Tuesday, March 30, 2010

TTCCBB Travels: Bongo Burger in Berkeley

Ok, ok, I know: This is The Twin Cities CheeseBurger Blog. Alas, I'm not always in the Twin Cities -- but I always eat cheeseburgers. So I've decided to expand the blog's horizons to encompass burgers in places I visit. Not to worry, dear readers; I'll still be focusing on the Twin Cities cheeseburger scene (does such a thing as a "cheeseburger scene" actually exist?), but with occasional interludes from burgers farther afield.

One such burger is the so-called "Persian Burger" from Bongo Burger in Berkeley, California. I went to college in Berkeley and Bongo Burger was one of my college staple foods. The Persian Burger is a little different than the typical cheeseburger. For starters, it's made of ground lamb. Second, it's served on a french roll rather than a traditional round bun. Third...there is no third, those are the main differences.

Normally, I would order a full Persian Burger combo with fries and a soda. On this particular day, though, Bongo Burger was one of many "mini-lunches" I was going to have (grand total: 6), so a little moderation was in order. I ordered a half Persian Burger with Swiss cheese (an extra $0.75) and its standard accoutrements of lettuce, tomato, onion, and mayo for a grand total of $4.70

The burger arrived, and, as I remembered, the patty was a long, flat rectangular affair that didn't quite cover the surface area of the roll. It was cooked well-done, as expected, with a little too much shredded iceberg lettuce (easily fixed). The star of this burger is the meat. Let's face it, lamb is delicious, and a seasoned lamb patty on a french roll is just a winning recipe. This burger is delicious. If I want to be nitpicky, the meat was a little on the dry side, but with such a thin patty, the juiciness of the tomato made up for it. The lightly toasted french roll bun complements the burger well, with enough crunch to provide an interesting textural contrast if not a whole lot of flavor (though it is, on its own, tastier than a regular white burger bun). Bottom line here is this: If you love lamb, you'll love this burger.

Bongo Burger
2505 Dwight Way,
Berkeley, CA
(510) 548-4100

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Bulldog

The Bulldog is a local bar that happens to have great bar food. The location nearest me, in Uptown, is the original location, while the one in Northeast is supposed to be in more of the 'gastropub' vein (I don't know anything about the St. Paul Lowertown incarnation). Whatever. The Lyndale location is within walking distance so that's where I went.

I went in on a Wednesday night and found it surprisingly full. I ordered a patty melt, since I hadn't had one in a while and I happen to love patty melts. For those that aren't familiar with the concept, allow me to explain: Start with a burger patty. Cook. Add cheese and caramelized onions. Throw the resulting assemblage between slices of rye bread and grill until crispy and melty, then eat. The variant at the Bulldog is an excellent example on paper (both figuratively and literally, as it's served in a paper-lined basket), with a half pound of Angus beef, both swiss and cheddar cheese slices, and marble rye. I ordered mine medium with a side of tater tots (a 50 cent upcharge over the standard fries) which put the total at $9.00 even.

Or, at least I thought I had ordered it. After sitting and watching numerous other tables get their food, it turned out that my server had forgotten to put my order in with the kitchen. She was very apologetic and confirmed my order before sending it to the kitchen, and she comped my beverage as a way of apology.

When the patty melt came out, I was first disappointed by the pickle spear resting across my tater tots, contaminating their pillowy, golden, crunchy deliciousness with vile pickle juice. I removed the pickle posthaste and quarantined the contaminated tots before inspecting the patty melt. The slices of rye were thick and unseeded and the cheese was melted and gooey -- a promising start.

The melt arrived already cut in half and initially looked like the meat had been overcooked, but I think this was just some sort of edge effect: the interior of the patty was cooked to a perfect pink medium, while the cut edges were a little more cooked due to whatever residual heat was casting about. Sadly, the interior of the meat was not seasoned to a perfect level of seasoning. In fact, I doubt any salt was added at all (I think I'm starting to sound like a broken record with my constant harping on the excess or lack of salt in the various burgers I eat, but...it's important!). On the other hand, the rye had great flavor and the caramelized onions really tie the whole burger together. Also, I didn't have meat juice napalm squeezing out onto my hands or basket, so that was nice.

Besides the lack of seasoning, I think they could have given a little more flavor just by searing the meat a little more. The patty had only a minor level of browning (possibly due to the lack of salt to draw moisture out of the meat) and could easily have used more Maillard reaction to create delicious flavors and texture at the surface of the meat. Similarly, the bread, which is supposed to be grilled to give a crispy, toasted surface, felt like it only had a perfunctory look at the griddle. It's possible that my server had put my melt in as a rush order, though, so it would take some more data to see if this was just a one-off fluke. And I'll definitely be back.

The Bulldog
2549 S. Lyndale Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55405

(612) 872-8893

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Sorry I haven't posted a cheeseburger this week. I haven't had a burger this week. I'm going to Chicago for a couple of days; maybe I'll have one there and review it as part of my T(Non-TC)CBB series. Stay tuned!

EDIT: Had a burger earlier tonight (in Minneapolis); look for the review in the next few days.