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Trueburger (Oakland) - any reports yet?

We tried stopping by the new Trueburger about a week ago on Saturday, but they were still making tweaks to their setup. They seem to be open and running now, but I haven't been yet. I just read a pretty favorable review here ( http://tastingtable.com/entry_detail/... ) and it has me intrigued. The pedigree of these guys seems to be far above a "burger joint" and I am guessing that with the big debates on "best burger in the Bay Area" that Trueburger probably should be evaluated against the big guns.

So - any reports?

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  1. They are going to have to go quite a way to beat out Rico's burger as best in downtown Oakland. After reading about Rico's on some thread here I've gone 3 times over the last couple months. All 3 burgers (2 eaten there, one taken back to office) were perfection. My only quibble is that the heat level on the grilled jalapenos (on the Rico's burger) very pretty wildly from visit to visit. Either way, eye-wateringly spicy or mild, that's the best burger I've ever had.

    Also, while I'm sharing things that no one asked me about - I tried the burger at Mua last week and it has no business being in the discussion about best anything, anywhere. Overcooked, tasteless burger with way way too much bun. Sidebar and Luca at least do a decent $10+ burger.

    Of course Rico's beats them all at a much lower price (but only available at lunch).

    Rico's Diner
    400 15th Street, Oakland, CA

    1. I just visited Trueburger today for lunch. I went about 12:30 p.m. and the tiny spot (maybe about 25 chairs) were almost full but I wouldn't say packed. A line started up a bit after I left.

      They had straightforward burgers and a vegetarian option made of portobella mushrooms and mozzarella. They also have three chopped salad options that looks pretty big and hot dogs and sides.

      I ordered the cheeseburger. It was good, nice charred edges and slightly pink insides. Not juicy but the meat seemed freshly ground. You can tell they ground the beef themselves. Paid about $6 (with tax) for it, and the size is the typical small gourmet size. I liked the place but I wouldn't go as far as it's the best in town. But it is definitely a nice option in my work area which is a dearth of good lunch options. (Haven't tired Rico so can't make a comparison.)

      I'll probably go back to try the salads and hot dogs. People there seems really ncie but wondering how they'll handle the crowds. Right now you order and they call out your name and it seems like a bit of a wait because after I ordered I saw maybe five other people sitting around waiting for their orders. I think maybe I waited 5 minutes? Doesn't sound long but seemed like it.

      1. Until place locates it.
        146 Grand Ave. Oakland, CA, 94612
        Phone: 510-208-5678

        1. I was walking by today so I decided to try Trueburger.

          I walked in around 12:45 and 95% of the tables were occupied. The space itself is bright and clean and welcoming. The entire restaurant was filled with smoke from the grill; I'm guessing the exhaust fan is either not working or severely underpowered. The smoke didn't really bother me, and no one else seemed to mind, but it was very noticeable.

          They cook their burgers in a very odd way (you can watch the grill easily while you are waiting). They start with a tall (I'd say 3 to 4 inches) and rather thin cylinder of beef, salt it generously, and then proceed to mash it down with a heavy spatula as it cooks until finally, 5 minutes later, it is your standard 3/4 inch high burger shape. I always thought that mashing down on a burger as it cooks was a classic diner no-no as it pushes all the juices out of the meat. I wonder if this is S.O.P at Trueburger, or if today's cook was taking shortcuts. He was doing it with all the burgers and they weren't overly slammed with orders so I'm guessing the former.

          I got the Cheesy Trueburger ($5.45) and a Chopped Caesar Salad ($6.75).

          The burgers are served in a little paper pouch like the ones at In-N-Out. The burger, despite the spatula abuse and the seemingly longish cooking time, was flavorful and perfectly medium, with just hints of pink in the center. The bun was substantial and rich, nicely toasted. To my taste it was slightly too big for the size of the burger.

          The Caesar Salad was also good, not great. Mild, creamy dressing. (IMHO those are 2 words that should never be associated with a real Caesar dressing, but I digress.) Romaine was crisp and fresh. I’m guessing they make their own croutons in house from the left over hamburger buns as they had a similar rich, light flavor. They were the only thing raising the salad above merely average.

          On the whole I'd say good, not great. Reasonably priced. A good addition to downtown Oakland lunch options. I can’t imagine anyone would prefer their cheeseburger to Rico’s ($5.75).

          4 Replies
          1. re: 10foot5

            Smashing down (compacting) ground beef into a hamburger patty either before or during grilling is so wrong for so many reasons, most important of which is that it turns the patty into something which works better as a hockey puck than as a burger--and a juiceless puck at that (unless grease is considered to be a juice). And ordering such a burger, say, medium rare, produces a medium rare hockey puck.

            1. re: dlglidden

              This place sounds great, except that I also feel very strongly that it's bad to smash burgers down on the grill. So strongly, that I tried to forward this thread to them. Unfortunately, they have no email address on their website, only a Twitter link, and I don't tweet.

              1. re: Steve Green

                I'd like to know from the other posters who have visited TrueBurger if they witnessed the same grilling technique.

                If the repeated mashings that I saw are not the standard method for cooking I wouldn't want to besmirch the reputation of the restaurant based on a single visit.

                Can anyone else confirm what I saw?

                1. re: 10foot5

                  I disagree with your assessment of what's called the "smashburger" technique. I think the Shake Shack in NYC has made it most famous. You start with a hockey puck shaped patty, and smashing it uncooked, there are no juices to push out of it. The two big no-no's are 1.) pressing the patty while it's cooking, thus pressing the juices out and 2.) working the patty too much with your hands that tightens the meat up and creates a tougher, dryer patty. The idea is to firmly press the patty into the griddle (not grill) on a very hot surface. This gives it the nice crispy edges, does not overwork the meat and cooks it fairly quickly. And to the poster that thinks 5 minutes is too long, McDonald's shouldn't be the norm in this type of burger. Cooked properly, and in a busy place, 5 minutes just is not realistic IMHO. Respectfully, -WT

          2. I got a cheeseburger and fries there the other night, and enjoyed them both a lot. Nice sized burger, very juicy, good meaty flavor, good quality condiments and vegetables on top (especially the pickles, which tasted either housemade or specialty), and great bun. Fries were a nice size, perfectly crispy, and nicely salted. All for under $10 -- I'll definitely be back (I just wish that parking around there wasn't such a pain). Very friendly staff.

            1. Great burgers. Perfect buns. But why frozen fries?

              2 Replies
              1. re: outrig8

                They are easier, They are consistent, Thomas Keller uses them. Pick one.

                1. re: outrig8

                  I personally haven't tasted much of an advantage to fresh cut fries over frozen if you are just going to fry them. For example, the fresh cut fries of In & Out are really not good to me.

                  I think the fresh vs. frozen debate makes a bigger difference if you are baking the "fries".

                2. We went Saturday - the veggie burger was really good - nice to not get a garden burger or a boca burger. I liked the fries, my daughter had a good cheeseburger.
                  I was impressed by the bun - actually good bread and substantial enough.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: myriamg

                    By "garden burger" do you mean the crispy stuffed mushroom option? If so, can you describe it? I couldn't quite figure out the preparation from the description online.

                    1. re: Scott M

                      it is not a garden burger - it is a fresh made mushroom burger with mozzarella. I'd call it almost a fritter,and quite tasty. the mushrooms are sliced, rather than chopped.

                  2. The menu says that the burgers are served with a "garlic sauce"? I'm not sure about that, garlic and a burger doesn't sound good to me, but then the only condiments I like are mustard, ketchup.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Enric

                      I'd say aioli, rather than garlic sauce.

                      1. re: myriamg

                        They called it a garlic aioli. I generally get no condiments or greens on my burger, but I told them to leave the aioli on. It was a nice touch, not really overpowering, or anything. I was thinking of asking for it on the side next time to dip my fries in!

                        I got dinner here to go last Saturday (I live in the neighborhood) -- the bacon cheeseburger and fries -- and I was very impressed. As mentioned above, the bun was very good, and I'm usually kind of "meh" when it comes to egg bread. The burger was moist, without being messy; . The whole burger had a very nice "handmade" quality to it.

                        1. re: Debbie M

                          I decided to check out TrueBurger last weekend before a show at the Fox. I ordered the double cheeseburger with bacon added. It was a delicious burger, and different from my other favorite burgers in the bay area. It reminds me of Shake Shack in New York City. The grill top cooking of burgers gives them a different flavor. It caramelizes the meat in a different way. Maybe that also has something to with the smoosh technique that people have reported they employ. I ordered mine with full accoutrement, but next time I might try it without lettuce, tomato and onion. The one thing I thought it was missing was more of a special sauce. I like the garlic aioli, though. Maybe I just need a bit more of it. Definitely will be going back for more whenever I'm in the hood.

                        2. re: myriamg

                          Ah, that's what it was. I couldn't quite put my finger on what was different about the burger, but thought it was the "mayo". I thought it was a pretty tasty burger.

                      2. Stopped by on Friday for lunch, and since it's the start of Lent, I was semi-restricted to a vegetarian menu. I had the Mushroom Burger and was completely happy with it. It's a crispy grilled portabello patty. Delicious. With a side of Cheesy fries it was a very satisfying lunch.

                        146 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA 94612

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: nicedragonboy

                          I've been wondering how that mushroom burger was (and since I gave up meat for Lent, it was on my list of things to try), thanks for the update. My sister, a burger aficionado, was waxing poetic about the burgers there earlier today, and proclaimed that they are "the archetype of what a burger should be."

                        2. My son and I went to Trueburger last night for take-out. We got there at about 7:45pm and it was doing a steady business. We got a parking space right out front.
                          My son ordered a bacon cheeseburger with grilled onions, fries and a strawberry shake. I got the mushroom burger with grilled onions. Total cost just over $23. The food was great.
                          I don't care if the fries were frozen or not. They were crispy, salty, tasty, just perfect. The mushroom burger was really good. The patty had a nice crisp exterior, with a very flavorful, creamy interior with a nice texture of recognizably chopped mushroom. The grilled onions were really good on it. My son proclaimed the burger excellent. The lettuce and tomato were fresh and quite good. The bun, which was grilled, was excellent. The shake was made with vanilla ice cream (the menu offers vanilla or chocolate shakes, then a list of various add-ins), but they did ask if he wanted chocolate or vanilla ice cream with his strawberry shake. The shake was very good.
                          While we waited (which wasn't very long considering how many people were there) we were offered a little cup of candied peanuts. They taste like peanut brittle and were made that morning. Apparently they put those on their hot fudge sundaes. I am now craving a hot fudge sundae just because of those peanuts. The chef (owner?) said they were thinking about packaging them to sell as snack items. They were really tasty.
                          My son had consumed the shake and fries before we got home, which wasn't long.
                          We will definitely be back.
                          I'm thinking I could justify eating a hot fudge sundae if I walk around the lake first. How convenient.

                          146 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA 94612

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: pcdarnell

                            I finally made it here last week. I really wanted to like this place, but found the cheese burger, fries and shake very average. The bun to meat ratio was off. The meat portion was small, yet cooked well. However, the bun was too big, half toasted and very soggy with too much sauce. Frankly, In-N-Out is much better. The fries were okay, but nothing special. Perhaps the most disappointing item was the chocolate shake. I like my shakes thick but this was thin and tasted watered down. The menu states they use premium ice cream, but it didn't taste like it. A far cry from say, Taylor's.

                            Though it could be me, I know I'm really picky. The two friends I went with loved it. But one of them hasn't had a burger in over a year and the other had the portobello burger and said it was cooked very well. Both agreed with me on the watery shake.

                          2. Went there last week for the first time. Just got the cheeseburger and gave no instructions. Came back medium rare and was very good. Juicy and fresh with a nice light bun that added to the texture but could still taste the beef. Much better then Barney's which I find to be too dense. Nice atmosphere, they seem to have fun serving there food.

                            1. Got the bacon cheese burger & fries. No instructions on doneness.

                              The burger was just OK.

                              The toasted egg bun was a great package for the burger, but the patty was overcooked and dry. If I go back, I'll definitely ask for med-rare and see what happens.

                              American cheese only. I think a choice of cheeses would be nice. I didn't get much of the garlic sauce either.

                              The fries were really good. Nice and crispy on the outside and a creamy inside. Twice fried?

                              1. TrueBurger is just a couple of blocks from the workplace, and I've been there twice for lunch, though not since the summer. I was disappointed both times -- it's very, very average. When I really want a good burger and fries in the neighborhood, I walk over to Luka's or Z. Luka's, of course, has truly great fries. Z is relatively quiet and very roomy. And both have full bars.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: ptrichmondmike

                                  Maybe we just have different tastes, but I really had the exact opposite reaction to Luka's burger. I thought Luka's was pretty average, while True Burger, while not the best burger I ever ate did go up several points in my book just on the basis that it's literally half the cost of Luka's burger while still a solid burger.

                                2. Had a regular burger and fries for lunch. Burger ($4.95) was very good, I was surprised at the level of char they managed to get given that it's griddled. Fries ($2.50) were very crisp, first-rate for that mainstream fast-food style (1/4" square cross-section, no skin, no brown spots).

                                  I prefer Mua's (charcoal-grilled, toasted Acme bun), but that's $11 with fries.