Category Archives: Uncategorized

George’s At The Cove (Bar)

George's Bacon Cheeseburger
Bacon Cheeseburger
George's Niman Ranch Beef Burger
Niman Ranch Beef Burger

For the final stop on our 2015 summer beach tour, we went to George’s at the Cove today. The Ocean Terrace on top of George’s has a fantastic view of the ocean and seems to be perpetually busy, so we were apprehensive about whether we would be able to get a table.  We arrived at 11:40am and there were in fact tables available.  However, all the tables that would fit our party were at least in part exposed to the sun, and it was 87 degrees today in La Jolla.  So, we opted instead to eat on the “bar” level, which is one level lower, has the same menu, and has the same great view as the Ocean Terrace without the sun beating down on you.  This turned out to be an excellent choice, as it was oppressive in the sun today and was much more moderate on the “bar” level.  By the way the “bar” level does have a bar as well as a common high-top table, but it also has many regular tables where a party can be seated together at their own table.

George’s scored an A- – today and moves into the 5th spot on our top 10 list — sadly bumping Smashburger from the top 10.  The grading for George’s was polarized.  Those who ordered bacon cheeseburgers all gave George’s an A, which is high praise.  Those who ordered other types of burgers gave George’s a B.  I typically order my burgers pretty plain so I was in the latter category.  For me the burger was not that juicy or flavorful.  Another member ordered the burger with blue cheese and “sweet onion marmalade”, and he felt the blue cheese overpowered the burger.  The members who ordered bacon cheeseburgers really liked them though — from the first bite they were singing the burgers’ praises.

Two things we all agreed on:  the fries were excellent, as was the view.  The fries are skinny fries and were crispy and hot.  I felt they needed a little more salt than they were served with (others disagreed), but once I added salt they disappeared from my plate pretty quickly.  Since a picture is worth a thousand words, all I will say about the view is “look at the picture of the view below.”

Georges View Panorama (9-11-2015)

Although it may be a blasphemy on a burger blog, I will add that George’s has a varied menu with lots of really good non-burger options as well.  So if your fellow diners don’t have the same appreciation for a great burger that you do, there are many great options for them as well.  George’s also has some excellent desserts such as “Peanut Butter Layered Icebox Cheesecake”, “Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake”, “Chocolate Raspberry Layer Cake”, etc.

So George’s receives an A- – and sails into our top 10.  With great food and a great view, George’s should be on your list of places to eat a burger in San Diego.  George’s can get very crowded though, so make a reservation when possible, and think twice before choosing a seat in the sun on a hot summer day.

Craft Burger

bbq craft (8-26-2015)
bbq craft
cali craft with egg (8-26-2015)
cali craft w/ egg (& w/o garlic aoli)

For the sixth (and northern-most) stop on our 2015 summer beach tour, San Diego Burger Club went to Craft Burger for lunch today.  The verdict?  Craft Burger earns an A-/A due to their excellent burgers and nearly perfect fries.

We arrived at Craft Burger just before noon and we were the only patrons in the restaurant at that time.  Our burgers — though thick and apparently cooked to order — arrived relatively quickly.  We observed that the burgers had a nice char to them, and most (but not all) were cooked to the temperature Craft Burger recommends — medium.  Everyone thought their burgers were quite good, and there were several comments about how juicy they were or how well spiced they were (especially compared to some of the other beachside burger joints we have visited this summer).  To some extent, the burgers at Craft Burger remind me of the turkey burger at Hanna’s Gourmet — nicely spiced in a way that makes your mouth eager for the next bite.  As good as the burgers were, the fries received even higher ratings for being cooked perfectly, being crispy, being seasoned well, and tasting great.  Craft Burger also has a nice assortment of specialty sodas and craft beers, several flat screen televisions (and one projector), and a good collection of slightly-irreverent signs on the walls, all of which added to our enjoyment.

With all members giving Craft Burger either an A- or A, Craft Burger’s rating averages out to an A-/A.  Further, by vote of those who visited both Craft Burger and Stacked, Craft Burger takes the top ranking, putting it at number 2 on our top 10 list.  Although it’s a bit of a hike for most of us to get to Carlsbad where Craft Burger is located, I have a sneaking suspicion we’ll be back.  :)

Encinitas Ale House

Encinitas Ale House Kobe Wagyu Burger (8-12-2015)
“New Zealand 100% Grass Fed Kobe Wagyu Burger”
Encinitas Ale House Trio Burger (8-12-2015)
“Trio Burger”

For the fifth stop on our summer beach tour we ate at Encinitas Ale House today.  Encinitas Ale House claims to have “locally world famous burgers & ales”.  We observed that they did have quite a few beers on tap, with taps for many more types of beers hanging from the ceiling.  The burgers, however, received a B.  Maybe they are “locally world famous” at 33.0384°N, 117.293°W (which their menu indicates is their location, though Google Maps identifies it as the shop next to them), but I don’t think they are world famous outside of that location.

A word about the atmosphere:  We went at lunch and it was a bright sunny day, but it was dark inside Encinitas Ale House.  As a result, the pictures above are kind of dark.  Sorry about that.  Also, it was hot in there.  They had a big fan that seemed to be pulling hot air out of the restaurant, but some air conditioning or better fans would have been nice.

As for the burgers, we ordered a variety of their burgers, and generally found them to be decent but not super flavorful.  I ordered the trio which was made from a combination of chuck, brisket, and short rib.  The menu did say that it came with carmelized onions, but it didn’t say it would be swimming in them.  There was a layer of carmelized onions on the burger that was maybe 1/4 inch thick.  They were not good, and I ended up removing all of them.  Like those who ordered the Wagyu burger and the Santana Burger, my burger was not that flavorful.  We thought the burgers could have used some salt and pepper mixed in before cooking, and the waitress confirmed that they do not put any salt or pepper in the ground meat before (or after) cooking it.

The fries are described as “cajun seasoned shoestring fries”.  A couple of us referred to them as the “spicy fries” when ordering and the waitress was quick to point out that they were not spicy.  I thought this was odd since they are supposed to be cajun seasoned, but we soon learned why.  The fries were accurately described on the menu … other than the fact that they were neither cajun seasoned nor of the shoestring variety.  :)

We also ordered a basket of onion rings so we could try those.  I am not a big onion ring eater, but I thought the onion rings were good.  Our onion ring aficionado, however, felt that they were a bit overcooked.

How much will Encinitas Ale House set you back?  The Wagyu burger was $15.95, the Trio burger was around $15, and the Santana burger was $12.50.  Add in a $2.50 soda plus tax, and you have a burger meal in the $16 – $20 range.

$16 – $20 for a B-rated burger in a dimly lit, hot establishment, when it is bright and sunny outside and the beach is two blocks away (but not visible)?  I guess you might want to go there to try one of their many beers, or if you happen to already be at 33.0384°N, 117.293°W — a location where they supposedly are “locally world famous”.  Otherwise, you can have a similar experience (but a much better view) at Pacific Coast Grill or Poseidon, or you can go down the road a bit and have a better burger at The Grill at Torrey Pines, or at Smashburger in Del Mar.

Union Kitchen & Tap

Union Burger (7-27-2015)

UNION Burger
Union Bison Burger (7-27-2015)

Bison Burger

San Diego Burger Club went to Union for lunch today.  We are going to make a couple stops in Encinitas during our summer beach tour, even though the burger spots in Encinitas are not directly on the beach.  The results at Union were kind of mixed today.  On average we gave it a B, but there was a large variation in grades with the low grade being a C+ and the high grade being an A.  We concluded that you need to order carefully at Union to be sure you get something that is to your liking.

I generally order my burgers medium-well, in part because I want to be sure they are adequately cooked, and in part because many restaurants undercook their burgers and will give you a burger that is closer to medium when you order your burger medium-well.  This strategy did not work out so well today, as my burger arrived well done and tasted over-charred.  I also did not care for the “tomato jam” that they put on the UNION Burger.  It was a bit sweet for my taste.  That was actually a divisive issue at our table because some people liked it and some didn’t.  Among those who got burgers with cheese and bacon, there was agreement that the bacon was cooked nicely — not underdone like many places serve it — and at least one member commented that the cheese (“NY White Cheddar”) was overpowering for the burger.  The fries also were divisive.  Some people really liked them, and some thought they were not crispy enough and were insufficiently salted.  There also was a hiccup with our service.  One member ordered a “buffalo” burger and the waitress was quick to point out that it was a “bison” burger, not a “buffalo” burger.  The member said he would have the “bison” burger, but when his burger arrived it was the standard UNION Burger (i.e., a “Brandt Beef” hamburger, not a bison burger).  They took the burger back and cooked him a new bison burger, but that took a few minutes and in the meantime everyone else had been served.

In the end, we concluded that you have to know what you are getting at Union and order carefully.  For some people, that may mean leaving off the cheese, leaving off the tomato jam, asking for extra crispy fries, and/or ordering a burger a step down in temperature from one’s usual order.  Our members who liked their burgers liked them quite a bit, so if you get your order right you may have a very good meal.  On the other hand, our members who found flaws in their burgers tended to rate their burgers below average, so if you haven’t been to Union before and scoped out what you like and don’t like, you could end up disappointed.  Overall, we give Union a “B with a high standard deviation.”

Pacific Coast Grill

Pacific Coast Grill PCG Burger (7-13-2015)
PCG Burger
Pacific Coast Grill Surf and Turf Burger (7-13-2015)
Surf & Turf Burger
Pacific Coast Grill View (7-13-2015)
The view from the patio

For the third stop on our summer beach tour, San Diego Burger Club went to Pacific Coast Grill in Cardiff today.  Like Poseidon, Pacific Coast Grill is a place where your primary goal should be to enjoy the view, rather than the burger.  We uniformly rated the meal a C (or as some noted, a “Sea”), while the view was clearly an A.

It was a beautiful day in Cardiff and we sat on the patio and enjoyed the weather to its fullest.  The sky was blue with only a few clouds.  It was sunny but with a nice breeze to keep the temperature in check.  The waves were nice with a smattering of surfers.  Basically, the atmosphere was great.

The burgers, on the other hand, were “okay”.  The menu claims the burgers are made from “certified ‘Sterling’ Chuck”.  We asked our waiter what this meant and he said it had something to do with the kind of beef.  That answer didn’t inspire a lot of confidence, so we did a little research and turned up the Sterling Silver division of Cargill , Inc.  This company apparently works with producers and grades meats using a “camera vision” system.  According to the Sterling website, their meat is “highly marbled for rich flavor and aged to perfection” and “every cut is tender, juicy and flavorful every time.”  We didn’t really find that to be the case.  The burgers seemed very plain and lacking in flavor — almost as if Pacific Coast Grill thought the meat alone would be so flavorful that no salt or pepper or anything else was needed.  Even the Surf & Turf Burger pictured above, which comes with lobster & crab salad, jack cheese, avocado, bacon, and chile-lime mayo, tasted plain.

The fries also were surprisingly plain.  One member likened them to what you would expect if you ordered fries that were supposed to be low in calories.  The fries were thin but they were not crispy, and they tasted a bit funny like maybe they were fried in some kind of unusual oil.  We couldn’t quite put our fingers on it, but basically the fries were not flavorful.  A few bites and I was pretty much done with the fries.  After adding a healthy dose of salt though I was at least able to keep picking at them.

All of this came for the low low price of $19 (for a PCG burger, drink, and tip) plus $5 for parking and valet tip.

Is it worth it?  Certainly not if you are going there to enjoy a great burger.  But if you are looking for a leisurely lunch by the beach in a place with a nice atmosphere, Pacific Coast Grill fits the bill.

83 Degrees


The Mrs. and I went to 83 Degrees in Carlsbad for dinner tonight.  I would say the results were mixed. I liked it but thought there were several problems that adversely affected the grade, so I gave it a B+.  My wife, on the other hand, really liked the atmosphere and the juicy, chargrilled taste of the burger, so she gave it an A-.

On the plus side, the burger was juicy and did have a nice chargrilled taste.  Also, the fries are handcut (very uniformly) and cooked until they are nice and crispy.  83 Degrees also has a large selection of beer and other drinks.

On the negative side, the bun was quite dry, the burger needed more pickles, and the service was slow.

The atmosphere was the source of some contention.  The restaurant has a nice outdoor patio, but our reaction to it varied greatly.  My wife enjoyed it. For me, the yelling child, the ambulance siren, and the dog that splashed a little water on me kind of ruined it.  I also visited the inside of the restaurant and found the atmosphere there equally unappealing.  There was some kind of game on the TVs and people were drinking and shouting.  I have nothing against drinking and watching a game, but if I’m not there to watch the game, I don’t need people yelling during my dinner, especially when it’s only 6:30pm.

Overall, it wasn’t really what I was looking for in a $40 burger dinner.  It was good, but with Craft Burger just a few blocks away, 83 Degrees has some tough competition.  Judging by my wife’s reaction though, 83 Degrees may be a good choice if you are out on a date.

Pure Burger — Personal Review

Pure Burger (7-9-2015)

Yesterday I found myself in Carlsbad at 6pm.  I had heard good things about Pure Burger in Carlsbad but had never been there before.  As it turned out, I happened to be within 2 miles of Pure Burger, so naturally I had to go.

I can sum up Pure Burger in one sentence:  Very similar to Five Guys except the burgers aren’t as juicy, Pure Burger doesn’t have peanuts, and Pure Burger is more expensive.  This is just my personal review, but I would give it a B+/B.

They seem to take pride in their burgers at Pure Burger, describing the beef as “100% Grass-fed, free range beef that’s locally sourced and never frozen. All of our beef is ground fresh daily on premises, hand-formed and cooked to perfection.”  To me, grass fed beef typically seems more lean and less juicy than other forms of beef, and I think that proved to be the case at Pure Burger.  The burger was good, but it could have been more juicy and flavorful.

The fries were good too.  I had the seasoned fries which were reminiscent of the cajun fries at Five Guys, except the seasoned fries at Pure Burger are thinner and less greasy than Five Guys fries.

Bottom line:  Decent burger.  Worth trying.  Once you’ve tried it you can cross it off your list and go to Five Guys instead in the future.

Poseidon on the Beach

Poseidon Pojo Burger (6-29-2015) Poseidon - View (6-29-2015)

Our second stop on the Summer Beach Tour took us to Poseidon on the Beach in Del Mar.  The “on the Beach” part of the name is very descriptive of the restaurant.  As you can see from the picture on the right above, if you get a seat on the patio you literally are right on the beach — so much so that seagulls periodically land on the ledge looking for food.

The view really is the highlight at Poseidon.  All the ratings hovered around (and averaged to) a B.  Not that there is anything wrong with that.  There were several comments to the effect that the burger is fine and the view is great and we would return because we like the view and the burger is acceptable.

In general, there was a feeling that the burgers were somewhat dry and not juicy enough.  There is only one burger on the menu — the “Pojo Burger”, which consists of a half pound of “natural” angus beef served on a brioche bun and topped with sautéed mushrooms, onions, chopped bacon, melted jack, cheddar cheese, and pickles, with a choice of fries, cole slaw, or a house salad.  They do also have Kobe beef sliders on the menu.  I ordered the Pojo Burger my usual way — with pickles, mustard, and ketchup only — and it was immediately apparent to me that the burger was dry.  You might think that all the toppings would hide that, but others who ordered the burger “fully loaded” felt the same way.  Also, one of our members had a little incident with the mushrooms.  Apparently the toppings do not easily stay within the bun, and some of the mushrooms jumped out and decided to take a ride on his dress shirt.  When it came to the fries, I thought they were a bit too thick and thus a bit too potato-ey / plain.  Others generally liked them more though, and I acknowledge they were cooked well and had a nice amount of seasoning salt on them.

We arrived at Poseidon around 11:45am and there was ample seating at that time.  As the noon hour rolled around though the restaurant started to get crowded — especially on the patio.  We also observed that the clientele — or at least those arriving early — appeared to be on the older side.  There was nearby parking available when we arrived, though we opted for the onsite valet parking.  That area gets crowded in the afternoon, and at some point the $4 valet or the paid parking across the street may be the only options.

Bottom line:  The view was great and inspired a leisurely lunch and engaging conversation.  Poseidon may not be the best burger in town, but if you want a great view with a decent burger, Poseidon should be on your short list.

Craft Burger — Personal Review

Craft Burger And Fries (6-23-2015)

Last night I found myself in Carlsbad as I picked up my car from its annual routine service.  What do you do if you are a stranger in Carlsbad around 7pm?  I suggest you pay a visit to Craft Burger.

Craft Burger is in the Village Faire shopping center at the corner of Carlsbad Village Drive and Carlsbad Boulevard.  It’s not easy to spot — it’s on the east side of the shopping center facing Washington Street.  You should know right at the start that parking is likely to be dicey.  There are lots of parking spaces in that shopping center, but they always seem to be full.  There is a lot of street parking in the area too — typically also full.  Good luck with parking.  Enough said on that topic.

When you walk into Craft Burger there is a cash register immediately on your right.  You order there and get a number, then you sit down and your food is delivered to you.  They fancy themselves as a healthy food option, and are only too happy to tell you about the fare.  I ordered “the house craft” burger, but asked about the “craft sauce” first.  Honestly, I was expecting a quick answer along the lines of this.  Instead, I got a pretty lengthy description that I was not prepared for, and as a result I can’t really tell you what is in the “craft sauce”.  I remember that the description ended with something like this though:  “so in summary, it’s kind of like Thousand Island dressing — but not — it’s more flavorful and a lot more nuanced”.  For the record, I am not a fan of Thousand Island dressing and I am pleased to say that, other than a slight resemblance in color, the “craft sauce” did not remind me of Thousand Island dressing.  Certainly it was not as thick, and I thought it was more flavorful.

Craft Burger Virgil's Zero Real Cola (6-23-2015)

So the reference to Thousand Island dressing didn’t have my hopes up very high, and the fact that they don’t have Coke Zero or Diet Coke also kept my expectations low.  The closest thing they had to Coke Zero was this $3.50 bottle of “Virgil’s Zero Real Cola”.  I have to say though, Virgil makes an okay bottle of diet cola.  I would prefer a Coke Zero over Virgil’s version, but Virgil’s wasn’t bad.

Then my burger arrived.  I immediately noticed that it looked quite nice and that the patty was pretty thick.  One bite and I knew I had a winner in my hands.  Juicy.  Flavorful.  I’m thinking “at least an A-“.  The fries were quite good as well.  They are thin fries, cooked right, with a generous amount of seasoning salt on them.  Maybe even a tad too much seasoning salt, but good.

Craft Burger Strawberry Frozen Custard (6-23-2015)

Craft Burger also apparently is known for their “frozen custard”.  I can’t say that I sit awake at night thinking that what I am really missing in my life is frozen custard, but apparently it’s a hallmark of this place so I thought I should try it.  It might not look like it, but that’s a strawberry frozen custard pictured above — the only flavor they had last night.  I thought it was good.  It was light and airy, flavorful, maybe a bit eggy.

Bottom line, Craft Burger serves a juicy and flavorful burger, with good fries, a different kind of soda, and a different kind of dessert.  I really liked it.  We’ll have to see if we can get the full San Diego Burger Club out there to rate it.

The Grill & Bar at Lodge Torrey Pines

The Grill and Bar at Lodge Torrey Pines - Drugstore Style Burger Torrey Pines Golf Course

San Diego Burger Club went to “The Grill & Bar at Lodge Torrey Pines” for lunch today.  That’s a weird name for a restaurant but they make up for it by serving a very good burger.  The “Drugstore Style Hamburger” at “The Grill & Bar at Lodge Torrey Pines” gets an A- and makes it into our top 10 — knocking newcomer Boomerangs off the list.

Today’s visit was the start of our “Summer Beach Tour” — a trip up the coast to have burgers by the beach and enjoy the views and the summer weather in San Diego.  As you can see from the picture on the right above, the view from the Grill at Torrey Pines can be spectacular.  Unfortunately for us, the Grill was very crowded today and we had to sit inside.  Nevertheless, that did not detract at all from our enjoyment of the fine fare served by the Grill today.

The Grill only serves one hamburger — a “Drugstore Style Hamburger” consisting of a burger with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle and mayonnaise on a sesame seed bun.  You can add cheese if you like.  I have tried adding and subtracting from the burger several times, and have concluded that it’s best if you just leave it alone.  They have the recipe down right.  The fries were very good as well — not too thick and cooked perfectly.  They were a little undersalted for my taste, but that was easily fixed at the table.

Everyone really enjoyed their meal and felt an A- rating was very justified.  Welcome to the top 10 “The Grill & Bar at Lodge Torrey Pines”.

Green Flash Gastro Truck

Green Flash Gastro Truck (5-29-2015)

San Diego Burger Club went to Green Flash Gastro Truck on Friday, May 29.  We are big fans of the Stuffed food truck, so when the people at Stuffed told us that they also operate the Green Flash Gastro Truck and that it has the “fancy” version of their burger, we knew we had to try it.  Alas, the Green Flash Gastro Truck did not measure up to its poor cousin the yellow Stuffed truck.  Green Flash Gastro Truck gets a B.

The Green Flash Gastro Truck is open the same hours as the Green Flash tasting room — that means they are closed on Monday, they open at 3pm Tuesday – Thursday, and they open at 12pm Friday – Sunday.  That limits the opportunities to go there for lunch during most people’s work hours, and also reinforces the fact that the experience at Green Flash is mostly about tasting the beer.  The burgers are clearly secondary (or tertiary, or beyond).  This also is reinforced by the fact that — unlike Stuffed — the Green Flash Gastro Truck only has one burger on the menu.  In addition, if you like cola or Sprite / 7up with your burger, you are out of luck.  The truck does not serve drinks.  If you want something to drink, you either need to get a beer inside the tasting room, or else there is a vending machine that has water, root beer, orange soda, and a few other drinks — but not much that resembles a soda fountain at a typical burger joint.

So how did we like the burgers?  Our reviews ranged from B+ to C+, with the average coming out to a B.  A couple of us felt that the “onion jam” on the burgers had kind of a funky taste to it that really was not to our liking.  The highest rating came from a member whose burger did not have much onion jam.  So, we suggest you get the burger without onion jam.  The fries, on the other hand, were quite good.  They were cooked well and had a peppery seasoning that was reminiscent of the seasoning on the tater tots at Stuffed.

A couple notes about the ambience — the seating for the truck is at outdoor picnic tables in a beer garden.  This means lunch there is iffy on a rainy day (they told us that “sometimes” they put out a tent).  Now, we are talking about San Diego, so rainy days occur, like, never — but we actually had planned to go to Green Flash two weeks ago and it did happen to be raining that day, so we had to alter our plans.  You also have to show your id and enter through the tasting room to get to the food truck.  After they check your id they put a “starburst” stamp on your wrist, which I assume means you are old enough to drink.  If you are not a fan of having ink on your body, I think you could decline the stamp, as people of all ages are permitted to tour the brewery.

As we left Green Flash, we took a left onto Sequence Drive and lo and behold there was the Stuffed truck — as if to emphasize that we should have eaten there instead.

Bottom line:  If you want to taste the beers at Green Flash around lunchtime or dinnertime, the burger at the Gastro Truck is fine (if you order it without onion jam) and the fries are quite good.  If you are just looking for a burger though, there are better options in the area including their relative the yellow Stuffed truck.

Boomerangs Gourmet Burger Restaurant

Boomerangs Club Burger (5-15-2015)
Club Burger
Boomerangs Burger (5-15-2015)
Create Your Own Burger

San Diego Burger Club went to Boomerangs today.  We had been there once before but we did not rate it last time, so today was Boomerangs’ day to be rated.  I have to say that I did not have high expectations when I approached the restaurant from the outside and first entered.  I guess that’s why they say not to judge a book by its cover though, because Boomerangs earned a B++ today and breaks into our top 10.

Boomerangs has a large menu with several burgers that are made with pre-set ingredients, and then a “create your own” burger option with a wide variety of ingredients to choose from.  The “create your own” burger can be made from angus beef, buffalo, turkey, lamb, portabello, veggies, and probably other things as well.  For the meat-based burgers, most of the add-on ingredients that you select will be mixed into the meat before cooking.  The burgers can be ordered in a variety of sizes as well.  We ordered half pound burgers and I have to say they seemed pretty big and thick for half pound burgers.  Everyone enjoyed their burger and, based on the burgers alone, there were more A- ratings than B+.  However, this changed when we factored in the side orders.  One of our members went out on a limb (on the recommendation of the waiter) and ordered the Chili Peppered Onion Rings as a side.  Mistake!  I tried one and while it did have a hot kick / aftertaste to it, it tasted a lot like cardboard.  Seriously — like cardboard.  Fortunately for Boomerangs, they offer a wide variety of sides including (but not limited to …) Tater Tots, Steak Fries, Garlic Fries, House Mashed Potatoes, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Twice Baked Mashed Potatoes, Potato Salad, Pasta Salad, Tropical Coleslaw Salad, Corn with Cotija, Chili-Buttered Corn on the Cob, Chili Peppered Onion Rings, Onion Rings, Seasoned Rice, Mac and Cheese, Spicy Mac and Cheese, etc.  We all agreed that, unlike the onion rings, the tater tots were perfectly acceptable — not as good as the tater tots at the Stuffed food truck, but good.

So Boomerangs received some B+s and an A-, which we will call a B++.  Boomerangs serves some good burgers and tater tots, and reminds us why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

Callahan’s Pub & Brewery

Callahans (4-29-2015)


San Diego Burger Club went to Callahan’s today.  Despite the variety of burgers on the menu, the fact that tater tots are an option, and the presence of a combination Ms. Pac-Man / Galaga machine at the restaurant, Callahan’s earned a B-.

It’s not that Callahan’s is particularly bad, it’s just that everything they served could be better.  The buns were overly doughy / slightly undercooked — not to the extent of being inedible, but enough that all of us noticed it.  The burgers were just a bit off.  Mine tasted sort of smoky.  They were cooked to the temperature each of us ordered, but the flavor just wasn’t that great.  Then there were the tater tots — a bit undercooked and not well seasoned (if they were seasoned at all).  A couple of us had recently been to the Stuffed food truck and the comparison was hard to escape — the bun, burger, and tots at Stuffed are far superior.

That is really all that needs to be said.  Callahan’s will do in a pinch, but you can get a much better burger in the vicinity, at the same cost or less, at either Draft Republic or Stuffed.

Qualcomm Cafe S — Personal Review

Cafe S Burger (4-23-2015)


Periodically I am asked for my opinion of the burger at Qualcomm’s Cafe S.  Normally my response is something along the lines of “it will do in a pinch, but the wait to get one can be kind of long and if I have time to wait I would go elsewhere for a burger”.  It had been some time since I had eaten a Cafe S burger though, and with the choices at Cafe S today not really being to my liking, I decided to give the burger another shot.

I am sorry to report that the experience today reaffirmed my opinion.  The burger tasted like one of those pre-cooked burgers that you see sitting in a pan with water, that gets thrown on the grill to be warmed up at the last minute when someone places an order.  Just to be clear – – the burgers do not actually sit in a pan pre-cooked, they just taste that way.  You can see the cook pull a pre-formed, uncooked patty out of a drawer, throw it on the grill, and cook it right in front of you after you order.  But, for some reason it just comes out thin and bland.  The bun also is light and not very flavorful, and the fries suffer the same fate — a bit too thick and not crispy enough (and bland).

Personally I give the Cafe S burger a C or maybe a C-.  It’s not very expensive, but with this burger you get what you pay for.

Crazee Burger (North Park)

Crazee Burger Angus (4-13-2015)
Angus Burger
Crazee Burger Texas (4-13-2015)
Texas Burger
Crazee Burger Chubby Charlie (4-13-2015)
Chubby Charlie Burger

San Diego Burger Club went to Crazee Burger in North Park today.  We had been to the Old Town location once before, but we didn’t rate it back then and that location has since closed.  I have to say that I remembered the Old Town Crazee Burger more for the variety of burger meats than for the quality of the burgers, but the North Park Crazee Burger was on their game today, rating an A – – and landing in the top 10.

As usual I got a relatively plain burger — the 2/3 pound Angus burger — intending to judge the quality of the burger meat and the fries.  This was a good burger.  It was very juicy with a nice flavor.  It was perfectly medium though and I would have preferred to have it medium-well, but apparently that is my fault as one of our members points out that the menu states in bold that burgers are cooked medium unless one requests otherwise.  The Texas burger also was a hit, and the Chubby Charlie, which comes with Swiss cheese, sauteed mushrooms, bacon, pastrami, creamed horseradish, and a fried egg, also rated very highly.  In particular, it was noted that the plethora of ingredients on the Chubby Charlie were very well proportioned, so that each contributed noticeably to the whole without overpowering the burger taste.  The fries were really good as well.  They are thin fries and they were cooked to perfection — perfectly crispy.  I asked for regular fries without anything special on them and I thought they were a little undersalted.  There was no salt on the table either, though apparently it was available in the area where they have (plastic) knives and forks.  Our other members got the regular fries with seasoning salt, and one commented that they had a bit too much seasoning salt.

It’s also worth noting that the burger menu at Crazee Burger is rife with choices.  Not only are there many choices for regular beef hamburgers, but they also have hamburgers made from a combination of beef and lamb, turkey, buffalo, portabello mushroom, salmon, crab, ostrich, kangaroo, antelope, veggie burger, alligator, venison, pork, etc.  If you want a pork burger with nutella, bacon, and carmelized plantains, they have it.  There were so many choices that we actually spent quite a bit of time studying the menu trying to decide what to get.  We must have chosen well because everyone enjoyed their burgers immensely.

So Crazee Burger gets an A – – and breaks into our top 10.  Given the large variety of burgers and the really good hamburgers and fries, this should be on every burger lover’s list as a place to visit in San Diego.

Chief’s Burgers & Brew (Solana Beach)

Chiefs Burger

San Diego Burger Club went to Chief’s today.  It was a beautiful day in Solana Beach, but it was only an okay day for Chief’s, which earned a rating of just a tad over a B.

Chief’s got off to an interesting start when they delivered our burgers and even our waitress could not figure out which burger had blue cheese on it.  She then brought out someone else who appeared to be the cook, and the cook said the blue cheese was under the cheddar cheese — apparently rendering the Bleu Cheese Burger indistinguishable from the Cheeseburger.  Eventually they figured it out though and everyone got what they ordered.  The lunch sort of ended in a similar fashion.  We wanted to split the check evenly among the six attendees, and then have four credit cards pay 1/6 each, and one credit card pay for two people (so 2/6, or 1/3, on one of the cards).  I just wanted to buy lunch for one of our long-time Burger Club members who has decided to move to San Jose to try the burgers up there for a while.  It quickly became clear that was not going to work though, so we had to split the bill five ways instead.  We’re going to miss you Liz!  We’ll need to visit you in San Jose and try the burger joints there …

I have heard many people rave about Chief’s, and they have some reviews on their website to back up their reputation.  They also have nine burgers on the menu, and you can substitute a turkey or veggie patty for the beef on any of their burgers, so there is a burger on the menu for pretty much everyone.  Personally I have always enjoyed their burgers and fries, though I generally put them in the “good but not great” category.  With a B rating, that is about where Chief’s ended up today, though I note there were a few votes of B-, some Bs, and one A, so opinions varied.

Chief’s serves their burgers in foil wrap, which has always reminded me of a fast food burger.  A number of the (indoor) tables there also are picnic tables, which adds to that ambience.  I think the atmosphere at Chief’s is nicer than the typical fast food restaurant though.  A waiter or waitress takes your order, and there are clever signs and shirts on the walls with sayings like Unattended Children Will Be Given Espresso And A Free Puppy, or In Dog Beers I’ve Only Had One.  They also have a multicade arcade machine in the back corner, so you can play those favorite arcade games from the 80’s and 90’s.  And, of course, they have a number of TVs so you can watch … the Broncos.  Yes, I’m not sure why a bar for Broncos fans is called Chief’s, but it is.

In a nutshell, Chief’s basically earned a “good but not great” rating today.  Kind of like Slater’s 50/50, some people really like it, and some people think it’s okay.  I wouldn’t hesitate to eat there if I were in the neighborhood, but I probably wouldn’t make a special trip there unless I was with a Broncos fan.

Draft Republic

Draft Republic Hotter Than Hell Burger (3-2-2015)

“Hotter Than Hell Burger”
Draft Republic Burger (3-2-2015)

“Draft Republic Burger”

San Diego Burger Club went to Draft Republic for lunch today.  This was a good burger outing, with Draft Republic earning an A – – and taking the #4 spot on our top ten list.

There were a number of proclamations of “mmmm” and “this is good” during lunch — a too-rare occurrence that signifies we have arrived at a top burger spot.  Two of us got the signature “Draft Republic Burger”.  Both of us liked the burger, though I — being a fan of pretzel buns — asked to substitute the pretzel bun for the default “potato roll” and that turns out to be a good choice.  The “potato roll” was not sturdy enough to hold such a juicy burger, whereas the pretzel bun held up just fine.  Lesson learned:  order the delicious pretzel bun in place of the “potato roll”.  Another member got “Draft Republic’s Hotter Than Hell Burger (signed waiver required)”, which consists of “grass-fed beef, italian sausage, pickled jalapeno, ghost pepper jack cheese, habanero jam, brioche bun”.  That burger also was good, though it apparently was neither hotter than hell nor did they actually present the member with a waiver.  We obtained a copy of the waiver on a prior visit and it is somewhat comical.  There is a picture of it below for your comic enjoyment.  Another member ordered the Brie Burger and that too was a success.

Draft Republic Hotter Than Hell Burger Waiver And Release
“Draft Republic Hotter Than Hell Burger Waiver And Release”

By default the burgers come with parmesan herb fries.  Those who ate them enjoyed the parmesan herb fries.  Personally I am more of a “potato and salt (or seasoning salt) only” kind of person, so I asked for my fries without the parmesan and herbs, and they happily obliged.  I thought the fries were good, though they were inconsistently seasoned and some were hot while some tasted like they had been sitting for a while.  After I added some of the seasoning salt at the table though, I decided the fries were “good though not great”.

Draft Republic also looks very promising as a place to have a burger and beer after work, and play some foosball and table shuffleboard.  They have a large selection of beers and a full bar, and they have games, televisions, “large-garage-door-style windows” that can be opened when the weather is nice, a bunch of delicious-sounding appetizers (e.g., House-Made Crispy Maple Bourbon Bacon Sticks with apple chips, Moroccan Spiced Lamb Corndogs, and Crispy Brussels Sprouts with goat cheese and apple), as well as some desserts that also sound delicious (House-Made Espresso Buttercream Doughnut with espresso ice cream, chocolate tart, Cinnamon Apple Crumble with dulce de leche ice cream and butterscotch, and “milk + cookies”).

As a burger destination alone, Draft Republic earns an A – – and breaks into our top ten list at #4.  As an added bonus, Draft Republic also appears to be a good place to unwind after work.  Recommended!

Fuddruckers (Mira Mesa)

Fuddruckers 3 Pound Burger (2-17-2015)

San Diego Burger Club went to Fuddruckers on Mira Mesa today.  We wanted to take advantage of their Fat Tuesday “3-Pound Burger Challenge”, which promised 2 free meals, a t-shirt, and “undeniable respect from friends, family and colleagues” if you could finish the burger and a pound of fries in an hour.  Alas, the burgers got the best of us.  Along the way, Fuddruckers earned a C+ rating.

I would be remiss if I did not point out that there will always be a soft spot in my heart for Fuddruckers.  My son and I used to visit Fuddruckers frequently — always getting a 2/3 pound burger medium-well, playing Galaga, and sitting in the “King Booth”.  Ah, those were the days …

Fuddruckers King Booth (2-17-2015)

I have to confess, the “fries” at Fuddruckers have always been a disappointment.  They are really more like potato wedges.  They have nice seasonings on them, but they are too thick and are not crispy enough.  With whom exactly is this kind of potato supposed to be popular?  Please — Fuddruckers — bring in some thin fries, or waffle fries, or curly fries, or tater tots!  We found ourselves pining for some Smashburger fries instead of Fuddruckers’ faux fries.

As for the burgers, most people found them to be nothing special.  One member thought there was not enough burger for their bun.  Those of us who tried the three pound burgers found the buns to be too doughy.  Also the three pound burger was undercooked for my taste.  They do not ask how you want the three pound burger cooked — presumably because they want to make sure it is cooked through.  I would say mine was medium in the middle, which is fine, but generally I prefer medium-well.  The three pound burgers were really thick, too.  Not so thick that you couldn’t get your mouth around it, but thick enough to totally fill your mouth when you got a bite.  That made them challenging to eat.

Two of us tried the three pound burger challenge, and both of us finished about half of our burgers and maybe, being generous, we could say half the fries.  I actually found myself about halfway done with a little more than 30 minutes remaining.  However, having tried the Nicky Rottens Ultimate Burga Challenge, I knew I was standing on the edge of a precipice at that point — either you go all-in and force the rest down and feel terrible for the rest of the day, or you call it quits and have some semblance of being able to function in the afternoon.  Standing on that precipice, uncertain whether my stomach would hold the rest, I opted for the safer but much less glorious path, as did the other member who tried the challenge.  The manager told us that the last time they held a three pound burger challenge, 27 people tried the challenge and only 2 finished the burger and fries in an hour.

Most votes were for a C+ so that’s what Fuddruckers gets today.  I was unable to defend my sentimental favorite, as the giant burger wasn’t that great, the bun was doughy, and the fries were Fuddruckers’ usual not-so-good fries.  At least we got to sit in the King Booth though!  I’ll be back due to fond memories and due to my personal affinity for their 2/3 pound burger.  I’m not certain I can get my Burger Club friends to join me there though …



Legacy Brewing Company Tap & Kitchen (Miramar)

Legacy Brewing Classic Burger     Legacy Brewing Legacy Burger

San Diego Burger Club went to Legacy Brewing Company Tap & Kitchen on Miramar today.  Legacy earned a B for “good enough” burgers and fries, neither of which really stood out.

Legacy’s Miramar location is a bit hard to find.  It’s in the back of a shopping center at 7060 Miramar Road.  If you weren’t specifically looking for it, you would be unlikely to find it.  That goes for their website too!  At this time, if you go to, you will be hard pressed to find information about any location other than the one on Airport Road in Oceanside.  Perhaps that helps explain the small number of patrons there today.

Legacy has four burgers on the menu — a “Classic Burger” (pictured on the left above), a “Legacy Burger” (pictured on the right above — pretzel bun, fried egg, and “Hellfire bacon jam”), a “Spicy Burger” (serrano, chili aioli, avocado, and provolone), and they recently added a lamb burger.  We sampled all four burgers and they all rated a B.  The burgers were fine — they just weren’t super juicy or flavorful.  Also, in my case the bun on my Classic Burger was quite a bit bigger than the burger, giving rise to a too-high bun-to-burger ratio (the burger was decent sized though so I won’t charge them with a “where’s the beef?” violation …).  In the case of the Spicy Burger, it was not actually that spicy.  The Legacy Burgers were very sloppy (the egg dripped everywhere and created a mess) and came with too much bacon jam.  The lamb burger seemed to be fine — it just didn’t stand out.  Also there is the matter of the fries — they were a bit … limp.  They tasted okay, but they would have been better if they were crispier.

If you are looking for some fun outside the bun, Legacy has some enticing non-burger offerings.  They seem to have won many awards for their house-brewed beers, and their menu has a number of alluring appetizers — “poutine” (duck confit, cheese curds, fries, and gravy), “bacon dates” (with blue cheese, almond, and truffle honey), duck eggrolls, crispy brussel sprouts, chicken wings, spicy cauliflower (with queso fresco, green onion, and toasted bread crumbs), fish and pork tacos, “pork bun” (pork belly, chili aoili, and pickled vegetables), and soft pretzels (with “blonde beer cheese” and “that guava mustard”).

Bottom line:  The burgers are okay but if you go a few blocks down the street and cross the 805 you can get a better burger for less at Five Guys (or there is Eureka in the same area).  If you are going there for the award-winning beer though and also want to get a meal, the burger at Legacy makes a perfectly acceptable meal.

Hash House A Go Go

Hash House A Go Go Burger

San Diego Burger Club went to Hash House A Go Go for lunch today.  Oh my god am I stuffed (in a good way)!  Hash House A Go Go rated a solid and nearly unanimous B+, and lands in our top 10 list.

The portions at Hash House A Go Go are enormous.  They have six different burgers on the menu and they are all “famous one pound stuffed burgers”.  These burgers really are at least a pound.  Heads were turning in the restaurant as the waitress brought us our meals, and a woman at the table next to us tapped me and asked if I was really going to eat the entire burger (only 1/3 of us did).  I was actually surprised that people in the restaurant found the burgers so astounding though .  Although the burgers are in fact very large, every dish at Hash House A Go Go is gigantic — that’s their modus operandi.

On to the details.  First the good:  The burger is quite tasty.  It’s “large and in charge”, and juicy.  The toppings come in good combinations and are fresh and flavorful.  The fries — though of the “large steak fry” variety — were cooked quite well and also were very good.  Everyone was quite satisfied by the end of the meal.  Also there are lots of other delicious dishes on the menu, so if you visit Hash House A Go Go with someone who is not inclined to eat a burger, shame on you for having a non-burger-loving friend, but at least they will have something good to eat while you tackle your one pounder.

Hash House A Go Go Chicken And Waffles
Delicious Chicken and Waffles at Hash House A Go Go

Now the nit-picks:  There are quite a few nit-picks on Hash House A Go Go that keep it out of the A range of ratings.  First, the bun is ridiculously small compared to the burger.  Eating the burger by picking it up is a serious challenge with such a small bun and such big patties and generous toppings.  Second, the burger comes with a large stick of rosemary stuck in the middle to hold it together and make it look fancy (or something …).  We commented that the stick was useful in holding the burger together, but when you pull out the stick of rosemary you may end up with a pile of rosemary leaves hidden in the middle of your burger.  I did (end up with excessive rosemary in the middle of my burger), and that one bite was not so good.  Third, all the burgers came out well done — we were not asked how we wanted them cooked.  At least one of our members was commenting that he would have liked to have seen some pink in the middle of the burger.  Fourth, if you took the burger out of the bun and just ate it plain with a knife and fork, it seemed to be lacking a bit of salt and pepper.  It tasted great inside the bun, but the whole thing was so large that most of us ended up taking part of the patty out of the bun at some point, and in those bites the dearth of spices became evident.  Fifth, the line of people waiting to get into Hash House A Go Go is as long as their meals are large.  Often the wait is 45 minutes to an hour, and there was a huge line of people at the restaurant both when we arrived at 11:40am and when we left at 1:10pm.  With our size party we were able to make reservations and thankfully did not have to wait an hour, but at least for breakfast they do not take reservations and an hour is a long time to wait there.  Even with reservations, the rules were kind of strict.  They hold the reservation for 10 minutes, and everyone is supposed to be there before you can be seated.  That means everyone has to arrive in a 10 minute window (or earlier) in order to keep your reservation!  Last, parking in that area can be challenging.

Even with all those knocks, everyone was very satisfied with their burgers and Hash House A Go Go easily earned a B+ and a spot in the top 10.  Recommended!

Slater’s 50/50 (Point Loma)

Slaters 50-50 Burger (1-6-2015)

San Diego Burger Club went to Slater’s 50/50 in Point Loma for lunch today.  We have been there several times but somehow we had not gone as a group since we started rating burger restaurants, so today’s was Slater’s day.  Or, maybe you would say it was not Slater’s day since they rated a B+/B which lands them just outside the top 10.

In case you don’t know, the 50/50 in the name is for their “50/50 patty”, which is made of 50% ground bacon and 50% ground beef.  I should note at the start that I do not eat bacon, so the main attraction at Slater’s — the 50/50 patty — is not my thing.  That said, everyone else on the trip did get the 50/50 patty and my rating was consistent with the other ratings.

Basically a couple of people really liked their burgers while several of us felt there was not really anything special about them and a couple of them were on the dry side.  One of us (at the high end of the rating scale) ordered their burger with lettuce in place of a bun and really enjoyed the burger but felt the lettuce was not adequate to hold a burger with “wet” toppings such as onions.  Slater’s offers a variety of sides such as fries, sweet potato fries, fried dill pickle chips, beer battered jalapenos, and beer battered onion rings.  We got the fries and thought they were well seasoned.  However, the fries were moderately thick and they were not all cooked well — some were very good but some were a bit undercooked.

Slater’s also has some nice dessert offerings, including a “bacon brownie”, a “bacon blondie”, bread pudding, and a “cococarma” (consisting of a warm shortbread cookie, coconut, caramel, chocolate, and ice cream).  They also have a good collection of milkshakes including (yes, you guessed it …) a Maple Bacon shake, a Mint Chocolate Guinness shake, a Bananas Foster shake, a Graceland shake (chocolate, banana, and peanut butter), and a S’more shake (chocolate, toasted marshmallow syrup, and graham cracker).  We got a S’more shake and it was very delicious.  Highly recommended.

A word about the atmosphere at Slater’s:  The Point Loma location is tucked away in a shopping center near the airport, making it a bit hard to find if you have never been there before.  Also, airplanes take off in the direction of Slater’s and frequently fly right over the restaurant at relatively low altitudes — not scarily low, but low enough to be very loud and interrupt your conversation.  On the plus side though, Slater’s has this excellent man/woman-sized statue of a hamburger in the middle of the restaurant.  You know you are in the right place when you see this kind of attention to detail.  :)

Slaters Burger Statue (1-6-2015)

I have been to Slater’s many times and my overall observation is that it is polarizing.  As with the ratings today, some people really like it and some people think it is fine but nothing special.  I think Slater’s should be on any burger-lover’s list of places to visit in San Diego, in case you prove to be in the category of people who love it.  In the worst case scenario, if you find their burger to be average you can top it off with an excellent dessert or milkshake.

Nicky Rottens Bar & Burger Joint (Coronado)

Nicky Rottens Coronado Burger Challenge
Nicky Rottens “Da Ultimate Burga”

Our last meeting of the year was held at the Nicky Rottens location in Coronado.  Nicky Rottens was at the top of our list in 2014 with the Gaslamp location earning an A-/A rating.  Nicky Rottens in Coronado managed to top that with a solid A rating.

Needless to say everyone really enjoyed their burgers, and we appreciate the option to substitute tater tots, sweet potato fries, onion rings, etc. for regular fries (for an additional fee).  The Coronado location also had the advantage of being less crowded than the Gaslamp location with free (but not plentiful) street parking available.

To add to our holiday entertainment, I succumbed to the temptation to take “Da Ultimate Burga Challenge” with no preparation whatsoever.  Let me tell you — that is one humongous burger.  If you want to finish your plate in an hour and get your name on the wall, it’s probably going to take some preparation.  The meal consists of “2 lbs. of Brandt beef, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion & Rotten Sauce on a custom super-sized bun with fries on the side”.  I downed half the burger pretty quickly, and then ate the other half without the bun and toppings.  At that point, I was still staring at what looked like four large potatoes worth of fries, a lot of bun, and tons of toppings.  Alas, I knew I was defeated.  I actually had lots of time left to finish all of it, but I could tell it was never going to fit in my untrained stomach.  So, I enjoyed the delicious fries for a bit and then called it a day.  With some preparation I think I could finish that thing one day, but this visit was not my day.

So the Coronado location of Nicky Rottens is our new winner.  It’s a burger you won’t want to miss.  If you try “Da Ultimate Burga Challenge” though, make sure you are prepared to down a ton of food!

Corvette Diner

Corvette Diner


San Diego Burger Club went to Corvette Diner today.  The Corvette Diner website describes the diner as follows:  “Rock n’ Roll, burgers and shakes rule at the Corvette Diner! A ’50s throw-back, with sassy waitresses in poodle skirts and bouffant hair-dos. It’s more than just a place to eat, it’s a destination.”  We found this description to be fairly accurate, especially where it concerns our sassy (and fun) waitress.

We enjoyed the vibe in this place, with the throw-back decorations, old-fashioned booths, actual corvette in the dining room, sassy waitresses in 50’s getups, music from Saturday Night Fever and Animal House and The Jeffersons, American-flag-toothpick in your burger, and adjoining game room complete with ski-ball and (yes!) a combination Ms. Pac-Man / Galaga machine.

The food was good, but not great.  Everyone thought their burger rated a B.  I tried the Pastrami Burger and the toppings were all wrong and detracted from the burger taste, and the pastrami itself was too thick and too wide, so that when I bit into the burger I could not bite through the pastrami and ended up with a big chunk of pastrami pulling out of the burger with each bite.  Eventually I just took the pastrami and slaw off the burger which did improve it, though not much beyond a B.  We also tried a variety of their potatoes in the forms of fries, waffle fries, and tater tots.  The consensus was that the tots were the best of the bunch and I have to say they were quite good — cooked well, served warm, and very tasty after adding some salt.

The drinks were good too.  They have a variety of custom drinks and milkshakes.  We tried their chocolate shake which was good and apparently has 3 scoops of ice cream in it, making it very thick (too thick to drink through a straw).  We also asked them to customize some diet cokes and add vanilla flavoring to them.  They were happy to do so and the result was quite tasty, though they were a bit heavy handed on the vanilla flavoring.

With a generous holiday tip, all of this set us back about $22 each.  I would say that’s a bit pricey considering the “good but not great” quality of the burgers.  It was a fun experience though — definitely worth visiting if you are looking for a different burger experience.

One of our members commented that they had been to Corvette Diner several times and typically found it to be very crowded and difficult to get a table.  That was not the case today.  There was plenty of seating throughout the lunch hour while we were there.  Perhaps we got lucky, or perhaps they are more crowded on the weekends than on weekdays.  Whatever the case, we found the atmosphere fun and relaxed until just before we left — when a child at the table behind us started wailing about something.

We enjoyed the experience at Corvette Diner.  There is a lot to be said for the place, though unfortunately where it counts the most for us (i.e., in the burger department) their hamburgers were “good enough”, but not great.

Hanna’s Gourmet (Turkey Burger)

Hannas Gourmet Turkey Burger (11-21-2014)


Jim and I debated whether one could actually call the Thai Turkey Burger at Hanna’s Gourmet a “burger”.  On the one hand, this burger lacked a lot of traditional ingredients, including (without limitation) beef, lettuce,  tomato, pickles, and onions.  On the other hand, the menu promised a patty of ground turkey, topped with slaw, on a house baked bun sprinkled with sesame seeds.  And it was paired with sweet potato fries.   When it came to the table, it certainly LOOKED like a burger.

Maybe it could best be described as a Burger Imposter.

I, for one, was prepared to be underwhelmed.  First of all, Hanna’s does not look like a burger joint.  It’s decidedly feminine.  All pastel walls and chandeliers – they had a selection of pastries in a glass case, for crissake.  Plus, when it came out of the kitchen the Burger Imposter was kind of …dainty looking.

Don’t worry, though.  Both of the Burger Club members in attendance let out satisfied “MMMMMMMMMs” after the first bite.  (And one of us was Jim!!)  Not convinced?  Well, the Burger Club member who couldn’t make lunch, and had to eat his Burger Imposter (reheated) for dinner later that night, emailed an uncharacteristically enthusiastic, “O.M.G.!”  The Imposter has flavor.  More precisely, it has flavors.  Lots and lots of flavors – and none of them that I recall were curry.  Totally unexpected in a Thai Turkey Burger.  Lest you underestimate how good this burger was, let me assure you that it was the kind of culinary medley that would put a dreamy look on Ruel’s face and cause him to look quizzically at the goodness in his hands (correct Burger Grip not required – the house baked bun held up spectacularly) and softly murmur things like, “Is that coriander….?”  The patty was beautifully seasoned, the slaw a perfectly crunchy counterpoint, and the bun springy rather than doughy.  The fries were crispy and their comparatively bland sweetness balanced out the spiciness of the Imposter nicely.  The ratings were unanimous.  We gave it an A.  (You heard me.)  And then, just as we were about to leave, we both admitted that we had been eyeing the Goat Cheese and Cardamom Crème Brulee in the girly pastry case.  Next time we are totally getting that.

Islands Fine Burgers & Drinks (UTC / Nobel Dr.)

Islands Burger (11-10-2014)


San Diego Burger Club went to Islands Burger today.  Islands Burger was running a lunch special for the “Big Wave” burger and literally everyone ordered the “Big Wave”.  The result of so many big waves:  a C+.

The trip was somewhat reminiscent of the old Wendy’s “Where’s the beef?” commercial.  The buns were pretty big, and while the hamburger patty mostly extended to the ends of the bun, the patty was thin and not very juicy.  The cook was pretty heavy handed with the mustard too — perhaps in an effort to mask the lack of flavor in the burger.  The fries, on the other hand, were good.  They were reminiscent of In-N-Out fries, but a bit thicker and better cooked.  Also, kudos to Islands Burger for having “endless fries”, which we took advantage of.  :)

I have always enjoyed the atmosphere at Islands Burger, where they run continuous videos of big wave surfing and of people skiing down steep faces of mountains.  The price was decent as well, at around $12 each including tip.  But, a decent price can’t make a poor burger into a good burger.

Overall the burgers were pretty uninspiring, and there were quite a few ratings in the C range.  As a result, Islands Burger was lucky to pull off a C+ today.

Hodad’s (Downtown)

Hodads (10-27-2014)

San Diego Burger Club went to Hodad’s downtown today.  I have been to the Hodad’s in Ocean Beach before and it can be VERY crowded with a line out the door.  I’m not sure whether it was due to this being a weekday or just due to this particular location, but there was no line at the downtown Hodad’s today.  We got there a little after 11am but we left after 12pm and one could walk in and be seated immediately throughout that time.

We all made the mistake of ordering double burgers.  The waitress said the patties were 1/3 pound each, but these burgers were just humongous.  When the burger pictured above arrived, the word “zounds” actually escaped from the recipient’s mouth.  There was no chance of getting one’s mouth around such a fully loaded burger, and with the bun unable to hold it all, it ultimately devolved into a fork and knife affair.  While that is not actually a very burger-like experience, it was noted that the ingredients in the burger were good and the bacon was well cooked and generously portioned.  For my part, I actually did not finish my burger — which may be the only time I have not finished a burger that was put in front of me.

We noticed an interesting dichotomy with these burgers – they were super juicy in the sense that two of us sadly ended up with grease on our pants, but at the same time the burgers did not actually taste very juicy.  I’m not sure where all that grease was hiding, but apparently it much prefers to be in your lap than in your burger.  Basically, the general feeling was that the burgers were decent tasting, but not really anything special — good but not great.

For sides they have fries, onion rings, and frings.  The fries are steak fries and while most of them were cooked appropriately, some of them were a little underdone and overly “potato-ey”.  In my opinion there is only so much you can do with thick steak fries anyway, and Hodad’s would be better served by adding thin fries and tots to the menu (and as long as you’re at it, why not add waffle fries too :) ).

The meal cost about $16 each (with tip), plus a buck to feed the parking meter on the street.  That’s not super-cheap for a burger joint of this caliber, but it’s worth noting that you can (and probably should) save a few bucks by ordering the single burger rather than the double.

Two tips emerged from all this:  (1) a single patty burger is plenty — these are big burgers with lots of toppings and a double is just more than you need on most days; and (2) be careful what pants you wear, and how you eat, and make sure you have lots of napkins in your lap, because apparently you have about a 2/3 chance of getting grease in your lap.

Overall we all felt the meal was good but not great, and all votes were for a “B” so Hodad’s gets a B.

Donut Bar (10-27-2014)

Now, the downtown Hodad’s is only a few blocks from Donut Bar, so we also hit up Donut Bar.  For the most part the doughnuts were delicious, though the chocolate caramel apple fritter thing in the lower left of the picture was dry and overcooked in parts.  It turns out that is a vegan apple fritter, so maybe that had something to do with the dry taste as well.  Also, the Hodad’s burgers were so gigantic that — despite how delicious Donut Bar doughnuts are — it really was all too much.  There was some heartfelt groaning afterward due to … let’s call it being “overly full and satisfied”.  For the record the doughnuts did not affect the Hodad’s review — we rated Hodad’s before starting in on the doughnuts.

Rocky’s Crown Pub

RockysCrown Pub (10-13-2014)

San Diego Burger Club visited Rocky’s Crown Pub in Pacific Beach today.  Rocky’s claims to have the best burgers in San Diego and, while we didn’t quite agree with that assessment, we do think their burgers are good.

Rocky’s earned a B+ today for very juicy burgers and very good fries.  They missed just a bit on consistency though.  I cut my burger in half and half of it was definitely in the A- range, but the other half had too much spice in it.  The fries were similarly inconsistent.  The ones that were thoroughly cooked were really good, but some of the fries were undercooked.  We also thought the buns were a bit soft for burgers that were this juicy.  I for one made quite a mess and needed at least four large napkins to clean up afterward.  Parking also was a bit challenging, though after a few minutes of driving around we found a space that was not too far away.  Getting a table can be a challenge too.  We arrived around 11:50am and we got the last table — everyone else had to sit at the bar or at the narrow ledge around the wall.  I suggest you get there by 11:45am or earlier if you want decent seating.  Then came the check.  We were able to share a basket of fries among the three of us and two of us did not order sodas — so the entire bill was just $24 (plus tip).  That’s pretty hard to beat for a burger of that quality.  Speaking of money, Rocky’s only takes cash — no credit cards.  So make sure you have some cash before you go there.  Finally, Rocky’s has a very simple menu:  1/3 pound burgers and 1/2 pound burgers, with or without cheese, fries, and drinks — those are your only choices.

Everyone enjoyed their lunch at Rocky’s.  It’s hard to beat for the price, and regardless of the price those are some good burgers.  We’ll be back.

Carnitas’ Snack Shack

Carnitas Snack Shack Burger (9-12-2014)

San Diego Burger Club went to Carnitas’ Snack Shack today.  Zagat had recently rated it the best burger in San Diego, so we thought we would give it a try.  I have to say I did not have high expectations for this outing.  I had recently visited Carnitas with my wife, and another member had separately visited with his wife, and both of us had bad experiences (the burgers varied widely in size and in thoroughness of cooking, and they don’t have the usual assortment of condiments at Carnitas).  When we arrived today and saw the long line, my expectations were even lower.  Based on my prior visit, I couldn’t imagine the wait would be worth it.  However, Carnitas partially redeemed itself today.

As you might imagine, the menu at Carnitas is more about pork than beef.  They have exactly one beef burger on the menu, though they also have a pork burger and a veggie burger.  One member ordered the pork burger and declared it to be the best burger we have had in any of our outings.  Another member ordered the beef burger exactly the way it comes on the menu.  That member also really liked their burger, though I have to say that it was ordered medium and it was way undercooked.  I would say it was rare.  The member really liked it though.  Another member also ordered the beef burger the way it comes (but with the bacon jam on the side), and that member thought the burger was average.  Then there was me.  I like my burgers with just ketchup, mustard, and pickles.  Carnitas clearly is not the burger joint for me, because THEY DON’T HAVE KETCHUP, OR MUSTARD, OR PICKLES!!!  They do have bacon ketchup, but that doesn’t cut it for me.  So, knowing this from my last visit there, I actually brought some ketchup and mustard packets to the restaurant with me.  Still, I would say my burger was below average in taste.  Also, on my first visit I ordered my burger medium-well and it arrived medium-rare, so this was the second time in two visits that I have seen them far undercook a burger.  As a result of my first experience, I ordered my burger well done this time, and I would say they got it right.

We all ordered fries with our burgers and for me the fries were the highlight of the meal.  Those are some good fries.  Really good.  I am not sure what spice mix they put on the fries but whatever it is, it’s spot on for my taste buds.  The fries are thin and cooked just right and, well, you get the point — they’re good.

Despite the long line to order, lunch seemed to go by relatively quickly and we found ourselves with a bit of time on our hands when we were done.  We took advantage of this opportunity to try Carnitas’ doughnut of the month — Samoa.

Carnitas Snack Shack Samoas Doughnut (9-12-2014)

Sadly, the doughnut took a lo-o-o-o-ong time to arrive, and it wasn’t worth the wait.  The toppings were good and very Samoa-like, but the doughnut itself just tasted like dry bread — it didn’t have much flavor at all.  We did not take the doughnut into account in rating the restaurant.

Overall we gave Carnitas’ Snack Shack a B+.  If you are into the exact combination of elements that they put on the beef burger or pork burger, it may rate higher than a B+ for you.  Do be careful about how the burger is cooked though — the way the burger arrives at Carnitas sometimes has little correlation with how you order it.


Stacked Burger

Today was a good burger day!  San Diego Burger Club visited Stacked today and Stacked was on their game.  You know things are going to turn out well when our table resounds with “mmmm”, “this is excellent”, and “this burger is awesome”.

Stacked gets an A-/A.  I have been to Stacked several times and I generally like their burgers.  Today’s burger though was very close to everything I could ask for in a burger.  The pretzel bun was great; the pastrami was excellent; the burger was excellent — it was just all-around excellent.  Three out of four of us felt that way about our burgers, and the fourth also liked his burger but gave it a B+ with no negative comments — he just liked some other burgers better.  We know our way around burgers and you don’t often hear “this burger is awesome” at our table, so that says a lot.  There also was high praise for the sides — two of us opted for the home-made chips and two opted for the skinny fries.  Both were quite good, though I will say that I personally was not as exuberant about my chips as I was about the burger.  My chips were good, but to me they didn’t stand out the way the burger did.  Still, Stacked gets points for offering home-made chips and doing a good job with them.  Stacked also has some really good milkshakes, though we did not order milkshakes on this visit.  We arrived around 11:45am and there was ample seating, but be aware that Stacked can be very crowded at times, with long waits at dinner and on weekends.

Stacked also gets credit for letting you order (and pay) on an iPad right at your table.  You don’t have to wait for a waiter to order or to check out, and I have to admit I enjoy building my burger on an iPad.  It seems like what iPads must have been built for.  :)

Stacked Soda


There were some minor knocks on Stacked.  They have Cherry Coke and Vanilla Coke on the menu and they make them by adding cherry syrup or vanilla syrup to regular Coke (we also learned that you can add them to Coke Zero, even though that is not an option on the iPad — you have to ask your waiter).  While this is good in concept, it was not quite as good in execution.  The syrup seems to be too heavy and does not mix well with the soda.  As a result, the bottom of the glass is too “syrup-ey”, which you can see from the bottom of the glass of Cherry Coke pictured above.  Stacked also offers only a 1/3 pound burger.  You can add a second patty, but there is no option for a 1/2 pound burger.  I would also say that my bun was over-toasted today, though the burger (and even the taste of the bun itself) was so delicious that the over-toasting did not detract at all from the excellent taste of the burger as a whole.  Finally, the Stacked we visited is at Fashion Valley Mall, and parking at Fashion Valley Mall often is very difficult.

Overall our burger experience today was really excellent.  Stacked definitely earned an A-/A.  Recommended!

Seaside Burgers and Sliders — Personal Review


A quick personal review:  I have passed by  Seaside Burgers and Sliders (in Terminal 2 of the San Diego airport)  many times, and this weekend I finally decided to try it.  Now that I have tried it, I will be passing by it many times in the future without eating there.

Seaside gets a C.  I wish I had put the ketchup packet on top of the burger so you could see from the picture just how pathetically small this burger is.  I mean, the bun was barely bigger than what I would have expected from a slider.  I can’t imagine how small their sliders must be.  Maybe the size of a quarter?


Notice that I said the BUN was barely bigger than a slider.  That picture of half a bun is the part of the bun that did not have any burger under it.  That’s right – nearly half the bun had no burger under it.  Where’s the beef, Seaside?

The half of the small burger that I did have?  It was the most well done burger I have ever eaten – crunchy on the outside and thoroughly cooked on the inside.  It wasn’t terrible, but it was VERY well done.


Notice that false advertising sign by the cash register?  That burger came out WAY too fast to be cooked to order and also be well done, even at that tiny size.


Then there were the fries. The top layer of fries wasn’t too bad, especially after I salted them thoroughly. They were a bit potato-ey and not quite as freshly cooked and warm as I would have liked, but they weren’t that bad.  Look at the bottom layer of the fries though!  They are thoroughly and unedibly drenched in grease.

Finally, while I get that airport food is going to be overpriced, $12+ for this tiny burned hamburger and these partially edible fries is pretty much highway (or maybe runway?) robbery.  I’ll be passing by Seaside Burgers and Sliders in the future.  I suggest you do the same.