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

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.

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  1. 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

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

      1. re: gini

        Interesting comparison. Never tasted shag myself.

        1. re: Alcachofa

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

          1. re: gini

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

    2. 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. 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

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

        2. 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

            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

              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

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

                1. re: autopi

                  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

                    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

                      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

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

              2. re: MichaelB

                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

                  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. 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

                  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

                    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!