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Dec 3, 2010 05:07 PM

Pattie Shack, Manchester N.H.

Happenstance had me buying a new pair of running shoes in Manch at noon today, and an expensive footwear purchase is naturally followed by a burger and fries. So, I walked around the corner from Runner’s Alley and popped into Pattie Shack.
I wanted very badly to love this place, but the obsessive burger fundamentalist in me was brimming with skepticism. I really don’t think I’ve eaten an exceptional burger in the state of New Hampshire that wasn’t cooked on my own ripping hot cast iron skillet.
I kept things simple and ordered a single burger on a plain bun (they offer pretzel buns) with American cheese and grilled onions. Starch options include sweet potato fries, waffle fries, and tater tots. Almost no one seems to make a decent French fry around here, but I gave the sweet potato fries a shot, thinking that because they’re the most like a standard fry, they would provide the least opportunity for failure.
While waiting for my order, I noticed a sign indicating that they use a custom beef blend which includes some sirloin. Another sign bragged about their “purebred” burgers that contain only sirloin and no chuck. Uh oh, now we’ve got a problem. I didn’t specify how I wanted the burger cooked, and sirloin is REALLY inappropriately lean for a hamburger, particularly if it’s cooked anywhere beyond bloody rare.
The food shows up and it looks quite attractive, so I slice the burger pole to pole so I can get a bead on what I’m dealing with. Sure enough, the patty is grey and desiccated. Here’s the really unfortunate part: Somebody there really knows how to cook a burger. Grilling a burger is an inferior process to griddling, but despite that, there’s a really nice sear on both sides of the patty, and it was well seasoned. The bun is nicely buttered and toasted, and it’s size is in perfect balance with the beef. I don’t usually approve of Kaiser rolls as hamburger buns because of their propensity to fall apart into four bread triangles after the second or third bite. This one maintained its’ structure perfectly. If only they used a 70/30 blend beef!?
I had no hope for the fries, and here’s where I was proven wonderfully wrong. They NAIL the sweet potato French fries. I was fully expecting a pile of limp, dull, pasty starch sticks, but what I was served was quite the opposite. The fries are shatteringly crisp on the outside and beautifully creamy and potatoey within. Really outstanding!
At some point in the next few weeks, I’ll try the same routine again, but I’ll request that the burger be cooked very rare. That may be the key to unlocking a rare (pun intended) positive NH burger experience.

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  1. I have been so tempted to try Pattie Shack! Thanks for the heads up about how to get the meat cooked.

    I am curious though, have you mentioned on these boards before about NH burgers you've tried? It would be great to read a post about burgers!

    2 Replies
    1. re: solargarlic

      I don't really like to write reviews that are completely negative, so I haven't commented on the hamburgers I've been completely underwhelmed by at the other burger focused restaurants and bars that people on this board seem to like. Pattie Shack is almost great, and I'm hoping that a rare burger puts it over the top. Or, maybe there's some way to subtly suggest that they use a fattier, jucier, more flavorful ground beef mix.
      I am anxious to try the Cremeland burger, but that'll have to wait 'till next spring.

      1. re: crowdingthepan

        Understandable, but I personally come here knowing that discussions aren't going to be one sided. This is when I would love for chow to allow PMs.

        Also, are you looking for great burgers just in Manchester, or how far are you willing to go?

    2. This place was rated top 5 burgers in the Feast section of the Telegraph:
      on Commercial Street in Manchester

      4 Replies
      1. re: whs

        I thought that I was on top of things, but I'd never heard of that place until now. I'll check it out. Thanks so much for the heads up!

        1. re: whs

          I went there yesterday and was going to try a I wish I had. I did have a very nice salad though.

          1. re: rizzo0904

            @crowdingthepan, have you tried Rocky's Famous in Newmarket, NH (next town over from Durham)?

            1. re: pavlov_dog

              No I don't usually have much reason to visit coastal NH. I'll definitely give it a try if I'm in that area.
              The Phantom Gourmet clip on Rocky's web site is setting off a few alarms, though. I tend to be a hamburger fundamentalist, and as such, I don't really appreciate verticality in a burger. Hamburgers (and food and cooking in general) are all about balance. A well constructed burger is a perfect symbiosis of beef, bun, and cheese. Once all those elements are prepared perfectly and proportioned well in relation to one another, then we can talk about toppings. A slice or two of pickle, a fresh piece of lettuce, or a slice of in season tomato can bring a little pleasant flavor and textural contrast. Anything beyond that, and the burger starts to become two or more different dishes clumsily jammed together, with neither of them prepared particularly well, and both without a proper individual presence in the mouth.
              Oh, and they appear to be using cold, untoasted buns. That's another no no. Maybe that's just for the pictures, though.
              Not that I have an opinion on the subject :-)
              I'll reserve further judgment until I actually try a Rocky's Famous Burger.