Burgerquest!

January 3, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Many of you know about my obsession with burgers. I’m always on the lookout for a burger worthy of my infamous (I like to think) Top 10 Burger List. And today I found that burger.

Let me start by saying it’s been quite awhile since I’ve embarked on a new burgerquest. Certainly this is the first one I’ve taken since we’ve moved to Orlando. And now that I look back, holy cow, Liam was barely out of the womb the last time I did this! So it was high time. (On a side note, I find it interesting that I noted it was an unusually warm day in February when I went to Sunshine, MD. It was an unusually cold day in Orlando today. But as I recall, despite the “warm” weather, it still snowed on our way home, and at a high temp of 49 degrees, it was no where near snowing in Florida!)

I did some research on Yelp.com and Urbanspoon.com, and after ruling out a highly-rated food truck (I doubt Liam, who refuses to wear gloves or hat, would stand for that nonsense.), I settled on a trendy burger joint in downtown Orlando, Pine 22. It was our first venture into the downtown area, and by the looks of the surrounding businesses, I think this particular area has a happening night life. After circling a bit (and realizing I had no coins for meters) I found a relatively inexpensive parking garage. A blast of cold air hit us as we walked to the restaurant, reminding me how scanty our winter-wear was. This burger better be worth it!

We arrived a little after the lunch crowd, which suits Liam well. At the counter we were presented with a menu checklist with an almost endless combination of choices: patty size, bread type, cheese, condiments, toppings. The server warned that it’s easy to go overboard building your own burger, resulting in a $15 burger. So on the back they offered cheaper combo meals that you could customize. I ended up taking the Pine22 burger, substituting 22BBQ sauce and adding applewood smoked bacon. Knowing Liam would likely not try a burger, but wanting to give him the option all the same, they very nicely accommodated my request for just one mini burger and fries for him at a slightly lower price than the kids’ meal. The bill was still a bit higher than I would have liked, but that’s usually the price you pay for organic, locally procured beef. In this case, it was totally worth it.

Despite other reviews I’d read, our meal came out promptly. The burger was perfectly cooked with just the right amount of pink in the middle, and although it was only 5 oz, it didn’t seem overly small or thin. This place doesn’t mess around with run-of-the-mill buns, either. I hate when the juices of the burger run right through a puny bun, but here the bread-to-meat ratio was in perfect balance. Soft and fluffy, with just a touch of sweet and butter. Another home-run: the fries. To me, the fries are just as important as an awesome burger, and in my mind nothing beats super skinny, super crunchy fries. I gobbled mine up, then ate half of Liam’s after he lost interest.

As expected, Liam wouldn’t touch his mini-burger. I took a bite just to give it a try, but it wasn’t nearly as awesome as my burger. I’m sure they cook the heck out of it since they’re serving it to a child, and that’s okay with me. Liam did like the fries, especially the crispy overcooked ones. A day for firsts, I let Liam have his very first sip of Dr. Pepper. I figured since he’s three he can handle the sugar and caffeine. He pulled a face, then said, “I like that.” Then he whined every time I took a sip that it was his turn. Oh dear.

What I particularly love about this place are the numerous options in both burgers and sides. Next time I come I’d like to try the sweet potato fries and fried pickles. And I think just a small order of fries for Liam. Gah, it kills me that he doesn’t even want to TRY a hamburger!! It’s hard to believe he’s half mine, lol.

Be sure to check out my amended Top 10 Burger List, where you’ll see the new rankings. Perhaps when the warm weather returns, we’ll give that food truck a try, too. Stay tuned!

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Burgers Amended

February 27, 2009 at 2:14 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Liam and I had a lunchtime adventure today, venturing out to Sunshine, MD, to try the famous Sunshine Burger. Recommended by our nurse during our last hospital stay (Holy Cross really does have the most friendly staff), we took advantage of the unusually warm February day and drove the 30 minutes north to an easily-to-overlook gas station. Thankfully Nurse Emily was very precise with her description of the place, so we knew this had to be it. In the back of this crowded, dusty convenience store stood a small grill, five or so seats at the counter, and a tiny table for patrons. We waited our turn while customers aww’d over Liam. It was definitely worth the drive and wait — a very tasty burger indeed. Enough to make it to #9 on my Top 10 Burgers list. Thanks, Nurse Emily!

Top 10 Burgers

August 13, 2008 at 5:14 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments
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Hamburgers and fries are my manna from heaven, and I feel like I’ve sampled enough wares to compile my top 10. This is by no means a final count–I’m constantly trying new places every chance I get, and revising this list as I see fit.

So, without further adieu, here is my Top 10 Burgers list:

#1. Range Melt** with Sweet Potato Fries, Lucky Brewgrille
5401 Johnson Dr., Roeland Park, KS

Hands down the meal I have dreams about it’s so good. Here’s the lowdown: A patty melt drenched in BBQ sauce, a few slices of bacon, and melted to buttery perfection. Coupled with the tastiest sweet potato fries dipped in buttermilk ranch and a bottle of Newcastle, this is what I call heaven in meat-form. (**note that as of 2011, the Range Melt no longer appears on the menu. Never fear! The staff is happy to make one at your request. Yay!)

#2. 3.6.9 Mini Burgers with Onion Straws, Matchbox
713 H St NW, Washington, D.C.

Succulent, tiny little burgers arranged around a pile of deep fried onion goodness. You can order 3, 6 or 9 to either share with your group as an appetizer or gobble up all by yourself. Three guesses which I always choose. They go great with a glass of Dekonnick.

#3. The Goober Burger, The Wheel Inn Drive-In
1800 W Broadway (hwy 50 @ hwy 65), Sedalia, MO

On a college road trip with my buddy Matt, he insisted we stop at this hole-in-the wall grease-spot so I could try the infamous Goober Burger–all-beef patty topped with melted cheese…and melted peanut butter. And I’m so glad we did. Yes, I know it sounds gross, but this unbelievable concoction was gooey perfection. I have yet to find this particular pairing at any other restaurant, but I’m always on the lookout.

#4. Pine 22 Burger and Pine Fries, Pine 22
22 East Pine Street, Orlando, FL.

This burger knocked my socks off! Served on a rich, fluffy bun and made from organic, locally procured beef, this juicy, perfectly cooked burger deserves this high spot on the list. The super skinny, super crunchy Pine Fries reminded me of Steak n’ Shake, who I’ve always thought had substandard burgers, but awesome fries. The best thing about this place: the endless number of options for your burger. I mean, just look at this menu.  I added barbecue sauce and bacon to my Pine burger, and next time (which there will definitely be) I plan to try something else. They even offer peanut butter and cheese, so perhaps I can recreate the Goober Burger from #3. I can’t wait to go back!

#5. Room 39 Burger, Room 39
1719 39th Street, Kansas City, MO

A perfect blend of succulent burger, absorbent, fluffy bun, and crispy fries, this delicious meal recommended by friends Jeremy and Sarah usurped my mom’s turkey burgers for this spot. Sorry mom!

#6. The Keller burger, Hut’s Hamburgers
807 W. Sixth, Austin, TX 

Topped with 1000 island dressing, cooked to perfection, and with a side of ginormous onion rings, this tasty sandwich was one of several tantalizing burger selections on the menu. With decor delightfully Texas-kitch, I can’t wait to make a second trip.

#7. Third-pounder with Bacon, Cheddar, and Mushrooms, The Quarry House
8401 Georgia Ave, Silver Spring, MD

Good luck finding this local dive located beneath an Indian takeout place at Georgia Ave. and Bonifant, with barely a sign to indicate its whereabouts. But rest assured, it’s worth the find. A juicy patty with lots of interesting topping choices, crispy tator tots, and best of all, half price burgers every Monday means more money for beer. Cheers to that!

#8. (TIE) Double-double with grilled onions, In-N-Out Burger and the Bacon Double Del Cheeseburger, Del Taco
Both of these California fast-food chains claim burger superiority, but for a few reasons, I like them both equally. The In-N-Out definitely has the better fries — to me just as important as a succulent burger — but as far as I could tell, no bacon options. I gotta have my bacon! So next time I’m out in LA and I’ve got some time to kill, my perfect combo would be a quick drive-thru to Del Taco for the Bacon Double Del Cheeseburger, and another quick drive-thru to the In-N-Out for those fabulous fries. Yum-mmy!

#9. Cheeseburger and Fries, Five Guys
808 H Street NW, Washington, DC (and just about everywhere else now)

This is the kind of place with buckets of peanuts at each table, and peanut shells littered all over the place. The kind of ambiance I can appreciate. The burgers are thick, juicy and affordable. The fries come in a gigantic portion, and they leave the skins on. Certainly the best burger in the fast food category.

#10. Bacon Cheeseburger, Sunshine General Store
Sunshine, MD.

Nurse Emily at Holy Cross Hospital told me about the legendary burgers at this hole-in-the-wall gas station just 30 minutes north of Silver Spring on Georgia Avenue. This giant juicy burger with crisp bacon and fresh tomatoes was definitely worth the trek. Even with baby in tow.

Ok, ok, so I know this is called the Top 10 Burger List, but why stop at just 10? I keep adding more to this list, and it seems a shame to relegate the ones that get bumped off the list to obscurity. Besides, sometimes the stories of their discovery are amusing. So, here are some more:

#11. Cheeseburger on Onion Roll and Fries, Fanelli’s Cafe
94 Prince St. at Mercer St., New York, NY

The ambiance of this place made my trip totally worth it. Nestled in my favorite neighborhood in Manhattan (SoHo), this restaurant/bar touted its history right on the back of the menu. It oozed old-world charm. I sat myself right by the window for prime people-watching advantage and settled in to my meatball-shaped burger. It was juicy, and the bun was just the right weight to absorb the juice. One of many great meals I enjoyed while living in NYC

#12. Junior Bacon Cheeseburger, Wendy’s 
This is my go-to burger, the one I crave when we’re on the road and my food options are McDonalds, Wendy’s, and the like. Hell, I don’t even have to be on the road to crave it — there’s one just across the road that calls to me on a regular basis. I love their little square patties, and the crisp lettuce, serviceable (usually pink) tomato and slathering of mayo has become my combo of choice at other restaurants. And bacon. Let’s not forget the bacon!

#13. Burger, fries and a giant coke, Birrere
somewhere in Florence, Italy

Slathered in thick mayo and so big I could barely hold it, this burger left quite an impression on me in the land of pasta courses. The Coke cost me $4 with no refills, but the glass was about a foot tall. And, of course, no ice. But this was a welcome American oasis at the end of my summer abroad.

#14. Burger with Fried Egg, The Broadway Diner
22 S 4th St., Columbia, MO

The first time I ever tried at egg on a burger was here. Lots of places offer it, and I’m sure they measure up. The combination of runny egg and juicy burger, absolute, artery-clogging perfection. But this place will always be my favorite for being MY FIRST.

#15. Pretty much any burger on the menu, Red Robin
When they opened up this restaurant close to my work in Overland Park, it became an instant favorite for staff lunches. The vast menu meant I could get something different each time, and each combo was delish. I particularly liked the Whiskey River BBQ. Fried onions, yum!

I met a guy in LA, and his first name’s Vanilla

August 12, 2008 at 11:45 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Ok, so I didn’t actually get to meet Vanilla Ice, but I did get an exclusive glimpse of him warming up for the SoftImage party at the 470 Club. He looks almost exactly the same, sans his mid-nineties over-gelled hair-do, although his music has certainly changed– much more hard rock and angry. I might venture to say I’m a Vanilla Ice fan now. Thanks to Craig’s connections, he, Eric and I bypassed the mile-long line at the front door and got in before anyone else. We only stayed long enough for the boys to down a couple of beers — we all had to get back to the hotel to work some more.

This year’s Siggraph doesn’t seem to pack the same punch for me this year. Maybe it’s because our booth is relegated to limbo (however, we still got a ton of traffic — we’ve gone through almost half of our T-shirts, and we’ve still got two more days). Or maybe I’m just feeling the hurt this year because of my back-to-back tradeshows. Either way, while it’s been fun to see demos at ILM and Pixar, I feel like I’m running on fumes. This year we’ve added video to my list of duties — an intimidating task for me, as i’ve got almost no experience with a video camera. I spent most of the morning helping craig give out t-shirts and copies of the magazines at the booth, then dove right into Handycam 101, shooting what Eric calls “B Footage”, and hoping that I wasn’t jostling the camera too much, or shooting anything too stupid. The Handycam also takes still pictures, but they’re pretty awful, so I decided to go back and shoot photos with my Nikon later in the afternoon.

This year I got a chance to check out Fjorg!, a student animation competition in which 16 three-person teams have 32 hours to complete an animated short. They work the hours straight through, hardly eating or sleeping. While the students work, spectators can watch computer screens that cycle screengrabs showing the progress of each team. Eric and I showed up at the very end, and me and the Handycam caught the fury of the finale. Very fun! They’re announcing the winners tomorrow, so hopefully I’ll get a chance to see that.

After the conference we had dinner at Del Taco, where Craig insisted that the hamburgers there were worth my taste-testing. And he was totally right — when things die down, I’ll be reevaluating my top 10 list to squeeze in this gem of a double-bacon cheeseburger and tasty crinkle fries.

And now, after being on my feet for hours on end, chowing down on mexican fast food burgers, basking in the glory that is Vanilla Ice, and scrambling the last few hours I could remain awake to do some work on the Siggraph Blog, I am spent. More tomorrow, if I can manage.

Burgers Usurped!

December 15, 2007 at 11:48 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I met grandpa Marvin for lunch today at Room 39 where I met the newest edition to the top 10 burger list (click here to see the most recent standings). A perfect blend of tender burger, absorbent bun, and crispy fries, this meal is definitely worth another try in the near future. I had a great time visiting with grandpa Marvin, who had recently (er, actually months ago) moved into a high rise downtown, and I had yet to see his new digs. His window overlooks that Catholic church with the gold dome, and it incessantly bongs on the hour from early morning to late evening. Chaps his atheist hide 🙂 He’s always got the greatest stories, and every time I see him, I hear something new and hilarious.

Tonight, after a little Christmas shopping, I decided to try a new recipe I found at HyVee–cheesy potato soup. Sounds good, right? Not the way I make it, apparently. It turned out more like cheesy potato broth. I had two bowls which tasted okay, but shortly thereafter my stomach rebelled. James had three bowls, and he’s feelin’ the hurt. Now I’ve got like a 2 gallons of it in my refrigerator. Enough to feed an army…with a death wish. I guess I should have seen it coming when the recipe called for an entire pound of Velveeta.

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