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Flat Patties Update

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Until their recent relocation, Flat Patties had been my favorite burger in Boston. I generally ordered their regular cheeseburger, which comes with lettuce, tomato, American cheese, and special sauce. I sometimes add their thin-sliced raw onions and pickles which are at the condiment bar, and to their credit, sliced super thin to complement and not overpower their flat patties. I always had liked their bun, which in the past had been a semi-brioche, i.e., ever so slightly more buttery and sweeter than a regular supermarket hamburger bun but not tothe point of being overpowering, and while I hate brioche buns in general for burgers, this one was delicious, and fit the patty like a glove.

But the new Flat Patties, while the location is definitely an upgrade, just isn't the same. On my recent visit on a busy pedestrian-packed Saturday afternoon in Harvard Square, I noticed two big changes:

1. Cheese on the cheeseburger is now some type of cheddar, a step backward in my opinion. Just didn't have that nice gooey fill-in-the nooks and crannies of the patty meltedness of American cheese.

2. Bun is too chewy. Size is the same, but I found myself still chewing on the bread long after the rest of the elements of the burger had been chewed enough to swallow. Not good. Also, when biting into the burger, there was too much resistance trying to get through the crust of the bun with my teeth. A good bun should be squishy and airy with fine aeration, not the big buttery bubbles that were in this bun.

The overall burger construction was inconsistent as well. One time, the patty was on the bottom, and the second time the patty was on the top. Patty on the bottom was much better, since the beefy flavor hits your tongue first. With the patty on top, all I tasted was bread from beginning to end. I hope they will change their bun back to the original and reinstate regular old supermarket American cheese, because on the flipside, their patty itself is still a marvel. Every time I have gone there, including my most recent visit at the new location, they managed to get a beautiful sear on both sides while keeping the interior of the patty itself nice and pink, a rare feat for a patty this thin.

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Flat Patties
81 Mount Auburn St, Cambridge, MA 02138

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  1. I never really liked Flat Paddies, but Soul Fire on Harvard in Alston is a much better "roaming-Chow" choice IMO (no burgers, true, but pretty good pulled pork).

    1. I went to the new Flat Patties last Sunday evening and then this afternoon, and the buns I had were different! On Sunday, it was a lot chewier, but today's was the same as it was before the move. Maybe they had just run out of their regular buns on Sunday evening?

      I still like the new Flat Patties!

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      Flat Patties
      81 Mount Auburn St, Cambridge, MA 02138

      1. I went today. The location is GREAT. The bun is indeed different. I do much prefer the old bun but this bun is good too. I gave them my feedback on the bun. I encourage others to do the same. You will still love the food though. They no longer offer chicken tenders (great for kids) or chicken wings. They do offer homemade frozen custard and malt shakes. I tried a chocolate malt shake. It was good but needed some ice in it. It was too soft. The meat and the fries were exceptional as usual. I like the flaky salt they use. If you sit upstairs, you have to carry your food up there yourself which can be problematic if you have a group or lots of kids.

        BTW - I am pretty sure I saw two different cheeses. One looked like American and the other Cheddar.

        1 Reply
        1. re: robertlf

          This is great news! Maybe what they did is to change the default cheese for the "cheeseburger" to Cheddar. Hopefully, there is still the option to get American. Also, I wonder if the bun is made in-house or if they get it from somewhere else.

        2. At least you guys got a bun.

          When I went on Saturday night, my burger was sandwiched between two pieces of toast. I think I caught them at a bad time because all the staff seemed new (didn't recognize anyone from the old location) and there were some language issues as well. I couldn't get a reason for my unannounced bread substitution (were they out of buns after a busy Saturday?). Plus the guys behind the counter were in the process of refunding another customer's botched grilled cheese order. The staff really seemed to be in over their heads.

          To top things off, my burger was cold because the beeper they gave me didn't work (or they just didn't activated it) so my plate has been sitting for a while when I finally got it. I hope that this was just a fluke, because I really like their burgers, but for now, they are off my list.

          1 Reply
          1. re: orville

            I just went to Flat Patties for the first time earlier today. I love the space --- it's nestled in a a nice space in Brattle Square, and the spatula-shaped wrought-iron door handle was a wonderful touch. I was also gratified to see both IBC Root Beer and Lemon-Ginger Mash (two of my favorite mainstream bottled sodas) in their refrigerators. I ordered the double-hamburger with grilled onions. I was watching them cooking on the grill and I noticed the grill man putting on cheese, he didn't understand when I tried to talk to him at first but "no queso por favor" did the trick. I like the special sauce, and the burger and onions were definitely fresh. It just wasn't very good --- it didn't have a fresh, beefly flavor, and thus tasted more like a fast food burger than a real burger. The bun was tasty, but became soggy almost instantly. Given the flat patties, the short wait time, and low price, it is indeed a fast food burger, nothing more. The burger with grilled onions at Highland Kitchen, for instance, is only a few dollars more (and comes with french fries included!) but is at such a different level that it's hard to compare. For burgers in Harvard Square, I'll stick with Bartleys.

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            Highland Kitchen
            150 Highland Ave, Somerville, MA 02143

            Flat Patties
            81 Mount Auburn St, Cambridge, MA 02138

          2. We ate at Flat Patties a few days ago and were thoroughly disappointed. Of the things we had the best was an orientalish chopped salad with crunchy bits of noodle/nuts in it. The greens were fresh, and the dish had a nice balance of textures and tastes. The fish and chips were so-so. The fish was acceptable, but the surface/coating was not crisp. The shoestring fries were limp. The burger was terrible -- a thin disk of tasteless meat with too much dressing. The frozen custard was nowhere near custardy (i.e., eggy) enough to qualify as custard. I couldn't help comparing the custard and burger here to the ones you get at Shake Shack in New York. The superbly beefy burgers at SS and the rich mouthfeel of the custard there would put the FP versions to shame if you could even attempt an honest comparison. But, as things stand, FP is on a different planet entirely from SS.

            It (FP) is also rather confusingly organized. There appear to be no trays. If you are upstairs when your buzzer buzzes you have to make multiple trips down and up the stairs to get all the food and drinks to your table. Worse, the buzzer goes off more to express optimism that your order will soon be ready than to tell you that it is fully ready. In our case, we had to wait a further five minutes for the custard to appear. At the end of the meal, it's not clear what you do with your dishes. There are big plastic bins downstairs for used plates, etc., but no such station upstairs. Most people left their used dishes on their tables when they left. It took the staff at least fifteen minutes to clean tables, even though people were waiting to sit. We cleaned our own table rather than wait.

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            Flat Patties
            81 Mount Auburn St, Cambridge, MA 02138

            1. Just wanted to mention that Flat Patties is still as good as ever. I went back here two nights ago and had the cheeseburger (default is Cheddar, but you can ask for white American, as I did). Nice char on both sides of the patty and still slightly pink in the center, perfect glove-like fit with the (now non-chewy, very nice) bun which was nicely browned on both insides. Cheese completely melted and gooey, and yet the burger architecture remained intact through the last bite. I had been telling everyone I think this is my favorite burger in Boston, but had to be a little hesitant about this after my last experience with their too-chewy bun. However, they have returned to their original bun and I must therefore put this burger back on its mini-pedestal as my favorite burger in Boston, preferred over my other Boston favorites including Craigie (too many intense flavors that seem to battle with eachother), Radius (just not what I crave when I want a "burger"), and Toro (very good in every way, my second favorite).

              As for comparisons to well-known chains, I also prefer this over Five Guys (by a moderate to long shot, mainly because Five Guys does not season their patty adequately), Shake Shack (just barely, but mainly because I've only had it once and it was two years ago), and In-N-Out (also just barely).

              When I am walking down the sidewalk or brushing my teeth, and I am struck with a craving for a burger, this is the burger I want. Fries could be better, but they are decent enough, and they serve Mexican Coca-Cola.

              13 Replies
              1. re: Mike5966

                How do they compare to Mr Bartley's, right down the street? They're my go-to 'best burger'.

                1. re: Boston_Otter

                  duck

                  1. re: Boston_Otter

                    Bartley's has had a lot of detractors on this board, but I also do enjoy a Bartley's burger now and again when invited by out-of-towners who want to try the place they've read about elsewhere due to its historic notoriety. My main gripes with their burger is the near-spherical meatball shape of the (huge) patty, as well as its over-charred surface which makes it so that you end up with a burnt taste instead of the pleasing flavor and texture of a savory, carmelized crust. The Bartley's burger is a messy stack of things sliding all over the place as you take a bite. Some people like all this char, and the hugeness of the patty, however. I, myself, am a fan of the wide, thin patty with a relatively high seared surface to volume ratio, but only if the remaining interior of the burger is still juicy, which the burger at Flat Patties has always been on my 10-plus visits. Even on the one occasion when my patty was overdone, a good amount of juice still dripped onto my plate. Each bite is uniform as the remaining burger stays together, and the beefy flavor comes through. I think architecture is important because it ensures that each bite you take includes all elements that you wanted the burger to have in the first place, instead of the onion having slid down to the far end of your burger by the time you take your second bite. That said, these are all small gripes about burgers, and most of the time when I leave Mr. Bartley's, I feel quite satisfied that my burger spot has been adequately hit. Bottom line, however, is that if given the choice, and even if I wanted a huge wad of beef in my burger, I'd rather have a Flat Patties double cheeseburger over Bartley's. I usually get the single patty though because I think it is more harmonious that way.

                    1. re: Mike5966

                      Thanks, Mike, that was exactly what I was looking for -- an objective comparison of different burger styles and pros/cons.

                      1. re: Boston_Otter

                        If that's what you're looking for, I highly recommend this post from "A Hamburger Today" on Serious Eats:

                        http://aht.seriouseats.com/archives/2...

                        BK

                        1. re: BJK

                          Yes, a seminal piece on the topic in general. According to this, Flat Patties would classify as "Fast-Food Style," but I'm not sure where Bartley's would fall.

                          Kenji from Serious Eats introduced a large number of people to the Flat Patties burger in his article several months later:

                          http://aht.seriouseats.com/archives/2...

                          The picture of the Flat Patties burger included in this link is pretty representative with regards to the fullness of the cheese meltage, the evenness of griddle-sear on the patty, and the bun fitting the patty like a glove phenomenon.

                          1. re: Mike5966

                            I think of Bartley's as a pub burger. One of my favorites. I think my favorite pub burger may be Highland Kitchen's.

                            I tried Flat Patties for the first time recently. I enjoyed it, perhaps even more than I like In-n-Out, but not as much as I like Five Guys. Maybe I'm just not a special sauce guy? I'll have to try it again with ketchup and mustard instead.

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                            Highland Kitchen
                            150 Highland Ave, Somerville, MA 02143

                            Flat Patties
                            81 Mount Auburn St, Cambridge, MA 02138

                            1. re: BJK

                              As a huge fan of In-n-Out, I'm eager to try a Flat Patties burger now -- that's just what I'm looking for.

                              1. re: Boston_Otter

                                I would temper your expectations, Flat Patties isn't really comparable to in-n-out.

                                1. re: Gabatta

                                  Your mileage may vary. I've only been to In-n-Out 4 or 5 times and Flat Patties once, but I've eaten them both in the last 5 weeks, and I liked Flat Patties better.

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                                  Flat Patties
                                  81 Mount Auburn St, Cambridge, MA 02138

                              2. re: BJK

                                Here's a cross-section of the Flat Patties burger. Difficult with this lighting to tell that there is still some faint pink in the inner part of the patty.

                                1. re: BJK

                                  Oops, forgot to attach the pictures... Looking at it now, there doesn't seem to be any pink in these photos at all. But I swear there was in real life!!!

                                   
                                   
                                  1. re: Mike5966

                                    I went to Flat Patties and got a cheeseburger a few days ago; thanks for the reco, as it was an excellent west-coast-style burger. Nice char, nice bun, good fries. Honestly my only complaint about the place is the awkward position of the cashier line that completely blocks the staircase from the upstairs dining area.