Monday, August 29, 2011


n. pl. hi·a·tus·es or hiatus
1. A gap or interruption in space, time, or continuity; a break

Sincerest apologies my dearest friends, fans and followers...the Fiend will be back in September and in full force. I've been burgering with the best of 'em, and stockpiling posts, but sometimes unforeseen actions and objects do disrupt the force.

Not to worry - the Fiend shall return shortly, as well as introduce some new names to the mix.

-The Fiend

Monday, May 16, 2011


(The Yankee)

Oh Daniel Boulud. Your culinary cleverness and authority has culminated in quite an interesting little addition to the LES.

Located in the heart of the Bowery, just down the street from the infamous remains of the punk rock mecca, CBGB, you added your own little mark to this notoriously gritty and seedy locale, aptly named: DGBG.

Staying somewhat in trend with the general mood of the area, the interior of DGBG is dark and eerie, with a vast back room and plenty of seating (even some tables on the sidewalk, but beware of crazy passersby…though that kind of comes with the nostalgia).

The menu is rather sophisticated, which the Fiend assumes is a smart yet bold marketing strategy. Classic French staples adorn the menu, such as burgundy snails, ham rillette, tripe and pate, and the Fiend offers kudos to one of the most impressive selections of sausage rarely seen outside of a high-end butcheria: a true snout-to-tail offering.

And this now brings us to the burgers that I’ve been hearing about from the lovely, sordid locals of the LES. Alongside his trusty new NYC burgering companion – the Burger Bandit – the Fiend was pleased to set out and conduct a tasting from one of the more revered chefs of our era.

In typical burgering fashion, the Fiend and the Bandit (a DGBG denizen of sorts) decided to split two of the three main burger offerings – The Yankee and The Piggy – both adding bacon and Vermont cheddar.

The Yankee was the standard offering on the menu, including iceberg lettuce, tomato and onion. One could tell there was thought put into the meat blend, though the Fiend couldn’t exactly pinpoint the cuts because on this evening the burger was seasoned a little too liberally, though traces of steak trim was detected. Cooked perfectly to medium as ordered, the Bandit vowed the Yankee is the way to go "with bacon and cheddar of course, and do not skip the fries – the combo is a must."

(The Piggie)

The Piggie was the next victim: topped with BBQ pulled pork, jalapeno mayo and mustard-vinegar slaw, the burger had a lot going on which ended up being a little messy, but still decent. The Bandit agreed it was good, but felt the concoction was a little too flavorful considering all the ingredients at play.

Overall, the burgers were good but not great. The quality and thoughtfulness was present, but by general rule the Fiend has a serious issue with high-end restaurants serving a 6oz selection at such a steep price point (average $17+).

But if it must be done, steakhouses are a great example of how to execute this in a quality fashion, typically offering a burger upwards of $20 or more. However 9 times of out 10 you know a few things will be automatic upon ordering a steakhouse burger: a) the chefs are pros with handling protein, so it will be cooked to perfection b) the quality of the meat will likely be prime and perhaps even a specialty cut or blend, and c) the patty will be at least a half-pound at a minimum, up to 10-11oz.

The Fiend is always willing to pay premium prices for a burger, regardless if it tastes bland or exquisite when it’s all chewed and done, however there’s an inherent trust going into the union that you’re getting the most for your money (let alone product costing, but let’s not even go there).

Walking away from the burgering, the Bandit offered the best summation of the experience: "I’ve definitely had more delicious burgers, but if you are looking to go on a bit of a fancier burger date night, DGBG delivers. It’s in a good area, the burgers are pretty swell and it’s a Daniel Boulud restaurant so that’s a plus."

299 Bowery (near Houston)
New York, NY

Monday, May 9, 2011

National Burger Month - Road Map and Specials

(photo: A Hamburger Today,
With National Burger Month in full swing, the Fiend salutes all those out there bringing the "best in burgering" to the masses.

For those on the road or that happen to live in these cities, check out this list of top venues the Food Network put together for 2011.

The Fiend is still glad to see his favorite from coast-to-coast, Kuma's Corner, still pulling its weight in Chicago. New York, now that the weather is starting to break, prepare for some adventures.

Oh...and this just in from the fine people over at the NYC burger joint, goodburger:

In honor of National Burger Month, goodburger will be offering "Single for a $ingle" Wednesdays all through May. Apparently you can go to any goodburger location from 3:00-5:00pm every Wednesday in May and get a single burger for $1...or a bone, or a clam or whatever parlance you prefer. All toppings included. Maximum of five burgers per customer.

Have at it, fellow fiends.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Corner Bistro

The fabulous Corner Bistro neon marquee
The inaugural NYC post.

It’s only a propos that this venue would be chosen as the Fiend’s first post in the Big App, considering it’s a West Greenwich Village haven that I’ve frequented on multiple visits during the past few years.

And though I’ve been amassing quite a wicked list of burger joints to sample over the past few months, Corner Bistro is an institution that I find people recommend time and time again.

No frills, no menu (it’s on the wall) and nothing else but burgers and draught beer, the Bistro is dark, dingy and not an ounce dainty. The interior is extremely idiosyncratic: wrapped in wood from floor to ceiling, the neon lights and Euro league futbol from the only two TV screens provide the necessary lighting and soundtrack over the barfly patronage.

It is clear people come here for a handful of wonderful reasons, as aforementioned, but the major factor is obviously the burg (hamburger, cheeseburger or Bistro Burger).

The Corner Bistro Burger

One must go for the Bistro Burger, which comes with the usual garden-variety accoutrements plus a few generous strips of bacon. The burger patty itself is broiled, not grilled, in a salamander broiler, which was unsuspecting to me at first but also speaks to its extremely tasty nature (high heat forms a crusty exoskelton on the patty, leaving the center juicy and rarely overcooked). The Fiend will be commenting on this method of cooking a lot in coming posts.

The Fiend did notice that the chef on two occasions was smashing down the patty periodically, which is a major “no-no” regardless of the manner of cooking, however the final result at the Bistro is always still surprisingly succulent at medium-rare doneness.

Though the fiend is not a fan of shoestring fries, one must order a side as they are always very fresh and naturally complementary. And everything comes served on little plastic paper plates, thus adding to the general “keep it simple” experience.

A perennial powerhouse in the NYC burger scene, one must absolutely make the Corner Bistro a stop during their next Big Apple adventure. It’s nearly impossible to disappoint.

Ohhhh, and the original Magnolia Bakery is just down the street, as well as Carrie’s stoop from the SATC series…so you can always head that way and partake in the insanity or just stare and point at people in line to make them nervous. Either action is encouraged.

331 West 4th Street
New York, NY 10014
(212) 242-9502

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Bad Apple

The Bad Apple

It appears the Fiend’s favorite burger joint in Chicago has met its rival.

It’s no surprise Kuma’s Corner remains to be the Chi-town institution to which the bar has been set. The affection here goes beyond simply an appreciation for the “burger” in all forms…from the quality of meat and ingenuity of its topping counterparts, not to mention the unparalleled atmosphere. The lust for Kuma’s starts as soon as you walk through the door, and continues to build into a full-blown love affair only after a four-hour massage of the senses that leaves you drunk and thirsty for more. I understand for some this might be too intense, but for others it’s pure nirvana.

However, Bad Apple – an ironic and fun (clever, perhaps?) name for a restaurant – has proven itself to be a true player in the Chicago burger universe. And boy, oh, boy does that space seem vast these days, but for what Bad Apple lacks in terms of a “complete” sensory bombardment, it makes up for it in terms of the food itself…giving Kuma’s a run for its title.

Both being slightly off the beaten path of the typically easy to navigate Chicago grid, no distance shall interfere with a gourmand’s taste for raw flesh...evident still by the ridiculous waiting times (more at the former).

Proximity aside, this trip would stand as being the Fiend’s “last burgering” before his departure for New York City, so it was only fitting that he would dine with his roommates…those of which have been on many-a-burgering excursions before “The Fiend” was only a childhood nickname.

With so multiple choices at our disposal, the crew decided to sample a few different burger offerings, such as The Belly Burger, The Frenchie, Elvis’s Last Supper and The Slow Burn.

Elvis's Last Supper

Being bold, the Fiend chose Elvis’s Last Supper, which aptly featured bacon and peanut butter at toppings. Being a fan of pretty much PB & anything, I figured this would be a knockout jab. However the taste was slightly different than expected: a little confusing almost, perhaps a little too “fatty” if that’s even possible. Perhaps a few slices of banana would have been a fresh twist to loosen up the concoction, likewise building an additional layer of texture to keep things interesting. Solid burger, but not prize-winning.

The Slow Burn

The clear winner of the day was The Slow Burn. The Fiend will venture on the edge and state this is probably the single best burger tasted in Chicago. All the pieces of the whole worked in chorus to produce a masterpiece of smell, texture and visual appeal.

Lest I forget the taste. The sandwich included sautĂ©ed spicy chiles, onions, bacon and white cheddar…well conceived ingredients that amplify the overall spectrum of flavors. It had just the right amount of spice to prick the tastebuds regardless of one’s Scoville threshold, which was really no sweat to begin with because any heat is quickly neutralized by the creamy white cheddar.

And to taste Bad Apple’s hamburger meat alone – no toppings, no condiments; an absolute must-try maneuver if you want to delineate quality – is a privilege, because you are now truly tasting greatness in the form of Pat LaFrieda sourced beef. Rich, but not opulent; savory, but not obnoxiously over-the-top. You’ll just know as soon as it hits your tongue.

LaFrieda, largely unknown in Chicago, is a New York meat purveyor icon…the current heavyweight champ of beef in the N.Y.C. It’s hard to imagine that one person’s touch to a raw substance can make that much of a difference, however look at other great alchemists of their mediums – such as the Eckhouses, Carnegie and even Mr. Issac Newton himself – and it’s not hard to imagine the possibility. Now that the Fiend is an NYC colonist, you’ll inevitably be reading about a lot more LaFrieda love in the near future.

Looking critically at the experience, pound-for-pound, the Bear king finally has a worthy adversary, yet at the end of the bout the Apple still was not his overall match. However every champion must walk the streets with a bulls-eye on his back, knowing damn well all contenders are lurking in the shadows and peering intently through focused crosshairs.

So for those lovers of ground beef on a bun, I would highly recommend making Bad Apple your next stop. If access to a car isn’t a possibility, then be brazen and plan your public transportation in advance, but don’t let the distance deter a chance to experience top-shelf material.

It’s well worth the venture.

4300 North Lincoln Avenue
Chicago, IL 60618-1712
(773) 360-8406

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Cortland's Garage

(Cortland Street Burger)

I’m embarrassed to say I lived in Chicago for so long and had previously never visited Cortland’s, aside from one random (and somewhat inebriated) stumble upon a handful of years ago. Voted as having one of the top burgers in Chicago by Chicago Magazine in the ’09 mega-burger breakdown, as well as possessing quite a strong WOM following, the Fiend had to make it one of the final stops in the city before jetting away.

In addition, this little venture was also quite groundbreaking as I’m pleased to introduce a Chicago burgering comrade in crime – the Burger Banshee – who is the first featured guest blogger on the Fiend.

Alas, the menu options are quite vast at Cortland’s, so it was decided beforehand that we would each pick a cut and then collectively decide upon a third to sample. The Banshee picked the 18th Street, The Fiend chose the Ashland Avenue, and the Cortland Street would prove to be the wildest of wild cards.

(Ashland Avenue Burger)

The Ashland Avenue was the first item that jumped out when I first perused the menu descriptions, however I knew from the start that I was treading in murky water with that decision. Overall it was pretty tasty, however I’ve had similar burgers with the same toppings and ingredients (BBQ pulled pork), including the infamous and beloved Led Zeppelin at Kuma’s, so the bar had somewhat been established. The Banshee agreed: “I’ve had better versions of this concept.”

The next was the 18th Street, the choice of the Banshee, which sounded amazing on paper (carne asada, pico de gallo, guac, tortilla strips, chipotle mayo, etc.), but never really followed through in execution. The Banshee exclaimed: “I liked all the ingredients, but thought that in the end there was just too much going on and the real flavor of the burger got lost in the shuffle. And it was a tad messy/hard to keep together.”

(18th Street Burger)

And the Fiend couldn’t concur more, something that’s been lamented numerous times before. So let’s take a few seconds to revisit that school of thought.

In the world of the burger patty – which let’s be honest is the reason why you’re actually eating a “hamburger” to begin with, or at least in theory should be – nine out of 10 times working with less is so much more grand and exactly why a simple burger will typically win in the end. Less confusion; pure mastication.

Driving home that point is the third choice, the original Cortland Street, which was by far the best of the three that evening – thus proving that one shouldn’t wander far from the signature sandwich upon first encounter. Especially if it’s an award winner and it’s stupidly simple (see aforementioned rant above).

The toppings of the Cortland Street (white cheddar, smoked bacon, onion strings, etc.) were fresh and perfectly in chorus, including texture. “It had a nice combo of ingredients, especially the bacon and onion rings, which gave the right balance of flavor to accompany the burger itself,” said the Banshee.

Regardless, the beef across the board is extremely good quality and the reason why Cortland’s burgers are top-shelf. Rich, velvety, seasoned to perfection – a prescription for repetitious abuse.

Ohhh, and the Banshee wanted to note that the parmesan fries were a wonderful companion to the meal. The frosty craft beers certainly didn’t hurt either.

All in all, the Fiend and the Banshee both agree...if you’re looking for a good Wicker Park watering hole and jonesin’ for a burger fix, the Garage will be there and waiting to please.

Cortland’s Garage
1645 West Cortland Street
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 862-7877

Monday, January 24, 2011

Top 10 Burgers of Chicago

Greetings...Friends, Fiendsters, Burgerholics.

Word on the street that your affable Fiend has relocated from his Windy City stomping ground to the mean streets of Manhattan, and, well, I'm here to report the buzz is true...NYC is now currently where I lay thy head down to sleep.

So in honor of my fabulous Chicago, a city I love dearly and that truly has embraced the spirit of the Burger like very few others can compare (if at all), alas here is the Fiend's Top 10 Burgers of Chicago.

1) Kuma's Corner
2) Bad Apple
3) Duchamp
4) Naha
5) David Burke's Primehouse
6) Cortland's Garage
7) Rockit
8) Keefer's
9) Cooper's
10) Jack's on Halsted

I have to admit there are still plenty of wonderful establishments that I did not get to review during my tenure in the city and that were on my wishlist (Longman & Eagle, Yoshi's Cafe, Hot Chocolate, etc.), so this is merely a reflection of what I was able to get my paws on over the past two years. Stay tuned for two more posts (Cortland's Garage, Bad Apple) still to come, which should be up shortly.

So hats off to you, Chicago, I'm not quite done with you yet.

Not even close.