Friday, May 20, 2016
A&B Burgers: Sweet & Salty For The Win
Let me provide you one recommendation with an analysis of the reasons for my choice.
Last summer, at the Boston Magazine's 4th Annual Battle of the Burger, one of my favorite burgers was the Sweet & Salty Cow from A&B Burgers. The burger consisted of a grilled Black Angus burger topped with Buratta, bacon, fig jam and arugula on a Martin's Potato Roll. As I said before, "The juicy and flavorful burger was enhanced by the balanced sweetness and saltiness of the other ingredients. The burrata also added an additional creaminess which was a nice alternative to other types of cheese." I'd never been to A&B Burgers before but was impressed enough with their burger that I planned to check it out.
At the time, A&B Burgers was located in Salem and readying a move to Beverly, so I decided to wait to check them out after their move. They were closed for a few months and reopened on January 8, 2016. Since then, I've visited the restaurant three times, twice for lunch and once for dinner. They are more than just a burger joint, offering plenty of other delicious dishes, as well as a large beer, cocktail and tequila menu. Their burgers are some of the best in the area, based on a number of factors from their beef sourcing to their method of cooking.
Constant also has plenty of experience in the restaurant industry, especially as her family operated three restaurants in Connecticut, and she worked with Holland at Alta Strada. She also has significant experience in non-restaurant related sales but eventually returned to the restaurant industry, helping to open and operate A&B Burgers with Holland. I've met Constant too, though have only talked with her briefly.
The new Beverly location, on Cabot Street, is a casual location but still with a certain flair of elegance. Seating more than 120 people at tables and booths, it also possesses a large U-shaped bar. At the front of the restaurant, there are large garage-like doors which can be raised during warm weather providing a patio-like experience. On two of my visits, the garage doors were open. During my dinner visit on a Tuesday night, the restaurant was quite busy and I suspect you should make reservations for the weekends if you hope to get a table.
The restaurant has a full bar, specializing in Tequila, and they have approximately 110 tequilas available, with a couple ultra-high end tequilas including the Clase Azul Tequila ($195 per shot) and the Jose Cuervo 250 Aniversario ($225 per shot). Though you might think that such pricey tequilas would sit unopened, they've actually already sold at least two bottles of the Clase Azul since their opening in January. You'll find plenty of other spirits too, including four Mezcals, and a nice list of cocktails, priced $10-$13, such as the Blood Orange Margarita and the Grand Manhattan.
I tried the Chocolate Salted Bourbon, made with bourbon, chocolate syrup, sea salt, & chocolate ice cream. There is a small chunk of thick, housemade whipped cream atop the shake too. It was thick and chocolatey, with the definite taste of bourbon and a salty edge which was a nice contrast to the sweetness. I ordered this shake with dessert, a pleasing ending to my dinner. They are also working on some new milkshake flavors.
I also note that water is served in mason jars and they also carry fresh-brewed, unsweetened iced tea (which makes me happy).
Winston Shelton in the early 1980s, CVap, or Controlled Vapor Technology, was invented to solve the problem of conventional ovens, which tend to dry out food as they heat it. The CVap though creates an environment that surrounds the food with moist vapor which prevents the heated food from losing moisture. The ovens are quite versatile, being able to bake, braise, confit, dehydrate, ferment, poach, roast, sous vide, steam and more.
At A&B Burgers, their CVap oven is large enough that it could cook 650 burgers at once. That is more than sufficient to meet their needs and also allows them the capability to handle large burger events. In this oven, their burgers are slow cooked for nearly two hours and then placed onto the grill for a few minutes for finishing. While in the CVap, the moisture levels in the air and within the burger are maintained so the burger doesn't dry out, despite the lengthy amount of cooking time. That means that your burger should be tender and juicy when it arrives at your table. There is plenty of science behind this entire process, but the proof is always in the results, and the A&B Burgers are all the evidence you will need to understand the great results from the CVap.
Few other local restaurants use the CVap oven, giving A&B an advantage to their burger preparation and cooking. It is one of the significant factors which contributes to them having some of the best burgers in the area. A dry burger is a major turn off and the CVap helps to ensure that your burger arrives moist and juicy.
Moody's Delicatessen in Waltham. Beside the cured meats and cheeses, there is a date and raisin relish, house pickled vegetables, crostini, and whole grain mustard. This is a great way to start a meal, with silky, well-spiced meats, tasty cheeses (including burrata), and pickled veggies.
Each burger is accompanied by sea salt fries though for a small extra charge you can substitute them for items like bacon truffle fries or fried pickles. Above, I have the Bacon Truffle Fries, which were crisp with a fluffy interior, and plenty of smoky and truffle accents.
Another advantageous factor for the success of their burger is their sourcing. It is great to see that they source locally, using only sustainably farmed beef. That beats beef that is sourced from the huge factory farms. And at only $13 for a burger and fries, the dish is reasonably priced considering the quality of the ingredients which are used. You can pay $13 for a burger and fries at plenty of other restaurants which don't offer similar sourcing and which don't taste anywhere near as good. Finally, the proportion of ingredients in the burger work well, from the ratio of the meat to bun, to the toppings.
7X Beef from Colorado, both ground beef for burgers as well as a 7X Hotdog. Only a handful of Boston area restaurants are currently using 7X Beef but you'll likely see this number grow when people realize its advantages, even if it isn't local. First, 7X is "...committed to sustainable ranching practices, including rotational pasture systems, efficient water management, and quality fencing operations to ensure a high quality of life for each member of our herd." Second, their cattle graze on "grasses and herbs like brome, timothy, orchard, alfalfa, clover, and annual legumes..." Third, and importantly, their cattle are an ancient Japanese breed with a 100% bloodline. They have not been mixed with any American breeds.
Allegedly, due to legal reasons, the 7X website does not identify the specific breed of Japanese cattle they raise. However, a couple news articles seem to identify the breed as Kumamoto Red, also known as Akaushi or Red Waygu. Their meat has intense marbling, is extremely tender, and possesses lots of flavor. Most of the American "Waygu" that is found in the U.S. is from mixed breed cattle, which only has maybe 25% of Japanese breed within them. 7X though is a 100% Japanese breed so it possesses all of the benefits, undiluted by any other breed.
For an upcharge of $5, you can order almost any of the A&B Burgers with 7X Beef rather than the usual Angus burger. I tried the Hangover Burger with 7X beef, which is usually topped with bacon, a fried egg and American cheese. The 7X Burger is only cooked for about 20 minutes in the CVap oven to protect its extra fat from collapsing due to over-cooking. I found this burger to be even better than their Angus, with a compelling meaty, tender and savory taste, enhanced by the gooey yolk of the egg. I will say that the differences between the 7X and Angus burgers tends to be more subtle and not everyone may taste a difference.
A&B Burgers earns a hearty recommendation.
The next Battle of the Burger won't take place until August but voting has already begun to choose 25 restaurants which will compete at this event. I'm sure A&B Burgers will receive sufficient votes to enter the competition and I think then they will have a very good chance of winning the competition this year. You should check out the restaurant now and experience their burgers before the competition.
(Note: I paid for two of my visits to A&B Burgers and was comped by the owner for one of my lunches.)