Monday, April 4, 2016

Rant: Battling Burgers & Mediocrity

It is a tale of two restaurants, one part of a chain with over 65 locations and the other a small, independent restaurant with a single location.

It is a tale of a $13 meal, a burger and fries, offered at both restaurants.

It is a tale of mediocrity against quality, an illustrative tale which I hope will make consumers more carefully ponder their restaurant choices.

Last week, I made my second visit to A&B Burgers in Beverly and my first visit to Smokey Bones in Peabody. During my visits to A&B Burgers, I've tasted two of their burgers as well as their Mac n' Cheese dish. At Smokey Bones, I also tasted one of their burger as well as their Mac n' Cheese. I tasted a few other dishes at Smokey Bones too, but those are not part of this post's comparison, and I'll note they were all mediocre.

Both restaurants offer a burger and fries for approximately $13 so which is the better value?

At Smokey Bones, that $13 gets you 8 ounces of grilled Angus beef, topped with items such as BBQ sauce, cheddar, bacon, BBQ'd onions and onion tanglers. You can have french fries, or choose a different side, from cole slaw to a baked potato. And there is a small extra charge for certain sides, such as onion rings or big cheese macaroni. I opted for a burger with a fried egg atop it and chose the big cheese macaroni as my side.

At A&B Burgers, that same $13 gets you 7 ounces of locally sourced and sustainably farmed beef, which is first slow cooked, for almost two hours, in their new C-vap oven before it is then seared on the grill. It can be topped in a number of ways, such as with BBQ sauce, cheddar, onion strings, and bacon. It comes with sea salt fries and for a small extra charge you can substitute for items like bacon truffle fries or fried pickles. On my first visit, I had the Sweet & Salty with burrata cheese, fig jam and bacon with the bacon truffle fries. On my second visit, I had their 7X Wagyu burger with cheese, bacon and a fried egg.

Though you get 1 ounce more meat at Smokey Bones, the quality of the beef is better at A&B Burgers, as well as local and sustainable. At Smokey, the burger is just grilled while A&B uses a slow cooked method, with their C-vap oven, as well as grilling. You have a greater choice of sides at Smokey but that is only important dependent on the quality of those extra side choices. The true test though is obviously the taste of the burger.

The Smokey burger was mediocre, a serviceable burger but it didn't excite my taste buds. It is a burger you would eat and immediately forget. It wouldn't be something you would rave about to your friends. I was irked though that the fried egg atop my burger had a hard yolk. When I get an egg on my burger, I want a soft yolk to drip over the meat. It is messier but I love the taste of the yolk mixing with the meat.

The A&B Burgers though stood out, tender and juicy, with a meaty burst of flavor. They were the type of burgers that woke up your taste buds and which became part of your memory. They were the type of burgers which you would tell your family and friends about. They were the type of burgers which would draw you back to A&B, time and time again. And when I had an egg on one of their burgers, the yolk was soft and gooey, flowing over the meat.

For $13, you could order a burger and fries at either restaurant, but your choice should be simple. The taste of the A&B burger far exceeds the mediocrity of Smokey's burger. So why would you get the burger at Smokey? You should be going to a restaurant which delivers the best bang for the buck, which delivers the best tasting burger at such a reasonable price. Peabody and Beverly are fairly close and the two restaurants are only about 5 miles apart so there is little reason not to make the trip to A&B.

Far too many people opt for mediocre food when much better alternatives abound, even at a similar price point. You should care about the food that goes into your stomach. You should be seeking food that delivers exciting flavors. I went to Smokey because I hadn't been there before and wanted to try out their food. And now, after my experience, I'm unlikely to return. And even if I did, I wouldn't order a burger there again. With A&B though, I will definitely be returning there soon for another burger, and to check out more of their menu.

Don't opt for mediocrity!

(Disclosure: Of my two visits to A&B Burger, I paid for my first visit and the second visit was comped at the end of the meal. I was unaware that the second visit was going to be comped and simply ordered as I would normally.)


Adrian said...

Come try Beta Burger in Mission Hill! We slow cook our burgers in a cVap oven too and aim for speed here along with the flavor! Sometimes taking time to cook is better. (Full disclosure: I'm the owner).

Adrian said...

Come try Beta Burger in Mission Hill! We slow cook our burgers in a cVap oven too and aim for speed here along with the flavor! Sometimes taking time to cook is better. (Full disclosure: I'm the owner).

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