Thursday, October 29, 2009

Jackalope Lounge: A Really Big Frickin' Burger

Editors Note: you may notice a slightly different look, and some new stuff on EBB this week.  We are now on twitter, so feel free to come and... err... follow (seriously please do; at this point there are zero followers and it's a pitiful sight).  Also, urbanspoon has added The Eugene Burger Blog as a feature blog on its Eugene restaurant page.  Check them out; they have reviews of almost every restaurant in Eugene, and everywhere else for that matter.  

Clearly, not all burgers are created equally. Arguably there is as much variety in burgers as in practically any other genre of food on earth. At its simplest a burger is a hunk of ground beef in between two pieces of bread, and at it's most complex... well, the sky is the limit really; whether you want a burger with grilled cheese sandwiches in lieu of a bun or an all Kobe beef patty with foie gras and black truffles, you can find it somewhere.

My methodology in choosing burgers to be reviewed at this point has been to review what I consider the staple of the industry at each restaurant: the Bacon Cheeseburger.  The Bacon Cheeseburger is a beautiful thing when done correctly, and it's an excellent indicator of the way a burger joint conduct its business.  It's a simple thing, but complex enough that a chef can't get off the hook with a lazy effort.

Now, that said, I think this blog is getting a bit boring.  Further I don't even usually order a simple bacon cheeseburger myself.  I've been limiting myself, because I have never been a blogger before and I was trying to keep it simple.

Well, I'm done with that.  I'm not saying that I will never review another bacon cheeseburger, because I almost certainly will, but from here on out I'm going to try and keep it fresh from week to week.

This week I decided to get crazy at one of the restaurants that has garnered a few requests from EBB readers: The Jackalope Lounge.

By all accounts, the Jackalope had some of the biggest and meanest burgers in all of Eugene, so I really don't know how it took me so many burgers to get there.  On their website, they claim to have the best sliders in town, so I was all set to eat me some mini-burgers, but when I opened the menu, I saw this:

The ultimate of all burgers topped with ham, 
bacon, sauteed mushrooms, a fried egg,
swiss and cheddar cheese

All that meat, plus an egg and two kinds of cheese?  That's my burger. To make it better, Jackalope makes all their burgers with a half pound patty, making this by far the biggest burger I have reviewed even before all the extras. I immediately decided to unbutton my pants in anticipation of the food-baby that was sure to be coming.

The burger came out in no time at all, and it was enormous. Now, don't get me wrong, it was not as big as some of the novelty "biggest" burgers out there, but for a standard, no picture-on-the-wall burger, this thing was huge.

It came out with a beautiful fried egg on top, two perfectly cooked pieces of bacon, a full assortment of veggies, and big pile of hot french fries, the latter of which I promptly engulfed; this would prove to be error.

The very first thing I noticed upon biting in is that the bread was home cooked; how many places in town serve home cooked buns?  I love it.

The burger was delicious, with egg all over the place, and bacon every which way, but way too big...  Wait, what?  Did I just say that?  Too big?  What has gotten into me?

Here is the thing folks, I am of the opinion that bigger is not always better.  I am a big fellow, and I love big food, but there is a threshold where a food item goes from being tastefully big, to over the top overwhelming.

Here it wasn't the size of the meal so much, I could always pack up half (I didn't by the way, which is why I regretted the fries), rather it was the size of the patty.  The menu says 1/2 lb., but I would venture to say that it was bigger;  It was too big in relation to the rest of the burger, and it did not suit me.  Some folks are gonna love it... and some folks also enjoy Guinness, so go figure.

Aside from the sheer size of the patty, I had zero complaints about the food at Jackalope; It was really very good, but I'm trying to be discerning here!  The service was awesome, and the beer was cold (I had a Desolation IPA from the Amnesia Brewing Co. in N. Portland, which was great).

Jackalope is worth a trip, but think big on your way in, and consider leaving some of your fries.

The Jackalope Lounge
543 Willamette St.
Eugene, OR
(541)485 8519

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I ♥ Springfield: Fins Drive In.

People of Eugene, I have a confession: I heart Springfield.

Sure, Downtown Springfield sometimes looks like a page off of People of Walmart, but what it lacks in form it makes up for in function.  Home prices are cheaper than in Eugene, property taxes are WAY lower, we have a beautiful new hospital, there are less pot holes, and we have $1.50 movies: I seriously do love this town.

So, even though this blog is titled the "Eugene" Burger Blog, it's really a Lane County burger blog.  There are burgers to be eaten in Springfield, and someone needs to eat them: preferably me.

Fins Drive In is out on 40th and Main Street in Springfield, and I knew as soon as I drove up that I was going to love the place.  Between the awesome neon, the '59 Caddy sticking out the front of the building, and the old school drive in parking spots Fins has all the charm it needs.

The inside is small, and was surprisingly packed on a Thursday night;  there were a few spots left at the U-shaped bar, but every booth in the place was taken.  

While I was genuinely sad to see that Fins doesn't serve beer, they make up for it with a home-made root beer.  I don't really know what to say about it, other than that it tasted very little like a commercial root beer, and it was really good.  I also tried the chocolate milk shake, and have to say that it is mediocre at best: order the root beer.

The burgers are all named after classic cars: The Impala, The Mustang, The Eldorado, etc...  The patties are made from locally farmed beef, and are hand-made daily.  

I ordered the Bel Air: a 1/4 lb. patty with your choice of cheese (american, pepper jack, cheddar or swiss), bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, and special sauce all for $5.50.

The burger was awesome. I got the american as usual.  The beef was delicious, and the patty was generous (not the skimpy crap some restaurants try to pass off as a 1/4 lb.). The veggies were fresh, and perfectly proportioned.  The bacon was a little crispier than I prefer, but still bacon.  Finally, the special sauce tasted to me like thousand island dressing, so... maybe not so special, but still plenty tasty.

The fries were an extra $1.25, and unfortunately the worst part of the meal. They were over-cooked, and not very fresh.  Fries are one of those things that, at some restaurants, are different depending on what time you go, on what day, and on who is in the kitchen, so I certainly wouldn't rule the fries out in the future, but it was the low-point of this meal. 

The onion rings on the other hand were delicious.  they are home-made, and were super fresh (maybe at the expense of MY fries). they are $2.25, and totally worth it if onion rings are your thing.

Bottom line: Fins is good eats.  It's cheap, the servers are friendly, and it has a great atmosphere.  

Fins Drive In 
4090 Main St.
Springfield, OR 97478

541 741 3467    

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Dickie Jo's: My First Diet Burger

So, when I started this burger blog, going on a diet was obviously not in my plans.  I consider myself a fairly in-shape fellow; I work out every day because of my gluttonous appetite, not merely in spite of it.  I know that I'm not the trimmest fellow, but I still run a sub 20 minute 5k, and I can drag myself to the top of Mt. Pisgah without feeling like I am going to puke.

What in the world would I want to diet for?

Well, it turns out that my future employer has some fairly strict height and weight standards (who would have known?).  It also turns out that I am exactly at their maximum allowable body fat percentage.  Amazingly enough, they didn't accept the "but I can climb Mt Pisgah" argument.

What does this mean for me?  It has occurred to me that being at, and not over, the maximum allowable body fat percentage technically means I don't have to do a damn thing.  I passed the test, dammit.  On the other hand... well... lets just say I should probably go on a diet.

What does this mean for you?  Good news: probably very little.  I am an innovative fellow, and have devised a diet that allows me to maintain my burger eating habits.  The downside is that I pretty much only get to eat broccoli the rest of the week, but I think it's a fairly reasonable tradeoff.

With that, on to the burger.

When I originally put out my feelers regarding starting a burger blog, the most requested establishment I recieved was Dickie Jo's.  Dickie Jo's is a relatively new place; it just went up this summer, but nearly every one I talked to had an opinion... whether they had been there or not.  Some folks loved it, some thought it was overpriced and the waits were obnoxious, and others were turned off merely by the chain aspect.  Technically Dickie Jo's is not a chain, but it is owned by the same folks who own Mucho Gusto and Fina Taqueria; whether or not that puts it into the chain category, I will leave for you to decide.

Dickie Jo's is on 13th and Pearl, and is really pretty convenient.  When I set out, I had it in my head that it was down-town, so I found the first spot on the side of the road, and parked; less than a block away felt pretty good.  Turns out, they have a big ol' parking lot.  Oh well.

The restaurant  looks really cool.  It has big a big attractive neon sign, that helps to invoke that 50s feel before you even walk in.  The inside is immaculate, with a retro styling that nevertheless feels completely modern.

The menu is hung above the counter that you order at.  They bring your food out to you.  For all the complaints about long waits I had heard, I was pleasantly surprised to be the second one in line; we waited less than ten minutes total for our food.

The burgers start with a $5.95 base price for an "all natural Painted Hills beef (USDA Choice)" patty with standard veggies, special sauce, and fries.  Extras are... well... extra: 50 cents each for cheese, bacon, grilled onions, etc...  and $2 to double the beef.  What are people whining about with these outrageous price complaints?  It's certainly not cheap, but it isn't even close to the priciest place in town.

The only price complaint I had was regarding DJ's beer selection.  They only carry 12 oz. bottled beers, and they are all $2.99.  There is nothing awful in that alone, until you consider that a PBR is the same price as a Mirror Pond.  Ridiculous, but whatever...

I was feeling kind of simple, so I ordered a bacon cheeseburger (single patty) with american, and an Inversion IPA.

My first reaction was that the burger looked fresh, hot, and... a little small.  Maybe I should have ordered the extra patty, but at nine bucks... OK, maybe Dickie Jo's is a tiny bit spendy.    

Upon first bite, the burger is good.  The beef is excellent, the bacon is thick and juicy, and the bun is... wait... the bun is kind of weird.  It is not bad, on the contrary it is really pretty good, but it has a familiar quality that I just couldn't quite put my finger on...

And then I realized, it tastes just like the bread at Big Town Hero: fresh, soft and sort of sweet.

Never in a million years would I think that a bun would be the defining characteristic of a burger, but here it clearly was.  Dickie Jo's bakes their bread in-house each morning, and it shows.  I am guessing that some people will love it, and others are going to hate it.  You have been warned.  That said, I really enjoyed it.

The fries were decent.  Nothing to write home about, but no complaints either.  They were hot, crispy, and light.

I didn't order a milkshake, but our server, was so confident that we would love it  she brought out one for me and my buddy to share on the house (she even put it in two glasses as opposed to just bringing out two bendy straws).  She recommended the peanut butter fudge, so we went with it, and were blown away.  Excellent, and recommended; get one.

Dickie Jo's is really really good.  I say go when it's not likely to be packed, and order that second patty.

Dickie Jo's Burgers
201 East 13th (corner of 13th and Pearl)
541 636 4488

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Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Wetlands Brew Pub and Sports Bar.

The Wetlands is one of those establishments that I know is there, but I rarely think about when considering where to eat any given evening.  I am seldomly out on West 11th, and when I am, it is not food I have come for.  That said, whenever I eat at The Wetlands, I think, "this is a good place."

The Wetlands is a no thrills Brew Pub.  It's not a fancy place, and there are not nearly as many TVs as some of the other "Sports Bars" in town, but it has a good atmosphere none-the-less.  There are pool tables, the mood is casual, and the servers are friendly.

The menu is great, relatively cheap, and they have 32 beers on tap, including four kinds of Ninkasi.  They also have a really great happy-hour menu every weekday from 4-7.  The Wetlands is my sort of pub.

I ordered the Wetlands Burger with cheddar and fries and a Ninkasi IPA (my favorite).  The burger is a 1/3 lb. patty on regular old pub bun with lettuce, tomato, onion, a pickle spear, your choice of cheese, and fries.

My first thought when the burger came out was, "wow, that is a great looking burger" (do you put thought is quotation marks?).  The burger, while on paper nearly identical to the Agate Alley Burger,  was way more appetizing; I can't put my finger on any one thing, but it was a discernible difference to the eyes.

The fries are fresh cut, and still have the skin on some of them, which I love; they come out with your choice of ranch or fry sauce.  I said neither, but they brought me ranch... when in Rome, right?

Bottom line, this burger is great.  It is not going to garner any medals, simply because there is nothing extaordinary about it, but it is really a very good burger.  The Patty is not too thick, like 1/3 pounders can get, the balance between meat and veggies is excellent, and the bun, while nothing special, gets the job done.

While EBB still has no official rating system (there may be one coming), I am still going to give this burger 2 thumbs up.

The Wetlands Brew Pub and Sports Bar
922 Garfield St.
Eugene, OR 97402
(541) 345 3606

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