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Review of Gourmet Burger Kitchen, London, England

The below international burger report message received from San Diego Burger Club Executive Director Emeritus Brad Slutsky.

In honor of the last standing Burger Club leader Tony Hill, I decided to fly 8 hours to his home country and try Gourmet Burger Kitchen. Given the name and the plethora of burger joints in the Covent Garden area (I literally passed 3 other burger joints within 2 blocks of it), I had high hopes.


I ordered their Classic burger and “skinny fries”. Although GBK is a walk-up-to-the-register-and-order kind of place, they asked how I wanted my burger cooked and I ordered my usual medium-well. I decided to take the Classic “as described” on the menu, rather than remove toppings such as their special mayo sauce. The Classic sounded a bit like a “drugstore burger”, and since I was eating at a “gourmet” restaurant I figured they might know what formulation works for their kitchen and customers.

I’ll start with the good. The “skinny” fries were excellent. Our British friends might call them “smashing”. They were easily an A-. Maybe an A. They give you a good size portion of the “skinny” fries, and I ate every last one.

The burger, though, was strictly a B- affair. First off, I’m not sure why they asked how I wanted it cooked if they were just going to serve it to me medium-rare. Second, the special mayo sauce wasn’t very special at all, except maybe in a Saturday Night Live Church Lady “isn’t that special” kind of way. I had to scrape off all of the sauce to eat the burger. In the end, even without the sauce, the burger was just kind of average. Taking the sauce and undercooking into account, I felt it deserved no better than a B-.

Having now visited Tony’s homeland and the “famous” Gourmet Burger Kitchen, I would say the place should be renamed to Gourmet Fry Kitchen. The fries were excellent. The burger – not so much.

Jim Hoffmann Appreciation Day @ The Grill at Torrey Pines

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Today was a special burger club outing. Fantastic weather, wonderful location and a good attendance to enjoy a burger with Jim during his last week as a Q employee.

The burgers were up to the usual Torrey Pines standard, the north and south courses looked great and in mid-setup for the upcoming Farmers tournament.

Robert, Melissa, Dave, Eric, Tony & C.J had a great time with Jim and got to hear some fun stories from past adventures.

We’ll do our best to keep the burger club traditions going and to scheduling outings when alumni like Jim & Brad are passing through.

Since we are technically down 2 regular members (although they both retain their lifetime membership) it may be time to accept applications for new members. Potential applicants should submit their application forms in triplicate and include a short essay on “Why I Should Be Allowed to Join the Burger Club”.

We’re looking forward to hearing all about the burgers from outside of San Diego from Jim (and Brad) very soon.

Consider yourself appreciated very much by your lunch diners today Jim, best wishes.

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

Grub Burger Bar Front Porch Burger (8-30-2016)
Front Porch Burger
Grub Burger Bar Morning Glory Burger (8-30-2016)
Morning Glory Burger
Grub Burger Bar Strawberry Shake (8-30-2016)
Strawberry Shake

Grub Burger Bar just opened in San Diego so of course we had to pay it a visit. Reactions were mixed, though generally positive, with Grub scoring a B++.

Grub is a place where you go to the cash register to order, then you receive a device that looks like one of the things a restaurant gives you when you are waiting to be seated, then you sit wherever you like and they bring you your food.  The device that looks like a wait-for-a-table-buzzer is in fact some kind of beacon that associates your order with the location of the device.  That is how they know where to deliver your food (so it’s like an expensive version of the numbers that some restaurants give you to put on your table).  Although one of our members had a problem when Grub first opened with this system causing food to be misdelivered, we did not encounter any such problems on our visit.

The menu offers a wide range of burgers and sides, and we were generally pleased with the appearance of the food when it arrived.  There were comments about the freshly baked, “shiny” buns, the good looking egg, and the generous portion of thin fries.  After digging in, reactions were a bit mixed, with a number of grades of A- but also a number of Bs and a B+.  The fries were generally a big hit – thin and cooked well and nicely spiced.  Some people really liked their burgers though, while others felt the burgers were lacking in flavor, and the bun was bland, and the burger (which was supposed to be a blend of chuck and brisket) didn’t taste much like it had brisket in it.  Most likely the different ratings were the product of the different burgers being ordered.  The more plain burgers tended to receive lower ratings, while the burgers with cheese, bacon, egg, etc. on them tended to rate higher.  So, contrary to my usual ordering preference, Grub may be a place to go for the extras on your burger.

One of our members ordered a turkey burger and rated it an A- for being very solid, and spicy.  Another member ordered a milkshake, which, as you can see above, looked great.  He assured us it tasted great as well.

Welcome to San Diego,Grub!  You get a respectable rating of B++, with the tip that people should order your burgers with extras on top if they want to get the best you have to offer.

Prepkitchen (Del Mar)

Prepkitchen Del Mar Whisknladle Burger (8-17-2016)
Whisknladle Burger (sunny side up egg, no bacon or cheese)
Prepkitchen Del Mar Whisknladle Burger 2 (8-17-2016)
Whisknladle Burger (fried egg)

Welcome, Prepkitchen, to the number 1 spot on our top ten list!

Prepkitchen only has two burgers on their menu — a cheeseburger (with gouda, tomato, lettuce, red onion, and dijonnaise sauce) and a “Whisknladle Burger” (with gruyere, applewood smoked bacon, caramelized onions, remoulade, and a “farm egg”).  That is all they need though.  Both burgers were excellent, and overall the meal received a grade of A/A- (with the average being closer to an A than an A-).

These are some delicious, juicy burgers.  They generally were cooked as ordered, and from the first bite our members were singing their praises.  I do not normally order my burgers with an egg on top, but the egg on the Whisknladle Burger looked too good to pass up today so I gave it a shot.  That was a good call because the Whisknladle Burger was excellent, though as you might imagine from the picture on the top left above, things got messy pretty quickly.

Then there are the fries.  Hats off to you Prepkitchen — those are some really excellent fries.  They are perfectly crispy but not overcooked, and very salty, which many of us prefer.  I am not usually the person at the table who can identify the spices in the food, but after eating a few of the fries I noted that the fries had a bit of a lemony taste.  Our waitress confirmed that the fries have gremolata on them.  Good stuff.

A few other things worth noting:  These burgers aren’t cheap.  The cheeseburger will set you back $15.25 (plus beverage, tax, and tip).  The Whisknladle Burger will set you back $20.50 (plus beverage, tax, and tip).  It’s worth it though.  Also, Prepkitchen has a nice patio, which lets you enjoy the outdoors while being shaded from direct sun.  And, at least where we were sitting, there was a nice view of the ocean.  It’s hard to beat an excellent burger and fries in beautiful weather with a view of the ocean!

Prepkitchen was a universal hit among our members.  With a grade of A/A-, it takes the number 1 spot on our top ten list at this point.  Highly recommended!

Grub Burger Bar (Individual Scouting Trip)

grub burger

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.

IRIS Food & Spirits (Del Mar)

IRIS Signature Burger (7-28-2016)
Signature Burger
IRIS Angus Cheddar Burger (7-28-2016)
Angus Burger
IRIS View (7-28-2016)
Los Penasquitos Lagoon

According to some sources, July 28 is “Hamburger Day” and/or “National Hamburger Day” and/or the anniversary of the origin of the hamburger.  Whatever the truth of the matter, it certainly seemed like a good day for San Diego Burger Club to have burgers (though arguably every day is a good day for San Diego Burger Club to have burgers ☺ ).  So, we visited IRIS Food & Spirits, which received a grade of “B+/A- with a high standard deviation”.

IRIS is located on Carmel Valley Road just west of I-5.  It overlooks Los Penasquitos Lagoon, which provides a nice view as you can see from the picture above.  In my opinion IRIS’ location is kind of off-the-beaten-path, but despite this they had a good crowd for lunch.

The “high standard deviation” portion of their rating deserves special attention.  IRIS received two grades of A, which is a very high grade among our club’s burger aficionados.  However, it also received several lower grades including a B-, so reactions definitely were mixed.  Some people bit into their burgers and praised their thickness and juiciness.  Others criticized their burgers for having too little (or maybe no?) bacon jam, too much mayo, and/or being over-charred.  Similarly, some people really liked the steak fries, noting that they were cooked well, while others felt the steak fries were just okay/fine.

The burger, fries, drink, and tip came out to a little over $20.  For some of our members it certainly was worth $20.  For others, it probably would have provided more bang for the buck to travel a few blocks farther into Del Mar and go to Smashburger.

The bottom line seems to be that IRIS is a place you should try for yourself.  If you like it, you probably are going to really like it, and if you combine that with the view and the off-the-beaten-path location, you probably are going to have a very nice experience.  If you don’t like it as much, you probably still will find the food to be “okay”, and it won’t hurt to have a perfectly acceptable meal while overlooking Los Penasquitos Lagoon.

Westroot Tavern

Westroot Burger (7-13-2016)
Westroot Burger
Westroot Bacon Bleu Burger (7-13-2016)
Bacon Bleu Burger

San Diego Burger Club went to Westroot Tavern for lunch today.  Many of our members had not been to “The Village At Pacific Highlands Ranch” before, so it was something of an excursion for the group.  The food was a treat as well, rating an A-/B+ and landing in the top 10.

First a nod to the management, which was very responsive about arranging a reservation and checking on us during the meal.  Good job there.

Also, the fries at Westroot Tavern are really quite good, with some kind of spice on them that keeps you coming back for more.  Westroot also gives you a generous portion of fries, which we all either finished or nearly finished.  By themselves, I think I would give the fries an A.

As for the burger, it has a lot of good flavor in it, is juicy, and has a nice char to it.  Members also were complimenting the bun and the pickles, so there is a lot to like in Westroot’s burgers.  There were a few small issues that brought the burger’s grade down a bit though.  Most significantly, most of our members ordered their burgers medium but they arrived medium-well or well done.  Also one of our members thought the Thousand Island Dressing on the Westroot Burger was a bit overpowering, though not everyone felt that way.  One member also commented that the burger was a bit on the thin side, though he still really liked the taste and juiciness of the patty.

In summary we were impressed with the burgers and fries at Westroot Tavern and we welcome it to the top 10 with a grade of A-/B+.  Also, while I found the burger and fries pretty filling, if you want something sweet after your burger there is a Baked Bear right near Westroot to top off your meal with an excess of cookies and ice cream.

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers (UTC)

Red Robin Gourmet Cheeseburger (6-29-2016)
Red Robin Gourmet Cheeseburger
Red Robin Whiskey River BBQ Burger (6-29-2016)
Whiskey River BBQ Burger
Royal Red Robin (6-29-2016)
Royal Red Robin

San Diego Burger Club went to “Red Robin Gourmet Burgers” at the UTC mall for lunch today.  I can’t say that Red Robin felt very gourmet after eating on china at The WineSellar and Brasserie at the last meeting, but the meal was certainly acceptable — rating just a tad below a B.

We arrived around 11:45am and the restaurant already had a good crowd, but there were still plenty of tables available.  By the time we left, however, the restaurant appeared to be full.  Speaking of full, the UTC mall is under construction at the moment and has closed off a significant number of their already-too-few parking spaces, so parking there is pretty much of a disaster these days.  Luckily for us, we spotted a car leaving just as we drove up, so the lunch hour started with a nice lucky parking space.

Red Robin has a large selection of burgers on the menu — so many that it can be a bit confusing to figure out which burger to order.  If only they had the same large selection of fried potatoes!  They do offer garlic herb fries and sweet potato fries, but if you just want regular fries your only choice is large steak fries.

For a place that prides itself on its burgers, the burgers were really just okay.  I ordered the Red Robin Gourmet Cheeseburger, which is described on the menu as “The one that made us famous. Featuring Red’’s pickle relish, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, pickles, mayo and choice of cheese.”  I’m not sure if it was the pickle relish or the mayo, but something between the burger and the bun didn’t taste right.  I ate some of the burger outside the bun with no sauce on it and it was better, though still a long way from an A.  The burger does have a nice char on it and tastes fine (on its own), but it is not very juicy.  Another member also ordered a burger with the pickle relish and he also commented that the pickle relish did not taste right.  The buns were good though, and look at that egg on the Royal Red Robin — nice job there.  Basically though the burgers were fine but nothing special — pretty much a B with the pickle relish or mayo or something bringing them down just a bit below a B.

As noted above, the only choice for regular fries is steak fries.  We discussed this on the way to Red Robin and I think it’s fair to say that steak fries are not our preferred form of fried potato (are they anyone’s preferred form?).  Unlike many places that serve steak fries, Red Robin does cook them through, though perhaps just a tad underdone.  Certainly they are not crispy like they should be though.  Red Robin does offer “bottomless fries” so they get some credit for that, but with the fries just barely under and with the waiter asking if you want more fries at the same time they are clearing your plate, I’m guessing they are not going broke from people ordering tons of fries.

There are a couple of nice surprises at the end of a Red Robin meal.  For one, they have some nice looking desserts, including this tower of cronuts (they call them Towering Doh! Rings™) that we spotted on the menu.

Red Robin Towering Doh Rings (6-29-2016)

By the way these are described on the menu as follows:  “Doh! Why didn’t we think of it before? Of course it’s delicious when croissants mix with donuts! Enjoy this tasty towering treat with layers of flavors served with hot fudge and berry dipping sauces.”  Yeah — I’ll be back for those.  Also, they have what appear to be Android tablets on the tables that you can use to order appetizers and pay your bill, so we were able to pay the bill reasonably quickly with each person hitting a couple buttons and swiping their credit card — nice touch for the techies in the restaurant, though maybe a little confusing for some people (but you don’t have to use the tablet, you can pay the waiter).

Bottom line:  Red Robin makes an okay burger and offers bottomless fries that also are okay.  In doing so Red Robin earns a grade just a tad below a B.

The WineSellar and Brasserie

Winesellar Brasserie Burger With Cheddar (6-15-2016)
Brasserie Burger With Cheddar
Winesellar Brasserie Burger (6-15-2016)
Brasserie Burger

San Diego Burger Club went to The WineSellar and Brasserie (just off Mira Mesa Blvd) for lunch today.  The white tablecloth on our table and the use of a crumber after the meal definitely put it at the higher end of the places we have visited thus far, though the burger only costs $12.  In general we thought the burger was good, though it rated a B+/B.

On the plus side, the burger is quite thick, yet was cooked perfectly in all cases — nicely charred, cooked to the temperature ordered, and juicy.  The burger also had a nice flavor to it, though I’m not sure whether the taste was coming from the sauce or from something in the burger or both.  The bun also stood up well to the juicy burger and to the healthy dose of sauce on it.  The restaurant also serves bread prior to the meal and the bread was quite good as well.

On the minus side, the only options for potatoes are “warm” garlic red potatoes (plus salad) or warm truffle potato salad.  I put “warm” in quotation marks because the red potatoes are described that way on the menu, but in actuality they were quite cold.  They weren’t bad, but I would have greatly preferred hot fries or hot tater tots to the 7 slices of small red potatoes (plus salad) on my plate.  The cheese on the burgers also stood out like a sore thumb.  Here you are in a nice restaurant with white tablecloths, and it looks like they put a slice of processed cheese on your burger and didn’t even attempt to melt it.  The sauce on the burger also was quite drippy and messy.  If there was a way to eat the burger without getting sauce on your fingers, I didn’t figure it out.  Finally, while the burger was not very expensive at $12, one thing they don’t tell you when you sit down, or when you order, or when you agree to a drink refill, is that they charge for soda refills.  Two of us ordered Diet Cokes and agreed to refills when asked if we wanted them — that’s $2.75 times 4 for two Diet Cokes.  Gotcha.

WineSellar certainly was saved by serving an above-average burger, but with all the negatives it only managed a B+/B rating.  WineSellar is a nice restaurant with a good menu and an excellent wine selection, but as you might suspect from the restaurant’s name and from the numerous Wine Spectator awards on the wall, it’s more about the wine than the burger.

Davanti Enoteca (Del Mar Highlands)

Davanti Burger (6-2-2016)

San Diego Burger Club went to Davanti Enoteca in Del Mar Highlands for lunch today.  The Yelp reviews for Davanti’s burger are through the roof, so of course we had to check it out.  There was a wide variation in how people rated Davanti’s burger, but the average of our grades came out to a very respectable B+/A-.  That puts Davanti in 10th place on our top 10 list, and edges out Bare Back Grill which has been on the list for nearly two and a half years.

It was sunny and hot in Del Mar today, but parts of the patio at Davanti are completely shaded so we were able to sit on the patio and enjoy the outdoors without being overheated at all.  We had a very pleasant and attentive waitress.  She was not quick to take our order but after we received the food she checked on us regularly and refilled drinks without anyone needing to ask.

Several of us rated the burger and overall meal an A or A-, so there is a lot to like in Davanti’s burger.  A number of people felt that the burger was too salty though, which resulted in a couple of grades in the B and B- range.  Also, most of us ordered our burgers medium and received burgers that were pretty medium, but two of the burgers were overcooked and were medium-well to well done.  Note that there is only one burger on the menu at Davanti — the “Davanti Burger”.  If you prefer burgers where the patty is not made of beef, Davanti is not going to be your go-to place for a burger (though they have a number of excellent non-burger dishes).

The fries were kind of interesting.  They looked like regular skinny fries, but they tasted more like peppery potato chips.  Some of us liked that and some didn’t.  I have been to Davanti before and in the past their fries have not been quite so crisp (they were plenty crisp, but not to the point of being potato chips like they were today).  I actually liked their fries both ways so personally I’m not complaining, but some people didn’t like the fries as much.

On average Davanti receives a B+/A- and grabs the final spot on our top 10 list.  Some of us liked it more than others, so the Davanti Burger may or may not be for you.  Those of us who liked it though thought it was quite good, so I think Davanti should be on your list of burger places to try in San Diego.

Beaumont’s Eatery

Beaumonts Char-Burger (5-18-2016)
Beaumonts Char-Burger With Egg (5-18-2016)
Char-Burger with Egg

San Diego Burger Club went to Beaumont’s Eatery in La Jolla for lunch today.  We ordered a bunch of Char-Burgers and were generally very happy with them.  Grades ranged from B to A- and averaged B+, so Beaumont’s gets a B+.

Beaumont’s is in the south part of La Jolla, just east of Bird Rock.  There was not a lot of traffic in the area and we were able to find parking right by the restaurant.  We arrived just before noon and the restaurant was not very crowded.  More people arrived over the lunch hour but one could walk in and be seated immediately throughout the lunch hour.  Although the restaurant was not very crowded, the service was a bit on the slow side.

All but one of us ordered the Char-Burger, which is made from Angus Beef.  We did ask what meats are in the Beaumont’s Burger “three meat blend”, and we were told it was made of veal, pork, and beef.  No one really wanted the toppings on the Beaumont’s Burger though, so we ended up with Char-Burgers.

The Char-Burgers are appropriately named.  They have a very nice, tasty char to them.  They are thick burgers, and in all but one case they came out cooked as ordered (one was a bit overcooked).  Those who ordered their burgers with egg were happy with the eggs too — the yolks were drippy but not too much so.

The fries also were quite good.  Beaumont’s serves thin fries and they were nice and crispy.  Normally I end up adding salt to my fries, but Beaumont’s got it just about right for me — I did not need to add any salt to the fries and if anything I would say the fries might have been a tad on the salty side.

We did have one member who felt that the burger needed more flavor — either more salt or perhaps the “house aioli” on the burger should have been more pronounced (if the house aioli was actually on the Char-Burger, we didn’t really notice it).  Also, although the restaurant is not the most upscale establishment in La Jolla, they did have white linen napkins, which left little white flecks on my black pants.  Considering that I did not end up with any grease stains from the charred-but-juicy burger though, I can’t complain too much.

A B+ is a good grade, even if it clearly is outside the top 10 these days.  If you are in La Jolla you do have George’s as an option, which is in our top 10, is more upscale, and has a great view of the ocean.  However, if you need a hamburger fix while in the south part of La Jolla or if you don’t want to deal with the traffic and parking challenges in the north part of La Jolla, Beaumont’s is a slightly less expensive alternative that offers a very good burger.

Bruski Burgers & Brew (Scripps Ranch)

Bruski Burgers and Brew Pastrami Burger (5-4-2016)
Pastrami Burger
Bruski Burgers and Humpty Dumpty Burger (5-4-2016)
Humpty Dumpty Burger

San Diego Burger Club went to Bruski Burgers & Brew for lunch today.  Surprisingly, none of our members in attendance had been to Bruski before.  This being National Hamburger Month, of course we had to try it.  The verdict?  B+/B

When we walked in to Bruski we were commenting that the restaurant seemed nice inside.  Between that and the large number of burgers on the menu, we were hopeful that we might have a winner on our hands.  This impression dissipated a bit when the meals arrived.  As you can see from the pictures above, the presentation is a bit underwhelming.  Reactions to the burgers varied from “pretty good” to “okay”.  In my case I got the Pastrami Burger, and I have to question whether there was something wrong with the sauerkraut on the burger — it was excessively sour and salty tasting.  After a while I scraped off all the sauerkraut though, and the taste of the burger improved quite a bit at that point.  We also all agreed that the fries were pretty lackluster.  I would describe them as limp and lacking in flavor.  I managed to eat them after dousing them with a heavy dose of salt, but they fell far short of their potential.  One member ordered chips instead of fries though and he liked the chips, and one member ordered mozzarella sticks instead of fries and those were respectable as well.

Overall we thought Brewski was okay — maybe a decent place to eat before seeing a movie at nearby Edwards Mira Mesa theater, but not a destination spot if you are looking for a good hamburger.  Also, if Islands Burger, In-N-Out, Callahan’s, or Fuddruckers are to your liking, those are all in the vicinity as well so there are other choices for pre-movie burgers near Edwards Mira Mesa.

Cheesecake Factory (Fashion Valley Mall)

Cheesecake Factory Classic Burger (4-19-2016)
The Classic Burger
Cheesecake Factory Kobe Burger With Egg (4-19-2016)
Kobe Burger With Egg

San Diego Burger Club went to Cheesecake Factory for lunch today.  With 11 burgers on the menu plus more burgers on the “Skinnylicious” menu, we decided we should give Cheesecake Factory a try.  As one member commented, there is a reason they call it the Cheesecake Factory and not the Burger Factory.  Cheesecake Factory gets a B-/C+.

The burgers looked great.  Look at those pictures — very appetizing.  But then we bit into them and, well, they were pretty bland.  There was not a lot of flavor, no noticeable char, and seemingly no spices in the ground beef (if there was salt and/or pepper, it was not noticeable).  The bun and toppings were good, but the burgers themselves were just okay.  One member noted that he would give the bun and toppings an A, but the burger brought it down.  There also were some issues with the cooking.  I ordered my burger medium well and there was a fair amount of pink in the middle, while another member ordered his burger medium rare and there was no pink in his (we ordered different burgers, so they didn’t just hand us the wrong plates).

The fries didn’t win any awards either.  They were not crispy and tasted kind of like oven baked fries.  One member commented that they seemed like mashed potatoes formed into fries.

Adding insult to injury, the check came out to a little over $20 each — $24 with tip.  Then there is the parking.  Often Fashion Valley Mall is extremely crowded, making it impossible to find a parking space and necessitating paid parking.  We were able to find a free parking space today, but even ignoring the parking $24 is expensive for a mediocre burger.

Bottom line:  Go to Cheesecake Factory for their cheesecake and for the wide variety of delicious dishes on the menu; don’t go there for the burgers.  If you are going to Fashion Valley Mall and want a burger, Stacked is directly across from Cheesecake Factory and Stacked makes an excellent burger.

Stuffed (Liberty Public Market)

Stuffed Pow Burger With Tater Tots (4-6-2016)
Pow Burger with Tater Tots
Stuffed Bang Burger (4-6-2016)
Bang Burger
Stuffed Cheesy Tater Tots (4-6-2016)
Tater Tots with cheese

San Diego Burger Club went to Stuffed’s new location at Liberty Public Market for lunch today.  Everyone enjoyed their lunch, though a bit of inconsistency resulted in a B+ rating — dropping Stuffed just outside our top 10 for now.  There were some very high high-points, including but not limited to their excellent fried Oreos.  This is a place you should visit.  Note however that Liberty Public Market can be VERY busy and seating is VERY limited.  Definitely get there early — like 11:30am or earlier.

Liberty Public Market opened recently and they seem to still be working the kinks out.  The place is packed with people at lunchtime and the owner of Stuffed told us it is even more packed on weekends.  There are a very, very limited number of tables at which to eat.  They have way more people than tables.  That is something they will need to fix ASAP.  In the meantime, try to get there early — very early.

Like Liberty Public Market, this new location for Stuffed seems to be working out a few kinks as well.  A couple of us went there last week to scout the place out and we thought the burgers were very good, the fried Oreos were very good, and the tots were not very crispy.  This week, the fried Oreos were very good, the tots were very good, and the burgers were a little off — a little underdone in at least two cases and missing the charred, peppery taste that we remember from the Stuffed food truck.  On the recommendation of the cashier we did try the Tater Tots with cheese though.  Stuffed puts a nice nacho-type cheese on the tots and I would say they are pretty much everything you could want from tots dripping with gooey cheese.

The service at Stuffed was excellent as well.  The cashier was very friendly and recommended various items on the menu, and a woman behind the counter was chatting with us about Liberty Public Market and Stuffed’s move there, and we later came to find out she was the owner.

I think when the kinks get worked out the rating for Stuffed may go back up a bit, but for now they get a very-respectable-but-just-below-top-ten rating of B+.  We definitely recommend them, and recommend going early.

Notorious Burgers

Notorious Burger Big Poppa Bacon Burger (3-22-2016)
Big Poppa Bacon Burger
Notorious Burger Whitey Burger (3-22-2016)
Whitey Burger
Notorious Burger Notorious BIG Burger (3-22-2016)
Notorious B.I.G. Burger

San Diego Burger Club went to Notorious Burgers in Carlsbad for lunch today.  We had received a comment on this website seemingly from someone at Notorious Burgers who invited us to try the restaurant and promised we would not be disappointed.  I for one applaud the bold invitation.  As Christopher Wallace aka The Notorious B.I.G. aka Biggie Smalls aka Big Poppa used to say, “Excellence is my presence. Never tense, never hesitant.”  Notorious Burgers had been on our list to try anyway, so we figured this was as good a time as any to stop by.  We didn’t exactly love the burgers though, unanimously giving Notorious Burgers a B-.

Let’s start with the good:  The menu is fun and creative, with burger names like Notorious B.I.G., Gambino’s Broken Leg Of Lamb, Big Poppa Bacon Burger, etc.  Also, there are a large number of burgers on the menu, and a large number of fried potato / onion / garbanzo (yes, garbanzo) options for sides.  The presentation is good as well.  The burgers look appetizing, and at least the bacon on the burgers received good reviews.  Finally, the wait staff was friendly, engaging us in conversation and thanking us for coming in as we departed.

Now the not-so-good:  The assembled burgers are pretty big, but the patties themselves are pretty small, so the bun and toppings tend to overshadow the burger patty.  Also the patties were not that flavorful or juicy, and at least one of them was undercooked.  One burger also had far too much mustard on it and had lettuce on it that left a bad aftertaste in our member’s mouth.  The fries also were not very crispy, and the tots, while cooked very nicely, had too much truffle oil for me (though another member liked the tots).  Also, while the wait staff was friendly, it did take a while for someone to take our order, even though the restaurant was not that busy.

With a name like Notorious Burgers, your burgers should represent in a memorable way.  As Big Poppa used to say, “Biggie Smalls is the illest. Your style is played out, like Arnold wondered, ‘What you talkin’ bout Willis?'”  We’ll leave it at that.  Notorious Burgers gets a B-.

Double Standard Italian Kitchenetta & Bar

Double Standard Burger (3-9-2016)
The Double Your Standard’s Burger
Double Standard Burger With Egg (3-9-2016)
The Double Your Standard’s Burger With Organic Egg

San Diego Burger Club went to Double Standard Italian Kitchenetta & Bar for lunch today.  Their burger has some seriously good reviews on Yelp (e.g., “get the burger hands-down best burger I’ve had”, “Burger: AMAZING AGAIN!!!”, “The burger was one of the best I have ever had!”, “Seriously, that burger was soooo good.  …  It’s been a few days and I’m still thinking about that burger.”, “My husband has been on this life long search for the best burger and I think today’s visit to Double Standard has allowed him to end his quest.”).  Obviously, this was something we had to check out.

The verdict?  A-/B+.  Welcome to the top ten Double Standard!

Double Standard has a nice vibe, with high ceilings and large open windows.  The wait staff was excellent as well — very friendly and prompt.  Also, it doesn’t hurt that Double Standard is just a few blocks from Donut Bar.  We didn’t arrange a donut outing to go with this lunch, but that would be an excellent combination and one that I aspire to pull off in the future.

When the burgers arrived, our reactions were immediately positive — from comments about the size of the burgers and double patties, to an immediate grade of A for the presentation.  For me, the first bite confirmed this was going to be good.  I got the burger without the cheese and bacon, which allowed me to taste the beef without a lot of distraction from other toppings.  I thought the burger was seasoned very well.  It reminded me of the burgers at Craft Burger, which currently is at the top of our top ten list.  Not everyone had this same reaction though.  Grades ranged from B+ to A, with the B+ grades being based on the fact that some people thought the burger was too salty, and those who got eggs on their burgers thought the eggs were underdone.  I totally agree about the eggs — they were very drippy and posed a high risk of getting all over you.

The fries are “House Cut True Parmesan Fries”, which they describe as “cut fresh, fresh water bathed and twice fried in peanut oil” with “smoked garlic aioli [and] house secret sauce”.  The parmesan taste on the fries was very strong, but somewhere along the way I got used to it and decided I should eat all my fries.  People seemed to like the fries, though not as much as the burgers.

Everyone enjoyed Double Standard today.  Even those who gave it a B+ were saying that there should be ways to improve their burgers and bring them up to the A range (such as by foregoing the egg).  So, Double Standard gets an A-/B+ and is a welcome addition to our top 10.

The Balboa Bar and Grill

The Balboa Bar and Grill Centennial Burger (2-23-2016)

San Diego Burger Club went to The Balboa Bar and Grill for lunch today.  Located at 1863 5th Avenue, it was a bit of a hike for us to get there.  There didn’t seem to be a lot of activity in the neighborhood where it was located, and it was quite dark inside.  All of this had me a bit worried about whether this was a good choice.  I’m pleased to report though that the burgers at The Balboa Bar and Grill were surprisingly good — earning an A- and landing in our top 10.

The method of ordering at The Balboa Bar and Grill is a bit interesting.  You sit at a table and review the menu, and when you are ready you go to the bar and place your order with the bartender.  When the food is ready they bring the food to your table.

We ordered a variety of burgers, including the humongous Centennial burger (with added egg) pictured above.  For the record the Centennial burger consists of “Double Beef – Double Bacon – Double American Cheese – Lettuce – Tomato – Onion – Zesty House Aoli”.  With a little smashing down, the member who ordered the Centennial burger managed to get his mouth around it, and actually finished the whole thing, seemingly without spilling a drop of grease on his trousers (well done!).  We were all quite pleased with the burgers, with the ratings for the beef burgers ranging from a couple of As at the high end to a couple of B+/A-s at the low end.  There we several comments about how good the buns were, and the fries were a big hit as well.  We ordered the regular fries as well as an order of the garlic fries.  The regular fries were crispy and well spiced with some sort of seasoning salt.  The garlic fries were not as popular and there were several comments about how strong the garlic taste was on the garlic fries.

We were quite pleased with the burgers at The Balboa Bar and Grill.  If you are in the area and are looking for a good burger, The Balboa Bar and Grill is the place to go.

Ballast Point Brewery (Carroll Way)

Ballast Point Burger (2-10-2016)
Ballast Point Burger
Ballast Point Super Freekeh Veggie Burger (2-10-2016)
“Super Freekeh” Veggie Burger

San Diego Burger Club went to Ballast Point on Carroll Way for lunch today.  To sum it up — pretty plain burger, very good veggie burger, very good fries, not-so-good salad, great atmosphere, and good beer selection (we did not sample the beer at lunch, though many of us have previously tried their beer).

There are only two burgers on the menu at Ballast Point — the Ballast Point Burger and the “Super Freekeh” Veggie Burger.  One of us ordered the veggie burger and it received an “A”.  The rest of us ordered the Ballast Point Burger and we universally felt the Ballast Point Burger was lacking in flavor.  The Ballast Point Burger is made from grass fed beef, which in my opinion typically is more lean than beef from cows that are fed hay, grains, soy, corn, etc.  I ordered my burger medium-well and for me the end result was a very dry burger.  Those who ordered their burgers medium felt their burgers were more juicy.  All of us agreed though that the burger was kind of plain and would have benefited from some spices.  There also were some comments about the tomato slices being overly thick, and I thought there were far too many onions on my burger.  The fries, on the other hand, were quite good.  They appeared to be beer battered fries and they were cooked perfectly — crispy and delicious.  Some people opted for salad instead of fries, and the general feeling about the salad was that it consisted of lettuce on the side of the burger with little to no dressing.  In general those who ordered salad wished they had ordered fries instead.

The Ballast Point on Carroll Way appears to be relatively new, and has very high ceilings, wood tables, and generally modern decor.  We felt the restaurant had a good atmosphere and that we would come back for the atmosphere and the beer, even though the beef burgers were not that good.

Fair warning — the restaurant was fairly crowded for a weekday lunch, and on weekends the place can be very packed.  They have a decent size parking lot but parking still was somewhat sparse today, and on weekends you most likely will have to park on the street and may end up parking a few blocks away.

Bottom line — go to Ballast Point for the beer and the atmosphere, and maybe for some of their food such as the “Super Freekeh” Veggie Burger.  If you are just out for a beef burger though, there are plenty of better (and less expensive) options in the area.

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.

Nicky Rottens – Coronado (2nd visit)

Nicky Rottens Hoffa Jalapeno Burger (1-6-2016)
Hoffa Jalapeno Burger
Nicky Rottens Tons of Fun Pastrami Burger (1-6-2016)
Tons of Fun Pastrami Burger

For our first meeting of 2016, San Diego Burger Club visited a perennial favorite — Nicky Rottens.  Unfortunately for Nicky Rottens, they were not on their game this time.  They scored a B+ and were eliminated from the top 10 for the time being.

First the good:  The Coronado location of Nicky Rottens is close to the water and from many tables you have a nice view of the bay.  We also were able to find street parking right in front of the restaurant, and the parking meters only charge 25 cents for an hour of parking.  Also, most of us ordered the tater tots and we were all quite happy with the tots.

Now for the bad news:  The burgers just were not that flavorful on this trip.  Take my pastrami burger (pictured below) for example.

Nicky Rottens Tons of Fun Pastrami Burger Bottom Bun (1-6-2016)

It was supposed to be cooked medium-well.  I think we can all agree that it is cooked less than medium-well.  Also, we all experienced soggy-bun-syndrome.  Look at the top bun and the bottom bun in the picture.  The top bun is maybe 1/2 inch thick.  The bottom bun is soggy and maybe 1/8 inch thick or less  The pastrami on the burger wasn’t that good either.  Like the burger, it was undercooked.  Others noted that their cheese was not very flavorful, that the “Rotten Sauce” was not very flavorful, etc.  Basically, Nicky Rottens was missing their usual magic on this trip.

There is no need to keep rubbing it in.  We have been to Nicky Rottens several times and in the past they have consistently scored quite high.  This time they were off their game though.  Let’s hope it was a temporary lapse and not the start of a downhill slide for the restaurant.  We certainly will be back to check up on them and see.

Hanna’s Gourmet (2nd visit)

Hannas Thai Turker Burger (12-9-2015)

This year we debated whether to go to Slater’s or Hanna’s for a Thanksgiving turkey burger.  In the end, we decided we better go to Slater’s because their Thanksgiving turkey burger was the burger of the month and wouldn’t be available later.  But, a number of our members had never been to Hanna’s, so we decided we would go to Hanna’s for the following meeting and compare their turkey burger to the Slater’s version.  The result?  They are two very different turkey burgers and both are excellent.  Hanna’s did keep its A rating and thus edged out Slater’s, but comparing the two turkey burgers is almost like comparing apples and oranges.

I would say there was a fair amount of skepticism about Hanna’s Thai Turkey burgers when we were ordering them.  There were questions about it being a “Thai” turkey burger, and about the unavailability of regular french fries.  When the burgers arrived, some were questioning the choice of slaw on top and the green color of the burgers.  But then you put one of these burgers in your mouth and all your doubts disappear.  Flavors start to explode inside your mouth and they linger and leave a kick of heat and spice in your mouth even after you have swallowed your bite.  What is causing that strange reaction in your mouth?  We may never know, but clearly Hanna has hit on a good combination of spices.

I am no fan of sweet potato fries, but as sweet potato fries go, Hanna’s version is good.  They are cooked well and seasoned surprisingly well, and they go well with the Thai Turkey Burger.

We also decided to try Hanna’s rosemary cookies, which always seem to be in short supply.  Certainly they were in short supply on this visit, as we bought the last three and cleaned them out.  The cookies also were a hit.  The noticeable-but-not-overpowering taste of the rosemary in the cookies serves as a final reminder that Hanna knows how to use spices in ways that many other restaurants have not yet discovered.

So Hanna’s keeps its A rating.  Breakfast, lunch, or dinner — I have never had a meal at Hanna’s that wasn’t outstanding.  This place is a hidden gem.  Highly recommended.

Slater’s 50/50 (Thanksgiving Turkey Burger)

Slaters 1-3 Thanksgiving Burger And Fries (11-23-2015)
1/3 Pound Thanksgiving Burger And Fries
Slaters 2-3 Thanksgiving Burger (11-23-2015)
2/3 Pound Thanksgiving Burger

San DIego Burger Club went to Slater’s 50/50 in Point Loma for lunch today.  It has become our tradition to seek out a good turkey burger around Thanksgiving, and we certainly found one today.  Slater’s has a “burger of the month” each month and this month it is the Thanksgiving Burger.  The Thanksgiving Burger consists of a “seasoned turkey patty, brioche dressing, turkey gravy, house made cranberry sauce, garlic and sage aioli on a honey wheat bun.”  We all thoroughly enjoyed the burger and rated it an A-.

I did not have high hopes for a burger topped with stuffing, gravy, and cranberry.  Surprisingly though, it was quite good.  The patty, though thick, was cooked quite well with a nice char on the outside.  The patty also had some nice seasoning in it that we could not identify, except we did taste the salt because there was a bit too much of it.  The excess salt, and the burger being a bit messy, were really the only complaints we had.  The turkey burger was very good.  The fries were good as well.  Though a bit thick, they were cooked nicely and had a good combination of salt and pepper on them (one of our members thought there was a bit too much salt).  Slater’s also has a great selection of milkshakes and desserts, and one of our members had the Mint Chocolate Guinness shake and thought it was very good.

As usual, the Slater’s in Point Loma — being near the San Diego airport — had airplanes flying overhead periodically.  The planes are low and loud, and generally interrupt conversations for 15 seconds or so.  Our service also was a bit slow today, even though the restaurant was not very crowded.  It took a while for the food to arrive after we ordered, and it took a while for the check to arrive as well.

We really enjoyed Slater’s Thanksgiving Burgers.  It was a great way to kick-start the holiday.  We don’t often forego beef burgers for other types of meat, but we were glad we did so today.

Rock Bottom Brewery (La Jolla)

Rock Bottom Brewery Smashed And Stacked Burger
Smashed & Stacked Burger
Rock Bottom Brewery Veggie Burger
Housemade Veggie Burger

San Diego Burger Club went to Rock Bottom Brewery in La Jolla for lunch today.  We arrived around 11:45am.  The restaurant was not very crowded at that time (or throughout the lunch hour), but we had to wait to be seated, wait to have our order taken, and wait nearly an hour for our food to arrive.  Once the food arrived the reactions to it varied greatly, with grades ranging from C+ to A-.  The average of the grades came to a B, so Rock Bottom gets a B.

The burgers generally were good, though each seemed to have certain flaws.  The patties on that Smashed & Stacked burger are quite small, with the result that the bun-to-burger ratio is way off.  Some people felt their burgers were not well seasoned.  People who ordered burgers with bacon received bacon that was undercooked.  The Housemade Veggie Burger, pictured above, received high marks though.  Also, a number of the burgers came with a “signature pub sauce” that seems to be a spicy variant on Thousand Island dressing, and the sauce was good and had a nice kick to it.

In general we liked the fries, though there were several comments about them being oversalted, and in my case I felt they were a bit underdone.  You can order the fries crispy / more well done though, which I probably will do if I ever return.  One member switched out the fries for “seasonal vegetables”.  Although he liked the “seasonal vegetables”, be warned that today the “seasonal vegetables” consisted of corn with some spices and cheese — not exactly the green vegetables one might have expected.

Basically we thought the food at Rock Bottom was acceptable but not outstanding.  The service, however, was severely lacking.  The wait for the food to arrive was much too long, and during the hour that we waited for the food to arrive it never occurred to our waitress to bring silverware so we had to wait for that as well.

If you are in the La Jolla / UTC area and want to kill an hour and a half eating an acceptable burger, I guess Rock Bottom Brewery is the place to be.  If you want an equal or better burger with better service for the around the same price or less though, Draft Republic, Eureka, and Five Guys are just down the street and are better bets.

BABS: Bao’s Awesome Burgers & Sandwiches — closed

Baos Chopped Bacon Cheddar Burger and Tots (10-27-2015)
Chopped Bacon Cheddar Burger and Tater Tots
Baos Pastrami Burger and Fries (10-27-2015)
Pastrami Burger and Skin On Seasoned Fries

San Diego Burger Club went to BABS (Bao’s Awesome Burgers & Sandwiches) for lunch today.  This place is good.  Really good.  The burgers have a nice char to them and are stuffed with cheese, the toppings are great, and Bao’s has multiple forms of fried potatoes — each better than the next.  Bao’s gets an A- rating and easily makes it onto our top 10 list.

Bao’s is hidden in a little shopping center on Convoy Street in Kearny Mesa.  One of the few knocks on Bao’s is that the little parking lot for that shopping center is always full.  There are several streets nearby where one can park on the side of the road, but the street parking also can be quite full.  Trust me, Bao’s is worth the parking hassle, and the extra walking to the restaurant will turn out to be a plus considering how many calories you are about to eat.  :)

Bao’s has a nice menu with lots of burger choices, lots of different kinds of fried potatoes, and lots of attitude.  For example, the menu notes that “Awesome burgers are SUPPOSED to be messy, so don’t be such Sissy, just eat it and let the mess flow.”  The menu also contains a star rating system for how spicy the burgers are, with four stars representing “Only try it if you are chili head!!” and five stars representing “Causes lots of pain and sweat!!!”  Bao’s also was rocking some decent hip hop music at lunch today, so we got to rock out to the Beastie Boys (among others) while enjoying our burgers.  Bao’s also has a loyalty program where you get one point for every dollar you spend.  Various points earn you various free food items, but if you reach 1,000 points you get to name the burger of the month.

Okay enough about the atmospherics — what about the food?  I think the burgers lived up to their appellation — awesome.  They are half pound burgers stuffed with cheese, cooked to order, with a nice char on them.  One of the burgers at our table was overcooked and would have received a higher rating had it been cooked medium as ordered, but still we all enjoyed the burgers.  The toppings also were excellent.  Those who ordered the Chopped Bacon Cheddar Burgers noted that the bacon was thick and crispy.  As a pastrami burger fan I went for their Pastrami Burger, and the pastrami was quite good as well.  The buns also were nicely toasted and held up well to these juicy burgers.  We did feel that the burgers themselves could have been a little better seasoned, which probably is part of what knocked them down from an A to an A-.  Nevertheless, those were some good burgers.

The potatoes also were excellent.  Among us we ordered the Skin On Seasoned Fries, the Tater Tots, the Twisty Twists (aka curly fries), and the Criss Cross (aka waffle fries).  We also tried to order the “Fresh Made Potato Chips”, but they said they were “sold out” (which sounded a bit suspicious to us since we arrived at 11:45am — not long after they opened and when there was only one other table with patrons).  Some of us liked some forms of their potatoes better than others, but they were all good and the tots in particular stood out as quite excellent.  The fries were spiced with a healthy dose of pepper (among other things) and were quite good as well.

None of us had ever been to Bao’s before.  I dare say we will be back though.  Bao’s gets an A- and a lot of respect from the San Diego Burger Club.

Luna Grill (Carmel Valley)

A quick personal review:  This past weekend I went to Luna Grill in Carmel Valley.  I have been there several times before and I think they generally have decent Mediterranean food.  I have noticed that there is a burger slipped onto that Mediterranean menu though, and I thought I should give it a shot one day.  I was wrong.

There is some nicely spiced food at Luna Grill, but their burger definitely does not fall in that category.  The burger tasted like it had been sitting in water — not like a freshly grilled burger.  It was bland.  Very bland.  There also was too much sauce on it, and the bun was too thick and not toasted.  The only thing I can say for the burger is that it was edible — barely.  I did not capture a picture of the burger but it looks like this:

The fries were well cooked, but they too were pretty bland.  After I put a healthy dose of salt on them though they improved quite a bit.

I give the burger at Luna Grill a C-.  There are lots of good choices on the menu at Luna Grill, but the burger is not one of them.  I didn’t hate the burger, but with other good choices on the menu and the burger being such a disappointment, I doubt I will ever order a Luna Grill burger again.

Anny’s Fine Burger (Kearny Villa) – 2nd Visit

Annys Fine Burger Bacon Cheeseburger (12-12-2015)
Bacon Cheeseburger & Onion Rings
Annys Fine Burger Pastrami Burger (12-12-2015)
Pastrami Burger
Annys Fine Burger Waffle Fries And Cajun Fries (12-12-2015)
Cajun Fries & Waffle Fries

San Diego Burger Club revisited Anny’s Fine Burger today.  It has been over a year since we went to Anny’s and we did not look at our first review before eating there and reviewing our meals.  As if to prove that burger rating is an exact science, we averaged our votes and then checked the original review and … the rating was exactly the same — a B.

Once again, the burgers were good but not great.  They seemed to be underseasoned.  The toppings, however, were quite good.  The waffle fries also were a big hit, but the cajun fries and onion rings left us underwhelmed.  The cajun fries tasted a bit airy and mashed-potato-like, although they did have a nice hot spicy kick to them.  The onion rings were a bit doughy for our taste.

It was pretty hot in Kearny Villa today and when we arrived Anny’s was not running the air conditioning.  That caused us to sit outside on the patio (which has a roof for shade), in the hopes that maybe a breeze would cool things down a bit.  The breeze never materialized, though Anny’s eventually realized that it was hot and turned on the air inside the restaurant.

As usual, the parking lot was pretty full, so getting a parking spot was pretty hit-or-miss.  We did get lucky though with someone pulling out of a space just as we drove up.

It was interesting to see that Anny’s consistently rated the same a year later.  Great menu, but the burgers need more seasoning and the fries and onion rings need some work.  It’s still an acceptable burger meal if you happen to be in the area, but if you are planning to go out and get a burger there are better destinations (such as those on our top 10 list).

The Spot

The Spot Classic Bacon Cheeseburger (9-28-2015)
Classic Bacon Cheeseburger

San Diego Burger Club went to The Spot in La Jolla for lunch today.  The Spot has a decent selection of burgers on the menu, including four beef burgers, a lamb burger, a bison burger, a chicken burger, and a turkey burger, and you also can substitute a “Gardenburger® Veggie Patty” into any of their burgers.  We anticipated a sizable number of attendees today and so made a reservation.  As it turned out, The Spot was not very crowded and the reservation was not necessary.  Perhaps that is because the burgers at The Spot rate in the B/B- range.

We observed that the hamburger buns were nicely toasted and held the burgers and toppings well.  However, the burgers themselves were kind of plain, and in some cases overly salted.  The fries are thin fries of the “beer battered” variety.  Our reactions to the fries varied.  Some members really liked them.  Personally I felt they were not particularly hot and were undersalted.

The Spot is on the east side of Prospect Street in La Jolla.  That means you get a great view of the ocean when you exit the restaurant and walk a few steps north.  It also means parking is likely to be difficult and traffic can be heavy depending on the time of day (we did not have much traffic at lunch today).

A definite problem for The Spot though is the fact that George’s is 3½ blocks up Prospect Street on the west side of the street.  A burger at The Spot costs about the same as a burger at George’s, but the burger at George’s is far superior and George’s has a fantastic view of the ocean from within the restaurant.  And if the wait is too long at George’s,  Smashburger is across the street and a few steps south from The Spot, and their burger rates higher than The Spot as well.

The burger competition appears to be pretty fierce in La Jolla.  At the medium-to-high end, you have the excellent burger at George’s that comes with an excellent view.  At the low end, you have the nearly-top-ten burger at Smashburger.  That doesn’t leave a lot of room in the middle for other burger joints, but that is where The Spot is competing.  With a rating of B/B-, The Spot has some serious competition if you are headed to La Jolla for a burger.