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Radius Burger/Lounge Review

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I'm a huge burger aficionado, and I think I may have finally found the Holy Grail of burgers (this after having eaten the "best" in Chicago, LA, DC, and NYC). I know people are going to vary in taste, and most won't share quite the same enthusiasm for a burger from Boston of all places, but I just had to give Radius an excellent review for the experience of burger nirvana.

Photos at: http://www.thefoodbuster.com/radius/

You might be wondering, what is it that exactly sets the Radius Burger apart? Well, there’s not really one identifiable factor, as Radius nails everything, beginning with, to my very pleasant surprise, the ambience. It’s classy enough for you to have a 7-course meal in it (and they do offer one), while casual enough for you to go in there with jeans and a t-shirt for a drink and a burger. In that sense, it’s just the right blend of elegant/formal and layback/casual, with really nice loungy couches and chairs on one side and simply decorated, spacious tables on the other.

Regardless, it’s quite the intimate experience, as the restaurant is dimly lit, but in a very unique way. Red lights reflect across the top in a semi-circle (hence, going with the idea of radius/circle), chic spherical lamps hang from the top of the bar area, and small candles shimmer on the classier dining room tables. Overall, Radius exudes an extraordinary vibe, fantastic for a date.

Does that really justify $19 for a burger, though, especially one that comes with few gourmet ingredients? The burger is a behemoth, coming loaded with Vermont cheddar, a landslide of horseradish cream, and a mountain of fried onion strings, as well as a tray of fries on the side. That may not sound like it would cost all that much to produce, so $19 is definitely on the pricey side.

It doesn’t matter, though, because the burger is sheer perfection. The meat is not just cooked perfectly, but it is succulent as can be. The onions give some great oil and a phenomenal crunch in every bite. The buns never give out in any way. Best of all, though, the sauce leaves you with a complex symphony of flavors, like a yogurt mixed with pepper, spice, and some tang. As long as I can remember, I’ve hated anything with horseradish. Yet, this burger uses it so subtly, giving the cream such a light touch of that tangy spiciness, that it has single-handedly forced me to reconsider my whole stance on horseradish. Nothing short of perfection could cause me to do that.

So now I return to the question of value. Perfection has a price. Factor in the extraordinary decor, and you’ve got somewhat of a steal.

There’s really nothing left to say. Radius delivers not just one of the hottest scenes in the city, it even produces a burger that is perfect, no questions asked. Everyone needs to try this burger at least once.

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Radius
8 High St, Boston, MA 02129

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  1. I agree Buster. Radius is not that popular here and I suspect a lot of hounds never get past that with regard to actually trying the Radius burger. It is my favorite, and in particular far surpasses that at Craigie St. and Neptune, two much better restaurants over-all.

    The bartenders at Radius are decent as well. One could do far worse than walking in off the street, taking a seat at the bar, having a martini followed by that burger. Just ignore all the expense account and special occasion diners in the dining room.

    As for the horseradish sauce, it began a phase for me where I find every excuse to eat it with beef, they are such a natural combination.

    1. That's a very slick blog, Edmund. I'm curious, since your reviews on The Food Buster cover a lot of ground: wines, chocolate, restaurants in DC. Are you an amateur, or are you being compensated in any way by the vendors and restaurants you review?

      http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

      2 Replies
      1. re: MC Slim JB

        Nope. I'm just an average law student, paying out of my own pocket, which is why I typically try only the specialties. I traveled the world awhile back, and in every country I picked up a new food obsession. Hence, the chocolates (Germany, Spain, Argentina), wine (South America), and the extensive reviews of the South American dining scene.

        Plus, honestly, I don't know if I'm the "critic" type. I like to think like an average consumer, looking at the value too much. For me, it's about whether I'm getting a good deal, not whether a $50 meal beats out a $10 one.

        What about yourself? I just checked out your blog and noticed the in-depth reviews--a lot more professionalism than I typically see in blogs.

        1. re: The Food Buster

          Glad to hear it: too many food bloggers are effectively doing PR work on behalf of the industry without disclosing their ties.

          Thanks for the kind words, though clearly my blog looks like a Tinkertoy thing next to yours. The blog content is amateur, the links are to my professional reviews for several local publications and one or two national ones.

          http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

      2. Maybe it's on your blog, but perhaps you can post here what other bugers (including the "best" in Chicago, LA, DC and NYC, as well as in Boston) that are high on your list, and perhaps those that are well regarded by others but not by you.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Blumie

          I haven't really gotten around to posting the ones in NYC and Chicago yet, but a brief rundown of my faves in each city:

          LA: Pie n'Burger for the Classic Diner Burger; Counter for a gourmet burger
          Chicago: Hot Chocolate's. Nothing else from the 5 or so I tried struck me as great.
          NYC: Shake Shack for Fast Food; Stand for a burger milkshake combo (best milkshake ever!)
          DC: Ray's Hell Burger in Arlington (probably the best value of any burger I've ever eaten).

          I'd go into more detail, but it seems like the wrong topic for that.

        2. so, uhh, any comments on the burger?

          1 Reply
          1. re: Carty

            I'll repeat what I've said a few times here about the Radius burger: very good, but not my favorite among the circa-$20 burgers in town. Good individual components, but it didn't add up for me. And the brioche bun is a cardinal sin against burgers, in my book. Good fries, though.

            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

          2. I was not at all impressed by the burger and have permanently removed Radius from my list.

            1. a block away from Radius, the Good Life makes a similar horseradish sauce/crispy onion burger which is $6 cheaper and more juicy/ tender/ flavorful than Radius' burger imo.

              -----
              Good Life
              28 Kingston, Boston, MA 02111

              1. For some reason, Radius is very hit or miss. I know some people who swear by the burger (including myself), whereas others can't stand it.

                Maybe the restaurant's inconsistent, but the burger I had was extremely juicy and flavorful. I'll have to try it again sometime.

                34 Replies
                1. re: The Food Buster

                  sounds like you lucked out ;)... you might enjoy trying the Russell House Tavern burger sometime for comparison

                  -----
                  Russell House Tavern
                  14 JFK Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

                  1. re: The Food Buster

                    I'm one of the ardent fans of the Radius burger on this board. I think it's fabulous, and it has been on the 9 or 10 occasions I've eaten it. That said, I do like brioche buns, esp. when the cut side is toasted. Though I will agree that the lemony horseradish mayo and the crispy fried onions do give this burger's allure an unfair advantage.

                    My other favorites:
                    • Sel de la Terre (Back Bay only)
                    • KO Prime (both with and without the foie)
                    • Middlesex Lounge
                    • Eastern Standard

                    HOWEVER: I think that the Back Bay Social Club's $21 burger may trump them all, but I need to go try it at least once more before swearing that outloud.

                    -----
                    Sel de la Terre
                    1245 Worcester Street, Natick, MA 01760

                    1. re: Jolyon Helterman

                      A buddy of mine had the BBSC burger last week and I ate a quarter of it.

                      Was not "right" in my book. They clearly used very nice beef to make it, but that, for me does not make the ideal burger. The grind was too fine, and the beef too rich and steak like (crazy I know) and not coarse and "burgery" enough. The texture was just not correct. Don't get me wrong, it was a perfectly acceptable burger. But for me, it was not even close to ideal, and $21 for a burger is just plain silly, and at that price I should hear the angels sing which I did not.

                      My buddy liked it well enough...

                      For me the ideal burger should be ideally coarsely ground, fatty sirloin and/or chuck. Cooked medium rare, cheese and bacon optional.

                      1. re: StriperGuy

                        Lean steak cuts always strike me as an odd choice for a burger foundation: I see on another thread that the new Tasty Burger is using tenderloin. Really? Something cheap, fatty, coarsely ground to order, and lightly handled seems a more logical starting point.

                        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                          Exactly!

                          The BBSC burger had NO inner coarse ground texture whatsoever. I think they used some fabu cut, perhaps even aged, but it tasted like someone took a good steak, ground it, squoooshed the life out of it, and then made a burger. Not at all correct.

                          1. re: StriperGuy

                            I wholeheartedly agree with your textural preferences. Have you (or anybody else) had those fancy pants burgers with foie gras innards? I haven't but the idea has always seemed too smooth to me.

                            1. re: FoodDabbler

                              Craigie starts with lean grass-fed beef and adds smooth-ish flavor / fat enhancers (suet, marrow, and a paste made from dehydrated miso, for instance) without ruining the texture.

                              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                              1. re: MC Slim JB

                                Some of the stuff in the Craigie burger would, I imagine, simply melt in the cooking and serve to keep the burger from drying out. It would have little ultimate textural impact. But foie gras would hang around even after the cooking, I'd think, so would affect the mouthfeel of the burger. I guess I'll have to check out the burger at DB Bistro Moderne and see for myself.

                          2. re: MC Slim JB

                            Tenderloin it is. And it's sprinkled all over the menu. Maybe fooling those who think the allure of tenderloin equals greatness. Of course those in the know are well aware of the reality of tenderloin. (in any application really)

                            1. re: rchudy

                              Aaaaaannnndd.... it tasted like ass. Sorry Franklin Cafe folks. Thought you were smarter than to make a burger with freakin' tenderloin.

                        2. re: Jolyon Helterman

                          Thanks for all the great recommendations. I've heard of KO Prime and Middlesex, but never of all the others.

                          As a huge burger fanatic, I'm going to have to give all of these a shot to find Boston's best. I hope to get back to everyone with the results.

                          -----
                          KO Prime
                          90 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02108

                          1. re: The Food Buster

                            I totally agreed with you about the Radius burger, loved it when I first had it, and heard at least a faint Angelic quartet on first taste. Didn't love it so much the next time I had it, and felt the meat was oversalted, with no sweet counterpoint in the toppings. Then, I had the controversial Craigie burger, and on first taste of that, my skull was shattered by a stadium full of coked-out angels screaming their lungs out, to the accompaniment of 500 Cherub-Series Mellotrons on the "Black Sabbath" setting blasting through a thirteen-story tower of Marshall stacks.

                            1. re: nsenada

                              I am ashamed to confess I have not had the Craigie burger.

                              I take it you enjoyed it?

                              1. re: StriperGuy

                                Stripey - get thee to Craigie and try the burger. It's in my top three.

                                1. re: heathermb

                                  Sold!

                                  WHAT are your top three?

                                  1. re: StriperGuy

                                    (In no particular order b/c that would be like choose between children)
                                    Craigie
                                    Neptune
                                    Green Street

                                    (To stay on post - I've had the Radius burger and while I thought it was tasty, I didn't die over it. Might put it in my top 11)

                                    This list needs updating as I haven't had the Green St version in a while and haven't yet tried the burger at Russell House Tavern in Harvard Sq.

                                    O'Sullivans is in my top 10 - or has been - (though I perform 'surgery' so I can actually bite it) - haven't been there in at least a year and planning to go on Thursday...

                                    -----
                                    Russell House Tavern
                                    14 JFK Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

                                    1. re: heathermb

                                      Hmmmmm, Green Street eh. Might have to give it a whirl.

                                2. re: StriperGuy

                                  Note that the Craigie burger is (technically) only served in the bar.

                                  http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                                    you can get it in the dining room for brunch - with the added bonus that you can add poached egg as well as pork belly

                                  2. re: StriperGuy

                                    Oh, yeah - I really have to go back. One other thing that lessens the sticker shock factor is that they keep bringing you free stuff to eat at the bar, including some kind of rhubarb foam.

                                    1. re: nsenada

                                      Green Street, and Craigie on the list.

                                      My SO swears that the burger at Kitchen on Common here in Belmont is worthy as well. Comes with a nice potato salad as well.

                                      -----
                                      Kitchen on Common
                                      442 Common St, Belmont, MA 02478

                                      1. re: StriperGuy

                                        I thought I remembered you checking out Green Street a while back and not enjoying the two-double patty thing. They make a special sauce too, so it's a little like an upscale big mac. I like the burger, and think it is worth due consideration, but I'd also throw Central Kitchen in there as a horizontal research participant.

                                        -----
                                        Central Kitchen
                                        567 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139

                                        1. re: yumyum

                                          Ahhh yes, you are correct. Hmmmm scratch that one.

                                          Central Kitchen eh...

                                          -----
                                          Central Kitchen
                                          567 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139

                                          1. re: StriperGuy

                                            That's a big old juice dripping down your arms style burger, on a particularly good bun. Super thin frites on the side, if that's your bag.

                                            1. re: yumyum

                                              "big old juice dripping down your arms style burger, on a particularly good bun" YESSSSS.

                                              And while I like the Miracle of Science burger somewhow it is never QUITE big enough, and thick enough.

                              2. re: Jolyon Helterman

                                Jolyon, I'm surprised that you specify the Back Bay location for the SdlT burger. I usually find the burger at the Back Bay location to be too salty, although a DC had one here this past weekend and we agreed that they seem to have toned down the salt, so it was much tastier than in the past. But it's always perfect at the Aquarium location, in my experience, and I like the presentation more, too. In any case I agree, it's a fantastic burger.

                                1. re: Niblet

                                  About SDLT: I may be mistaken, but I think that the toppings differ by location, and I like the smoky bacon and the tangy cheddar Louis DiBiccari puts on the Back Bay one. Also, I have a very high tolerance for salt—something I take vehement pains to remind myself when I'm doing "official" reviewing—so I'm sure oversalting wasn't a problem for me here. ;)

                                  About BBSC: The two times I had it, it had a coarse, juicy, not-too-fine texture. I was told that they dry-age the cuts they grind up, that it is a blend, but they wouldn't specify which ones. I would swear it's not too lean. I also like the bun a lot—one of those lean-ish cloveleaf shaped buns with the flour dusting; really a nice bun.

                                  On the other hand, maybe they're having consistency issues.

                                  About CoM: Can't stand the mace ketchup (I prefer burgers without any ketchup, actually; I love mayo-based sauces, which def explains part of my love for the Radius burger), but—more to the point—despite the 500 steps of defatting, re-fatting, etc., that go into the patty itself, I don't think the beauty comes through on the tastebuds. Love it academically, but viscerally it just doesn't do it for me.

                                  About RF O'Sullivan's: Seems underseasoned and more about the choice of toppings to me.

                                  About Neptune: I think I need to go again.

                                  1. re: Jolyon Helterman

                                    re: Neptune, other than the novelty of fried oysters on a burger I just was not moved, nothing really remarkable about it at all.

                                    1. re: Carty

                                      That's how I felt, too. But willing to give it another try (esp since I love that place....)

                                      1. re: Jolyon Helterman

                                        I won't pay 20 bucks for a pair of pants, so a 20 dollars burger is just out of the question. That being said, I just don't understand the allure of the Sullivan's burger. Total bore....

                                      2. re: Carty

                                        For me the Neptune burger wins b/c of that delicious pickle relish condiment they make and put on top

                                        1. re: Carty

                                          Completely agree, the Neptune burger is OK but nothing at all special. It is such a hassle getting in there that I was actually annoyed to have wasted a visit on the burger. I try to target Mondays for Neptune to get the spaghettini which is truly special IMO.

                                          I had the Audubon burger ($9) for the first time in awhile this week. It was mouthwateringly delicious per usual. I just wish they would bag the potatoes and get some good fries instead.

                                          1. re: Gabatta

                                            If they are like the roasted potatoes at Miracle, I agree completely. I don't want home fries with my burger.

                                            1. re: yumyum

                                              Yep, same spuds as MOS.

                                2. Not to dredge up a new thread, but I finally got to try the Radius burger last night. This has already been hashed out beyond all recognition, so I will keep this short and sweet.

                                  The burger was the least interesting part of the menu. The patty was fine, the onions reminiscent of funions (in a good way) and the sauce similar to the special sauce on a Big Mac. I'm still firmly in love with a number of other burgers across the city.

                                  So, hurrah, I tried it, but what I really loved was this:
                                  Ahi Tuna Tartare – avocado purée, ikura, spicy citrus broth, nori oil
                                  Definitely one of the better tuna tartares in the city.

                                  Sadly, their crispy pork belly with rhubarb, asparagus and rhubarb was so incredibly crispy we had to saw it with a serrated knife to get it apart.

                                  Cheese course was focused on Piedmont, but possibly they went overboard on accompaniments.

                                  It's such a nice space in the bar, and they clearly have a great after work crowd, but it seems to thin out around 8pm.

                                  10 Replies
                                  1. re: gini

                                    The PigTrip site is out of retirement ( Woo Hoo ! ) , and he just reviewed the Radius burger as well:

                                    http://www.pigtrip.net/review-b-Radiu...

                                    1. re: Msample

                                      Thanks for posting this link. I love pigtrip and have been meaning to get over to Radius. But so many people have a "meh" I think it moves down the list.

                                      I do gather that the kitchen lets the burger "rest" after cooking which IMO is critical to holding in the beefy juices rather than licking them off your arms. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

                                    2. re: gini

                                      unless it's changed, the Radius burger has a lemony horseradish mayo rather than a thousand island style sauce à la Big Mac, no?

                                      1. re: Jolyon Helterman

                                        All I could taste was mayonnaise. They've both got the acidic pickle/horseradish bite.

                                        1. re: Jolyon Helterman

                                          That's what I remember - horseradish and too much salt (there's no sweetness to balance with the salt in the meat, sauce and onions).

                                          1. re: nsenada

                                            The caramelization on the slow-cooked onions provides enough sweetness, for my palate.

                                            1. re: Jolyon Helterman

                                              The Radius burgers I've had were topped with lightly battered, crisp fried onion strings, not caramelized onions: not much sweetness there. Horseradish and black pepper in the mayo. A very soft cheddar. And, of course, a brioche roll (always a mistake in my book), but maybe that's where the sweetness you detect comes from.

                                              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                              1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                Unless they've changed the recipe since I wrote a story about it for Boston Magazine a few years ago, a story that included the recipe for the onions as well, then there's not only no battering (just a very long, low-temp oil "braise" where the cooling of the residual extracted sugars on the onions' exterior is the only source of crispness---though they certainly do get as crisp as batter-fried onions) but there are also two slices of fairly long-aged cheddar cheese, which separates nicely into curds and grease upon melting.

                                                This is also the recipe published in Schlow's cookbook, "It's About Time."

                                                I also think that the brioche rolls they make inhouse there have more structure (and aren't nearly as sweet) as the usual brioche rolls, which I'm not wired to have a problem with, anyway.

                                                1. re: Jolyon Helterman

                                                  I didn't perceive any cheese on mine, does it separate so much that it melds with the horseradish "sauce" (which to me simply came across as a lot of mayo)?

                                                  1. re: Jolyon Helterman

                                                    I doubt he's varied from his award-winning formulation: those onions simply registered as crisp but not sweet to me. In general, this holds with my notion that there's a little too much going on in that burger for my taste.

                                                    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                        2. I had the Radius burger yesterday. It was a very hefty burger...i would guess it is a half pound *after* cooking. The bun was quite airy, until one pressed it, then it became chewy and held onto the burger well. The meat was dense, but tender, quite juicy, extremely well-seasoned, and with a char flavor that was perfect. I found the horseradish sauce like mayo and I think it overshadowed the meat. Topped with lightly fried onion pieces that were perfect taste of fried onions, delicate. They claim there was cheddar cheese on it, but I didn't taste it...perhaps overshadowed by the horseradish sauce. No other toppings but it was delicious. The side of fries were crisp and tender, no grease, hot. It was a very impressive burger if for the size and consistency than anything. $19? Not completely worth it. But still impressive.