Tag Archives: burger

Riff’s North (Turners Falls, MA)

One of the areas I do really like exploring is Western MA’s Pioneer Valley. A semi-rural area much like VT/NH along the Connecticut River, it’s got a nice selection of college towns (Amherst, Northampton), quiet former mill towns (Easthampton, which is surprisingly SW of Northampton, and Greenfield), and the like. Nestled among these towns are a bunch of great little restaurants, breweries, art galleries, farm stands, and the like, and it’s nice to occasionally get out and explore a new town. In this case, while we’ve been to Greenfield a few times, I had never really had a chance to explore the village across the river, Turners Falls. It’s actually part of Montague, MA, but Turners Falls is a fairly compact downtown area along the now-defunct Turner Falls canal (now a reservoir for a dam downriver in Greenfield). In any case, it’s a rather nice little downtown, with an arts center, some galleries, and a rather nice selection of restaurants. After looking at a few menus, we ended up settling on Riff’s North.

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Harlem Shake (Harlem, NY)

Our last stop in NYC was a fairly relaxed burger shop on Lenox Ave called Harlem Shake. Kitty corner from our previous reviews of Sylvia’s and Red Rooster, Harlem Shake seemed like a good place to grab a light lunch on the way out of town. Harlem Shake Interior Basically, Harlem Shake is your classic 1950s-style burger diner: a modest art deco interior including a semi-functional diner counter (while it’s got the row of classic spinning stools, there’s little room at the counter itself for eating), with a little bit of an edgier, modern music selection (indeed, the autographed signatures on the wall include P.Diddy and A$AP Rocky), but one look at the menu board confirms that this is classic diner fare: a selection of burgers, patty melts, fries, milkshakes, fried chicken, and the like. There are also a handful of interesting items on the menu, like jerk chicken, hot honey chicken, and even a few unexpected twists like the Red Velvet or “Double chocolate bacon” milkshakes. But the twist here is that they are trying to really do these diner classics well: the burgers are made from Pat Lafrieda patties (as are fully half of the “craft” burgers in the city), the ice cream is from Blue Marble, and most of the sauces and toppings are made in-house. Despite the invocation of the phrase “craft burger”, these aren’t the typical half-pound-plus $20 deals sold at entirely too many restaurants, either, but the classic retro-style burger with two ~2 oz patties seared to a crisp on the griddle and served up on a toasted bun.

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Wild Willy’s Burgers (Rochester, NH)

As I discussed in the previous review of Hop and Grind, I’ve been rather craving some good burgers recently, and another place that came up as a recommendation (from scooterboy at TCF) was Wild Willy’s, a New England chain with a handful of locations in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. While the original location is in York, Maine (and, unfortunately, is now closed and for sale), their Rochester location was only about a 10 minute detour since I was already in Durham, so I decided to swing by and give them a try.

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Hop & Grind (Durham, NH)

Several of my online friends recently got into a heated discussion about which fast food places have good burgers, and there was a rather heated discussion that followed about whether or not Five Guys is overrated. For the record, I think 5G is overrated, but that’s a topic for another day, but there were two takeaways from the conversation: one being that I now had an immense hankering for a good burger, and the second that I had gotten a refresher on some of the better options for burgers when I was going to be around the NH seacoast this last week judging a FIRST Robotics competition. One of the places that came out of the discussion (and subsequently recommended by another of the robotics judges, Reif as well) was Hop & Grind, a short walk away from the UNH Durham campus. So, after my judging responsibilities were done, I headed over to check out Hop & Grind.

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Betty’s A1A Cafe (Ormond Beach, FL)

Back in my recent review of The Gnarly Barley, I met up with my friend Leslie from My Adventure Bucket, who used to live in Ormond Beach, Florida. Ormond Beach, being essentially a one block wide town on a barrier island, doesn’t have a lot of restaurants, but Leslie spoke quite highly both of Betty’s A1A Cafe, and its friendly owner, Betty. So, my coworker and I decided to do the short drive up there from Daytona Beach to get some dinner. Interestingly, in my last review, I mentioned that one of the things I like about traveling is getting different cuisine than at home, so, ironically, I arrive at Betty’s to find two things: (1) that, sadly, Betty passed on in 2015, although the restaurant is alive as well, and (2) that Betty’s actually features “New England Cuisine”. While “New England Cuisine” is definitely a thing (baked beans, brown bread, clam strips, Lobstah rolls, etc. Mmmm.), it’s not one that usually gets a lot of love outside of New England, so I’m actually happy to see that someone so far south is offering it up. Indeed, the night’s specials were meatloaf and New England clams with bellies.

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The Shopping Bag (Burlington, VT)

When it comes to “Offbeat Eating”, one of my delights is finding particularly good food in places where you wouldn’t normally expect it. But sometimes there are little hidden gems hiding away in quiet neighborhoods outside of the normal shopping or dining districts. One of these is hiding in plain sight in Burlington, Vermont’s Old North End (not to be confused with the New North End about a mile away to the Northeast): on a fairly quiet cross-street halfway between the Battery St and Winooski Ave thoroughfares, is a quiet little building that looks like it’s a neighborhood convenience store. That’s because it is a neighborhood convenience store. The Shopping Bag is mostly a convenience store, with a selection of snack foods, beverages, light groceries, and even a small meat counter. But nestled into the front right corner of the store is a grilling station and a large menu board, and it’s actually one of the better places in Burlington to score a burger.

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Giant Burger (San Leandro, CA)

I’ll have to say, there’s something I rather like about the particular style that California burgers have. It’s a bit of a particular style: a fairly thin and well-crisped burger patty, served up with generous layers of lettuce, onion, and tomato (I’ve been told that this is a throwback to the days when fresh tomatoes and lettuce weren’t a standard item in grocery stores), usually on a toasted bun. And, somewhat peculiar to the style (see my reviews of

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Drink (Boston, MA)

While I occasionally make a few exceptions to this rule, I generally don’t review cocktail bars that are just cocktail bars. And indeed, that’s the case with Drink. Located in Boston’s Fort Point neighborhood, downstairs from Sportello (which I reviewed in 2012, and is owned by the same folks), Drink is primarily a cocktail bar, but they do have a limited bar menu. And while that bar menu has a few gems, that’s not why I’m reviewing them; instead, it’s one particularly off-the-menu item that drew my attention.

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Brick and Mortar (Cambridge, MA)

When I was in Boston a few weeks ago, I decided it was time to go find a burger spot I had been looking for in Cambridge. But this was not your usual burger spot. I first found this place when looking for a cocktail in Cambridge, having gotten a recommendation for “Brick and Mortar” along with an address of 567 Massachusetts Avenue. Heading there, however, I only found Central Kitchen, a fairly well-recognized dinner establishment, and no cocktails. But…. see that unmarked door next to Central Kitchen? Through that lies Brick and Mortar, one of Cambridge’s Speakeasies, known for interesting cocktails and good bar food. Brick and Mortar is actually a rather cozy little bar (which makes for a pleasant drinking experience during the early evening, but by late evening the place quickly becomes crowded, with a long wait list to get in). The cocktail list at Brick and Mortar is quite impressive, and they are definitely in on the current trend of using bitters, gins, and other botanicals to make some very interesting cocktails. Past victuals that were particularly pleasing include the “Lido Shuffle” with Cocchi, Aperol, Chartreuse, and Lemon, or the “Gail Collins” with Mezcal, Sloe Gin, and Bitters. But on my first two visits, it wasn’t just the (excellent) cocktails drawing my eye… I noticed that several of the other diners had ordered burgers, and the burgers looked quite good indeed. So this trip, while I did get a “Sister Mary” (with Tequila, St Germain, Aperol, and grapefruit) my primary goal was to get a burger.

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Teddy’s Bigger Burgers (Wahiawā, HI)

After the trip to Waimea Valley, we took the western route back to Honolulu, stopping in Wahiawa for burgers at Teddy’s. Normally a place that is advertised as “Teddy’s Bigger Burgers” wouldn’t immediately make my short list: of the many adjectives I look for in a good burger, “bigger” isn’t at the top of the list. But I didn’t let the name stop me: I had heard rather good things about getting a teriyaki burger in Hawaii (it’s one of those standard things you can expect at most places selling burgers in Hawaii), with a liberal application of teriyaki sauce and a slice of grilled pineapple… and that Teddy’s was one of the better places to get one. So we stopped in to give it a try.

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