Trueburger (Oakland) - any reports yet?
- RichInMV Feb 3, 2010 10:41 AM
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?
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).
400 15th Street, Oakland, CA
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.
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).
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.
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?
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
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.