5.06.2011

Three Burgers - One Night

The Joe Biden Burger - Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage 
Did you know that May is National Burger Month? That's right, a whole month devoted and dedicated to my near and dear friend, the burger. Obviously this is cause for celebration and there will be many burger-related festivities and events taking place this month. To get things started, Burger Boy and I went on a mini-burger crawl this week, pitting three of the most talked about burgers in Harvard Square against each other: Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage, Flat Patties and Charlie's Kitchen. Sure, it was gluttonous (even if all three burgers were split) but finding the best burger in Boston is no easy feat and sometimes it takes an evening such as this to get to the bottom of it all.

Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage
The first stop on our tour was the famed Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage. Home to quite the list of burgers bearing kitschy names and decorated walls to match, I'd argue that this is one of the most talked about burger spots in the Greater Boston area. While we sat like sardines at our closely packed-in table, we got into a discussion on how much atmosphere plays into food. To me, Bartley's is the type of atmosphere that you'd want for a great burger spot, that hole-in-the-wall type feel, service with a little attitude and a constantly packed, no-frills dining room. It also receives strong, frequent and extremely positive press which I think adds to the overall impression as well. When everyone says that something is so fantastic, it's hard to not factor that in to your own impression. Taking all of this into account, as I sat there, biting into The Joe Biden Burger ($10.85), a BBQ sauce drenched, under-seasoned, medium (not medium rare as requested) burger topped with unmelted (ugh..) American cheese, crispy bacon (hooray!) on a flimsy sesame bun, I wondered what the hype was all about.  Nothing, I suspect, save the actual burger, was house-made. Is this really the best Boston (okay fine, Cambridge) can do?

Cheeseburger - Flat Patties 
Flat Patties
Moving on with the crawl, we sampled Flat Patties, a small and much more modern place serving up "west coast style" (i.e. a flat patty...) burgers at crazy reasonable prices (a simple cheeseburger will set you back $4.35 and if you want fries with that, tack on an extra $1.75). Being an order-at-the-counter style establishment, you can watch the burger being griddled up, frying in it's own juices and creating a just greasy enough to still be delicious burger. The burger itself sustained a pleasant crispiness from the griddle while the inside had pink hues to it. The bun didn't have any memorable qualities to it but it was soft and fit the burger perfectly. While I think that this is an exceptional burger, this opens up the conversation of whether or not a flat patty burger will ever be king in Boston.

Double Cheeseburger - Charlie's Kitchen

Our third and final burger was from Charlie's Kitchen, famed for its double cheeseburger ($5.25 + $1.00 extra for waffle fries). Charlie's has that grungy-diner feel with blaring music and a dark interior, lit only by flashy, outdated neon lights. I give them bonus points for offering up my beloved waffle fries (why I have such an obsession I'll never know) but they have a off taste to them (old oil in the frialator perhaps?). The burger is thin patties again but very gristly, lackluster and served on a hearty and boring sesame bun. Again I bring up the subject of atmosphere and situation. This burger is the type that you order with a big group of friends after  a long evening of drinking and not something you go out of your way for. If you're out laughing and having a great time over a couple beers, does an average burger taste better?

If asked to rank the three of these burgers, my list would look like this: Flat Patties, Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage, Charlie's Kitchen. Anyone else out there have burgers from these three spots? Let's get the discussion going, I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Stay tuned for other exciting burger news....it's going to be a big month!

Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage on Urbanspoon
Flat Patties on Urbanspoon
Charlie's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

15 comments:

Fun and Fearless in Beantown said...

I've had burgers at two of the spots (I still haven't tried Flat Patties). I think you're totally right about the enivronment and atmosphere totally playing into the experience...especially since my last visit to Charlie's Kitchen was after a night of cocktails! :-)

Boston Food Diary said...

I am actually one of the few who enjoy Mr. Bartleys. I've been going there for years and enjoy that their meet is fresh (ground each day) and their ridiculous naming conventions.
I've only had the veggie burger at Charlie's Kitchen and I was very disappointed in it as well...

Jen said...

You guys are crazy. Three burgers in one night. I have Mr Bartleys a long time ago (like 2001) and enjoyed it. Haven't been back since - really, who goes to Cambridge ;)

I also love waffle fries. They just so tasty.

The Small Boston Kitchen said...

FFB - That's exactly what I'm saying! Try Flat Patties for sure, I was surprised by how good it was for so cheap.

BFD - I can definitely appreciate the fresh ground meat but that's pretty much the only thing fresh there and there's no seasoning. I just don't get why they do that!

The Small Boston Kitchen said...

Jen - HA, love your Cambridge statement and glad I'm not the only waffle fry lover. I don't know what it is about them that makes them so great.

In and Around Town said...

I have been meaning to try Mr. Bartley's but this does not make me want to rush right over...Definitely will try Flat Patties though.

Boston Food Diary said...

I need to clarify that I know how to spell meAt. Just throwing that out there- ugh.
Since Im back commenting again- I actually haven't found them to be under seasoned- but then I find others to be over seasoned so...who knows :-)

PigTrip said...

Been to all three and agree with your take completely, but would add in Bartley's defense (if you can call this a defense) that they are inconsistent. On some nights they are very good, though a tier below Russell House and two below Craigie. Bartley's thin, crisp onion rings are superb, so give those a shot next time.

The Small Boston Kitchen said...

Haven't had Bartley's O-rings, PigTrip...will have to try, thanks

Melissa said...

Hey now let's not knock Cambridge! Have you tried the burger at Boston Burger Co in Somerville? the veggie burger is great and the fries are amazing! I think your next burger hop should be in Davis Sq.

Megan said...

I went to Bartley's once when I first moved up here and have never been back. The burger was subpar, and I left smelling like grease. Whenever I see a line out the door (almost daily), I want to tell people not to waste their time.

I keep meaning to try Flat Patties as it has been ranked pretty high on some best burger lists.

Alicia said...

I think Bartley's is a place you have to go to once....but you need not frequent.

I love Charlie's for their atmosphere (and prices) but the food is nothing special....though I'd definitely (and have on occasion) eat a burger there after a night out with friends...

Burger month sounds exciting....had one last saturday at Max Burger in West Hartford.

caramelized onions, comte cheese, rosemary aioli...not a classic burger, but it was pretty damn good. Roscoe had the leftovers and approved.

Peter Biro said...

Don't worry Katie - we'll have Five Guys open in your hometown of Medford soon (but probably not in time for National Burger month).

Adrienne said...

A friend of mine from the west coast is a huuuuge flat patties fan so I've been a few times, and I always enjoy it. I'd have to agree with Megan about Bartley's, though, it didn't live up to the hype for me.

Audrey Ellen @ My Scene and Herd said...

Thanks for this compilation, and even though all the burgers weren't winners, the mini crawl sounds very fun. I think that you're right about Charley's, I went there and was happy with my burger because I was also enjoying a beer on the patio and my meal was $5.

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