellin', windowless dive -- which I forgave for its $2 Buds -- I recall pickled eggs and stale popcorn as the main dining attractions there. The only other food I ever saw was sandwiches brought in from Family Restaurant, that Greek diner kind of place where the Fireplace is now, or the B&D Deli around the corner.

      I personally don't mind shelling out $13 for a burger if it's really high quality: I eat far fewer of them these days, so I want to make them count. If you know of some places that serve great burgers cheap, please share with the rest of the board!

      1. re: MC Slim JB

        What about the fine Surf and Turf - a stuffed quahog and a cheeseburger eggroll? I wasn't wishing for a return of the Hammond's cuisine. Myself, I always took in Chinese from down the street (a place which is now occupied by a swell sushi bar, BTW). I was lamenting the upscaling of the neighborhood.

        How 'high-quality' can a burger get? Anyway, I think $9.95 is about as expensive as a burger should get (and that includes the fries, thank you very much), unless it's Kobe beef or something. With that in mind, I'm a big fan of the burgers at O'Hara's in Newton Highlands. I had one at Thornton's near Fenway last week that was pretty good as well.

        And hey, the Hammond had windows - two of them that you could even see out of on really bright days.

        1. re: GrowingBoy

          I think that the burger at the Washington Square Tavern is ground in-house and that makes a huge difference to me. (I asked a couple years ago; haven't been since I moved from the neighborhood and had a baby.) I'm willing to pay a couple extra bucks for the labor, rather than eat a burger with ground beef from possibly hundreds of cows.

          1. re: GrowingBoy

            I wonder if there's a thread in here: "dive bars that don't serve food but allow takeout to be brought in, and there's really good takeout nearby."

            The late, lamented Waltham Tavern did this; folks regularly brought in the excellent fried fish plates (stryo containers, actually) from Morse Fish Co around the corner. These actually improved the smell of the 'Ham.

            The Dig has an excellent review of All-Star Sandwich Bar today, in which Brodeur mentions bringing an amazing BLT into the Abbey Lounge:


            1. re: MC Slim JB

              This is so common on Revere Beach, that a number of bars (Sammy's and I think Bill Ash's) have windows directly to takeout establishments. The better takeout, however, is usually obtained by walking (or driving in the case of Floating Rock), but I have brought in at all the bars I have tried there.

              1. re: MC Slim JB

                Sky Bar in Somerville allows this - I'm not sure what's nearby though besides the wretched Chinese next door.

              2. re: GrowingBoy

                On my one burger sojourn there, I thought the burgers at Thornton's were pretty weak - looked and tasted pretty much like standard, 8 oz pre-formed frozen patties to be. Never tried the burger at O'Hara's, which I used to frequent monthly at lunch. Huh.

            2. re: GrowingBoy

              I'm with you $13 for a burger is absurd. Oh for Tim's Tavern.

            3. I like the pumpkin side dish at Ali's.

              1. I used to frequent O'Haras too, but alas, it was back in my non-meat eating days so I never got to try the burger. I do, however, remember being with co-workers who had it, and it always looked really good. However...when I find myself in Newton, Buff's always gets precedence; good to have an O'hara's burger on the radar now tho'..

                2 Replies
                1. re: twentyoystahs

                  What is this Buff's? A quick Citysearch mentions wings. I long for wings. And many tap handles. And sassy waitresses.

                  These things, I need.

                2. I am a big, big fan of the WST. Just tuesday night I had their burger for dinner. Or, rather I had half the burger for dinner as it is enormous. I have no problem paying $13 for something delicious, quality, and filling.

                  The meat is high-quality and full of flavor, the irish cheddar is nice and sharp and i love the thin salty fries.

                  $13 for a bad burger is a travesty. $13 for a delicious meal is a great value.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: heathermb

                    I used to disagree with this, but now less so. I had a really good bacon and boursin burger and "frites" at Auitaine Bis yesterday for lunch. It was about $13 also. The burger meat itself was awesome and it was cooked perfectly medium rare (I can't stand places that cannot handle this). However, the bun was weak - it broke too easily and honestly tasted a little stale - perhaps that because it wasn't a regular burger bun but more of a lighter, eggier roll and the frites, all 15 of them, were darn good but not the usually uber thin crispy fries you expect when you think frites. If they could perfect the bun and add a few more fries, that burger would be freaking excellent.

                    1. re: Dax

                      For me, it's one of those psychological things like paying >$2 for a cookie. I hate paying >$10 for a burger altho I certainly have/do. They can be tasty as all get out but it somehow still doesn't seem right. That's why Abe & Louie's is a veritable bargain at $9.95.

                      I have a problem with desserts over $10 too.

                      1. re: Joanie

                        Abe and Louie's burger may be the best in town, but I wouldn't know as it's nearly impossible to get a table or even a seat at the bar during regular business hours without a reservation. Even then, there is often a wait.

                    2. re: heathermb

                      But when you can get the same delicious meal somewhere else for much less money, you're letting yourself be exploited. And you didn't even eat half of it. It's like paying $25 for mac and cheese or barbeque or pizza. Paying big bucks for foods that are inexpensive by their nature is just a waste. I'd rather blow the extra 5 bucks on dessert (or another beer).

                      Having said all that, I'd probably still hit the WST once in a while because they're the only place I've been to in a while that had Fuller's ESB on tap.

                      1. re: GrowingBoy

                        BF ate the other half of my burger and enjoyed it immensely. He also loves WST b/c they have Anchor Steam on draught.

                    3. Maybe she saved the other half for another meal. In which case the $13 price tag wouldn't be so bad.
                      I agree, you should be able to get a burger for $7, $8 bucks. And there are certainly places in Boston where you can do that (Bartley's, O'Sullivan's, Costellos, etc.) However, sometimes you're paying for a bit more than the burger --in places like the Bristol Lounge or Washington Square Tavern or Aquitaine Bis --you're paying for atmosphere, these are all slightly more upscale than the average pub, I think. If I go out to dinner at any of these spots and my friend orders an entree for $18, $19 bucks and I get a burger for $13, it doesn't really seem so bad. So, it's really all about perspective.

                      1. i find this discussion somewhat tragic. Good burgers, those with a great amount of fat (at least 20%), are hard to buy commercially, so places must make them from scratch. This entails buying great sirloin or chuck or whatever meat they desire, grinding it in house, regrinding it with fat added and then hand shapin etc. If you are looking for a $4 burger, then by all means, buy a pre-made patty from grade C meat. I will happily pay $20 for a excellent hand made, hand ground burger. And yes, WST grinds their own AGED PRIME sirloin for their burgers and they are worth every penny.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: lambchopas

                          Personally I think AGED PRIME is a bit much for a burger but I have yet to try to this particular one - maybe it will knock my socks off. And $20 is going a bit far for me - a little more $ and I might as well order a steak.

                        2. BTW, I do consider the WST's burger superior to quite a few of the ones around here when I say it as being one of the best I've had. WST's version has (as described) balance between meatiness, moisture and the right amount of grease. And the meat packs a lot of flavour on its own. The others in the area tend to have less of this balance and lean more heavily in one of two directions: rich drippy greasiness (e.g. Tim's, Bartley's where the buns are soaked before the burger is finished) or are more meaty than greasy but also slightly drier (e.g. Sully's, MoS/Audobon Circle).

                          WST's burger is not such a greasy affair that a red wine of moderate/low acidity would be fine with it; no clashing with the ketchup either. The meat rounds off the initially forward New World fruit, smoothens the tannins; I like how the earthy, peppery and smoky finish of the shiraz resonates with the smokiness from the slight char of the burger.

                          BTW, forgot to mention that lunch at Ali's was about $10.

                          1. Here's the thing about the WST - its a really good reasonably priced neighborhood bistro - good wine list, great beer choices, lovely and varied menu, and mellow to boot. The Hammond was a gross, health department should have closed it, frat boy extension club. You can get a fine meal at WST for under 20 bucks, you can share a main if your appetite is down, and the kitchen is working at getting out fine quality and interesting food at the bistro level - there are few enough places like this and I'm a huge fan

                            1. Hi, based on the discussions, we went last night to WST. Nice place, good neighborhood feel. We tried the burger. It was good, not great for sure. The bun was barely toasted and too thick. Good quaity meat, but nothing special. The fries were terrific though. Not a destination burger place in our book, but OK. Also, I wasn't crazy about having to share your table with someone else and found that aspect claustrophobic. I still prefer Bartley's for the ultimate Boston burger!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: tfun73

                                " I wasn't crazy about having to share your table with someone else and found that aspect claustrophobic" and "I still prefer Bartley's" seem to contradict each other. Bartley's seems to be even more community table oriented than any place in town.

                              2. WST and Bartley's are, in my opinion, two totally different venues in which to eat burgers. Both burgers are very very good, in their own ways - but when you factor in time to table, noise, sides, drinks, they end up costing close to the same. (I've spent about 20-25 at WST for a beer and a burger (with fries) at the bar, and about 15 or more at Bartley's (counting in "sides": fries and frappes and whatever else you can think of that makes up a meal there)) What you have to remember is that the WST is a great neighborhood restaurant that happens to have an excellent burger on the menu, whereas Bartley's is a burger place (a Burger "Cottage", to be exact) where the burger *is* the menu.

                                All said and done, for me, it depends on the overall experience I want to have: if I want to eat an extremely tasty, well-prepared burger and (kick-a**!) fries with a great glass of wine or a good beer and I want to sit at the bar (or a table); maybe have a little green salad; take my time eating and not end up smelling like grease; meet up with some friends and grab a larger table, then the WST is the spot.

                                On the other hand, if I want this same excellent burger (ok, I'd like the one with the BBQ sauce and bacon) served in a frenetic joint where there's more text on the walls than on the menu (a mindboggling amount); sweet potato fries that make me cry with joy; sweet pepper relish served out of tupperware; and a distinct odor of hot, greasy goodness that follows me the rest of the day until I can shower next, then Bartley's is my choice.

                                Two great burgers, two different experiences.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: MmeLibrarian

                                  doesn't mr. bartley's not have a public bathroom? something i look for in a dining destination. while $13 doesn't seem like a value it is still half the price of the rest of their entrees.