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Sep 24, 2008 08:56 AM

What would you do if a restaurant wouldnt cook your Burger to Order?

I was at a restaurant on Saturday with my wife, and daughter, and really was in the mood for a juicy hamburger cooked rare. We ordered some drinks, and some potato skins, and looked further on the menu. I was about to decide on a hamburger, but then saw in bold print " we will only cook hamburgers medium, medium well, or well done NO EXCEPTIONS". Well that blew my plan for a juicy burger since none of the ways they were willing to cook the hamburger would yield a tasty, much less flavorfull burger. I joked with the waiter asking if they were serious about the no exceptions policy, and he said yes. Well, we finished our drinks, and potato skins, and requested the check from the perplexed waiter, payed our tab(tipped 20% its not the servers fault he works for a bonehead establishment), and left. Actually ended up at a Mexican place for some carne asda, and chile relleno.

Is a restaurant refusing to cook a burger how I want it as unacceptable to others as it is to me? Would you go somewhere else? Or would you eat the overcooked meat?

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  1. Perhaps they have to cook their burgers medium+ for health reasons (like their burgers aren't springtime fresh)?

    If they aren't willing to cook the burger to my liking, I'd order something else...going somewhere else, finding parking & possibly waiting to get a table is a likely scenario here in Southern CA, so itI'd stay & order something else.

    1 Reply
    1. re: OCAnn

      maybe it could be a warning sign to order something else on the menu I guess. I could see that.

    2. It is a legal liability issue. If you don't like it, do as you did, and eat elsewhere.

      7 Replies
      1. re: Firegoat

        thats too bad, lawyers winning out over good taste.. ;-)

        No big deal, lots of places that will serve a burger cooked as I want, and that place lost me as a customer forever, perhaps they will see the error of their ways someday. :-)

        1. re: swsidejim

          Well I don't think it is necessarily lawyers winning out over good taste, it is a risk assessment done by each restaurant. If they are damn sure of their source and grind it fresh, odds are they won't balk to cook it your way. If they aren't, well, that's just good business on their part.

          1. re: Firegoat

            its all good, just kid of silly that a restaurant wouldnt source a product that they can serve safely.

            Like you said, I was free to move on which I did, I was just curious if others would leave, or stay, and try to eat what was offered, or order something else on the menu.

            1. re: swsidejim

              It's quite possible they're sourcing a product (ground beef) that has been through countless hands before ending up with their provider. Unless they grind it themselves, they really have no idea how the meat was protected in its travels to get their provider before it's delivered to the restaurant.

              As to your original question, I probably wouldn't leave, unless I *really* wanted a burger my way. I'd just find something else on the menu to order.

            2. re: Firegoat

              Well, there are places where the local health authorities (like here in Toronto) stipulate that ground meat has to be cooked to 170 degrees, which rules out a medium rare burger. Not every restaurant obeys the rule, but it's on the books, and if someone ever got sick from e.Coli, there'd probably be a lawsuit.

              Isn't it nice that we're protected from ourselves?

              1. re: KevinB

                170F would be beyond well done, so it's not just medium rare that you can't get.

          2. The original comment has been removed
            1. I could be making an assumption here, but based on the menu items you mentioned, I’m guessing that they don’t grind their own hamburger. And if they don’t grind their own hamburger, you should only order it medium or burned.

              There are many, many strains of e-coli and not all of them are as benign as simple intestinal discomfort.

              You did exactly as you should have – they didn’t offer what you wanted so you walked. Thank you for not giving the server any grief.

              7 Replies
              1. re: sebetti

                like I said, not the servers fault. it was a local bar and grill type place, so I have no idea where they source their food.

                1. re: sebetti

                  As a realistic risk assessment, your chances of getting in an accident driving to another restaurant are much higher than getting something nasty from a rare burger. I agree with Linda -- I'd probably stay but order something else. Ordering a well-done burger is not an option.

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    they offered it "medium" -- but hey, now you know they don't do burgers your way. their choice not to, your choice to go elsewhere. no harm, no foul.

                  2. re: sebetti

                    As an aside but totally related - my bf and I ended up sitting next to Hilary Swank and her friend this summer on a patio of a modest brew-pub in Toronto and listened to her berate her server for nearly 10 minutes because the place was unable to cook her a rare burger.
                    She ended up eating nachos.

                    1. re: estestest

                      "listened to [swank] berate her server for nearly 10 minutes"

                      ---- oh, that had to be pleasant for everyone around -- esp. the poor server. i wonder why the manager never intervened.

                      1. re: estestest

                        Hilary Swank is a vegetarian; has been since age 14. Perhaps a case of mistaken identity.

                        1. re: kmcarr

                          Maybe it was Jennifer Garner. They both look the same to me at least.

                    2. Here in SC there is a law that states, if I understand it correctly, if a restaurant grinds its own meat you may have your burger cooked to order. If they don't, well you are out-of-luck. Is it possible there is a similar city/county/state law where you live?

                      As to your questions, I think it is unacceptable that I cannot get my burger cooked the way I want it. However that does beg the question, do I want a burger from a place that does not grind their own meat? Since rare is a far cry from med-well, I would not have ordered the wouldn't have been satisfying. I probably would have found something else on the menu I could live with, and I would have made a mental note for next time.

                      13 Replies
                      1. re: lizzy

                        I am not sure of local laws regarding this practice in Illinois, although I have seen it on other menus.

                        I guess this "dilemma" isnt as cut and dry as I thought, with the beef being ground on site or not issue. I typically have an iron gut, and as a kid we would eat small balls of raw ground beef with just some salt and garlic powder as my dad was making hamburger patties to cook.

                        The menu was pretty sparse for their lunchtime offerings, so we decided to move on... we went to a Mexican spot instead(where I got my carne asada cooked rare).

                        1. re: swsidejim

                          I don't know what the laws in Illinois are either. I grew up there, and my family still lives in the Chicago area. Frankly, I never even gave getting a burger cooked to order a second thought until I moved here and I was told I could only have MW or W.

                          Until I got food poisoning a couple of years ago, like you I had an iron clad stomach. I also grew up eating raw beef before the hamburgers went on the grill.

                          1. re: swsidejim

                            Unfortunately there are some bacterial strains/species that having an 'iron gut' just can't protect you from. For instance humans will always be made sick by exposure to Staphylococcus aureus and Salmonella spp. In the case of hamburgers the concern is a particular strain of E. coli known as entero-haemorrhagic e. coli (EHEC) 0157:H7 this particular strain was identified during the 70's during an outbreak that was traced back to undercooked hamburgers. EHEC, particularly in the very old and young, can have potentially fatal consequences this along with the fact that it causes severe gastroenteritis is why undercooked hamburger meat should not be served in restaurants - unless the hamburger meat is prepared from good cuts prior to cooking, much like a steak.

                          2. re: lizzy

                            I remember talking to one friend about how her restaurant wouldn't serve burgers anything less than medium well because the meat quality of sourced ground beef was unreliable and they weren't allowed unless it was of a certain quality (probably ground within the restaurant). It's definitely a safety issue and when given the choice, I would just not order the burger. I would not necessarily leave the restaurant. You can only expect so much unless it's in the high price range.

                            1. re: lizzy

                              jfood spent 4 days in Pinehurst NC a few years ago playing golf and being stupid. They also had that rule.

                              Amazing how a few pictures of their least favorite president Abe Lincoln taught them the correct way to cook and serve a burger.

                              1. re: jfood

                                Now, now jfood. Many of us North Carolinians have a great fondness for the non-paper Abe!

                                But yes, NC is also a state with health code issues. The meat must be ground on the premises to cook it rare or med. rare.

                                So I have a great many places that I just don't order burgers from...

                                1. re: meatn3

                                  Actually there was a recent article in a local paper that included the head of the health dept saying that whether the beef was ground onsite or not was 'immaterial' and that you couldn't serve ground beef in NC that hadn't been heated to 165 F all the way through [and ruined].

                                  Not that it stopped us at my last gig.

                                  1. re: avad

                                    If you have access to a link I'd like to read it. I had not heard this. I had med. rare burgers (actually slightly rarer) earlier this month in Cary, NC. with no mention of this. This will be very frustrating...I can cook the burger at home, but I enjoy it with good onion rings or fries, neither of which I am proficient at cooking and really don't want to make them at home. Well the Va. state line is 1.5 hours away....maybe I can get a burger there!

                                    1. re: meatn3

                                      come on up to virginia! we've got goooood burgers here. ;-P

                                      1. re: meatn3


                                        ^^^ Looks like I misremembered the temp

                                        Ya know, I wouldn't recommend cooking a burger to sub-medium with ground beef that I picked up from the cold case at the grocer. At the very least pick a good fresh cut and have them grind it for you while you're there.

                                        1. re: avad

                                          Thanks for the link!

                                          I agree on the grind suggestion...I have a grinder attachment for my KA, so it will get an extra workout!

                                          1. re: meatn3

                                            Mostly due to my taste preferences, I always pick out a sirloin and have that twice-ground, for burgers in my home. As these are usually VERY lean, I do cook the bacon above the patties, on the grill, to get the flareups and also drip a bit of bacon fat onto the patties.

                                            Since I like my burgers with slightly warm-pink on the inside (thick burgers), I can do them to my taste.

                                            Even with "American Kobe" patties, I have yet to get the flavor, texture and leaness, that I like. I have not done pre-ground in years, just because I do not like it, even with higher grades of beef. I pick, they grind, they grind, and then I do my thing.

                                            Though it might be a lot of "caution," and a tad bit of paranoia (plus local laws), but if the restaurant is not comfortable serving my burger (whatever), the way I want it, I can take the hint - order something else, or head elsewhere. Maybe I have seen too many episodes of "Kitchen Nightmares... " Maybe the kitchen knows something that we do not.


                                  2. re: jfood

                                    Talk about leaving out the important points! What did you shoot, and exactly how were you stupid?!