Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Burger Lovers: A Korean Burger Cuisine

Editors Note: Apologies for the late post this week.  Occasionally life catches up with all of us, and this week my name came up.  For the two or three of you who regularly read and check back for new posts, sorry.  I really appreciate all the emails, and suggestions; keep' em coming, and I'll keep the burger reviews going up.  Have an awesome Thanksgiving! 

I distinctly remember being very young, probably six or seven, and going to Chinese restaurants, usually with my dad, to order takeout.  Dad would order BBQ pork, shrimp, fried rice, General Tso's, and all sorts of other pseudo-Chinese cuisine; I ordered... a cheeseburger.  I tell you this, not to show you early signs that I was destined to become an amateur burger Gourmet, but, because I think many, many families go through similar rituals with their finicky children.  The point of the anecdote is to demonstrate a phenomenon that should seem rather peculiar, but oddly does not.

Those of you with discriminating little eaters of your own will know the Chinese food burger well.  They are typically relatively cheap, no frills, frozen pattied, ketchup, mustard, and american cheese specials.  I think when I was seven, I loved it.  Kids don't want a gourmet burger, they just want something safe, which even the most Americanized Chinese food often is not.  I am sure some kids will eat a hunk of BBQ pork and a dish of fried rice, but the fact that most Chinese restaurants have a burger on the menu indicates many will not.  You may say the Chinese burger is something of a staple.

That said, EBB is likely not going to review a Chinese food burger any time soon.  If there are any killer versions out there that deserve a nod I will consider suggestions, but no promises.  Now, Korean burgers on the other hand...

Burger Lovers is a relatively unheard of burger joint hidden out on West 7th.  As is clear by its name, Burger Lovers is first and foremost a burger joint, but Burger Lovers is also a Korean restaurant.  Wait... What?  Yep, Burger Lovers is a Korean burger joint, or rather a Korean slash burger joint (see what I did there?  I spelled out "slash" for emphasis).  Burger Lovers, however, is not serving a flimsy, back side of the menu burger; these are real-deal-holyfield burger-joint burgers.

When you walk in, you notice that the place is immaculately clean.  The next thing you notice is that the decor is random as all get out (pictures that make no sense by themselves or in relation to one another, odd old-timey relics, etc...).  Also, there is this weird little side room, where the walls are painted pastel pink, and the chairs and tables are more formal and sort of Victorian looking (maybe it was the Korean dining area).

The owners are the nicest looking old Korean couple you could imagine, and as far as I could tell neither one of them speaks a lick of English; you order by number at Burger Lovers.  It looked to me like the wife does most of the cooking, and the husband is the front of the house guy.

In what was maybe my favorite moment of the night, the husband spent a good five minutes pouring my Ninkasi IPA into a glass (apparently he hasn't quite mastered the art of beer pouring yet), several times scraping the head off with a spoon, and served it to me with a handful of napkins wrapped around it because he had made such a mess.  It was funny, but charming none-the-less (I still only ordered one).  It perhaps tasted better knowing how much love had gone into it.

Burger Lovers marked the first time I had been to a restaurant where the menu made me choose from a list of delicious sounding burgers, beef bulgogi, and  a dynamite sounding kim-chi.  It may seem like a weird dynamic, but for the sake of burger blogging, the place couldn't have been better.

The list of burgers is impressive to say the least, ranging from your regular old "Bacon Cheese Burger", to the "Hawaiian Kahuna Burger" (with ham and pineapple) and the "British Burger" (a ham, bacon, and egg special).  In all, there are twelve burgers, an additional ten sandwiches, and eighteen Korean dishes.  If you recognize some of the burgers names, there is a reason; turns out the owners of Burger Lovers are "friends" (I called to ask after being tipped off that there was a connection) of the prior-owner of the now defunct Jamie's Great Hamburgers: a restaurant that won EW's "Best Burger" distinction several years running prior to its closing.  Burger Lovers claims to have the "Best Burgers in Oregon";  one must wonder if they are simply taking the title with the recipe.

I ordered the Big Bopper Burger (another Jamie's burger); it was $7.50 with fries.  The menu said it was "loaded with cream cheese, bacon, avocado, and swiss," and it wasn't lying; there was a roughly 1/2 inch slab of cream cheese on the burger.  I didn't know what to think about the cream cheese when I first saw it, I mean, there was a ton of it.  I initially thought it was not going to be a good thing, but it actually worked pretty well.  The only problem I could see with having such a giant heap of cream cheese, was that it washed out the taste of, and maybe the need for, the avocado;  the two have relatively similar textures, and taste dynamics, so they fought for space.  The cream cheese won, by its sheer volume on the burger alone.

The burger itself was really great; the meat was fresh, well-seasoned, and cooked perfectly.  The overall taste combination of the veggies, bacon, and cream cheese/avocado worked exquisitely.  Further, the fries, while frozen box fries, fit the overall feel of the restaurant quite well.  It would have been a bit jolting, although pleasantly so, if the burger had come out with fresh hand-cut fries.  The Sysco fries were tasty and satisfactory under the circumstances.

Also, if you are dying to know about the Korean food, I have a little something for you.  I had the opportunity to try the beef bulgogi, which was excellent.  I have no desire, or the necessary background, to really tell you more than that.  It was tasty, and I would eat it again if the mood struck me.

Really, Burger Lovers is a very good, and pleasantly quirky burger joint.  I would say that it could hold its own against any other burger in Eugene, at least in its price-range.  They offer a great burger selection, and provide fast, fresh and tasty food.  Unfortunately, I think that Burger Lovers location may prevent it from catching on in Eugene.  I recommend going and getting a burger at Burger Lovers immediately if not sooner, because if you wait, you may miss the opportunity.

Burger Lovers
1466 W 7th Ave.
Eugene, OR 97402

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  1. And you painted your nails a lovely shade for the experience. i approve. ;)

  2. Hi, I'm a big fan and just started a burger blog myself, (see below) I would appreciate any feedback or help you can give me. Thanks

  3. My favorite burger in town is The Boss Burger at The Embers out on HWY 99.

    It's a total skeezy old person bar, but it's a half pound bacon, bacon, egg, and cheese burger. They'll even let you order extra bacon if you want.

    Love it! You should check it out.

  4. You are correct on all counts but one -- the owners do speak english, quite well in fact. They even write a monthly letter to their customers, sharing Korean folk tales and their experiences as immigrants and business owners.

    They are perhaps a bit awkward in their genuinely earnest desire to provide excellent service. But to say they don't speak "a lick of English" is a disservice to a hard-working couple that strives to make a personal connection with their customers.