Author Archives: Brandon

Raglan Public House


The new San Diego burger club schedulers are embarrassed to say that it took previous leader Brad traveling from ATL in order for a burger club meeting to take place. The venue was Ocean Beach, Raglan Public House, I chic (for OB) location a block away from the main drag (Newport). Located on Bacon Street, it already had a mark in its favor.

The Raglan is nicely decorated for the holidays and there was a $13.9 lunch special which gave you one of 10 burgers, an order of shoestring fries and a beer, hard to turn down. The three of us each tried a different burger, two with an added fried egg and one without (since the burger was already fully loaded!). The burgers were all really good, the fries were excellent and for the brace that were wasabi & red-pepper aioli to go with the ketchup.

The consensus vote was A-, really good burgers that are well worth a visit. Thanks to Brad for flying in to keep us honest on burger club.

The Grill at Torrey Pines


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Nearly 18 months and one renovation after our previous trip to The Grill at Torrey Pines, the venue still delivers one of the best lunchtime views in town, overlooking the first tee and fairway at Torrey Pines Golf Course. Best enjoyed from the patio, the early fall weather cooperated with clear skies and a slight breeze.

In tribute to the recent passing of The King, all in attendance thought a round of Arnold Palmers to be an appropriate complement to the meal. The Drugstore Style Hamburger, the restaurant’s only burger offering, can be ordered with options of cheese and bacon, and comes standard with mayo, lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickles.

Working top to bottom, I’d like to first note the bun. It held up well to the heft of the burger, and had a lightly toasted inside, providing a nice crispy element. The toppings were all crisp and fresh, and I found the pickles to be particularly tasty. For those that added bacon, it was found to be crispy and a great addition to the burger (surprise, surprise). Coming to the patty, everyone agreed that there was great flavor, though the cooking temperature was somewhat inconsistent. The mayonnaise kept the burger from being dry, but if you’re not a fan, make sure to ask for it on the side.

While the burger scored high marks, and the Arnold Palmers gave an additional bump, the group found the French fries to be a little on the cold side, and I think I speak for most fry lovers when I say that there is a direct correlation between temperature and tastiness where fries are concerned. The temperature issues with both the fries and the patty resulted in a slight slide to the overall grade for The Grill down to A-/B+, though it’s enough to maintain a spot in our top ten.

If you’re looking for an all-around relaxing and delicious lunch, I heartily recommend The Grill at Torrey Pines.

Luce Bar & Kitchen

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Today marked an historic occasion for the burger club. Brad (that smiling fellow on the left, above), our founder and burgermeister-in-chief, will be bidding farewell to San Diego in favor of the fine city of Atlanta, Georgia. While we’re sad to see him go, we will carry on – though in fairness, I’ve never found going out for a burger and fries to be a prospect that needs much selling. :)

We found ourselves at Luce Bar & Kitchen in Bay Park to take on their Luce Burger, due in part to the recommend of one Yelper who said, “My girlfriend would[n’t] even speak to me while eating and then didn’t want to let me try it.” While the offering had really great elements, it lacked the hush-inducing quality that some of the best burgers possess.

The most consistently lauded component of the meal was the fries, which were crunchy and well-seasoned, even if lacking a little in overall length (an important metric for anyone keen on a positive ketchup dipping experience). That said, as the temperature of the fries cooled, so did the group’s opinion of them. Similarly, the burger, while starting out juicy and flavorful, was generally considered dry by the end, with most of the juiciness left on the plate.

Despite the patty performance, the other elements of the burger were generally positive. Fresh arugula and tomato were a great complement to the melted white cheddar and caramelized onions. I found the brioche bun to be very tasty and able to hold up to the juices from the burger, though there were comments of it being a little too bready. Personal preferences aside, the experience ranked a strong B, with support from Brad’s A- rating.

While not enough to break into the upper echelon of our burger rankings, it was a singularly enjoyable experience to reflect and reminisce on the years and meals we’ve shared, and I look forward to those to come.

Grub Burger Bar (Individual Scouting Trip)

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My family and I made a side trip today to Carmel Mountain Ranch’s newest eatery, Grub Burger Bar. The Texas-based restaurant has grown to 17 locations nationwide, with the San Diego location marking their first foray into points west of the Lone Star state. Let me reiterate that I was accompanied by my wife, son (five), and daughter (three). My wife was, as always, a great lunch companion and provided good insight into Grub’s offerings based on her own burger. The kids however, delight in seizing a chance to test their parents’ reflexes and ability to avert culinary disaster (…did I mention that Grub has a full bar and spiked shakes?). Suffice it to say, my focus wasn’t entirely on my own meal.

First, let’s talk logistics. This is a new restaurant, a little less than two weeks old, and they’ve not yet worked out all the kinks. They follow the Smashburger model of ordering and paying at the counter, taking a number, finding a seat, and waiting for a staff member to bring your food.

Instead of a number card, we were provided with a numbered electronic puck, allowing the staff to use its signal to determine the exact location to bring our order. Thus, it came as no surprise when my daughter’s food arrived promptly at our table. But when I noted a slight error in the order, they realized that the order was for the next table over, removed the food, and placed it next door, leaving my daughter clutching an empty fork (cue the hysterics). Apparently the geolocation on those numbers isn’t quite where it needs to be (there was a subsequent “did you guys order a shake” conversation, which made me long for the good old-fashioned number card and metal stand). And, were we slightly less scrupulous, we would have gotten a free margarita out of the deal (ordered and delivered table-side), due to a lack of communication in their dual process of paying for food up front and drinks at the table.

On to the food. They have a diverse set of burgers that each offer something unique. As a way to level set on my first visit, I ordered the Cheesy Bacon Front Porch (pictured), which is a slightly modified version of their basic burger. I ordered it medium instead of their default of medium-well. All of the elements were there, a thick and juicy patty (though not medium, points off for that), fresh lettuce and tomato, crispy bacon, and melty cheese, though there was nothing that made me think anything more than, “this is a pretty good burger.” Though other than the patty being medium-well instead of my requested medium, I had nothing specific to detract from the experience.

The real star of the show for me was the bun. Baked hourly in-house, it was perfectly toasted, had a good density and chew, good flavor, and held up very well to the toppings. The fries were also a high point. They appeared to be lightly battered, then fried, with a good blend of spices on them. If you’re a fan of crispy shoestring fries, then these are for you. I also performed a little quality control on my kids’ chocolate shake, and found it to be a little underwhelming given the space shakes take up on their menu. It came across like a vanilla shake with Hershey’s syrup mixed in. Not that I mind using Hershey’s to make a chocolate shake, that was the standard for shakes at my house growing up, but I just expected more in this case.

My wife opted for the Morning Glory, comprised of a beef patty, fried egg, bacon, and chorizo queso, served on the aforementioned homemade bun. If you’re in the “burger + egg = awesome” camp (as anyone who’s ever tried it generally is), this is the burger for you. But be warned, the chorizo queso packs a moderate amount of heat. Also, it was noted that the bacon, while tasty, got a little lost beneath the egg and chorizo queso, and would probably have been just as good without it. Still, were I to do everything again, I’d probably give that burger a try.

Overall, I’d rate the experience a solid B. I think the burgers themselves can reach into the A range (though probably not the Front Porch burger), but I think it wise to give them a couple of months to hit their stride on the operational side of things before chancing another visit.

Eureka! …more than our state motto


Our most recent outing took us to Eureka! in La Jolla’s Westfield UTC mall. Despite a massive construction project right next to the restaurant, its patronage has not suffered. Whether this is a testament to the quality of their cuisine or the impressive assortment of micro-brews is up for debate; I believe further research may be required.

We had a wide sampling from the burger menu, ranging from The Original Eureka! burger with fries to the Fresno Fig Burger sans bun with a salad. And to any low-carb enthusiasts out there, the salad is a high point. Very tasty, well dressed, and actually has some toppings. Too many places simply throw some oil and vinegar on mixed greens and call it a salad. Overall, ratings for the experience fared well, bouncing between B+ and A-. Inconsistency on the cook temp of the patty lost it some points (most agreed that the medium was on the rarer side, and in one case, extremely rare).

Highlights included a solid showing from the french fries, which were crisp and well-seasoned. Additionally, those who opted for an egg on their burger were not disappointed, further confirming my belief that you simply can’t go wrong putting breakfast foods on a bun.

While the speed of service faltered a bit toward the end of the meal, it was a pleasant dining experience with good company and a very interesting discussion on the negotiation tactics of Russian businessmen in the 90’s. If you find yourself at UTC during the lunch hour and have to choose between Red Robin and Eureka!, the latter will provide you a measurably better experience.

Tidewater Tavern (Solana Beach)

Our latest sojourn through the ground beef gauntlet took us to Tidewater Tavern in Solana Beach.  After the blazing heat in the San Diego area, we were fortunate to have perfect burger weather, with clear blue skies and a temperature in the mid-70s.  Tidewater is very much a tavern, featuring several beers on tap in addition to its menu of burgers, fish tacos (for which they are known), and other standard tavern fare.  Between the five attendees, we had a fair sampling of the various patties and sides offered.
Overall, the burgers were in the “good” category, falling in the growing middle or B+ range.  That said, there are a lot of positive things to be said for Tidewater’s burgers.  For a start, the buns were, in all but one case, hearty enough to hold up to the toppings and juices from the patty .  And having myself ordered and downed the Tidal Wave burger (which comes with bacon, guacamole, grilled onions, cheese, mayo, lettuce, and tomato) without issue, I put the outlier in the “user error” category.  The beef itself was flavorful, but not overpoweringly so.  And at a half pound, it certainly filled the cracks.  The burgers all came with lettuce and tomato, which was fresh and flavorful; few things are more disappointing in a burger than finding flaccid lettuce.  And the bacon, which two of us ordered, was crisp and given in sufficient quantity to have some with every bite.
We sampled three sides: the french fries, potato chips (cooked in-house), and chili beans.  The beans were noted as spicy, very much like chili….without the rest of the chili.  Both the fries and chips were seasoned with, near as we could discern, salt, sugar, and paprika.  I, for one, was a fan.  This is the second time we’ve enjoyed fries with a bit of sugar, and I really think it adds something.  The chips, while enjoyable, were not always evenly cooked.  I had one somewhat undercooked chip, which, while not unenjoyable, did not have the crunch that I generally look for in a potato chip.
And for you health nuts out there, it’s worth noting that Tidewater offers both veggie and turkey patties on the menu.  We sampled the veggie, and though it was surrounded by all the same tastiness the other burgers had, the patty itself was found to be underwhelming.  Also, be aware that the standard burger comes with both mayo and grilled onions.  They are two staples on my burgers, so I was only to happy to see them, but for those with a more discriminating palette where condiments and additions are concerned, make sure to note any changes with your server.
In sum, if you’re looking for a filling, tasty burger in a very laid back atmosphere, Tidewater Tavern will fit the bill, particularly if you’re looking to pair it with a beer or two.  You won’t find any amazing innovations in the offerings, but you definitely won’t leave unsatisfied.

The Habit Burger Grill


Yesterday’s San Diego Burger Club adventure took us to The Habit Burger Grill on Lomas Santa Fe Drive, a Santa Barbara staple that has expanded to over 50 locations in California, Arizona, and Utah.  And they’ve achieved that level of expansion for good reason; I think all in attendance agreed that they’re doing something right.

Right off the bat, The Habit got points for both speed and accuracy.  Our meals were ready quickly and to our specifications, including one off-menu order of half fries half onion rings.  Between the six members in attendance, we got a fair sampling of their offerings, including one lettuce-wrapped burger and a couple orders of their tempura-fried green beans (yum!).  I myself opted for a wheat bun, which is a nice alternative when making a feeble attempt to justify to yourself that you’re actually doing something healty…at a burger joint.

Although I’d put The Habit in the same general strata of establishment as Five Guys and In ‘n’ Out, they stand out in a couple of important ways.  Firstly, although it’s in the “fully-cooked patty” family, I find the burger itself to be a bit more flavorful and juicy.  Secondly, the breadth of their menu gives diners a number of options if they’re looking for a unique experience.  In addition to the green beans and bun/lettuce options noted above, they offer sweet potato fries, shakes (sadly unsampled this visit), various chicken sandwich options, a veggie burger, tuna burger, and a few salads.  So next time you’re going out with an overly health-conscious diner, fret not.  The Habit can meet your burger needs while providing greenery to your less daring partner.

The experience received high marks all around.  The fries were noted as being better than our return visitors had remembered, and well-salted…possibly too well in one case.  The burgers themselves were well-seasoned and juicy, and were complemented by appropriate amounts of lettuce, tomato, pickle, and grilled onion.  The only thing you may want to watch out for is the standard addition of mayo.  While I myself am an ardent supporter of a healthy helping of mayo on a burger, it is not for everyone, so make sure to note that in your order.  From everything I saw, they’ll be only too happy to accomodate whatever changes or substitutions you can throw at them.  Our overall grading of the meal worked out to a solid B+, though I may personally shade a bit higher, if only for nostalgic purposes, being a Santa Barbara native.