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J. Kenji Alt's Boston Burger Battle

bobot Apr 24, 2009 01:48 PM


I haven't tried Flat Patties, but as a huge fan of the West Coast style burger I'm looking forward to trying it. I think Green St.'s double cheeseburger is a strong competitor for that style as well.

On the East Coast style, I'm glad to see someone agree that R.F. O'Sullivan's is totally over-rated.

Confusingly, his rankings seem to go from 1 - best to 10 - worst.

  1. yumyum May 7, 2009 12:24 PM

    I tried Four burgers today and must say it's very good. But I'm perplexed -- it's big and thick and juicy (BFP might say greasy) and griddled. Is that East Coast or West Coast or maybe mid-west style? Whatever ... it's really quite good for $7.

    4 Replies
    1. re: yumyum
      BarmyFotheringayPhipps May 7, 2009 02:12 PM

      No, I wouldn't call the Four Burgers burger greasy at all. It's a perfectly decent burger.

      1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps
        celeriac May 7, 2009 02:22 PM

        I found it pretty decent and the ingredients high-quality, but mine was also vastly undersalted--another place where my own experience lines up well with Kenji's. Wouldn't be surprised if that is an issue of inconsistency though.

        1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps
          yumyum May 8, 2009 05:22 AM

          I don't get it, then. It was a 12 napkin wonder yesterday, definitely more greasy than the last Bartley's burger I ate.

        2. re: yumyum
          cambridgejen May 7, 2009 02:32 PM

          Technically I believe the "West Coast" style that In N Out burger has made famous got its start in the Midwest. Steak N Shake has been making amazing flat grilled burgers since the 1930s. I would take a Steak N Shake "steakburger" over an In N Out burger any day of the week... I wish we had more of this style in the Boston burger scene.

        3. c
          celeriac May 6, 2009 06:44 PM

          Not to be a sycophant, but I popped into Flat Patties tonight for the fourth or fifth time and it was better than ever. Previously I had thought the double was really necessary for a satisfying bun-to-burger ratio, but this time I got a single and thought it was just right. The meat was even cooked to a perfect medium this time, a rare feat for a thin patty. And very juicy. Good fries also.

          Green St is high on my list of burgers I need to eat.

          2 Replies
          1. re: celeriac
            yumyum May 6, 2009 07:20 PM

            You will like Green Street's burger if you favor the flat patty. It is double thin patties with cheese on a good, non foofy bun. Let us know what you think!

            1. re: celeriac
              celeriac Jun 21, 2009 08:32 PM

              Ate it.


            2. Matt H Apr 27, 2009 12:49 PM

              One burger that I really love and cant stop eating is the Union Burger at Union Bar and Grill. The Andouille sausage mixed in with the ground beef makes it really good.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Matt H
                afty698 Apr 27, 2009 02:33 PM

                Christopher's in Porter Square also does a burger with Andouille sausage mixed with the ground beef. It's very tasty.

                1. re: afty698
                  MC Slim JB Apr 27, 2009 02:42 PM

                  Union Bar & Grille does that same trick with its burger, for $16, with great frites.


                  1. re: MC Slim JB
                    teezeetoo Apr 27, 2009 03:21 PM

                    i like The Fireplace's lunch menu burger on a brioche-style bun and very good fries. at $8.99 the whole lunch is very good value.

              2. Karl S Apr 27, 2009 12:47 PM

                I think Flat Patties is a wonderful exemplar of its style, and I have to say that style is a more reliable style than the other style.

                I should add that I don't eat at FP too often because I am concerned I will simply want more and more and get addicted. I don't ever feel that way with the bigger burgers.

                1. yumyum Apr 27, 2009 09:00 AM

                  Agree Green Street's burger deserves more attention. That's a very good burger, be it East Coast or West Coast style (I didn't know of this distinction -- did Alt make it up?)

                  I saw the Craigie burger the other night and it does indeed look awesome. Bun a little too fluffy looking though -- it's not the dreaded brioche is it?

                  Worst burger I've had lately was Boston Burger Co. in Davis. Dry. Really dry.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: yumyum
                    heypielady Apr 27, 2009 09:15 AM

                    I had the Craigie burger in January and it was awesome. The bun is not brioche. Regarding its fluffiness perhaps someone else who has tried it should comment. I liked it but I admit I do like a brioche bun.

                    1. re: yumyum
                      kenjigoodeater Apr 27, 2009 12:29 PM

                      I admit - I did make it up, the East vs. West thing. It really comes down to grill vs. griddle, and in my experience, you see a lot more of the grill around here, and a lot more of the griddle out in CA. The west coast style of burger was invented out there too, in the 40's, right around the time that car culture was booming and people wanted fast, tasty food that wasn't too bulky to eat in the car. It spawned the likes of McDonald's, and eventually In-n-Out.

                      The article's a little overstaed - I am well aware that there are other regional styles of burgers. But in Boston, at least, up until a couple years ago, all you could get was the thick, grilled, pub-style burger (at least all you could get that was decent). It's only in the last few years that you can get a good, thin, griddled, drive-in diner style burger around here.

                      I haven't been to Boston Burger Co. (I flat out ban any place that uses the words "company" or "factory" in their name - with the exception of Jim Lahey's fabulous Co. in NY - best neapolitan pies in Manhattan), but if you want a really horrible burger experience, go to any of the B.Goods. Abominations of the highest order!

                      1. re: kenjigoodeater
                        lergnom Apr 27, 2009 02:14 PM

                        Griddle cooked burgers were the norm in the country when I was growing up, which is why I find the high praise about a 5 Guys so odd: it's the basic burger you would get anywhere, from Big Boy to Biff's to any number of chains and restaurants. When I was a kid visiting NE for the summer, that was the norm here as well. I wonder when things switched. IMHO, it traces to increased patty size and prices as the "casual dining" places opened everywhere in the late 70's into the 80's. Eating a burger from a grill was more like steak cookery and thus more upscale.

                        B. Good is an excrescence.

                      2. re: yumyum
                        bobot Apr 27, 2009 12:30 PM

                        The place I first heard people talking about "east coast" and "west coast" burgers was the AHT blog. I always thought of it as "in-n-out" burgers vs. "pub" burgers

                        1. re: bobot
                          kenjigoodeater Apr 27, 2009 12:38 PM

                          Oops - do they talk about that on AHT? If so, I apologize Adam! I didn't mean to usurp your classification system!

                      3. jgg13 Apr 24, 2009 02:32 PM

                        Flat Patties is interesting to me. When I eat there (both burgers & pulled pork) I'll bite into them and say "eh, nothing special" but then I find that I can't put the things down and keep stuffing them in my face until they're gone. It's like there's crack in there or something. I've never really figured out how something that seems so plain ends up being such a must-have for me.

                        re: O'Sullivans, my problem has always been their inconsistency on cooking levels. I always ask for "medium rare" and I might as well not bother because it seems like they're going to give me what they're going to give me anyways.

                        re: rankings ... I didn't find it confusing. I viewed it as an ordered list, not a numerical score.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: jgg13
                          robertlf Apr 24, 2009 06:31 PM

                          LOL. So true! I love Flat Patties!!!!!

                          1. re: jgg13
                            BarmyFotheringayPhipps Apr 24, 2009 06:54 PM

                            Well, because they're simple but perfectly done. They're not trying to expand the parameters of burgerdom or anything, they're just doing an excellent version of something that there isn't nearly nearly enough of around here.

                            1. re: jgg13
                              bobot Apr 25, 2009 05:29 AM

                              oh!!! I didn't realize it was an ordered list (*facepalm*) Now it makes perfect sense.

                            2. itaunas Apr 24, 2009 01:55 PM

                              Newspapers can't report everything, but I think its a bit odd they didn't at least mention Bartley's. However, were I to do it some others which I would also consider are Mangia Mangia, Celebrity, and maybe Sully's for flat patties... Marlive (ditch the brioche, though), Christopher's (very inconsistent), and the Druid for pub burgers.

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: itaunas
                                bobot Apr 24, 2009 02:00 PM

                                It's a "preview" of the magazine article so maybe there's more to come? He's written on Boston burgers before on AHT (http://aht.seriouseats.com/) I'm too lazy to find specific links but you can just search for "Boston" and find mentions of some of those places

                                Personally, I don't why you would mention Bartley's, other than to say that it's famous in spite of serving some of the worst food in town.

                                1. re: bobot
                                  jgg13 Apr 24, 2009 02:30 PM

                                  He also writes (one of the 2 people who do) at goodeater.org. They had a great article about Craigie's burger on there last week.

                                  1. re: jgg13
                                    MC Slim JB Apr 25, 2009 06:05 AM

                                    That blog is well worth reading on a regular basis.

                                    Sample quote from that Maws article about the Craigie burger: "By starting with three very flavorful and lean cuts of beef (he uses equal parts short rib, flap meat, and brisket), and adding in as much fat as you want (he goes with a ratio of around 85/15), you can get all the flavor of grass-fed beef combined with the juicy fat content of grain-fed beef. Best of both worlds." Whoa!


                                    1. re: MC Slim JB
                                      jgg13 Apr 25, 2009 09:14 AM

                                      That passage alone had me trying to convince the gf that we need a meat grinder. So far, she who must be obeyed is resisting on lack of space arguments, but It'll happen. I liked the part about how they added fat in via suet & marrow.

                                2. re: itaunas
                                  robertlf Apr 24, 2009 06:33 PM

                                  The Bartley's grease burger = blah. I like the burger on brioche with frites at Bouchee. Just wish they served it with bernaise sauce.

                                  1. re: robertlf
                                    kenjigoodeater Apr 27, 2009 12:31 PM

                                    I'm totally with you on this. I left out Bartley's on purpose because I think it's one of the most overrated burger joints in the city, if not country. Blah-city. The only reason I would have left it in would be so I could trash it and start a riot! About 90% of the responses I've got to that article are, "Great, but where's Bartley's?"

                                    1. re: kenjigoodeater
                                      BarmyFotheringayPhipps Apr 27, 2009 02:04 PM

                                      A burger lover after my own heart. I seriously have never understood the praise Bartley's gets.

                                      1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps
                                        yumyum Apr 29, 2009 06:47 AM

                                        I'll be the outlier and stick up for Bartleys. I don't get there as often as I do other places on the list, but I agree with their slogan "you can't beat their meat". The quality of the chuck and the consistency of cooking to temp make this a solid burger choice, annoying crowds aside.

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