Thursday, February 7, 2013

Searching for a Grade A Burger

Everyday a new burger place seems to pop up.  For better or worse it is a quintessentially American comfort food.  Bad Daddy's Burger Bar, one of my favorite burger joints from Charlotte has recently expanded outside the Queen City to open up a Raleigh location.  After sampling so many fantastic burgers at great triangle establishments like Bun, Bull City Burgers, Draft, Mo Joe's, Chow, and most recently Ashley Christensen's gourmet Chuck's, I had to see how these burgers, and of course their French fried sidekicks, stacked up.  Since I'm rating the meat, I thought I'd see who truly deserves to have their burger called "Grade A."

Bun - Downtown Chapel Hill, great fries, and assortment of burger topping combos and a great homemade vegan veggie burger than hardly made me miss the meat.  Good fresh fries regular or sweet potato served with your choice of unique dipping sauces like curry mustard, thai sesame, or wasabi mayo. Grade B

Bull City Burgers - Downtown Durham.  The most exceptional part of this burger joint is the locally raised beef, homemade condiments, and local produce.  Not to mention the beers from the in-house brewery!  Great choice of burger toppings like caramelized onions and gruyere.  Family style picnic table seating promotes a communal vibe with other diners. Just hope you can find a spot to sit before your food emerges. This tongue in cheek decor makes proclamations on how many vegetarians they have converted. This is a great place to bring a guy on a date, I have to rave reviews.  My criticism is that they consistently overcook their burgers for my taste.  I ask for medium, and always seem to get medium-well to well done.
Grade B+

Mo Joe's -  Downtown Raleigh.  Despite burgers being the specialty at this burger spot, neither myself or my burger loving accomplice were impressed.  Burgers didn't strike me as fresh ground. I'm not a fan of crinkle cut fries, I like them fresh cut, I might have been better off ordering the house chips instead. Not terrible, but not remarkable either. I doubt I'll be back. Grade C

Chow -  North Raleigh off of Creedmore.  While I generally get the nachos here, the burgers are a highlight as well.  Just stick to the meat and avoid the black bean's just not the same and doesn't stick together particularly well. The turkey avocado burger is great, and they are willing to cook your burger on the rare side. The regular fries are decent, but the sweet potato fries here are where it's at, they're actually crispy...probably due to a double trip to the fryer. Grade B-

Draft - DELICIOUS burger. I had a double pattie with cheese and peppered bacon.  A group of my favorite burger obsessed guys raved about this place saying it was one of the best burgers they'd had ever had.  Great flavor combinations.  They do not make fresh fries here I would recommend the homemade chips instead. I'm very sorry to say....I was devastated to hear that they closed their doors on New Years Day.  WHY???  Grade A

Bad Daddy's Burgers - Downtown Raleigh at Seaboard Station and Charlotte locations.  Great burgers for every taste with a wide range of  fabulous homemade sauces to choose from.  My favorite is the signature "Bad Daddy's Sauce" a creamy sweet and smoky sauce. Burgers from the fresh mozzarella, tomato and basil burger to my guy friend's burger of legend "the baconator" with six strips of two kinds of bacon, bacon salt, cheese, and bacon mayonaise.  It's a heart attack on a plate no doubt, but they will probably continue to order it until the day they keel over. Another treat for the bacon lover, Bad Daddy's has on offering a burger patty made out of a combination of ground beef and bacon for a smoky bacon-y flavor throughout every bite.  My recent burger at Bad Daddy's was yummy, but with a very soggy bottom bun.  It was probably the messiest burger I've ever had, it totally fell apart on me, but the flavors were good. The homemade fries are fantastic with the dipping sauces. Grade B+

Chuck's - James Beard award nominated local chef Ashley Christensen's contribution to the local burger scene.  Hand cut Belgian fries and a "comeback" sauce that has been most effective in luring my roommate to comeback rather frequently.  I wasn't super impressed with the sauces I had, just because they tend to be mayonnaise based, which is very European of them...but I'm not European and I'm not a fan. Chuck's boasts innovative and non-traditional toppings like beats or bacon onion jam. Diners can choose from a 8 ounce burger or smaller 5 ounce freshly ground 100% chuck patty seared on a flat top grill and served on a potato bun.  Even 5 ounce burgers are very thick. I hated getting bites of bun and condiments with no meat, but then I guess I should have ordered the 8 ounce. The milkshakes are worth a try, I don't LOVE the tiny little bits of ice in them, but the flavor is fantastic.  I had the Madagascar (Vanilla) malt milkshake and I couldn't stop grinning, it tasted like my childhood. Grade A

Ultimately, if Draft was still around it would get my vote hands down...but it's not and I'm trying not to dwell on it.  That being said, that makes Chucks the best burger I've had around. The great quality juicy beef patty with the perfect seasoning and sear stole the show.  My runner up would be Bad Daddy's, I can't get enough of their dipping sauces and great fries. The burger is delicious, and might have come out on top had it not been for the soggy bottom bun.  From an underfinced foodie perspective these burgers are pricy.  A burger at Chucks runs you $9 and didn't include fries. Ordering the smaller 5 ounce burger allowed me to eat a gourmet burger without the wallet guilt.  A signature burger at Bad Daddy's can run around $11 but comes with fries.  I do the build your own, which depending on what toppings you get, can offer a better value.
Burger and Fries from Big Daddy's Burger Bar
Bad Daddy's Burger Bar on Urbanspoon
 5 ounce burger from Chuck's.

Chuck's on Urbanspoon
Belgian Fries From Chucks

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