Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Burgers and BBQ Across the USA

I'm going to be keeping a log of all of the burgers I eat and BBQ joints I visit on my road trip over the next five months.  They aren't listed in any particular order.  Enjoy:
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Sept 30 - Santa Fe, NM
Realburger

A decent burger from a locally owned shop. The bun was too big for the sandwich, but the ingredients were good enough. The burger came with the veggie toppings on the side. I'm not sure who puts seven pickles on their burger, but that's how many I was given. I used two.
The patty was thin and didn't have a lot of flavor, but it wasn't terrible. 
As I was waiting for my food, I saw underneath the name of the establishment,  "John 3:3"
This is enough to prevent my returning to the place. The verse, by the way, says that "Jesus answered 'It's true, unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.'"  I believe that one's religious leanings are personal and have no place on the sign of a public eatery. I won't return. 

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Sept 29 - Durango, CO

A winner of a place. They pride themselves of being globally conscious, from the source of their food to suggesting that their customers don't eat gluttonous portions and instead heed the recommendations of the USDA guidelines.
I didn't. I got a double meat, bacon chedda burger. It was divine. The meat was juicy and delicious and cooked so that it had a crispy sear around the edges.  The cheddar cheese, also found the grill and singed in spots, adding a grilled cheese sensibility to the experience. The freshness of the ingredients was obvious in the eating. I opted for the chipotle mayo which really brought the whole thing together. 
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Sept 27 - Farmington, NM
Blake's Lotaburger

The sign said that according to National Geographic, they had the "Best Green Chili Cheeseburger in the World" so I had to have one.  It was delicious. My mouth was sweating from the hot green chilis. Or maybe the red ones were hotter. They included both colors, which is known as Christmas style around these parts.
The burger was a handful and a satisfying meal. Despite the frozen patties, it is a great example of how a fast food burger can be made with quality. 
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Sept 26 - Nephi, UT
Reed's Drive-In

 After the terrible fiasco of trying to choke down the disaster served to me yesterday at J.C. Mickelson's it was nice to bite into a burger made properly. The meat patties were thin and frozen, but the whole burger supported the flavor. Lots of lettuce tomato and pickles and a bit of thousand island dressing. The bun wasn't freshly made, but it was freshly unwrapped, not stale. I didn't get cheese because I was still sick from the gobs of orange goo foisted upon me by the fail from last night.
Reed's restored my faith in burgers.
The bacon was generously piled high and cooked crisp and tasty.
This burger cost half what I paid for the garbage I threw away half of last night. 

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Sept 25 - Nephi, UT
J.C. Mickelson's

Blech, disgusting. The worst burger I've ever had. I'd rather eat at McDonalds than tolerate this garbage.  And I was REALLY hungry so I was an easy audience. But the patties had the taste and texture of rubber. The gobs and gobs (too much) of cheese was the American variety. The onion rings weren't cooked enough. The bacon was fine, but all in all this terrible burger was a huge fail. 
I ordered it with chicken noodle soup on the side instead of fries. That was decent, but nothing to write home about. 
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Sept 24 - Plummer, ID
Zips
Simple fast food. Good flavor on the meat, which was juicy. The buns were basic. The cheese was melted. But the bacon was what really made this burger sing. It was really fresh and crispy and flavorful. 


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Sept 22 - Coeur D'Alene, ID
Hudson's Hamburgers

This place came recommended by the locals and was also mentioned in USA Today, back in 2010 as the entry for Idaho in an article listing the best burger from each state. So I had to try it.
The website lists with pride all of the ingredients they DON'T offer for their burgers, including cheddar cheese, sesame seed buns, lettuce, mayonnaise, and several other typical burger-fare items.
I ordered a double with cheese and was asked if I wanted pickles or onions. I chose pickles, since I hate onions, but I'm honestly not all that crazy about pickles on a burger, either. I don't know what I was thinking. And then she asked if I wanted ketchup, mustard or hot ketchup. I chose hot ketchup.
So my no-frills burger with pickles and hot ketchup was delicious.  I was surprised at how good it was. Even the pickles were good. The meat was cooked perfectly and  had a lot of good char flavor. The pickles were just right, without overpowering the burger. And the hot ketchup was the star of the show. It is obviously a concoction containing ketchup and wasabi.  It made my nose run and was a flavor sensation I'd never had in a burger before, but now I might come to expect in the future. 

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Sept 20 - Kalispell, MT
Frugals
This was a special, burger-of-the-month, It had roasted red bell pepper, bacon cheese and some chipotle sauce. The roasted red pepper stole the show in my opinion and it was a winner. The meat was juicy with a good char and the sauce was subtle. The whole thing came together beautifully.
The restaurant was an aluminum box with dual side drive-thru. The line I chose, had the window on the right side of the car. Most people, when they drove up, were getting out and walking around to the window. I did the same. 
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Sept 18 - Jackson, WY

Another great find in Jackson. Right on the main highway into the parks. Proud of their good, local ingredients and creative combinations of toppings. I got the Nooner, which was breakfast themed with an egg, a thin slice of ham, bacon, hash browns and cheese... and a beef patty. On a fresh bun. The website said cheddar cheese but it came with American cheese. I saw that it was listed as American on the video menu that played while I waited for my order, but by then it was too late to ask for cheddar instead.
No worries. It was divine. The hash browns were hot and crispy, the egg yolk was slightly runny. The ham was thin. All the ways I like them. The only condiment was ketchup,which was a good call for the breakfast theme. 
I loved this burger and it kept me full all day. YUM!
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Sept 17 - Jackson, WY

I almost drove by but something told me to stop when I saw the sign. Glad I did. The guy who took my order told me it was a family owned non-chain. They are proud of using local ingredients and fresh, grass-fed meat. The buns are baked fresh by a bakery next door every day. 
I took an order to go. Got the All Jacked Up burger, which was bacon and cheese and a splash of BBQ sauce. It came with a combination of Idaho and sweet potato fries. All was so fresh and one of the best burgers I've had in a long time.
I ate it on a picnic table behind the restaurant near a rushing river. River sat at my side.

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Sept 16 - Billings, MT
Fuddruckers

Billed as The World's Greatest Hamburger. It's not. In fairness, I didn't know that you're supposed to add your own condiments and veggies so that each burger is kinda custom, but I walked about without doing any of that. So my burger was plain and dry. And it had a slight twinge of bad meat flavor. They claim it was never frozen, but maybe it wasn't always at the best temperature. 

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Sept 15 - Billings, MT

This place was voted 2014 Best of the Bash (whatever that means) so I had to try it. It was good. The bun was as soft as velvet, but enough to hold the whole burger together. I ordered The Jerk, which came with pepper jack cheese and jerk sauce. I asked for no onions nor mayonnaise, and I didn't miss them. There was plenty of juiciness from the greasy burger and the generous amount of jerk sauce. The sauce was good, but I couldn't taste much else on the burger. The beef is touted as fresh and I  don't know about Billings, but where I come from, in Seattle, we know fresh. Seattle is obsessed with fresh and that's not the feeling I get when eating at Burger Dive. It was good, for sure.  Fresh? I'm not so sure. I'm not saying the patty is frozen, or that the buns were stale, but it did taste like a greasy dive burger and not a fresh meal. 
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Sept 14 - Custer, SD
Black Hills Burger & Bun Co. 

A cute local place that makes kick ass burgers. I got the "Hot Granny" which was two freshly ground beef burgers, cream cheese, jalapeño jelly and bacon. I wasn't sure about the cream cheese, but it was awesome. The whole burger was a treat. Even the bun tasted freshly made. 
It came with Granny's baked beans on the side which I liked when I first tasted. Smokey and sweet, nicely blended. But the more I ate, the more the sweet took over. Eventually, I couldn't finish them because they tasted too sweet. The beans were cooked perfectly. 

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Sept 12 - St. Paul, MN
Moe Burgers

The bar seems to be the biggest feature and draw at this place. The menu declares the beef is ground fresh daily and never frozen. I got the Denny burger which had a fried egg, bacon and cheese. It was quite good. At first I was alarmed because I thought the white of the egg was a giant blob of mayonnaise, but it wasn't. They included a bit too much mustard on the burger and also gave me a couple of extra mustard packets in case I needed more. They also included a packet of mayo and a tub of ketchup. They must be used to a clientele that needs a lot of condiments. I though the burger stood well enough on its own.
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Sept 10 - Wisconsin Dells, WI
Roadhouse Saloon

I ordered a basic bacon cheeseburger and I got a basic bacon cheeseburger. There was nothing remarkable about it. There was a Route 66 sign hanging below the store sign inside. I chuckled because I was just wearing a Route 66 shirt earlier and had just spent a few weeks driving along it and it felt so far away now. That story I just told was more interesting than the burger. 
I noticed on the menu that the burger comes with fries for an extra charge. I'm not interested in fries, so I don't remember what the charge was. But the bartender who took my order asked, "do you want fries with that? it basically comes with it." I was confused for a second and then said, 'no'. So it came with chips. 

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Sept 9 - Brookfield, WI

Damn! That was a good burger! It should be, though, at almost $20. I opted for the grass-fed, local meat patty and I added a half avocado to the already gourmet burger. It came with Brie cheese, truffle oil, arugula and balsamic vinagrette. It was a delicious mess. The flavors were all over the place but all came together nicely. The meat was cooked medium and was juicy with a good char on it. The bun was buttered and grilled. 
Very satisfying. I want to sample other things on the menu.
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Sept 8 - Green Bay, WI

The name of the place is based on the fact that it's on Highway 41. 
Since I was in Green Bay, I decided to go with the bratwurst burger. I ordered the Oktoberkfest, which is basically a patty (or two), cheese and a sliced brat on a pretzel bun. But I got the regular bratwurst burger. Maybe they were out of pretzel buns, which is the only difference I noted between the two burgers.  I opted to get it without any condiments, as it seemed weird to have ketchup and pickle with a brat. 
It was a $10 burger and I was extremely disappointed when I saw it. It looked like a nothing-special fastfood burger. It should have been a red flag when she handed me my burger and said, "sorry for the wait."  I didn't feel like I was waiting long enough for them to even fully cook a burger patty, so it made me think this was a fastfood place, even though it says on the website that all the patties are cooked after ordering. 
Well, the taste was there. It was all good, and very hot. I was full before I was even done eating this sucker. I'd go back again and try something else on the menu. 
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Sept 7 - Menominee, MI
Jozwiak's

A dive in a rustic town, but kind of a jewel in the rough. The outside of the building looks drab. Plain wood box with no decor nor windows. Just a big sign on the top. But the stuff that comes out isn't plain at all. I got a Double Brat, which was two bratwursts and sauerkraut and I also got Swiss cheese on mine. It wasn't big and it wasn't gourmet, but it was damn good. I hardly looked up while eating it. Sorry, I didn't take a picture, either.

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Sept 5 - Brooklyn, OH
Steak and Shake

It was on the breakfast menu, and it was after 11am, but they let me get it anyway. I can't remember what they call it, but it's a double cheese burger with egg. Yum. It's a chain, yes. And I've eaten there several times. I always like it. One of the better chains.

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September 4 - Hudson, OH

When I picked this up to take it home, I was surprised that it came in a shopping bag. A bit of overkill on the packaging, I thought. When I got home to unwrap it, there was a box inside the bag. Inside that box was my burger, wrapped in foil. Also a small pile of lettuce, tomato and pickles, separate from the burger. Also there was yet another box inside, containing the fried egg. Then it all became clear. They went to great lengths to ensure that my burger would be as fresh tasting as possible when I got it home. 
I got the Green Eggs and Ham Burger, which is a locally raised, grass fed beef patty with prosciutto and spinach, a fried egg, parmesan cheese
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September 2 - Corning, NY
Friendly's Restaurant

This is my first time in this chain. I knew I'd try it eventually, but was waiting for the right time. I'm glad I waited. I should have continued waiting. This is basically a fast food hamburger at a diner pace. The fries were cooked perfectly and they were hot and very lightly salted. I got the double bacon cheeseburger. The burger was adequate and banal; not worth doing into detail. 

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August 29 - New York City, NY
Island Burgers

This is a great burger! The meat patty is really thick, almost to the point of being a big ball. And it's cooked to perfection with a bit of pink in the middle. It was juicy and tasted like char-broiled beef. The fixins were simple, as I just got the cheddar cheese burger, but the cheese was cooked in such a way that it was mostly melted, but also had some crispy charred bits. The bun was fresh and loaded with sesame seeds and not too big. It supported the beef without overpowering it.
The lunch special included fries and a beverage, so I tasted the french fries and didn't like them. They were batter dipped and tasted like BBQ potato chips and salt. I detected no potato flavor. So I skipped them. But the burger itself was juicy and worth the $10 (a bargain by Manhattan standards)

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August 24 - Brattleboro, VT


This place has a vast menu and probably has awesome BBQ but I always get their awesome cheeseburger. It's made with local Vermont Cheddar cheese, locally grown vegetables (lettuce and tomatoes) and local beef. It is cooked to perfection, medium, as I requested, with a crispy char. The house-made spicy mustard had a strong kick in the nose and a sweetness to support it. It was chunky like pickle relish or salsa was added. It was the only condiment I used, and I didn't use the much. The freshness of the veggies and the correct cooking of the meat made it plenty tasty and juicy. 
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August 23 - Portland, ME
b.good (sic)

This is a chain, but one that supports local. All of the beverage options were from Maine, and the burger ingredients were as local as possible. Their menu is also seasonal, based on availability during local growing seasons. A concept which is deplorably underappreciated in my opinion. They had burgers like the Cousin Oliver based on the Brady Bunch and the Adopted Luke based on the first role of Leo DiCaprio on Growing Pains. I got the El Guapo burger which had jalapeno slaw and bacon.
It was small but mighty. If I had known how small, I may have ordered two. The slaw was cut in chunks bigger than is my liking, and I'm a fan of big chunky slaw. On the upside, it made the red onion easy to pick out.
The small size and the toppings all didn't matter though because the meat was incredible!  The patty was thick and cooked to juicy perfection. But what really made the experience was the crunchy sear they got on the grill. It is rare that when biting into a burger, I can feel the slight crunch of that char, but when it does happen, it's burger heaven.
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August 24
The next day, I went to the same place, b.good, but in Nashua NH. This time, I got the El Guapo with avocado and salsa and opted for it without cheese. There was cilantro on it, too, which I loved. I got a double patty this time and it was about to topple over when they put it on a plate. I asked them to wrap it so I could bring River from the car to the tables on the other side of the building without losing it. And they squashed it down to get the paper around it. That made it more manageable. It was a mess, which I tend to hate in a burger, but today I was sitting at a sturdy table and it didn't matter because, like the one yesterday, it was cooked medium and with a char on the outside. On this burger, the salsa wet the char down so it wasn't crispy, but it was still flavorful.

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August 19 - Manhattan, NY
Daisy May's NY BBQ

I've eaten here before and it's possibly the best barbeque in the city. I got the brisket and my friend got the ribs and we shared, so I got to taste both. Both were good. Not the best brisket I've had, but definitely better than most. The ribs were also good. I'm not a fan of ribs, so I can't compare them to much, but if I think ribs are good, they must be REALLY good.
The brisket could have been more moist, but the crust was really black and delicious and the sauce was good enough.
I got mine with collard greens and bbq beans. The former were unflavored with anything but maybe the pork broth they were cooked in and some garlic and plenty of salt. They tasted good. And the baked beans were a bit on the overly sweet side. Michael got the mac and cheese, which I tasted and compared to Kraft Mac n Cheese. In other words, the mac and cheese was disappointing, but I liked everything else.
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August 14 - Indianapolis, IN
Taxman Brewing Company

The beers looked wonderful, but I didn't have one. I got what the menu called a Classic Burger and I ordered it medium.  It didn't come with fries, but there were fries on the table that I was invited to taste. They were cooked golden and hot and crispy with a bit of salt but not too much. And there was a plethora of dipping sauce that I had to try as well. The spicy barbecue sauce and the cajun ketchup were both really good. There was an orange sauce that confused me. It was sweet and slightly spicy and the flavor wasn't working for me. And the yellow one, which I thought was going to be mustard, was a completely gross aioli.
The burger was very good. Cooked medium without going too dry. It would have only been a good burger, but I'm calling it very good because they added three slices of pickled zucchini. And, in fact, the onions that I nixed off the menu were described as pickled onions, so now I'm curious what I missed. The zucchini were excellent.

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August 13 - Danville, IL
Gross' Burgers

Yesterday was Yummy so today had to be Gross. I ordered a Mozzarella burger and she asked what I want on it. Just lettuce and tomato, I said. She tells me they only have ketchup, mustard, mayo, pickle and onion. So I reluctantly choose pickle and ketchup. 
I was pleasantly surprised at how good it tasted. The mozzarella oozed out of the burger and was singed on the grill, making it so delicious. The patties were uber thin, but still juicy and tasty. 
The decor of the place was a bit scary. All military and war propaganda and a big hard-on for the Marines. I'm guessing whoever Gross is, was in the Marines. 
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August 12 - Coralville, IA
Yummy Burgers

In the food court of the Coralville Mall. I ordered the eponymous, Yummy Burger, which is a double patty, with bacon, onion rings and American and Swiss cheeses. The illustrations on the menu sign made it seem like they were going to be so big and thick they'd be hard to bite into. 
I watched the cook making the burgers and he kept pressing them down with the back of his flipper. I don't know, but it seems to me that doing that would squeeze all the juice and and make the patty dry. I started losing faith that the burger I'd get would look much like the ones on the sign. 
Also as I waited, I noticed that just two stores down, the blockade in front of the storefront said future home of Zombie Burgers. Look out, Yummy, because Zombie knows how to make juicy burgers. (See below)
But I got my Yummy Burger back to the car and...
It was huge and juicy and hard to take a bite out of. Just like in the picture! And it was yummy, as the name would have you think. I didn't like the onion rings. They were soggy and tasted too much like onions, so I had to remove them. Otherwise it was really good. The fries were cooked very dark gold. I'd probably enjoy them better if they were cooked a little bit less and definitely salted less. I only ate a few because I couldn't stand the salt level. 
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August 10 - Des Moines, IA

All the burgers are a riff on zombies, including one burger called George Romero's Pittsburgher. I got the Dead Moines. OMG

This is a contender for the best burger I've ever had. Double patty, thick, hot and juicy. Smoked gouda, prosciutto, ham and truffle mayo on a fresh sesame seed bun. Small, but thick enough to hold it all together. I sat on the patio which was wet due to a recent downpour. It had stopped raining but no one was out there, so we had it to ourselves.
I want to go back to Des Moines just to try something else off the creative menu.


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August 9 - St. Joseph, MO
Bandana's BBQ

I saw a sign from the highway, so I thought it might be a chain, but I was hungry and it sounded good so I pulled over. I got the meat plate with cole slaw and baked beans. It came with two slices of garlic bread and I asked if I could have the bread without garlic. They did that for me.
Unfortunately the meat was not good. I don't know if it was supposed to be brisket, as it was just called "the Beef Plate", but it was dry and tough. Not so dry and tough as to make it unpalatable, but certainly not moist, tender and juicy like a good brisket should be. 
The bread was good, as was the cole slaw and baked beans, although the latter was probably a touch more sweet than I'd prefer. I wouldn't eat there again.

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August 7 - Omaha, NE
BrewBurgers

Although it has the same name, I can find no evidence that this is related to the one in Venice, FL.  And based on the food, I also think they're different.  Just similarly named. (Well.... exactly the same named, actually.)  
At this one I got the "Inside Out Burger". 

I didn't see this on the other place's menu, nor did I see anything from Florida on this menu. The inside out is a patty, stuffed with cheese and bacon. I asked for it cooked medium well, which seemed to excite the cook, who said "Only way to have it." The owner introduced himself to me and said that their meat is fresh, local, never frozen and ground daily. When the burger came it was brown all the way through. Not overcooked, but I couldn't find any pink at all. I think, with the ingredients stuffed into the patty, that's probably best anyway.
Another reason I don't think they're related to the other BrewBurger because in Florida, I couldn't even eat those over-salted fries without burning my tongue. The fries were good, and had zero salt on them. I found myself wishing there was at least a little bit of salt. 
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August 5 - Thornton, CO
Jim's Burger Haven

This is the place to go if you're really hungry or have an enormous appetite. They sell 4" patties and 6" patties. The sign on the window says, "Jim's Burger Haven: Where 6" is big!" You can also order one, two, three or four patties! I've never heard of a quad burger before. This is a new one on me.
I went through the drive-thru and got a double 6" bacon cheese burger with no onion. 

The bun is enormous. Too big, I think, for my burger but might come in handy if one gets a 'quad'. The cheese is American and none of the ingredients seem very top drawer. The patties are about half the thickness of what I think a burger patty should be. 
Sadly, the  meat had so little flavor that the whole burger ended up tasting like pickle and mustard. I wouldn't go back here. 
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August 3 - Green River, UT
Chow Hound

This isn't much of a town, but I saw the sign and was hungry at the time so I stopped at this free-standing burger shack that also claims to do bakery, breakfast, ice cream and pizza.

I ordered a green chili double cheese burger. It comes with lettuce, pickle and fry sauce, so I didn't change any of that. 
I ate it at a picnic table I found in the back of the shack. I suspect it's where the employees take their breaks.  The burger was good. I could taste the green chili and the fry sauce wasn't too overpowering. The meat wasn't over cooked and it was hot. The bun was soft but held everything together. I didn't care for the cheese; would have preferred cheddar.

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August 2 - Salt Lake City, UT
AstroBurger

Now this is a burger! I ordered the bacon double cheese burger and it was awesome. Thin patties, but juicy. Good toppings. The bacon was a little bit too salty, but the overall taste was delicious. I forgot to ask for no onions, so I got a bite with onions in it. Fortunately, it didn't ruin the experience for me. I was able to scrape the rest off with a napkin. 
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August 1 - Evanston, WY
Wally's Burgers

I got a good laugh out of this one. In a town like Evanston, I was lucky enough just to find a burger place. The sign looked promising. 
The actual burger didn't live up to it. 

I laughed out loud when I unwrapped this burger. I've seen better burgers at a school cafeteria. I'm not even going to waste my time describing it. It tasted just how it looks. Like nothing! I put some sauerkraut on it so at least it tasted like sauerkraut. 
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July 29 - Leavenworth, WA

Sleeping Lady is a Cascade mountain resort and O'Grady's is the resident BBQ joint. The BBQ smells amazing as soon as I sit down, and we're outside on a flatstone patio with a fountain. A wedding party was there, too. The bride announced she was paying for everyone's dinner, but she didn't count on me overhearing it and cheering "Yay!  Thank you!"
I got the brisket and a side of slaw and a side of sweet potato fries. The latter were waffle cut and cooked crispy on the outside, fluffy inside. They were spiced and salted. The slaw was a fresh melange of cabbage and other vegetables with a light vinegar and no mayonnaise. Awesome. 
I was worried when the waitress noticed that I didn't have red sauce for my brisket. She had only given me ketchup for my fries, but I gave it away. She asked if I needed red sauce for my meat and I asked, "Do I need it?" "Yes, you do" she emphatically answered, and my heart sank. But my fears were unfounded, it was a perfectly cooked brisket! It was the best brisket I've had in as long as I can remember. The crust was thick and black and salty and the meat was juicy and marbled with fat. It was obviously smoked for long, long time as it was so tender and full of flavor. I cut it with the side of my fork and didn't cover up the subtle flavors with the sauce. It was a good sauce, btw. I dipped my sweet potato fries in it.
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July 28 - Seattle, WA
Roosters TexMex

I really wanted to like this place. I saw the burritos from the sidewalk and they looked amazing. But when I ordered, I ended up getting the chicken mole instead, and I was disappointed. I'm not a fan of pulling apart half a chicken and getting sauce all over my hands. And the sauce wasn't a rich Mole Poblano, but more of a red chili mole. It was good, but not amazing.

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July 27 - Seattle, WA
Blue Moon Burgers

I've been to this local establishment many times because it's just a few blocks from my house. In the past, the food has been really good and really bad. Basically, I stopped going there because of inconsistent quality. But on a whim, I tried it again a few days ago and was pleasantly surprised. And today I went back to ensure it wasn't a fluke, but it was confirmed.
The ingredients all tasted fresh and each topping had its individual taste.
I got the Code Blue burger which is a double meat patty, (juicy), strips of bacon (crispy), cheddar cheese (melty), secret sauce (1000 island), and peanut butter (creamy). The bun, also, was different (better) than the buns they had been using. I feel like Blue Moon recently underwent a change of some kind and we are all the winning recipients. This place is now a win!
On Wednesdays, they have "Half Price Burger Day". But in order to get a half price burger, it must be purchased with either a fountain drink or a side. I got sweet potato fries, which were good, but obviously had been dipped in some kind of batter. The regular french fries, too, were obviously coated in either some kind of sugar or wheat, as the potato flavor wasn't prominent, but they had more of a 'french fry' flavor like one would expect from McDonalds.
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June 23 - Springfield, MO
Whole Hog Cafe

Another chain, so sue me. I'd never heard of it and it sounded good and was literally two buildings from my motel room. I got the brisket and pulled pork, burnt ends cheesy corn, smoked green beans and a roll. I was able to bring River out of the car to sit on the patio and lie down while I ate. 

The brisket was perfect. The green beans tasted canned, but they had a really strong black pepper flavor that intrigued me and I couldn't stop eating them. That burnt-ends, cheesy corn stuff was delicious. I'd never had anything like it before. Maybe the closest thing would be mac and cheese. The pulled pork was good, but needed sauce. There were six to choose from and I chose the mustard and vinegar sauce, which worked perfectly.
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June 26 - Albuquerque, NM

They have a lot of tables outside. They make their own beer here and have a full menu, but I of course opted for a simple burger. I wanted only cheese and green chili on it. It came cooked "to temperature" which means I can have no pink in the middle. That's fine with me. It's safer and that's how it is in Seattle so I'm used to it. 
The bun was very special. It looked and tasted almost hand made. It was definitely a high quality burger. The meat was good and the green chili gave it a nice hot kick.
The fries came with it so I had a few, but they are the kind that are coated in a batter, so... gross.
River did pretty well with the waiter, but didn't like the owner or an inebriated gentleman who came out onto the patio.
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June 27 - Albuquerque, NM

Laguna Burger. I saw the sign from the highway and thought it said "Lasagne Burger" and was intrigued enough to stop and eat there, even though it was basically a gas station pit stop. I'm glad I did. As it turns out the Laguna Burger was a New Mexico burger, with cheese and green chili. It was similar to the one I had last night at Quarter Celtic, only this one had mustard and pickles and lettuce and tomato. And the meat seemed to be rubbed with cajun spice before cooking. It was very good. 
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June 28 - Flagstaff, AZ

Grass fed beef and locally sourced ingredients. I got the special of the day "Psycho Killer" which had IPA BBQ sauce, crimini mushrooms and provolone cheese. It comes on an English Muffin with a DB brand burnt into the top. The beef patty was hugely thick and very pink on the inside. I like mine a bit more done than that. The flavors were good. The burger was small but mighty. It came with fries, which are WAY too salty. I could only eat a few of them.  They had some sort of spice or herb on them, but I couldn't deal with the salinity.  The BBQ sauce seems to have large chunks of garlic in it.  Yuk.  The staff was super friendly, but I had a hard time finding the place as the address indicates its inside this mall, but it's not; it's adjacent to the mall. 
**********
June 29 - Flagstaff, AZ
Dog Haus
Used to be a Der Weinerschnitzel. The owner took my order by walking out of the building up to my car. He told me the best way to get to The Grand Canyon without my even asking. He told me how this was the site where Jackson Browne saw the girl in the truck he wrote about in his song "Take It Easy."  I got the bacon cheeseburger. It was basic and good. Nothing spectacular, but it was freshly made with love after I ordered it. 
*************
June 30 - Flagstaff, AZ

Considering how long the line was, I thought it would be better. Fortunately, I got there before the long line formed. I got the BBQ Tour which included brisket, pulled pork and ribs. 
The brisket and pulled pork were both tendy and juicy but lacking in exciting flavor. It's actually been so long since I've had a pulled pork that I did like that I'm starting to wonder if I even like it anymore. The ribs were very good. If I went back, I'd just stick with the ribs. For my sides, I got mashed sweet potatoes which tasted like brown sugar and BBQ beans which tasted like biting into fresh garlic. So I didn't eat either of those. The cornbread was cold but it tasted good. I like cornbread to be sweet but not like cake. And I like to feel the cornmeal crunch. This fit the bill. The only thing that could've been better would be if it was hot. 
The place itself is super fun and quirky. They give you a license plate as your number, but I'm not sure how that system works. I didn't see that they took note of which plate people got. I took my food to go and ate it in my motel room. I forgot to take a picture.
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July 2 - Las Vegas, NV
In-and-Out Burger

This is a chain, but one that I like. I hadn't eaten here yet on this trip so now was the time. I got the double double as I always do and it was predictably delicious. I don't know how anyone could not like these burgers. 
*************
July 3 - Kanab, UT

There was loud country music playing and a motorcycle gang eating here. It was pretty gosh darn Americana. I got the basic bacon double cheeseburger and it was so hot when I first picked it up I had to put it back down before biting in. 
It was one of the best I've had. The meat was hot and juicy. Thick and perfectly spiced and cooked. The bacon was crispy and the cheese melty. The lettuce and tomato were crisp and cold. And the bun was big and soft. 
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July 3 - Mt. Carmel Junction
Thunderbird Restaurant 
This place had a tall order; to impress me with my second burger of the day. Considering that, they did a good job. The meat was really good and fresh. This burger had jalapeños and pepper jack cheese, which gave it a nice kick without overpowering the fresh meat. The lettuce was a little wilted but the tomatoes were good. I was impressed. 
Thunderbird is the home of the ho-made pies. I got a very good Thunderberry pie, which is a blend of blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries. 
*************
July 5 - Escalante, UT
Nemo's
I got the Swiss cheese mushroom burger. Thin frozen burger patty and fake swiss cheese. The only thing I could taste was the mushrooms. I was really hungry and even then wasn't impressed. The fries were so salty my mouth was burning from eating just one. 
Zeke got the Adventure burger which had lettuce and tomato, BBQ sauce and onion rings. He said it was good but I wouldn't taste it; it looked too messy. 
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July 5 - Mt Carmel Junction, UT
Golden Hills Diner

I got a double cheese burger and it was bad. Thin, overcooked frozen patties. Even with lettuce and tomato it was dry. The cheese was American. fail. 
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July 6 - Cedar City, UT
Hermie's Drive-In

I got a double cheese burger and specifically requested cheddar cheese which was shredded but not melted. The bun was stale and included a middle, third bun, which I discarded. The patties were thin, frozen and over cooked. The whole thing was dry. Blech. 
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July 7 - Newberry Springs, CA
Bagdad Cafe
This is the place featured in the movie of the same name. It is a hot tourist attraction because of the movie, but the food is just as bad as was alluded to in the movie. I got a buffalo burger which was dry. The burger itself had no cohesion and no moisture. The bun sat on top and all of the ingredients were there, but for some reason it didn't seem like a burger. It just seemed like the ingredients were close to each other. The fries were good.
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July 7 - Barstow, CA

This place has an extensive menu, full of variety. Always a red flag. I got the double cheese burger and it was decent. Compared to the last four burgers I had, it was stellar! But objectively, it was mediocre to decent. There was a shit-ton of raw onions on it, so I had to scrape those off. Who eats that many onions on a burger? Nasty! Otherwise, the burger was juicy, but the patty seemed like it was frozen, not fresh. And it was cooked brown all the way through. The lettuce was super crispy! The cheese was American. 
On the whole, something about it tasted very 'fast-food' which is damnation in my book. I much prefer things to taste fresh and homemade. My heart sank when she brought out my burger just moments after I ordered it, and the eating experience lived up to my fears.
*************
July 8 - Gardena, CA
Steven's Burgers

I found this place on Zomato and it had a 4.9 rating (out of 5). I've never seen any place with such a high rating, so I had to try it. And YAY! It was a winner. I got a bacon double cheeseburger and it was thick and juicy. The bun was soft and fresh and the meat wasn't over cooked. I asked for it without onions and it came with sauce, lettuce and tomato. No pickles! Yay! The only drawback would be the American cheese, but I'll forgive that because the gestalt of the burger was winning.
I also got the chili cheese fries because I was hungry from not having breakfast. A mistake. Not that they were bad; they were good. But after eating the burger, I suddenly wasn't all that hungry and couldn't finish the chili cheese fries. 
*************
July 9 - Goleta, CA
Woody's Bodacious BBQ

I got the Muleskinner burger. 
They also had fried chicken and ribs but were out of brisket. The burger had BBQ sauce, cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato and a huge pile of fries onion strings. It came with a side of cole slaw which I ended up added to the burger to give it a little moisture. I don't know if they forgot the BBQ sauce, but I didn't taste it. The onions were tasty and the beef was cooked well. 
When the cashier handed me the bag with my food in it, she asked if I wanted, "extra ketchup, mustard, mayo?" When I said no, she asked, "Are you sure?"  That should have been a red flag, but I said, "yes I'm sure, thanks," and took my dry burger to enjoy in the park. 
*************
July 10 - Chaffee, CA
Barbie's Primo Burger
I went through the drive-thru and ordered an ortega burger. The price listed on the menu was discounted if you pay in cash. The burger wasn't very good. The bun to meat ratio was way too high, and the lettuce was a bit overpowering, too. I couldn't even taste the ortega chili, although it was a big one. Even when I pulled a piece off to eat by itself, it had zero flavor. The meat was an overcooked frozen patty and they were way too generous with the white sauce. 
*************
July 11 - Bridgeport, CA
The Burger Barn
I got the guacamole, double bacon cheddar burger. It was so good!  It's been a long time since I've had a burger I really liked, and this was it.
Two patties, probably frozen, but at least cooked in a way that they weren't dry. Lots of fresh veggies and flavorful bacon. The cheese, though not melted, was a thick slice of real sharp cheddar and then there's the guacamole.  Lots of it!  When she handed me my bag she let me know that she had included a lot of extra napkins because there's a lot of guac.  It was a good call. I ended up using about five napkins of the seven she gave me.
My only concern is that the guacamole seemed unnaturally green. Usually once an avocado is cut it'll quickly start to darken. I was concerned that there were some sort of preservatives in this guacamole to keep it looking so green.

*************
July 12 - Oroville, CA

I got the special burger of the month, described as a Thai Burger, with sweet and sour cabbage slaw, and sriracha sauce. I don't remember seeing cheese in the description, or I might have asked to skip it. I don't equate cheese with "Thai". But I'm glad I didn't forego the cheese as they had a great technique of cooking it so that it melts off way beyond the edges of the bun and gets crispy on the grill. They the scoop up and serve the crisped cheese hanging off the burger.
This one was a real win. The cabbage and sauce gave it a great Thai flavor and the cheese didn't ruin it. The meat was fresh tasting, not frozen. And they are proud of the sourcing they do to find humanely raised, vegetarian fed, hormone-free cattle.
They had a whole menu of interesting choices. I'd go back if I were in Oroville again.
************
July 13 - Bend, OR
Hardy's Burgers and Wings

The Yelp! reviews said they do 'delivery only' but I walked in, as did three other customers. I got the Hawaiian, which is teriyaki sauce (?), a pineapple ring, grilled ham and swiss cheese and all the regular burger fixin's.  It was good, but too light. I should have ordered a double patty. That said, even with just one patty, I didn't feel like the bun was taking over. It (barely) did it's job of giving me something to hold onto. I don't like burgers that are too bunny.

I had the opportunity to go back to Hardy's again the next day.
************
July 14 - Bend, OR
Hardy's Burgers and Wings

This time I had the Swiss mushroom burger called the Fungi. It was also good. The mushrooms were fresh. Grilled but not so much that they lost their moisture. The Swiss was nutty and genuine and the double patty made it seem more like a meal. It was quite satisfying. One of the people I was with got the fried zucchini and I tasted one, but it was awful. It had no flavor except grease.
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July 16 - Portland, OR

In a scary neighborhood. Next door to a Live Nude Dancers open 24 Hours. But the food was worth the adventure. I got the Johnny Apple Brie.  The patty wasn't beef but a combination of sausage and turkey meat. A little on the dry side but super full of flavor. It included grilled apple slices and some brie as well as the usual burger fixin's. I thought it was delicious, but I would have preferred a less substantial bun. I think the buns are made by a local baker, though, so I appreciate that. 
I also got a side salad because it wasn't lettuce, but actual greens. It's been a long time since I've had actual kale, arugula and/or spinach, so it was a nice addition. 
*************
July 18 - Portland, OR

This is a chain, but it's a local chain, so I wanted to support it. They use locally made ingredients and the menu changes with the seasons. Right now they were really selling the Walla Walla onions and local raspberries.  But I got a double bacon cheeseburger with Tillamook cheddar, and a salad with smoked salmon and hazelnuts. A very northwestern meal.
The meat was cooked to death, unfortunately, so that there was no moisture left. I found myself very clear on why they added mayonnaise. The salad was good enough, but the whole thing never really rose above the fast-food category. Not something I'd get excited about.

*************
July 24 - Seattle, WA
Blue Moon Burgers

I've been here many times and had mostly given up on it. It's good when it's good and it's just as often not good. This time it was really good. I got the hangover, which has a fried egg and some french fries on it. The french fries were crisp and the egg yolk was slightly running. Both wins in my book! 
Even the bun seemed to be a bit better than I remember. So, I'm glad I had this today. It may be possible to redeem themselves in my mind if they impress me again. So I'll be giving them another chance soon.

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May 23 - Winnie, TX
Whataburger

Once again. This time I got the A-1 meaty burger. It didn't disappoint. I asked for no onions, of course.
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May 24 - Destin, FL

I ordered from the take out pick up window and took the food to go. I got the brisket and sausage plate with cole slaw and pork and beans. Everything was good. The sausage wasn't spicy, nor was the 'spicy' BBQ sauce I opted for. But both good nonetheless. The brisket had a great smokey flavor and a good black bark on it, but the meat was a bit on the dry side and the bark had softened. Not bad, but nothing too spectacular, either. My favorite part was the pork and beans. So smokey and sweet with a thick gravy and big hunks of pork. 
*************

May 25 - Bessemer, AL
Classic Burger and BBQ

I got the combo platter, which included three meats and two sides. I got mac and cheese and green beans, which tasted like they were from a box and a can respectively. They included three big slices of nice, fluffy white bread. The meats were pulled pork, ribs and chicken. The pulled pork was weird. Not shredded or meaty, but almost mulchy like they very coursely ground it up and included lots of tendons and cartilage. The ribs were so tough I had a hard time telling if I was biting into meat or bone. The fried chicken was actually really good, except that the entire platter was drowning in sauce. The sauce wasn't that spectacular, but even good sauce shouldnt' be ladeled over my dish. Let me decide how much sauce to use. Blech. I will almost ALWAYS want less sauce than you think I do.
Anyway, who puts sauce on fried chicken? 
*************

May 26 - Tucker, GA

This seemed like a very popular place. It was packed on a Thursday night. I called in a take-out order and it was ready just as I arrived. I got a Greek Burger, which included lettuce and tomato, feta cheese and tzatziki sauce. It also included onion, which I removed. A choice for the side was broccoli, which I opted for over fries or a salad. The broccoli was steamed and grilled and lightly seasoned.  The burger was delicious without being too overly Greek flavored. I ordered my meat medium rare, but I thought the inside was a little bit too pink. It almost ruined my experience, as I was concerned that the meat didn't reach a high enough internal temperature. But I ate it anyway, and so far, I haven't died. The menu was extensive and has some pretty interesting things on it.

*************
May 28 - Venice, FL

This place had outdoor seating, but I didn't stay, I took it to go.
I got the Bogey Burger because it said on the menu The Best Cheese Burger  You've Ever Tasted.
It was very good. Not the best. I got swiss cheese instead of the American cheese that it comes with. Really?  yuk. Definitely not on the Best Cheese Burger I've Ever Tasted. The rest of it was very good.
They wasted a shameful amount of condiments, by throwing in enough for a whole family, when I don't use it at all. They could have saved themselves by asking me if I wanted any. But they included no napkins, which was inconvenient. The fries were really good. So good, in fact, that they were still good after they cooled.

I went to Bogey's again a few days later and got a bacon mushroom and swiss cheese burger. It was awesome; juicy, cooked medium. Big thick slices of mushrooms and tangy swiss. Yum. This time the guy asked me if I wanted mayonnaise when I was placing my order on the phone. So I only had to throw away the couple of ketchup packets he threw in. 

*************
May 29 - Venice, FL

I found this place by asking Siri for the best burger in Venice. They won a Best Burger in Venice in 2016 and also a local Chili Cook-Off. So I got the chili cheese burger. They make their own potato chips which were thick and so crunchy I was almost embarrassed to eat them. River and I sat at one of the outdoor tables, nicely sitting in the shade of the strip mall this place occupied.
Burger was excellent, and cooked perfectly. It's been a while since I've been in a place where it was legal to serve meat still pink in the middle, but I've been asked how I like my meat cooked here in the south and when I say medium rare, by gosh it comes to me medium rare!
The chili was good but too sweet for my liking. I like a more hearty and spicy chili. But the burger and chips made a great lunch and the service was great.

May 31 - Venice, FL
BrewBurgers

Yes, I liked it so much I went back again. This time I got the "sacco" burger which had blackened meat, pepper jack cheese and buffalo sauce. I didn't notice a blackening on the meat. To me its more than just what spices you sprinkle on it before grilling, it's a texture, too. I expect a maillard effect and a spice that bites. I got nothing from the meat. And the same for the cheese. But I should know better. I'm almost always disappointed with pepper jack cheese. Usually I can't taste any pepper, and this time was the same. But what I could taste was all the buffalo sauce it was drowning in.
The sweet potato fries lacked something. I don't know what it was, but I've had better.
The service was once again outstanding. They brought out water for River both times without even asking me, and the second time, they brought out a plate of meat. I don't feed River from the table, so I had to send it back, but it was a lovely gesture.

*************
May 16 - San Marcos, TX
Five Guys Burger
I almost didn't bother to write about this place. It's a chain. I eat there. They make good burgers.
I wanted to put them to a real test, so I ordered a double cheese burger with nothing else on it. If it can be good like that, you have a good burger. And it was a winner, except for the cheese. The buns are good, with sesame seeds and grilled as the meat cooks. The meat is cooked medium, but still juicy. I don't like American cheese, and that is the only thing that prevented me from fully enjoying this burger. 
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May 19 - Dallas
Lazy Dog

The place has an extensive menu. Too big, I think, but I went right to the burger section and I chose the second item I saw, the BBQ Ranch Bacon Cheeseburger. 

Definitely not a fast food burger, this was a mountain of meat. A charbroiled half-pound beef patty topped with hickory-smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, chipotle ranch, lettuce, tomato, pickle and red onion on a brioche-style bun. I took the onion off and chomped in. It was perfect. But I had just eaten part of an 'inside out quesedilla' which has grilled cheese on the outside. Brilliant. And I had been sipping on a Guiness. I also loved the sweet potato tater tots that came with it. I wish I wasn't too full to finish it.
There were quite a few dogs on the patio, and River had to change tables at one point because we were too central and had dogs on all sides of us. Once we changed to a table near a wall, he was OK.

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May 21 - Houston
Houston Barbecue Company

They were out of brisket, so I got the pulled pork and jalapeno sausage combo plate. I got no sides. They offered me a slice of bread, but I opted out and had it instead with my sprouted grain bread and sauerkraut.
The pulled pork was disappointing. It wasn't shredded, but a chopped butt of pork.  And there was no sauce on it. The jalapeno sausage was good, but was almost too piquant to enjoy.  It came with some good BBQ sauce. Very orange and strong flavor of mustard and sweetened with honey. 


*************
May 22 - Houston

A cute place with outdoor seating for River. I got a Bandera burger, which came recommended from my friends and got an emotional response from the waiter, as soon as I ordered it. It came with caramelized onions and onion strings, among other things, like jalapenos cheese and cola bbq sauce. I opted out of the caramelized onions.  It also came with fries that were too salty to finish.
A great place that I'd return to. 
***********
April 30 - Seaside OR
Relief Pitcher
This is a divey sports bar in a small coastal Oregon town. The people were friendly, but the place was hopping so I had to wait a fairly long time for my order. I got a cheese burger with no onions and took it back to eat in my room. It did not disappoint. It was juicy and flavorful and was cooked perfectly. It held together while I ate it. I'd go back for another one if I was in Seaside again.

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May 1 - Coos Bay, OR
Liberty Pub
This dark tavern also serves food. They have a unique item that I tried, called a Burgerwich, which is a burger wrapped in pizza dough instead of on a bun.  One of most memorable aspects of this place was the woman wailing on the piano rock and roll style while I waited for my food. The Burgerwich was an interesting experiment, but I'm not sure if it worked. The thing fell apart as I ate it, which is a bad thing in my book. A burger should be able to hold itself together. The meat tasted a bit old and it was served on a bed of cold french fries. They might have been really good at one point, but in my opinion, once fries get cold, they're garbage. By the way, I don't usually order fries with my burger, but in this case the fries automatically came with it. I wouldn't go back to Liberty Pub.

***************
May 2 - Arcata, CA
Carl's Jr.
I should have known better, I guess. I don't usually go to fast food burger places, but I do admit to having an upper escelaon of fast food places that I do consider good and will go to. Places like Whataburger, In-and-Out, Five Guys, and even DQ have all proven to me that they can make a good burger. I asked for a basic burger that they called the Original Six Dollar Thickburger. It was six dollars and it was thick, but I have to complain. It was slathered in so much mayonnaise and other unsavory condiments in such overbearing amounts that on my first bite, the patty slid out from between the buns. After removing the gigantic hunk of iceberg lettuce (too big for this sandwich) and wiped up the majority of the goopy sauce, it still didn't come together as a burger. I couldn't even really taste the meat, even after wiping off the excess dressing. Carl's Jr. has impressed me in the past, so I but after today, I'm going to drop Carl's Jr down in rank to join the likes of Wendy's, McDonalds, Burger King and others peddling slop.

I need to mention at this point that I was very excited to be returning to Arcata because I remembered having a great burger the last time I was here. I stopped at a place called Stars Hamburgers. They were closed by the time I got into town, so I missed out. But next time I'm in Arcata, I will certainly be arriving before 8pm so I can enjoy a Stars Hamburger.

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May 3 - Ferndale, CA
No Brand Burger Stand


OMG. I'm so glad I drove about four miles off course to stop here. I asked Siri for a good burger place in Eureka, CA and he directed me here. This is a tiny little place run by rodeo folk who obviously know their steer. It isn't impressive from the outside, but this shack is churning out some great food. I ordered a cajun burger with Swiss cheese and I can't remember enjoying a burger this much. The meat tasted so fresh and the spices were perfect. The burger itself held together just the right amount, but did offer some fun messiness with all the juices and the gobs of cheese dripping off of it.
The place is very rustic, and a sign outside warned that there would be no bathroom for the public, but when I asked about how I could wash my hands before eating, the owner, running the cash register, directed me around the corner, through his storeroom to a secret bathroom.
Another surprising aspect of this little gem is that all of the beef is grass-fed.
I wish I could hitch this little shack to the back of my car and take it around with me on my road adventures. I think I've found a burger that sets a new bar.

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May 4 - Santa Rosa, CA
Superburger
This place gets bonus points from me right away for two reasons. One, they allow dogs to sit on the patio, and two, they offer grass fed beef for $2 extra.
I was tempted to get the chili burger. I opted against that when I determined that the grass fed beef option wasn't available on that item. So I went with the basic burger with Swiss cheese. It was delicious and I have no complaints. Well, maybe there were too many pickles, but that's easy to solve.
It was juicy and held together as I ate it. The beef was pink in the middle and tasted very fresh. They didn't overload it with condiments and everyone was super friendly. They refilled the water bowl that was set out for dogs, even though we were taking our food to go, they didn't want River to be thirsty while we waited for our order.

May 4 - Santa Rosa, CA

I never saw the dining area, since I got take out from the drive up window, but it seems they have a pretty unique decor.
This place gets a rave from me; and bonus points for being so close to the Motel 6 that my navigation told me I had reached my destination before I got out of the driveway. It's right next door! And there's a drive-thru, so I pulled in and ordered a Baconado Burger, which was excellent.
It is made with grass fed beef and cooked a little bit longer so wasn't quite dripping with juices, but very good nonetheless. and it was covered in a melange of cheese, mushrooms and crumbled bacon. I wolfed it down, loving every bite. It came with a side, automatically, so I chose sweet potato fries. Since the place was so close, they were still piping hot when I got back to the room so I ate them.
This place also has $1 draft beers, which might be a good thing to some people. I don't care, but thought I'd mention it.
*************

May 7  - San Clemente, CA
Mr. Pete's Burgers, Burritos and Breakfast
This painting of a car is the only indication that this is the drive through window.
I had a 420 burger which has hash browns on it, and ketchup and cheese and bacon. 
 It tasted really good. I don't like American cheese, so that could have been better. The hash browns weren't crispy, but they were cooked enough. The meat patty was thin and cooked brown all the way through. It didn't have much juiciness or flavor. The bottom bun was grilled on the bottom, so it was interesting to have that on the tongue, rather than soft bun on the bottom, toasted on the inside.Overall the burger was good enough for $5. I like to support a local business and it was a fun, funky place to eat.
*************

May 10  - Yuma, AZ
Eddie's Burgers


The drive up window ordering sign is blank. I pull around to the pick up window and see a sign that says to call the order in for pick up at the window. So I drive around to the parking section and call to order. I never saw a menu, so I just asked for a double bacon swiss cheese burger.

I took it to a nearby park to eat it. It was really good. Juicy and flavorful. They had asked me if I wanted condiments with it, but as usual, I said no. The burger did come with a secret sauce that looked like ketchup and mayo. But it wasn't too much.

I had asked for 'no onions' but they gave me onion anyway, so I had to dig it out with my fingers. Blech. If you're in Yuma, go visit Eddie.
















*************
May 12 - Del Rio, TX
Whataburger


This is the view outside my motel room window; how could I not eat here? I'm going to be smelling it all night, I might as well join in.
The sign suggested trying the Chop House Cheddar Burger so I did. 
No vegetables at all. Two beef patties, bacon, and cheese sauce. 
I would have added my own vegetables but it was so good like it was, I didn't take the time.
I would have preferred the meat cooked less. 
They didn't overdo the sauce. It was not messy at all. I didn't use a napkin until the very end. 
*************

May 13 - Pearsall, TX
 I wasn't sure it was open, or if it would be any good, since it was deserted. But I went in and got a half pound of brisket and a peach cobbler. I tried to eat it on the grass out front, but the sun was too hot. There was no shade and it was humid.  They gave me enough for three sandwiches, but I only ate one before getting in the car. I had the rest later. I thought the meat was a little dry. The BBQ sauce was good. It was a thin, runny sauce. Spicy, but the main flavor was honey.
***********
May 14 - Corpus Christi
Sparky's Deep Pit BBQ

I got a 3 meat plate, brisket, pulled pork and cheddar jalapeno sausage. With that, I could take unlimited side dishes and salad from the bar or drinks from the fountain. I took a corn muffin, some cole slaw, pickled jalapenos and carrots, and a dish of butterbeans. It was yummy. Oh, and I got a plate of homemade mango cookies filled with frosting.  I sat out on the patio. It was deserted, I guess because of the 90 degree weather.
At one point, River spotted the restaurant cat. He scurried after her but the leash wrapped around my leg stopped him short. 

***********
June 1 - Pompano Beach, FL

Off the hook delicious crazy burger called the Peanut Butter Jelly Time! 
Meat cooked medium, thick and juicy; peanut butter; really good sweet tomato jam, also cheddar cheese (they make it that way, I didn't even have to swap out American) and candied bacon. The bacon wasn't in a jordan almond candy shell, but there was definitely a sweet glaze on it. It all came together so well.
There were lots of very interesting things on the menu. I sort of wish I could stay here longer to try some of them. 
*************
June 2 - The Villages, FL
Steak & Shake

Basically a fast food place. A burger was less than $5, but it wasn't very filling. It tasted good enough, although for something called the Peppercorn Bacon burger, I'd expect more pepper flavor. 
*************
June 3 - Brunswick, GA
Sunny's Smoke Pit BBQ

Another chain. I prefer to patronize the smaller establishments, but this was too convenient.
I got the brisket and it was dry. I got broccoli and jalapeno cornbread which were both good. And I also got the baked beans which literally tasted like candy. It's not good when the baked beans are sweeter than the cornbread. And I got a serving of "Sizzlin' Hot" BBQ sauce which had a strange flavor. 

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June 3 - Florence, SC
Cook Out

I didn't realize this was a chain until I was already there. By that time I was already sold so I stayed and ordered a "Huge" burger "Cook Out" style. Which means with chili and slaw. It looked like someone had put chili and slaw on my burger but then scraped it off. The smallest amount of a smear of each was left on what they served me. 
I was disappointed in the small size for something called "Huge". The chili was really good, but I would have expected a lot more. I didn't even taste the slaw. 
This place had potential but I think it's just a basic fast food place. 
*************

June 5 - Charlotte, NC
Trio Restaurant

The menu is widely varied, which is a red flag for me. But I saw that they had a burger, so I went with that, of course. I got it with no ketchup, mayo or mustard, which surprised the waitress. The burger was good enough, nothing worth writing in a blog about, actually. The swiss cheese was really good. I ordered the meat medium, but it was brown all the way through. I got it with a side of fruit.
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June 6 - Charlotte, NC
Bang Bang Burgers

OK, I've found another winner, here! This is a single shop, run by a chef who is into good meats. They offer a 100% grass fed beef option, but even their 'regular' patties are made with choice cuts and not parts and scraps.  And the menu is creative, with things like kim chi burgers, pimento cheese and fried pickles or gangnam style. I think the chef is Korean.
I got a Hangover burger
which came with cheddar cheese and bacon-potato hash and was topped with a fried egg, which they ask if you want runny, not runny or somewhere in between. I asked for runny and that's how it came. It also comes with grilled onions which I declined. The chef has such respect for his meat that he serves the special Bang Bang sauce on the side and encourages you to taste the meat first before adding the sauce. I never added the sauce. I used it to dip my fries in. It was an unusual sauce. It looked like the standard McDonald's secret sauce which is mayo and ketchup with pickle relish. The Bang Bang sauce had something extra, which I think was cream of tartar, or whatever ingredient it is in tartar sauce that gives it that unique tangy flavor.
The burger was enormous and was served on a cutting board.
The fries were awesome. They tasted like, imagine this, potatoes. Like fresh potatoes cooked perfectly. Unfortunately, for my taste, way too much salt on the fries.
If I could go back, I would, and I'd skip the fries, or ask for very little or no salt. And I loved the Hangover burger, but I'd want to try something different next time.
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June 8 - Sandston, VA

I got the sampler plate which included brisket, pulled pork, chicken wings and ribs.
I wasn't sure about the brisket because of the light color. But it was moist and had a delicious flavor with a hint of clove. There was a black crust but it was no longer crusty. It had gone soft during storage. 
The pulled pork was the best I'd had in a long time. I had been having such bad luck with pulled pork lately, I was starting to reconsider whether I liked it or not. But this confirmed that I do when it's done right. This was Carolina style with lots of vinegar and a hint of sweetness that was reminiscent of pineapple. 
The ribs were enjoyable, which is a lot coming from me. Not a fan of ribs, but there were good enough I'd make a meal out of them.  They fell right off the bone and were tender and flavorful. The sweetness was subtle and my best guess would be brown sugar. The whole rib was coated with a crisp, smokey black crust. 
The chicken wings were easily the best I've ever had. They were giant. The meat was plentiful and very moist. It jumped off the bone; all I had to do was look at it. The crust was black and crispy and I don't know how to describe the flavor. Smoke, for sure and something else that made me think of beef jerky. 
The platter came with a couple of rolls, but one was enough. And the guy threw two tubs of 'sauce' in the bag before handing it to me. I didn't need the sauce at all. Even though everything was dry, all of the meat was so delicious it stood on its own.  Just out of curiousity, I dipped a slice of brisket into the sauce and didn't like it. The sauce might be good, but it doesn't even come close to the high quality that the meat had, so adding the sauce covered up the nice, rich, smoky flavor. The store-bought-tasting, not-very-sweet-and-not-very-hot mediocre sauce was superfluous and I didn't dip a second time.
The only complaint I have about the food was that the meat wasn't very warm. 
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June 14 - New York City
Big Daddy's

This place gets a mixed review. Thumbs down because they screwed up my order. I ordered a special burger with bacon, cheese and tater tots. It was the tater tots that really made this burger sound intriguing to me, but that was left off the burger. The bacon and the cheddar cheese as well as the burger itself were all top notch and cooked perfectly.
Besides the major omission of tots, Michael's burger also had problems. The french fries he ordered were ice cold, and there was a conspicuous lack of mushrooms except for a small pile of them all crammed into one bite. 
I'd have to say that in a town like NYC with so many options to choose from, a place has to be careful not to make grievous errors like this. Such carelessness will give me pause the next time I'm thinking of getting a burger, and choose a different place.
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June 15 - New York City
A. G. Kitchen

Now this place was a winner! I went in and got great service. I ordered the Manhattan Latin which is bacon, cheese and guacamole. The fries come sprinkled with a chimichurri seasoning and I also got a side of the same. It worked on the fries, but as a dipping sauce it wasn't a good chimichurri. It suffered from too much garlic and oil and not enough herbs and peppers. So it had very little taste besides garlic. 
The burger was cooked perfectly and the toppings were all excellent. I'm from Santa Barbara so was raised on guacamole, and can be particular about it. But this was very good and the exact amount was used on the burger. Guacamole is something that can be a disaster when overused. 
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June 19 - Columbus, OH

This is a chain, but it was convenient and looked good. I got the sampler which included:
sliced turkey breast - moist and plain
sausage - hard and dense 
pulled pork - very scant flavor
brisket - one of the best I've had
On the side, I chose hush puppies (perfectly done) and greens with pork. I've never seen so much pork in a side of greens. This was at least half pork meat, if not more. Not complaining, I ate the whole thing, but it was different.
It also came with Texas toast, which I didn't eat. I couldn't finish the whole sampler, so I'll have the bread with it when I eat it for dinner tonight.
They offered me a 'side' of BBQ sauce and asked what kind I liked. I asked for smokey and she suggested the original. I gasped when I saw how much she was giving me. It must've been half a pint full of sauce. I don't even use it on much. I dipped the hush puppies in it sometimes, but not every time. The sausage needed it, unfortunately. And the pulled pork also needed something, so I used that sauce. The brisket needed nothing, it was better without the sauce.
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June 22 - St. Louis, MO
The White Barn
A sign in the parking lot says, "We need to stop killing each other."  There is also a message on the White Barn sign that declares "It's worth the weight."
When I first drove up, there were no cars, and there are no doors. I drove around the building once before someone poked their head out of a window.
I ordered and they coo'ed at River from inside the barn as it cooked. When I left, they also handed me a small bowl of cooked hamburger meat for him.
This burger was off the hook. I think it was the biggest burger I've ever seen. In between the two thick patties was a third bun. A top bun at that!  I removed it to make the thing possible to bite. It was greasy and delicious, but in my opinion the flavor was spoiled by too much ketchup and pickles. Other than that, it was a satisfying experience. 
*************
June 23 - Route 66
Steak & Shake

I know I already ate here, and it's a chain, but it was really good and it has a drive thru, so I did it again. And again I actually loved it. The burger was just about as peppery as the "Peppersteak" burger, and the meat is really tasty. I had asked for it without raw onions, but the fried onions were fine. It was perfect and it was still hot when I unwrapped it to eat it.

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