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O'Sullivan's just pretends to have Boston's Best Burger

gini May 7, 2008 01:51 PM

Against better judgment, I decided to give O'Sullivan's another try. I keep thinking, maybe this time my burger will be great. I mean, the pub is so great, the prices are reasonable, they just installed a strangely positioned fireplace, and burgers are my friends.

Well, it wasn't pretty. Here's how it went down:

I ordered the black & blue burger, medium rare. What came out: a well-done burger, unseasoned, covered in cracked black pepper, and doused in blue cheese dressing. The unseasoned patty was the biggest issue - I might have been able to chow through the gristle-filled softball if some salt had managed to make it into the mix, but instead, biting into this burger was like getting a big mouthful of shag carpet - nubby and tasteless.

My DC's bbq'd burger, though cooked the correct temperature, again suffered from the same unseasoned issue. And while I could have asked for a new burger from our waitress, I didn't want to wait another 20 minutes and chance it. The good news is, the beer battered onion rings were right tasty and make a filling meal. So do the gigantic steak fries. One mystery remains: how DO they get them so brown?

Please don't turn this thread into a "No way dude, O'Sullivan's is AWESOME." O'Sullivan's makes me really sad, but somehow I keep thinking it's going to be great. Maybe they need to stop the interior decoration and invest in some salt and a meat thermometer.

Three entirely different, yet great, burger options nearby: The Druid, Bartley's, Gargoyles.

  1. b
    Blumie May 7, 2008 01:59 PM

    I'm not a fan of RFO either, and am a fan of both The Druid and Bartley's. (I have not had Gargoyles burger.) The Druid's seasoning is obvious, and I certainly could see some complaining that it's over seasoned. Is Bartley's burger seasoned at all? If so, it's not obvious to me. Yet it may be my favorite burger in Boston. So I'm not sure seasoning is the issue.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Blumie
      gini May 7, 2008 02:01 PM

      Bartley's is seasoned with salt & pepper, which brings out the meat flavor. Unsalted ground beef tastes like shag carpet.

      1. re: gini
        Alcachofa May 7, 2008 02:18 PM

        Interesting comparison. Never tasted shag myself.

        1. re: Alcachofa
          gini May 8, 2008 05:38 AM

          Dude, you gotta try it. It's, like, the next culinary revolution.

          1. re: gini
            Alcachofa May 9, 2008 04:42 AM

            Is it hip and trendy and good for a girls' night out? How about for graduation brunch for 35?

            1. re: Alcachofa
              b
              Blumie May 9, 2008 08:17 AM

              What's your budget? ; )

    2. finlero May 7, 2008 02:07 PM

      No way dude -- ok, kidding, I totally agree with you as usual.

      I think the major issue at Sully's is one of consistency. They can dish out a really respectable burger when things are firing on all cylinders, but there's a high enough chance of yuckiness that I have little reason to go. The Druid is five minutes down the street, and for my money, their burger beats a good-day Sully's burger, let alone a bad-day one.

      I like the Gargoyles burger a lot too. Along similar lines, I noticed that Upstairs on the Square has a burger on its bar menu; considering how much I enjoyed my last visit there, I'm eager to give it a try.

      1. TomH May 7, 2008 02:12 PM

        I had a killer "North Ender" w/ pepperoni at O'Sullivan's last week. Cooked to perfection (medium rare) and delicious. My buddy, on his first vist, went with the "Swissroom" and was equally satisfied. Also had some of those great o-rings.....Yum.
        I have yet to be disappointed at RFO's but it is good to know that, if I am let down, there are plenty of other options nearby!

        1 Reply
        1. re: TomH
          gini May 7, 2008 06:42 PM

          Dagnabit - I really want an excellent burger experience at Sully's. I'm a bit jealous, I must admit.

        2. MichaelB May 7, 2008 02:18 PM

          I was gini's DC for the burger misadventure and I had to chip in to concur. I would add that my burger was actually undercooked a bit from the medium that I ordered it, though that's less egregious than gini's way-overcooked specimen. I know from past threads that there's the occasional suggestion that getting it cooked to requested doneness depends on *who* is manning the grill, but that seems silly given that they stake their whole reputation on the burgers - shouldn't ALL the cooks be able to make them correctly? And the lack of salt is really egregious. I'd also add that gini's being a little kind about the steak fries - my question is how do they get them so very brown without getting them the least bit crisp? (and I think the answer is that they just fry them once, so the moisture never really cooks out of the potato wedges). They're tasty enough but really limp.

          I am curious - I know O'Sullivan's has fierce advocates here - what EXACTLY do you like about their burgers - specifically what makes you call them great? Is it the size and shape? The quality of the meat (which I thought was about what you'd get at the supermarket)?? Something else??

          9 Replies
          1. re: MichaelB
            b
            BJK May 7, 2008 02:23 PM

            IMHO most of the big RFO supporters seem to also be toppings lovers. I'm a purist, so a mere slice of cheddar is not going to mask the lack of S&P in the patty, especially on those occasions that it isn't even melted onto the burger! I imagine that being smothered in pepperoni or BBQ sauce might do so.

            BK

            1. re: BJK
              BarmyFotheringayPhipps May 7, 2008 03:59 PM

              If you have to pile a lot of crap that doesn't belong on a burger onto the burger to make it taste good, that's a key marker of a bad burger.

              Although actually, the insane toppings overkill is the main thing I dislike about Bartley's as well.

              1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps
                a
                autopi May 7, 2008 04:41 PM

                can't you get a plain burger at those joints?

                1. re: autopi
                  b
                  Blumie May 7, 2008 04:47 PM

                  Of course you can. I never get anything on my Bartley's burger other than cheese. I then add raw onions and I'm good to go!

                  1. re: autopi
                    BarmyFotheringayPhipps May 7, 2008 10:17 PM

                    Well, in the case of O'Sullivan's, the plain burger is tasteless, and at Bartley's, the plain burger is a grease bomb. So I could, but why would I bother?

                    1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps
                      b
                      Blumie May 8, 2008 08:08 AM

                      Forgive me, but I thought that "the insane toppings overkill is the main thing [you] dislike about Bartley's." Sounds to me like you just don't like Bartley's.

                      1. re: Blumie
                        BarmyFotheringayPhipps May 8, 2008 09:13 AM

                        I don't -- I said the "main" reason, not the only one.

              2. re: MichaelB
                CityPork May 8, 2008 05:59 AM

                I would say I keep Sully's in my rotation because the steak and cheese wrap with mushrooms. There is a lot of shredded meat and I believe it is under $6 too. I think I've gotten burgers there twice in the 3ish years I've been going, so I understand why there is a lot of disappointment here.
                Also, the cajun chicken wrap is very tasty. I need to try the nachos cause I heard they are really good.

                1. re: CityPork
                  i
                  iamsam May 8, 2008 12:55 PM

                  The nachos are a SERIOUS undertaking-- completely loaded down with toppings galore. I agree, they're some of the best bar nachos around-- when you're in the mood for bar nachos.

              3. itaunas May 7, 2008 02:20 PM

                One nice thing about the setup at O'Sullivan's is that you can send it back w/o worrying about the kitchen staff spitting on your bun. O'Sullivans is certainly inconsistent, but the service there has been a redeeming factor for me. My usual late (week)night snack place is Redbones, but I have called them just before kitchen closing more than once and had them start burgers for us to eat when we got there. Coming out of the rain at 10:30ish and getting a burger when they are on is pretty awesome.

                Atwoods is also a reasonably nearby good burger option (not the best in town, but hits the spot and good quality minimal toppings), with a better beer selection I go there more than O'Sullivans. And Christophers and Cambridge Common are serviceable (Christophers good when its on, but also inconsistent) so O'Sullivan's dislikers dont have to worry about alternatives. And sometimes I go for a x-tudo on Broadway in Somerville.

                WRT to the browning on the wedges, simply using Russets will get that color. I sort of thought they parboiled the potatoes and don't fry super hot. Not my favorite style, but the Newbridge does a slightly better version.

                2 Replies
                1. re: itaunas
                  gini May 7, 2008 06:47 PM

                  You're right - the service could not have been sweeter. I shamefully have not made it to Atwood's yet, even on your multiple suggestions. I vow to get there this summer.

                  1. re: itaunas
                    enhF94 May 8, 2008 03:56 AM

                    Using older oil will also get you browner product, so this may vary week to week. (Old oil is not necessarily a bad thing; it's not like using, say, old fish.)

                    It's clear that RFO really cares about their food. So I remain confused as to why I dislike so much food there. For me, RFO is a great conundrum: usually, if a place really cares, I like it and appreciate it. And yet: meh. Meh!

                  2. l
                    lergnom May 7, 2008 02:35 PM

                    Like many, I've had meals there that span the globe bringing the constant variety of satisfaction, from very high to very low. I've found going at off hours yields a significantly better meal, which is the reverse of most restaurants; most places gear up for the lunch or dinner service and are indifferent in-between.

                    1. Bob Dobalina May 7, 2008 02:36 PM

                      I was a O'Sullivan's supporter, until I finally made it over to Bartley's a few weeks ago. NO comparison - Bartley's wins in a landslide. I like the vibe at O'Sully's but the burger is no contest to me anymore.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Bob Dobalina
                        b
                        Blumie May 7, 2008 03:00 PM

                        Good point on the vibe side: those of use who like Bartley's have to put up with a lot to get our fix: crowds, ridiculously close seating, being seated with strangers, no bathrooms, no alcohol, etc. But that burger and those o'rings are good enough to have kept me coming back for 30 years!

                      2. t
                        treb May 7, 2008 03:53 PM

                        Couldn't agree more, and the 'baseball' description is excactly what it is, a round piece of ground up mush. Been several times and admit I don't like goopy topings on my burger, maybe a slice of cheese, it was not flavorful, I don't get it never once impressed, won't go back. The fries are ech also.

                        1. o
                          okello May 7, 2008 04:34 PM

                          With you on this. I tried O'Sullivan's a year ago or so and didn't like it. Went back a few weeks ago, based on the accolades on this board. Dissatisfied again. The burger was TASTELESS. Shag carpet might actually taste better. As usual, the burger was also disintegrating, softball-shaped grease-running-down-my-arm fest. Bleh. I love toppings on my burger, but I'll go to Cambridge Common over this place anyday. Nothing to write home about, but very consistent and tasty.

                          1. lissy May 7, 2008 06:22 PM

                            I haven't had a satisfactory burger at O'Sullivan's yet and have never understood why so many people like it. For some reason, my issue is that they never seem to be able to melt the cheese on top of my burger. Even once I learned that that's a problem and specifically asked to make sure the cheese was melted, I still had no luck. There's really no reason I see to go back.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: lissy
                              z
                              zizzpudding May 7, 2008 07:29 PM

                              Last time we ate at RFO was prob be our last. The burgers are not consistent at all and the service was worse. Our waitress forgot us.
                              Took our order and we sat there and waited the appointed 20 minutes... meanwhile the folks at the next table got theirs even though they ordered after us. After flagging down our waitress(meaning I had to get up out of my chair and walk over to her) , she assured us that our burgers were going to be right out.... we waited another 10 minutes before we flagged her down again, and again she reassured us that they would be right out... well, 15 minute later I got a raw burger. Now, I like my burger med rare like the rest of them, but this thing was still mooing... I just can't bring myself to go back. No excuses, no apologies, nothing ... just bad service.

                              1. re: lissy
                                rlh May 8, 2008 06:24 AM

                                Amen! - Total agreement on the criticality of melted cheese - went twice, both times requested medium rare with the cheddar completely melted - not so complicated, right?

                                Both times a vritually flavorless, dry charcoal chunk with a slightly droopy slice of room temperature cheese (yuk!) balanced on top of the sphere was served - it took so long to get served that, so I didn't ask for a do over - I just won't go back - it's Miracle of Science for consistency and Bartley's for the tastiest for me now that Tim's isn't an option - even via Cantab (which didn't seem the same to me anyway...but they were able to cook to order and melt cheese!). I still want to try Flat Patties and U Burger, but they should like a different genre.

                              2. Luther May 7, 2008 07:13 PM

                                You are correct.

                                1. g
                                  Gabatta May 7, 2008 09:05 PM

                                  Taht is disapointing. Still looking for that perfect "go to" burger place I suppose.

                                  I personally like RFO, but agree that it is inconsistent. Also, the potato hunks suck.

                                  I love the burgers and rings at Bartley's. However I hate being crammed in like a sardine, run over by the wait staff and forced to order while waiting in line outside. It would also be nice if you could watch the game and have a cocktail.

                                  I have found the Druid to be as inconsistent as RFO, and the burgers are actually overseasoned for my taste.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: Gabatta
                                    Joanie May 8, 2008 04:57 AM

                                    I agree about the Druid. What about Miracle of Science or Audobon for a go to (altho Audobon undercooks my burger all the time)? I've only had one disappointing burger at MOS and you can certainly drink and watch the game, altho it can get packed there.

                                    1. re: Joanie
                                      b
                                      bakerboyz May 8, 2008 05:52 AM

                                      Are the burgers at Bartley's cooked over open flame or on griddle like surface? I, for one, prefer the flavor from the open flame.

                                      1. re: bakerboyz
                                        b
                                        BJK May 8, 2008 07:38 AM

                                        Griddle.

                                        BK

                                      2. re: Joanie
                                        jgg13 May 8, 2008 08:55 AM

                                        The Roni Burger at MOS has found its way to being the only thing I ever order when I'm there (except for beer of course!). I've never had a bad one.

                                        On the "watch the game" part, w/ the setup they have (one small standard def, non-widescreen tv) i'd never go to MOS w/ the intention of game watching, but its nice if you already happen to be there and there's a game on that one's interested in.

                                      3. re: Gabatta
                                        yumyum May 8, 2008 08:13 AM

                                        Just gotta say I really like the seasoning in the Druid burger. Among other things, there's fresh ginger in there. But of course, that's not to everyone's taste. For a straight-up burger I love Bartley's. I think the meat they use is superior, and I quite like sitting cheek to jowl with the other happy patrons. I've also been happy with Gargoyle's burgers, but some of the topping combinations are better than others.

                                      4. b
                                        Blumie May 8, 2008 08:10 AM

                                        What fascinates me about this thread is that, despite being one of the board's favorite burgers, no one is stepping up to support this place. Is there anyone out there who wants to remind us why an RFO burger is your favorite?

                                        13 Replies
                                        1. re: Blumie
                                          jgg13 May 8, 2008 08:57 AM

                                          I know that for me, I find the place to be so horribly inconsistent that its hard to really champion it. When they've been "on" for me, I've *really* liked their burgers. When they've been "off", I've *really* disliked them. Given that its a bit of a PITA for me to get there, I just gave up bothering because I don't want to risk an off experience (which truthfully was more frequent than being on)

                                          1. re: Blumie
                                            yumyum May 8, 2008 09:06 AM

                                            There is a reason I've not been there in 2+ years. Besides the convenient (to me) locale, I never experienced the terrible burgers others have at RFO and I enjoyed the atmosphere back in the day. But now that I've discovered other burgers I like much more, it's unlikely I'll head back any time soon.

                                            One other note, the burger at Highland Kitchen is quite good, but not in the league of the Druid/Bartleys/Miracle burger, IMO.

                                            1. re: Blumie
                                              heathermb May 8, 2008 09:52 AM

                                              I don't know that it is my absolute favorite, but it is definitely in my top 5. I've been going for a few years now and have never had a bad, over/under-cooked or non-melted-cheese experience (although I've been with Lissy every time it has happened to her - go figure). I almost always get the same one - cheddar cheese and sauteed onions. Nothing crazy, just tasty.

                                              After my first few very messy visits I've concocted my own surgical method for turning the burger into something I can get my mouth around so I don't consider the meatball shape/size to be an issue.

                                              I don't particularly like potato wedges so I never get them (but might steal one from a DC that I then soak in vinegar). I also love their onion rings and like the buffalo chicken tenders.

                                              1. re: heathermb
                                                gini May 8, 2008 10:26 AM

                                                Good to know about the chicken tenders. I had their steak tips once - those were pretty good.

                                                1. re: heathermb
                                                  Sal Monella May 8, 2008 11:25 AM

                                                  I'm with heathermb. I don't consider it the best burger around but it's not horrible either. My biggest complaint is that I always end up smelling like the place everytime I set foot in there. Don't plan on going out after eating there w/o going home showering and changing clothes.

                                                  1. re: Sal Monella
                                                    hiddenboston May 8, 2008 11:46 AM

                                                    I don't particularly like the renovations they made to the place over the past few weeks. The electric fireplace seems pretty silly, and the newly installed spotlights in the ceiling are way too bright and glaring, especially for a bar that should be a bit on the dark and cozy side. They are so bright that people at some tables literally look washed out, like someone poured a bucket of bleach over them. Not a pretty sight at all...

                                                    1. re: hiddenboston
                                                      b
                                                      Blumie May 8, 2008 12:08 PM

                                                      I used to love the electric fireplaces that covered the walls like light sconces at Nicks Beef 'n' Beer. My buddies and I would joke that when Nick got off the boat from Greece, the electric fireplace saleman was there to greet him and to assure him that every successful American restauranteur decorated his walls with electric fireplaces.

                                                      1. re: Blumie
                                                        hiddenboston May 8, 2008 12:17 PM

                                                        Heh, those were classic, as well as the "log lights" they also had. We tried to grab a few of those out of the dumpsters when they closed, but they had already been picked over. We did grab a few letters from the Nick's sign, though. I think I still have the "I" next to the snowblower in the garage.

                                                      2. re: hiddenboston
                                                        Sal Monella May 8, 2008 12:09 PM

                                                        Agreed HB. Don't know what they were thinking...like an Irish bar that updated everthing from Building 19 1/2 surplus. Nonetheless, the place is pretty packed most of the times I'm there.

                                                  2. re: Blumie
                                                    l
                                                    lergnom May 8, 2008 12:39 PM

                                                    You raise a point that often comes up on the net generally: a negative post will often attract commentary and the other side usually sits it out because things can get ugly. This is one reason I don't post most of my negative comments. Also, no place is consistent and people have different preferences. As I've noted elsewhere, my experience at RFO is mixed. It's not my favorite burger conceptually but it has often hit the spot. To be blunt, inconsistency is much a bigger deal to me if I'm spending a lot more $$ for the meal. I know that I'm just one customer and that each restaurant can't or won't care as much about me as I do about my meal, but that matters much more if it happens at L'Espalier than at RFO.

                                                    RFO's inconsistency is one issue. Another is whether you like their style of burger. Opinions about the best type of burger vary and are a good philosophical discussion.

                                                    Another RFO issue is that many people, like me, find it appealing in part because unlike Mrs. B's it isn't well known to the world at large and thus isn't overwhelmed by tourists. RFO is more Boston / Somerville than tourist Boston and that is attractive to me. I do, however, sometimes stick my head in to see who is cooking and whether I can sit at the bar, which is about 1000 times more comfortable than those awful tables.

                                                    We see this in many "real" Boston places. A bar / restaurant like Doyle's comes to mind, especially if you sit in the old main bar on a night when it's full of local politicians. The attraction is not the usually overdone pork chops.

                                                    1. re: lergnom
                                                      b
                                                      Blumie May 8, 2008 12:57 PM

                                                      You make a great point about negative posts. I've observed the same thing with respect to East Coast Grill. ECG has for years been an overwhelming Chowhound favorite. But that view has more recently been evolving, and I notice that when someone makes a negative post about ECG, lots of people will pile on with their own "Yeah, I really don't get what people see in this place" posts, while the ECG proponents, of which there are many, will sit on the sidelines.

                                                    2. re: Blumie
                                                      k
                                                      kok229 May 14, 2008 05:31 AM

                                                      I have been to RFs at least ten times and never had a bad burger. The atmosphere is a great "everyman's" kind of joint. You don't put on airs, you don't worry about who might be there, you go to eat a pile of meat and cheese and onions and whatever else and drink a beer. It is perfect. Burger in one hand, beer in the other. If you don't like it, then don't go.

                                                      1. re: kok229
                                                        gini May 14, 2008 07:46 AM

                                                        The atmosphere is less & less "everyman" what with the eye-level fireplaces popping up left and right. Also hate the fact that they got rid of the hi tops. I've enjoyed the nachos and steaktips at Sully's over the past 8 years, but the burgers have consistently let me down. I find my piles of meat, cheese, and beef down the street at the Druid, burger in one hand, beer in the other.

                                                    3. j
                                                      jackal May 8, 2008 02:10 PM

                                                      I agree. Having given RFO's a number of second chances, I've given up. If you can't cook medium-rare consistently, then you might as well stop making burgers.

                                                      I wonder what the owner would say if he read all these consistently negative posts regarding "doneness" and greasy, floppy potato wedges.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: jackal
                                                        jgg13 May 8, 2008 02:55 PM

                                                        Your first paragraph mirrors my thoughts exactly. I got tired of trecking there when half the time I'd get a well done burger.

                                                      2. g
                                                        Guinness02122 May 8, 2008 03:43 PM

                                                        I can't believe this place is such a lightening rod. I've had good burgers there. Too many stubborn people want this place to offer a great burger and are willing to make the trip back to see if anything changes. I can understand loving to hate Dennis Rodman or Ulf Samuelsson or A-Rod, but a burger joint?!?!?! C'mon.

                                                        17 Replies
                                                        1. re: Guinness02122
                                                          gini May 8, 2008 05:01 PM

                                                          Whereas hatred of professionally paid athletes eludes me.

                                                          1. re: gini
                                                            g
                                                            Guinness02122 May 9, 2008 02:32 PM

                                                            OK, maybe for you it's Rachel Ray or Martha Stewart. It's not real hatred. It's more like bashing.

                                                          2. re: Guinness02122
                                                            t
                                                            treb May 9, 2008 04:45 AM

                                                            They boast about having a 'great' burger, I think the PG boys overhyped it and brought this place to where it is today, another PG blunder. It is sort of good depending on the day, but, so are many other places. It bills itself as outstanding and that's the issue, it's not.

                                                            1. re: treb
                                                              b
                                                              Blumie May 9, 2008 08:19 AM

                                                              So which places advertise that they have a mediocre burger? Do any of them live up t the hype?

                                                              1. re: treb
                                                                rlh May 9, 2008 08:29 AM

                                                                What is PG?

                                                                1. re: rlh
                                                                  b
                                                                  Blumie May 9, 2008 08:45 AM

                                                                  I'm guessing Phantom Gourmet. And if I'm correct, I absolutely do not buy into the suggestion that RFO's reputation is all smoke and mirrors. Too many well respected hounds have lauded this place for it to be all hype and no substance.

                                                                  1. re: Blumie
                                                                    l
                                                                    lergnom May 9, 2008 09:14 AM

                                                                    PG was late in promoting RFO.

                                                                    1. re: Blumie
                                                                      t
                                                                      treb May 9, 2008 10:06 AM

                                                                      Maybe this thread is a honest example and sample of what CH'ers think of RFO's. And I agree, no est. adverts. mediocre food, that's why most of us hit the streets and chow, and hopefully more than once and an estab. to offer some opinions and advise for other CH'ers who may be interested in doing the same. When the PG boys, and yes you are correct that's who I am referring to, started hyping RFO's, that was pretty much average place, when RFO's began advertising and then came on the show a few times.
                                                                      Co-insidence? hmmm... ca..ching!!

                                                                      1. re: treb
                                                                        b
                                                                        Blumie May 9, 2008 10:15 AM

                                                                        But again, RFO has earned praise from many well respected hounds. That's why I went there. I didn't love it, but I chalk that up to burgers being a very controversial subject among the hounds. Many of us, myself included, think Bartley's is a great burger, but many well respected hounds disagree. Of course the RFO folks would want to cash in on favorable publicity, but I don't think the debate on this board has anything to do with it.

                                                                        1. re: Blumie
                                                                          t
                                                                          treb May 9, 2008 10:22 AM

                                                                          Same here, I went based on certain comments, I really think the hype creates unrealistic expectations. The only exception and I mean only was Tim's, if only there could be a ressurection. I also agree, burger reviews are just like pizza reviews, every place is 'to die for'.

                                                                          1. re: treb
                                                                            l
                                                                            lergnom May 9, 2008 12:13 PM

                                                                            Unrealistic expectations are a given. We had a thread about Speed's recently in which the eater felt the dog didn't meet expectations. It's only a hamburger. It's only a hot dog.

                                                                            The nature of dining out is that context can create a transcendent experience which then is not duplicated. Context can be friends, your mood, what else is going on in your life, etc.

                                                                            For example, I showed up at RFO about 3PM on a Wednesday last summer. The bar had maybe 5 people, all obviously truly local regulars. The Sox game was on in HD. They offered to give me a half order of onion rings / half fries and the burger was exceptionally juicy. That was a transcendent experience but I can't expect those circumstances to repeat. How much was due to the food? How much to the context? I don't know but my reality in my head is subjective.

                                                                            1. re: lergnom
                                                                              hiddenboston May 9, 2008 01:04 PM

                                                                              I couldn't agree more, lergnom. I've had some unforgettable nights at O'Sullivan's, but was it all because of the burgers? No. It has always been a combination of things, from watching the Sox win the playoffs there to celebrating birthdays to simply chatting with the bartender at the end of the night. I usually like the burgers a lot at O'Sullivan's, but since it's one of my regular hangouts, it's really more than just the food.

                                                                              1. re: lergnom
                                                                                Luther May 10, 2008 06:12 AM

                                                                                They "offered" to give you half fries and half rings. Fan-fucking-tastic... they charge extra for that.

                                                                                1. re: Luther
                                                                                  l
                                                                                  lergnom May 10, 2008 08:08 AM

                                                                                  They didn't charge me extra. That was the point.

                                                                              2. re: treb
                                                                                d
                                                                                droidicus May 9, 2008 12:20 PM

                                                                                The nature of both pizza and burgers is that they are extremely simple but hard to get right on a consistent basis. You can go a lot of places and get a random good pizza or good burger, but to go from that to being able to bang out consistent quality is a major leap.

                                                                                This is where I think the disconnect some people see comes from.

                                                                                ~Droid

                                                                                1. re: droidicus
                                                                                  t
                                                                                  treb May 10, 2008 05:23 AM

                                                                                  I'll take a place that has very good 'consistant' quality vs. feeling like I hit the 'jackpot' on my burger once at a place that is up and down on quality. In the case of burgers, I'll go back several times, to form an opinion, before I decide to stay or move on. The side-shows, big screen tv's, bartenders that I like etc. are a nice extra but, won't keep me if the food doesn't deliver. Afterall, in the case of RFO's, the burger is the priority, and if this was my hang-out, obiviously, my opinion would be biased towards the est.

                                                                            2. re: treb
                                                                              Dr.Jimbob May 9, 2008 03:09 PM

                                                                              There are friends of mine who are fairly picky about things and who also praise RFO to the skies (one thinks of it as the essential joint in Boston for a burger). I have been a few times, and also can't say that I share the enthusiasm (agree with the general gestalt of wildly inconsistent product, overreliance on fancy-schmancy toppings to cover up an underseasoned greaseball of a burger).

                                                                    2. MC Slim JB May 9, 2008 02:36 PM

                                                                      I'm a fan of the R.F. O'Sullivan and Son burger. I usually get the swissroom or the paddy-o-melt. I eat it with a knife and fork. I don't always jump in to defend it because it seems to get discussed at least once a week here.

                                                                      I like it; many people don't. If you haven't tried it, I think you should. The tavern atmosphere is a plus to me, the fried potato wedges a minus. I also like the burgers at the Miracle of Science, Audubon Circle, Union Bar & Grille, Washington Square Tavern, Coda, the Bristol, J.J. Foley's Cafe, Atwood's Tavern, and The Junction. 28 Degrees used to serve good sliders (on pointy French-bread rolls), but not any more.

                                                                      8 Replies
                                                                      1. re: MC Slim JB
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                                                                        triple creme May 9, 2008 05:14 PM

                                                                        Am I the only hound who favors the burger at Temple Bar? Granted, the burger and the splendid fries are the only edible offerings there. But I think both are superior. The bartending is substandard and lackluster in my experience, and it's only the burgers/fries that keep me coming back.

                                                                        1. re: MC Slim JB
                                                                          hiddenboston May 9, 2008 05:24 PM

                                                                          The Junction? Is that the place in Southie around the corner from the Blackthorn? What's that place like?

                                                                          I'll add a few more favorites in addition to O'Sullivan's: 75 Chestnut, Mission Bar and Grille, Zon's, Costello's, and UBurger...

                                                                          1. re: hiddenboston
                                                                            MC Slim JB May 10, 2008 08:48 AM

                                                                            Yep, The Junction is on Dorchester Street just a little in from Broadway. A very nice patty melt; decent pub fare in general, about the level of Costello's, pleasant foursquare bar, plenty of TVs, Golden Tee in the corner, friendly crowd. Good fish and chips.

                                                                            I didn't know this until the Globe's little review the other day, but they're the same people behind the new DJs at the Garden (near-identical menus). More competent than extraordinary, but I did love that burger, and it is Southie, where I'm usually grateful just to avoid the really bad food all around.

                                                                            I second all your other suggestions, too, except Uburger, where I've only tried their (excellent) fries.

                                                                            1. re: MC Slim JB
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                                                                              BJK May 11, 2008 06:31 AM

                                                                              Here are a few more burger recommendations I haven't seen listed yet:

                                                                              Eastern Standard
                                                                              West Side Lounge
                                                                              Coolidge Corner Clubhouse
                                                                              The Restaurant, Woburn (thanks hiddenboston!)

                                                                              BK

                                                                              1. re: BJK
                                                                                hiddenboston May 11, 2008 12:50 PM

                                                                                You're welcome! The Restaurant is pretty underrated, IMO, though I must say that not every dish there makes me happy there (I'm not a big fan of their watery and rather bland pastitsio, for instance). But I do love their chili and their mac and cheese, as well as the burgers.

                                                                                1. re: hiddenboston
                                                                                  b
                                                                                  BJK May 11, 2008 06:58 PM

                                                                                  Thanks for the heads up on the pastitsio. I saw a plate of it on the way out to another table last night and thought it looked good. Too many other things to try!

                                                                                  So far we've been impressed with the burger, the mac and cheese, the cheap prices and the baby friendliness. I also saw a nice looking corned beef sandwich and a fish and chips that looked good. Have you had any of the pasta dishes?

                                                                                  BK

                                                                                  1. re: BJK
                                                                                    hiddenboston May 11, 2008 07:10 PM

                                                                                    No, I haven't yet. I think I heard that the chicken parm was pretty good, but I'm not 100% sure. Only one way to find out, I guess!

                                                                          2. re: MC Slim JB
                                                                            k
                                                                            kron May 11, 2008 06:01 PM

                                                                            Been going to Sullivan's for 5 years now and have to say it isn't what it used to be. Ever since they dropped their weekly TRIVIA, it has started to disappoint. Back then the top prize for leading trivia after a 6 weeks or so was FREE BURGERS for your entire team for a WEEK! Once we won that (yes, we are nerds) and had those freebies for a week, it hasn't tasted the same. Perhaps it was purely overdose on our part. Or perhaps it is because it has become too popular. I don't find it to be the blue-collar type pub it used to be that was mildly crowded on weekends, but many tables open other nights. The "Half and Half" still rocks though. Even still, I continue to defend RFO against newbies who have just tried it for the first time and say it's nothing to rave about. I've heard miracle makes a pretty good one.

                                                                          3. b
                                                                            bachslunch May 11, 2008 07:45 PM

                                                                            I'll post and say that I like the burgers at O'Sullivan's. I've been about 4 times over the past 10 years or so and gotten a really good burger each time -- it's been big, juicy, tasty, and actually cooked medium rare as ordered. It did have some kind of topping each time, usually cheese if memory serves.

                                                                            I can only go on my own experiences, and if I get a dud from them if/when I go again, I'll say so -- never been too shy about that. Can't speak for anybody else here.

                                                                            1. fafatodd May 13, 2008 11:14 PM

                                                                              THANK YOU! I can't stand O'Sullivans

                                                                              I've lived across the street for 3 years - so even trying to avoid the place I still have to eat their w/ friends and visitors pretty often. My friends are likely sick of hearing my laundry list of why the place sucks

                                                                              - bad service
                                                                              - bad atmosphere and crappy seating options
                                                                              - oh neat they have big fries... that are essentially 4th's of potatos, not fully cooked and totally blah.
                                                                              - the burgers are...
                                                                              impossible to eat... just smoosh it down, i dont want a 6 inch tall burger. i get it. its round, good for you. normal at best.

                                                                              - and the kicker... they CHARGE YOU FOR LETTUCE AND TOMATO. It's a burger place and you can't get the normal fixins for free? gimme a break. Yeah, sure its only... i dunno 75 cents, but the concept blows my mind. They may have squeaked a couple extra bucks outta me in the past few years, but they've lost well well over that in mindshare by the gesture. Related: if you ask "can i substitute my [lame] fries for a side salad ?" the answer will be 'yes' -- but by "substitute" they mean... "yes i'll remove your fries and add a full price side salad to the bill." (not a fluke i tried this several times, staying mum on purpose)

                                                                              How long is it going to take for the reputation of this place to wear off? It blows my mind that anyone can have an enjoyable eating experience here.

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