Parlour Burger (MSP) – Not as Great as the Hype

img_0407Thrillist recently announced its Best Burgers in America, and Parlour, the pubby sibling to Borough restaurant, was the sole winner from Minneapolis. Those are strong words given some of the great burgers in the Twin Ciries, and being a burger devotee I was incredibly excited that I would enjoy another great Twin Cities’ burger. I am also a fan of Borough and if the kitchen could channel the talent of my previous visit into its burger, I was all-in.

img_0406Parlour is located below Borough on Washington. The space has an urban vibe, with eclectic seating that includes high back semi-wingback chairs, a few banquettes and a fabric-covered wall in the rear with more funky tables and chairs. There is also a long wood topped bar that seats twelve. At 6PM on a Tuesday evening, all the tables were occupied and there were only three vacant seats at the bar.

img_0409The menu is somewhat limited with several small plates and a fair number of desserts. The menu description of the burger was “ground sirloin, ribeye, brisket, American cheese” served with a few slices of pickles, fries are a separate order.  I asked for my burger medium-rare and an order of fries. As I waited I watched as burger after burger were delivered to over 75% of the waiting guests, this was a very good sign.

The burger and fries arrived quickly, the burger on a single salad plate and the large mound of fries on an oblong dinner plate. I first tasted a few fries and the level of salt made my head snap back, it was absolutely overwhelming. This was not a good start. I hoped the burger was better. I pulled a little piece of meat that was dangling over the bun and tasted. Like the fries the kitchen overwhelmed the meat with salt, I was hoping this was isolated to that little piece. I cut the burger in half and it was prepared well-done, not to my requested medium-rare. I asked the bartender and she said she input “medium-rare” and would I like a new burger. I agreed and the first burger and fries were removed from the table. A couple of minutes passed and a manager approached and asked about the burger. I told her it was delivered well-done and she explained all of them are because “of the amount of butter” in the patty. No worries, now that I know to expect it well-done. I asked if she could tell the kitchen to take it easy on the salt.

Burger #2 arrived and the mound of fries #2 were smaller and also served on a smaller plate, but still a good sized portion. I cut the burger in half and it was well-done, but glistened with juices. I pulled a little piece of the meat to taste and it had good flavor and the kitchen was more prudent with the salt. There were two patties, each topped with melted cheese. In total, I would estimate over a half pound of meat, it was a substantial burger. The cheese was perfectly melted and the bun was buttered and griddled, both on the interior and exterior. The grind was medium and there was good sear on the exterior. This had the makings of a great burger, just meat, cheese on a buttered and grilled bun. I took my first bite…

And then a few more bites before I decided I knew that I was in the minority. I thought it was a very good burger but not to the level as some of the great grass-fed meats in other places in Minneapolis. It was very juicy but was this from the meat or the addition of the butter, I do not know. I thought the cheese and the bun were outstanding, two of the best I have ever tasted. The cheese was rich, creamy, with great flavor. The bun was fantastic and even better with the additional buttery goodness and mild crunch from the grilling. I tasted a few of the fries and the kitchen was less aggressive on the salt, thankfully, but they were very substandard. They lacked the textural contrast of a crispy exterior paired with the soft interior, a one dimensional product.

As much as I entered Parlour with high expectations, the burger was very disappointing and the fries were very mediocre. Given the recent inclusion in Thrillist, the number of orders leaving the kitchen and the other meal I previously ate upstairs at Borough, I was expecting better.

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Nick & Toni’s (East Hampton) – Still One of the Best

img_0400The evening started with our traditional zucchini chips. These lightly coated, thinly sliced orbs were delicious. All they required was a squirt of lemon to elevate the natural goodness of the zucchini.

img_0401For my appetizer I ordered the beets with goat cheese and pistachios. The dish consisted of several quarters of various beets over greens with a slice of pistachio crusted goat cheese. The beets were perfectly roasted to maintain a terrific firmness but fell a little short on flavor, somewhat lacking that deep earthiness. Likewise the sliver of goat cheese was a little meager compared to the ampleness of the beet portion.

img_0402For my entree I opted for one of the night’s specials, tilefish served over pole beans with an heirloom tomato sauce. One word can describe this dish…spectacular. It was my introduction to tilefish and I am now a huge fan of this sweet, firm white fleshed fish. Two fillets sat atop a mound of mixed pole beans, all swimming in a pool of light tomato juice with segments of the tomatoes. The filets were exquisitely prepared with a crisp skin and succulent flesh. The tomatoes and juice added additional sweetness with a smidgen of capers contributing a little saltiness. The pole beans were crunchy and a perfect complement. This was a fantastic and light rendition.

To relax after the meal I ordered an espresso. It was one if the deepest flavored espresso I have ever enjoyed.

Service was exceptional, professional and spot on in every aspect. Even on a busy Saturday night in August we were not rushed and treated with incredible professionalism throughout the evening. Nick & Toni’s has been a centerpiece of Hampton’s dining for years and there is a reason for it. On this latest visit it proved how great a restaurant can be.

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Chef Tony Delicias – Not Bad Tacos

bl1Located on Riverside Avenue in Norwalk just south of the Wendy’s on Route 123 and across from the cemetery (I kid you not), Chef Tony Delicias is a colorful truck offering tacos, burritos and other Mexican fare. When I approached the window on my first visit there were several people already enjoying their lunches and each assured me that the food at Chef Tony’s was delicious. I ordered three tacos, the steak, chicken and chorizo. Each included a double tortilla topped with grilled meat, onion, cilantro and the diner chooses from a few sauces on the counter. A few wedges of lime plus slices of radishes joined the tacos on the plate

rsz_dsc_0172I placed a small amount of the green sauce on each and returned to my car. The steak was my first choice and I was disappointed after the first bite. It was very bland, just small chunks of beef, griddled and placed on the tortillas. I did not taste any seasoning. The cilantro was mild and the green sauce added a good level of spiciness. The next taco I tried was the chicken and it was a twin to the beef, very bland. The last taco was the chorizo; fortunately this was different with a good level of spiciness from the chorizo

bl4Something did not feel right. Tony was fastidious in the prep, after handling money he washed his hands, he used new gloves with each order, I just could not believe what I ate was indicative of the food, so I returned for a second visit. On visit number 2 I again ordered three tacos, a steak, a carnitas and chicken. It was a different experience

bl3The tacos on the second visit were served nestled in a Styrofoam container with three lime wedges and a small side container of green sauce. The tacos contained the meat plus a small handful of onions and a fair amount of cilantro. There were no sauces on the counter and Tony included a small container of salsa verde with the order. After returning to the car I added a good squirt of lime and drizzled the salsa on each. The chicken was much better with a touch of seasoning and the lime, onion and salsa worked very well together, but the cilantro was somewhat bland. The next taco I sampled was the beef, which was also lightly seasoned and very good. The carnitas was the last I tried and was the best of the six tacos I tasted over the two visits. The pork was seasoned properly, grilled nicely and the meat maintained a good level of juiciness. Like the other two tacos, the balance of the onions, salsa and tortillas was very good.

Although somewhat inconsistent, the second visit to Chef Tony’s feels more indicative of the food and presents another choice for good tacos, albeit in a somewhat out-of-the-way location.

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Flipside (Fairfield) – Disappointing Burger

bl1The Best of the Gold Coast Awards were announced recently and one of the areas of personal interest was the winner in the Burger Category. When I saw that Flipside was this year’s winner I immediately placed this venue to the top of my must-try list. I visited a couple of years ago and it never made my “Best of…” list so I was curious if the burger was different from what I sampled.

Flipside is located on the Post Road slightly east of Brick Walk on the south side of the street. Parking is located in the lot behind Ring’s End. There is a long bar, indoor tables and booths plus seating outside for 40-45 guests. It was a beautiful evening so I decided the terrace would be a great way to enjoy a burger.

Burgers are very much front and center at Flipside. There are sixteen predetermined combinations or guests can mix and match from 9 “meats,” 27 different toppings and a variety of 12 sauces. “Meats” include beef, fried chicken, ahi tuna, turkey, salmon and that ever-present veggie burger. I would caution ordering some of the pre-determined offerings as you can save a little money if your order the same combination a la carte. Just check.

I ordered a 6-ounce beef patty (medium-rare) with bacon and American cheese. Fries are included and I decided to keep it simple with regular fries, versus substituting (for a small fee) with sweet potato fries or onion rings.

bl2When the burger arrived I cut it in half and was a little disappointed that it was more raw-rare than medium-rare. The meat had a decent flavor but nothing outstanding. There was no char whatsoever on the exterior and the kitchen forgot to place any seasoning on the patty. The bacon was well cooked and delivered just a touch of saltiness. The cheese was generous and well melted. The bun was in the same category as the other ingredients, basic and it was not grilled, straight from the bag to the plate. The other item of note was the burger tasted as if it was cooked on the same griddle as the onions, there was a significant oniony flavor on the meat.

The shoestring fries were also basic. They were somewhat greasy and most of them were limp, plus the seasoning was extremely inconsistent.

Overall it was an OK burger in an area that has numerous burgers that I view as better options. With all of the votes that Flipside is serving the best burger around I had high hopes and was disappointied.

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Harlan Social (Stamford) – #1 (Tie) on 2015 Best Burger List

harlan_social_burgerAs I mentioned in my blog on South End, it wasa tie in 2015 for the best burger in southwest CT. The “Harlan Burger” at Harlan Social includes a special blend of meats which Chef Steve Lewandowski elevates the flavors with his incredibly unique toppings. He first bastes the burger with a house-made “Japanese Worcestershire Sauce” and then adds his “Cheddar Ale Sauce,” comprised of four different varieties of cheese, mushroom stock and cream ale. And Chef Lewandowski does not stop there as he tops these items with a fantastic Bacon Onion Jam. The sweet, sour, salty, umami elements were all present. Finally, the burger is encased in a Portuguese Muffin from Boston (my favorite bun on the tour), which adds a sweet accent.

Served with some of the best fries in CT and you have a prefect meal.

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South End (New Canaan) – #1 (Tie) on 2015 Best Burger List

IMG_0314-0012015 was a difficult year in choosing the number 1 burger in southwest CT and the coin flip did not help. In the end I decided that it was a tie between South End in New Canaan and Harlan Social in Stamford.

IMG_0315-001The “South End Burger” created by Chef Nick Martschenko starts with fantastic beef, topped with Benton bacon, American cheese, South End burger sauce and served on a poppy seed roll. The flavor of the meat is perfect, and Chef Martschenko chars the exterior while maintaining a medium rare interior that oozes tons of juicy goodness. The bacon is crisp and flavorful and complements the meat. A few slices of B&B pickles adorn the burger and add another delightful sour component and the melted American cheese encases the patty. The sauce was a chunky spiced ketchup-y delight, which adds another flavor level. The roll was light and allows the other bold flavors inside to shine. The fries are delicious, lightly salted with a dusting of parmesan cheese and is a great partner for the burger.

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Revival (MSP) – Incredible Fried Chicken

bl_1Revival is located on the northeast corner of 43rd and Nicolet. When you enter the restaurant you are surrounded by vintage 1950s colors…oranges, browns and golds, with wallpaper adorned with large marigolds. The bar resides along the rear wall with a view of the pass from the kitchen with six metal backless stools. The remainder of the dining area includes tables with metal chairs and a long banquette under the front window that occupy the remainder of the dining area. Total seating is in the 40s, it is comfortable and the sound level allows for conversation.

Tucked behind the bar are three taps for beer (an additional two were not connected on the night I visited), and the menu offers an additional 17 beers in bottles and cans, wines by the glass, sweet tea, sparkling water, root beer and Mexican coke. The wine list is limited with a handful of whites ($28-$55), a few more reds ($30-$65) and half of the wine list comprised of sparkling wines ($30-$210).

©jeff “jfood” schlesinger

©jeff “jfood” schlesinger

I was glad I arrived early on a Tuesday evening since the place was already half full at 5:30 and by 6:00 all the table were occupied and there was only one bar seat unoccupied.  I chose a seat at the bar so I could watch the food and have a chat with the bartender.

The menu is diverse (on line version very accurate) with appetizers (priced from $5 to $15) ranging from a simple farm greens salad, to fried chicken livers, to pickled pig’s feet, to a pimento cheese and meat plate or choose two pieces of fried chicken. Entrees include a larger plate of fried chicken, (offered several spice levels from regular to poultrygeist covered in a sauce made from ghost peppers), pork chops, shrimp and grits, and pork shoulder or opt for a burger, or a pulled pork or grilled cheese sandwich

bl_3I ordered a 2-piece fried chicken plate for my appetizer and the Revival Burger with bacon for my second course with a side of hushpuppies. The server brought two sauces, a sweet potato sauce with habanero which was very spicy and a North Carolina vinegar sauce that was a little sweet and delivered much less heat than the habaner

The two courses were delivered simultaneously and I decided to first eat the fried chicken. There was a leg and a portion of the breast. This was one of the best fried chickens I have eaten in a long time. It had an overly crispy crust and was still very moist on the interior. I asked the bartender about the preparation and he told me the chicken is first seasoned, then marinated in buttermilk for eight hours before being slightly floured and fried. As I watched the pass during my meal I would guess that half of the orders were fried chicken, after eating it I completely understood

bl_4I next moved to the burger. It consisted of two thin patties on a buttered and griddled bun with two thick strips of bacon, melted American cheese, mayo and a few slices of B+B pickles. The first bite was a shock, it was incredibly salty, the meat was incredibly salty and the bacon added additional saltiness. The server approached to check in and I told him…he immediately removed the plate to have the kitchen prepare another, and we decided to skip the bacon on number 2. The second burger was a different, and much more positive experience. The meat reminded me of the burgers I made as a youth, a good beefy flavor with the grind still evident, the exterior was charred and crispy and the meat was still very juicy. The kitchen was generous, maybe too generous with the mayo and cheese, it was a little difficult to contain all of the creaminess in each bite and it overpowered the meat, I would have preferred a little less mayo and almost scraped some from the bun. The B+B pickles were delicious and these are always welcome on my burgers. The hushpuppies were a little bland and delivered a touch of sweetness

Overall I highly, highly recommend the fried chicken. The burger needs a little work to balance the saltiness of the bacon with the beefiness of the patty and the kitchen should better balance the amount of mayo. The bartender and the other staff were exceptionally customer friendly and that went a long way to convert what could have been a disappointing night to a positive experience.
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