Archive | October, 2011

Wendy’s New Dave’s Hot ‘N Juicy: All this fuss about a buttered bun?

28 Oct

I won’t call this your typical review. If I was reviewing a place, I look at a lot of things – the ambiance, the presentation and more. A fast food place make certain concessions that kind of take it out of the running – like uniformity, centralized supplies, the culinary equivalent of your basic at-home lobotomy kit, etc.

That said, I wanted to try Wendy’s new burger. Wendy’s has a special nostalgic place for me. As a child, we were not wealthy by most standards. A trip out to eat when I was young was a treat and a half, and one of the places that we went fairly often was Wendy’s. In fact, when I was a kid, I set up a pretend Wendy’s in the back yard of my house. I’d serve burger from there, which was easy since I could do it with dirt and imagination … and since there was a rumor flying around at the time that there were worms in the meat.

Wendy’s hasn’t always held fast to their roots. You might remember the Mega-Bar days at Wendy’s. Or the Salad Bar days. I remember when cheese and tomato was extra. I also appreciate the type of man who Dave Thomas appears to have been. He was an example of the American dream – a self-made entrepreneur – who loved burgers. A man who was orphaned who had a life-long commitment to bettering other people lives.

Like Dave himself, there is much to like about the new Wendy’s burger. Some of the changes are cataloged here, but the company went on a burger vision quest over the recent past … resulting in:

  • A juicier patty, due in large part to less denseness and less mashing during cooking, but still square-ish
  • Crinkle pickles, over flat ones
  • Permanently hold the mustard
  • More cheese
  • Purple onions over white ones
  • A butter-toasted bun

If you judge this burger against other fast food ones, it is one of the better ones. It ranks up there with my favorites – Backyard and Rallys.

Personally, the buttered bun is tasty, but I felt it detracted from the taste of the burger. The purple onions were just too oniony for me, and I pulled them off after giving them a try (but I do this at most fast food places). But the meat is juicier; and the lack of mustard gives the burger a fuller flavor (undoubtedly from the new full-fat mayo). It’s a pretty good burger.

The other bonus at Wendy’s is the fries. Obviously, they don’t walk down to the farmer’s market and buy their produce locally, but the fries at Wendy’s are about as close as a true fast food place is likely to get to having hand-cut fries. They are some of my favorites (and I always loved their old fries, too).

No, I don’t do a scale or a rating for fast food; it’s like picking Vandy to win SEC football championship … an unnecessary move. But Wendy’s has faced some business headwinds of late and this new burger is an attempt to right the ship. I hope they do, because I’ve always had a soft spot for them.

On Tap Sports Bar: Zombie Apocalypse

11 Oct

When did it become cool to be a zombie? When I was a kid, being a zombie was a scary something. But today, you have zombie weddings. Scholarly studies on the spread of zombie viruses. And just about all the zombies you can want or stand in terrible straight to DVD movies.

Then, you have zombie restaurants …

On Tap Lakeview Beautimous Burger BlogHeretofore, readeth the disclaimer: I, Beautimous, have visited On Tap Sports Bar on several occasions. I do enjoy going. But they all aren’t created equal. Their beer menu is one of the best in the area – and it is a place that feature deals on micro-brews and offers many high-gravity selections.

But the night I went the place was the walking dead.

I went that night with other warriors, to the Lakeview location. First, of all the On Taps, it is the least agreeable … some by its choices and other my misfortune. It’s a re-tooled place (though I can’t remember what was there before it). And it can be a little cramped and dank inside.

Second, I had an unfortunate dating excursion there about a year ago. There was a zombie theme to that one, too, believe me (Hello! Is there a sentient being in there!).

But I digress.

When it comes to a sports bar, atmosphere is important, as must be the food.

Heretofore, I confess my sins: I believe that I allowed the zombified nature of that place to tempt me. I confess I did not love the burger with a whole heart. I failed to be an obedient knight. I rebelled against the true way. I broke my laws.

I ordered a mushroom-swiss burger – The Old Bailey Burger at On Tap.

I love a Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich, but for some reason, whenever I order a mushroom-swiss burger (the burger attempt at being all Brotherly-Love) it just never lives up to my expectations. The one at On Tap was decent. Meat from who-knows-where. But the Swiss overpowers the rest of the flavors in the burger, and you’re left with a Swiss cheese sandwich, with mushroom and burger juice flavor.

Overall, the food at On Tap is decent, not exceptional, but adequate for a sports bar. If you’re going to watch a game, I’d suggest the one in Hoover … better food, better service and a more spirited crowd.

In medieval times, we believed that the way to deal with our undead was to burn them at the stake; at On Tap in Lakeview, they believe the way to deal with the living is to let them burn their own stakes … i.e., it might be the one place I can think of (other than a cigar shop/bar) where people still smoke indoors. And I was assailed multiple times, by cigars no less, which is great at in its place, but it doesn’t pair well with Old Bailey.

Points are 1-10 (ten being the best)

Meat – 8.0 … Uuuhhh. Zombie eat brains. Zombie eat brains, but love them hand-patted and fresh!

Bun and fixins’ 7.5 – Zombie always order mushroom-swiss. Zombie like burger with boring taste. Zombie no need Kaiser roll or bacon.

Sides – 7.5 … Fries are like people fingers. Fresh is best. Frozen … zombie get frozen anywhere.

Service & Presentation – 7 … Zombie enjoyed service of slow waitstaff. Lulls the living. But zombie notice knights dying of thirst, hoping for last drink. Living are so cranky when nothing to drink.

Ambiance – 7 … Perfect zombie hangout. Lifeless. People drinking and smoking. Games on no one cares about.* Zombies better move fast – for a zombie; feed before everyone dies of boredom.

Bonus X – +1.5 What drink do undead drink … a zombie, of course … (Great beers and nightly specials here).

Rating – BBB+

* I’ve said how dead the place was. And this was on the night when two of the great baseball games of this century were played, with both the Braves and Red Sox choking on collective opportunity. No partisans. Zombies in the crowd; zombies on the screen.

On Tap Sports Cafe Lakeview on Urbanspoon

Bob Syke’s Barbeque: Our Hamburgian Cousin

2 Oct

Now, I know that this is a burger blog. But if you want to get people arguing in the South, and you don’t have a desire to discuss college football, just bring up who has the best barbecue. In the Birmingham area, one place usually mentioned on “best” lists is Bob Sykes Barbecue in Bessemer. For good reason …

Bob Sykes is still a family owned and run business. Van Syke’s is involved in the Bessemer community and has from time to time ventured out from the one location – to Tannehill State Park and to the now-anemic Watermark Place. But the mother-pig on Bessemer Superhighway still churns out deliciousness six days a week.* Just look for the massive pig sign out front.

* I don’t take issue with a place wanting to be closed on Sunday for religious reasons. My grandfather wouldn’t let people fish in his pond of Sunday. But it never fails, that my taste-buds yearn for forbidden fruit when it’s withheld … [Bob Sykes, Chik-fil-A].

Allow me, for a second, to chase a pig here … In general, if you are in a bind and just want a decent burger, you can find one at a GOOD barbecue place. They typically – again the good ones – take meat and the preparation of it seriously. Since they tend to get deliveries of meat to smoke daily, they have fresh stuff all the way around and make them to order.

Which brings me to the burger at Bob Sykes … First, please check any conviction that you should only get barbecue at the door, because this place has an absolutely delicious burger. And it’s not your typical one either!

The burger has a healthy dose of the smoky sauce that the place is known for. It also has a pickle on it. In a way, it’s a barbecue sandwich, but with the pork replaced by a burger patty. Oh, almost forgot to mention, that if you get it like they prep it, it will likely arrive with some chow chow (Note: I’ve been challenged about this … it could have been uppity onions, too … who knows)  hidden here and there. Same buns as the barbecue cousin gets, too.

And if you want, you can get your shot of burger deliciousness in a Booth (just not a John Wilkes one).

Look, the only real problem I have with Bob Sykes … He’s a “homer.” He supports our locally grown and more historic Buffalo Rock soda distributor. Which means, if you’re looking for a Co-Cola with your meal, you’re gonna hear, “Will a Pepsi be okay?” As a consolation, they have sweet tea … and Dr. Pepper.

Another fun point of Bob Sykes, unrelated to burgers but to atmosphere: It’s one of few remaining bbq places where you can watch the fun. Walk in, and the pork is being cooked and smoked in front of your eyes. Sure, you’ll need to explain to your seven-year old son that it’s not like home, and dad just can’t go get one, and that no matter how much he asks, you’re not going to let him use the garden hose on your grill.

Bottom line: the barbecue is first rate and so is the burger!

Points are 1-10 (ten being the best)

Meat – 9.25 … Clearly hand made and hand patted. It is was done perfectly – juicy and scorched in a couple places. Not over-seasoned. It doesn’t need it.

Bun and fixins’ 9 – I guess a better bun might deliver a better product, but this one is pretty darned good. I love the sauce and chow. I also loved the pickle.

Sides – 8.0 … This could be a bit confusing, because you could get any side that typically comes with the barbecue (baked beans, coleslaw, corn …). And while I think the sides at Bob Syke’s are good, they aren’t my favorite. The fries are decent, but – no way to explain this – get cold every time I visit. And this variety of fries doesn’t hold up well when they are lukewarm.

Service & Presentation – 7 … Adequate.

Ambiance – 8.5 … It looks like a barbecue place, a family one. I like the pit in the front. It’s fun to watch.

Bonus X – +1 … There are lots of other reasons to try Bob Sykes, if you’ve never done it before. Good desserts. Great barbecue.

Rating – AA

Bob Sykes Barbeque on Urbanspoon
http://www.facebook.com/BobSykesBBQ  

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