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Archive for the ‘Hamburgers’ Category

Polar Freeze Review, Walnut Ridge, Arkansas


Polar Freeze ReviewContinuing my northbound trek through Arkansas recently, I came upon Walnut Ridge, which doesn’t seem to have any Walnuts OR Ridges.

However, I did find out that the Beatles landed at the airport for a minute in 1964, and there’s  a plaque commemorating that event.  It’s also on the Amtrak route from Chicago to Dallas.  That’s about it.

It also has the Polar Freeze, a local family owned fast food drive-in, which seems to specialize in pit BBQ as well as burgers and the usual drive-in fare.

I was in the mood for a quick burger and tots, and it seemed like the Freeze could fit the bill.  They weren’t very busy, and they had lots of employees (all family?) scurrying about pretending to be busy.

The customer ahead of me was grumbling that they “lost his order” – but finally he was handed a bag, jumped in his car and took off.

My order just took a few minutes.  They handed me a number that they would call when it was ready.

It was ready, and I too, jumped in the car and headed east, towards I-55 and the Mississippi River.

The tots were perfect and they included a solitary salt packet along with a handful of ketchup packs.

My first bite into the burger took me by a little bit of surprise. I might have gotten the other guy’s lost order, or else they dress their burgers around here in a unique way.  My burger was topped with a flavored mayo (tho I can’t tell you what the flavor was) and dill pickle chips.  Period. Not disagreeable, but not my choice.

The hand-pattied burger was ultra local beef (you can tell) which was a pleasant surprise.

I should have ordered more, should have tried the BBQ.  Shudda, wudda, cudda.

There’s a note on the street sign that asks “Have you thanked the man upstairs today?”  But as you can see from my pic, there is no upstairs at the Polar Freeze.  So.

Polar Freeze Review

My number

Polar Freeze Review


Polar Freeze Review

Polar Freeze Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Polar Freeze Review

Polar Freeze Review


Wahlburgers At Home Review – Ground Beef at the Grocery


Wahlburgers At Home ReviewSo the Wahlberg family from Boston, ex con, one celebrity, one half celebrity, one fry cook, one overbearing parent.

Start a burger restaurant, sign lots of expansion deals – “coming soon” is their most famous location. Wahlburgers they call it.

They’ve made a big deal with the Iowa-base grocery chain of Hy-Vee, which is attempting to set the pace in the new genre of “groceraunt.” Yeah, we’ll see.

They expanded to grocer counters as a premium brand of patties or bulk, at my store in the range of $8 a pound.

Blend of chuck, brisket and short rib. Blends are the new “thing” in burgers. New as far as the mass market, not new to high end suppliers to restaurants.  I pan fried a patty, and found it had more than adequate beef  flavor, but is a very fine grind (not my preference). Curiously, there was  nearly 1/2 c grease left in skillet from 1 lb burgers. But the patties crumbled. So lean to begin with or all the fat cooked out?  I can’t anwer that.

(Note broken patty on bun pic) Be a disaster on an outdoor grill, me thinks. Odd labeling on package: “Color is not a good indication of
freshness.” (Tested without condiments or seasoning). Worth $8 a pound? Nope.

According to the USDA plant number on the package, the Wahlbergs have contracted with AVA Pork of New York, to make and package the product.  AVA has been supplying institutional users since 1985, primarily in pork.

Want to visit one of their restaurants? Locations.

I tried one of the competitors recently, Schweid & Son, which I wrote about here. So the Wahlbergs aren’t going to be on my shopping list regularly, but I do wish them success.

If money was no object, I’d put Creekstone Farms as my favorite ground beef supplier, found in a lot of fast casual restaurants, like The Company Burger in New Orleans.  Pat LaFrieda, who sells to Shake Shack, would be number two, and these Schweid fellas come in third.





Wahlburgers At Home Review

Wahlburgers At Home Review




Schweid & Sons Burger Patties Review


Schweid & Sons Burger Patties ReviewDifferent blends of beef for burgers have been the rage for awhile.

The method not only provides distinctive flavor and texture, but also gives processors a premium product.

Until recently, you only ran into these in restaurants, unless you have an able butcher who was willing to do it for you in-house.

Schweid & Sons is a large purveyor of quality ground beef, with a meat business heritage that dates back more than 120 years. Starting in New York’s Lower East Side, eventually, succeeding generations of family members chose to focus only on ground beef, and moved to a modern federally inspected factor in New Jersey (pic below),, just five miles from midtown Manhattan.

The company has grown exponentially with the rise in burgers as a steady part of American diets.  They furnished the Five Guys chain with meat when they had just a few stores, and still do today. The serve a host of other regional chains as well as the East Coast locations of Fatburger.

Schweid has expanded to the retail market and placed their attractively packaged products in grocery stores across the country.  They have a number of different blends.

(Sidebar – I crave finding a burger in a restaurant where the meat patty stands on its own as exceptional – thinking I could do that at home has been only a dream).

I opted for their C.A.B Blend – Chuck and brisket, tho the packaging does not say what percentage. They start with Certified Angus Beef, a designation and label you’re probably used to seeing in your deli or meat counter.

The package (fresh, not frozen, tho I can’t say whether or not they were frozen in transit), contains four patties of 5.3 ounces each.  Which at my store, works out to just north of $6 per pound.

I cooked mine on the grill with a quick sear on each side then low and slow to very rare. Condiment free, I nestled the patties onto a kaiser.  You can see the thickness of the raw patty in my hand below, compared to the cooked on – very little shrinkage.

FOR MY MONEY, this is an exceptional burger. The texture is exactly my preference, and the patty tastes like beef, which you may think is a strange thing to say, but I’m a stickler for believing meat should taste like the actual animal. These are just great. Cliche, I know, but they really do taste like quality chopped steak.

There’s a whole host of frozen patties in the grocery freezers these days, some are pre-cooked, some not, some are no name, some are emblazoned with the name of known fast food restaurants.  I’ve tried most all of them and always been disappointed.  Here’s some of them.

I hope this experiment in wide spread distribution works for Schweid and Sons. I’d also be thrilled if they had some bulk one pound packages to use the product in recipe.

Here’s where you can find these fine, fine burgers near you.

Schweid & Sons Burger Patties Review


Schweid & Sons Burger Patties Review

Patty thickness

Schweid & Sons Burger Patties Review

On the grill – rare

Schweid & Sons Burger Patties Review

Processing plant





Schweid & Sons Burger Patties Review

Schweid & Sons Burger Patties Review



The Cottage Review – Crystal Lake, IL


The Cottage ReviewThe Cottage is one of those places most people would describe as a “neighborhood bar” and it fills that role nicely, perched on the edge of downtown Crystal Lake, Illinois, within walking distance of a number of residential neighborhoods.

Although a “bar,” it serves as a full restaurant as well, with a very lengthy menu and nightly specials. The specials are value priced.

What brought me in is the fact that any night of the week in this area, you can find a hamburger special, and it’s Wednesdays at the Cottage. Burger and a side, $5.  You pay a little bit more for add-ons like bacon and fancy cheeses, but it’s still a deal.

The sandwich is advertised as a half-pound, hand-pattied, char-grilled burger, and it lives up to the promo.  It’s very flavorful meat, on a bakery roll that is soft enough to be enjoyable but substantial enough to hold any toppings you desire.  Unusual for me, I ate the burger absolutely plain, I enjoyed the beef and bun so much.

I upgraded to rings for the side, and they don’t do justice as a side equal to the entree. They are a beer battered ring, which I doubt are made in-house. With so many interesting food items on the menu, the Cottage could easily do better on the rings.

Complimentary peanuts in the shell (yes, toss ’em on the floor) and tasty popcorn for every table.  Don’t see peanuts much anymore, of course. I was personally delighted.

Large outdoor seating area can be covered during inclement weather.  The Cottage is also known for having some large music events on-site, generally with rather proficient tribute bans.  Check their site for dates.

Server Ravan was spectacular.

The Cottage Review

Burger and rings

The Cottage Review

You’ll love their free nuts






 Full menu online. Catering menu too.
The Cottage Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
The Cottage Review

The Cottage Review


Impossible Burger Review


Impossible Burger ReviewSo there’s this Stanford professor, Patrick Brown, B.S., M.D., PHD, who decides in 2009 to take an 18-month sabbatical in 2009 to study “eliminating industrial animal agriculture” (fancy words that basically mean big time animal raising for food).

He is of the school that believes the industry is doing major damage to the planet. He hosts a few seminars on his findings, the world kind of doesn’t take notice, but convinced he’s onto something with the idea of replacing animal protein with that derived from plants, he starts “Impossible Foods” in 2011 at the age of 57, apparently aiming to be the Colonel Sanders of the industry segment.

Armed with $400 million in venture capital (seriously!) he sets out to create first of all, a “burger” that duplicates the appearance, texture, and taste of a ground beef hamburger, but using entirely plant-based components.

A restaurant or two pick it up and the product meets with moderate success, initially. Here’s what struck me about its “overnight success.”  These guys found the best PR/Marketing company in the world, apparently, cause try as you might, it’s pretty damned difficult to find a BAD review of the burger.  “Tastes just like hamburger.” “It even bleeds.” Blah blah blah.  They launched a campaign equal to the one some years back for the much ado about nothing “Umami Burger.”

Full-scale production, widespread distribution, buckets of venture money, it looks like the Impossible Burger is here to stay.  So far the pitch has been you’re gonna help save the planet, rather than get healthier.  Maybe that message is somewhere and I just haven’t seen it.

The company had a victory this week in having the product certified as Kosher.  Also this week at the National Restaurant Show, they debuted a line of breakfast sausages.

They chose White Castle as the outlet for one of their first mass production deals. Curious since it’s not a national chain, isn’t really known for launching new products, and already has their own vegetarian patty on the menu, which I tried a couple years ago.

The White Castle product is “slider size” and is marketed as being topped with smokey cheddar cheese, pickles and onions. For some reason, at my White Castle, they didn’t think I deserved the topping or were hell-bent on saving a nickel that day, so mine was plain. Actually, that’s alright, it gives one a better sense of the product on a stand-alone basis. (Adding junk on top of a burger can make just about any meat patty ‘better.’ just look at the success of In N Out).

My take?  I don’t think it’s a mass market product.  Not that many people are willing to change their habits (obviously) to save the planet.  It probably appeals to devout vegetarians who think they miss the taste of beef or just want some variety (a complaint I hear a lot from vegetarians), but I don’t think it is going to get that many beef-a-holics to change their eating habits.

It looks like ground beef. It has an aroma and taste that will REMIND you of ground beef. (To me it tastes like inexpensive ground beef blend, a fatty 77/23 or so).  The texture they are going to have to work on, as well as a binder. Fat holds ground beef together, and the Impossible Burger crumbles, at least in the White Castle version.

I wish them success.  Great to see an old geezer (as I am) like Brown do a big-time start-up, and get that kind of financing, especially since it’s an industry he doesn’t have experience in.

I don’t know whether they are selling the product in bulk yet, like at groceries. Someone told me it’s at Whole Foods, but I haven’t verified it.  It is in a lot of restaurants tho, and the company provides a locator so you can track down an Impossible Burger near you.  I’m sure chefs are being creative with ingredients and presentation.

Impossible Burger Review

Two Impossible Burger Sliders Dissected.






Impossible Burger Review
Impossible Burger Review


Hardees Double Cheese Slider Review


Hardees Double Cheese Slider ReviewHardees, actually it’s predecessor, Sandys, was the first fast food in my hometown, years before McDonalds or BK landed.

Second was probably Henry’s, another defunct chain.  So, anyway, I’ve always had an affinity for Hardees, and while it has ebbed and flowed over the years parallel to their own ups and downs, the last few years I’m good with them.

I think they have the best breakfast sandwiches in the industry, and they have actual, real, bonafide ham in the breakfast hours, as well. Some years ago, they decided their target customer was going to be young men, who aren’t shy about eating hardy, and then went after that market, and while I don’t know the numbers, I’ll bet they made a solid dent in it.

They focus on larger burger patties, 1/3 pound minimum, heavily loaded  — like the Monster Thickburger, two 1/3 pound patties, four strips of bacon, three slices of American cheese, mayo on a bakery bun.

In order to tell their target customer about their new focus – they employed a number of attractive female celebrities, portrayed as seductively eating the new burgers.  This went on for a few years, then somebody moaned about it and they stopped.

I thought it was brilliant.  PC aside, the company had a demographic specific product and designed marketing to capture that audience. It worked.

Here’s one of the commercials.

Feeling a might pecking a few weeks ago, somewhere unidentifiable in the Carolinas, I pulled off to grab a snack and happened into Hardees for the only reason is it was the easiest to get in and out of off the street.

They were advertising a double cheeseburger slider for a buck, which would be all I’d need at the moment. (BUT….the only TRUE sliders, IMHO, come from White Castle and Krystal).

I was the only customer inside. There were no drive-thru customers.  Yet for some reason, it took a full fifteen minutes to put this sandwich together, and apparently they couldn’t spare another 15 seconds in the microwave to melt the cheese.

No matter. Tasted OK.  Mission accomplished.  Hey it was a buck!  Better meat and bun than lots of fast food burgers at $2-4.

I don’t see it on the menu on their website, must have been a limited time thing.

So here’s a pic of the slider.

Hardees Double Cheese Slider Review





Hardees Double Cheese Slider Review

Hardees Double Cheese Slider Review


Burger Burger Review – Biloxi, MS


Burger Burger Review So the story goes, the original “Burger Burger” was developed in nearby New Orleans and made its way east to Biloxi sometime after 1947.

The sandwich was sold in a local restaurant for years until one day, the perfect home of its own became available and the Burger Burger restaurant opened up, selling their proprietary sandwich, along with daily specials – their version of traditional southern dishes. Also on the menu,  traditional gumbo, salads, seafood baskets and breakfast.

Here I’ve buried the lead, haven’t I? The “Burger Burger” is like a hamburger poboy – on toasted French bread with mustard, diced onion, and special sauce, which they also call “gravy.” Somebody described it like “Swiss steak” on a bun, and maybe that’s apt, it’s sure different than a hamburger poboy in New Orleans which can be incredibly plain and dull.

They have other “specialty” burgers as well, in a form you might be more used to seeing.

Being as this is primarily a hamburger website, and I write about burgers a lot, naturally I took one look at the menu and went right for the……….catfish.

That’s right. I couldn’t seem to get enough fried catfish this trip, so it pretty much showed up in front of me once a day.

And was I ever glad.  Burger Burger makes perfect fried catfish, accompanied by fries, slaw, lemon and tartar if you wish. It was a lighter, slightly seasoned batter, perfectly crispy, the fish resting inside done to perfection, moist, not a hint of grease.


Service is frenetic and friendly at the same time.  Like they took classes in “Southern hospitality.”  Quite sure they mentioned everything was made in-house.

The restaurant is located in an old residence and the walls are chock-a-block with vintage photos and nostalgic memorabilia.

I’d like to go back.

Website has the specials but not full menu.  Menu is on Zomato.

Burger Burger Review

Catfish basket with fries

Burger Burger Review



Burger Burger Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Burger Burger Review
Burger Burger Review


Applebees Review – Nationwide Chain


Applebees ReviewStarting as a single restaurant called T.J. Applebee’s Rx for Edibles & Elixirs in Decatur, GA, 1980, Applebees has grown to a franchised chain of over 2000 units in 15 countries.

Applebee’s is in the casual dining segment, with basic American dishes including salads, shrimp, chicken, pasta, burgers, and “riblets” an Applebee’s signature dish. Most of the units feature a bar area with numerous TVs for viewing sporting events and full alcohol service.

The company frequently runs cost promotions, like “two can eat for twenty” – one appetizer and two entrees from a short list, for $20. Is it a good value or does it get you to spend more than you intended. No idea.

It wouldn’t be a regular stop of mine, but I happened into one in Sikeston, MO, when passing through. Most interstate travelers exiting here might look for a heavily advertised joint, “Lamberts – Home of Throwed Rolls” – but if you’ve done that once, like I have, that’s probably enough.

I had rings for an appetizer and a cheeseburger and fries.  It was ok.  Living in an era of (pick one) (organic, wagyu, grass fed, free range, hand pattied, special blend, ground daily) burgers, it wasn’t a standout. Nice bun. Lots of fresh vegetables for toppings and OK fries.

So it’s a good value. The restaurant, ambiance? Too noisy. The bar and tvs dominate the room, but pretty sure that’s where most of the revenue comes from too.  Service was perfunctory.

It was a highway stop.  That’s all.  Haven’t been in one in decades. Unlikely I’d stop again unless the parking lot was empty.

Applebees Review




 Full menu is online.
Applebee's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Applebees Review

Applebees Review



DC Cobbs Review – Woodstock, IL


DC Cobbs ReviewYou may not have heard of the town of Woodstock, Illinois, but you’d probably recognize if if you were plopped down in the town square.

Is the picture at the left a good enough clue?  Or how about this quote:  “Ned?  Ned Ryerson?”  If it hasn’t come to you, Woodstock is a quaint little town about an hours train ride from downtown Chicago. It’s where most of the outdoor scenes in the movie “Groundhog Day” were shot.

Well, just off the bustling square (full of cute little shops and eateries) is DC Cobbs, a bar and burger place that has won all of the local favorite awards for the past few years.  Usually that’s a red light to me, and I ain’t going. But I was intrigued by some of their menu combinations and the choices one has for assembling a custom burger, so off I went on a Saturday afternoon.

Got there around 2 ish and it wasn’t so busy, so I was able to snare a table next to the window and people watch while waiting for the grub.

Although they have some interesting appetizers, I skipped them to get right to the meat.  Choose your protein: corn or grass fed beef, chicken, bison, ground turkey, or veggie bean.  Chose your bread: brioche, pretzel roll, rye bread (a think in Chicago), grilled cheese or gluten free.  Then there are a whole raft of topping choices, more proteins as toppers, cheeses, vegetables, sauces.

They have about 20 combinations on the menu, if you’re lazy about picking your own, including the “Ned Ryerson.” (Like how all that came full circle?  Kind of like the writing in Pulp Fiction, right? LOL).

I went with the “Blue Streak” a half pound ground beef topped with fried chicken tenders, buffalo sauce and chunky blue cheese dressing. (The chunks were YUGE, I tell you!).  Added rings as a side.  (Fries are standard, but there are about a dozen other items you can choose from).

Tablemate ordered the “Woodstock” topped with fresh mozz, boursin spread and roasted red peppers.

It was all great, came out of the kitchen surprisingly quick, and were cooked precisely as ordered.  The beef itself had wonderful flavor and was a nice grind.

Personal opinion that with all those toppings, they could find a roll a little more substantial than a brioche. It’s not going to survive the meal if you have “wet” toppings.  Pretzel would be firmer, but I’ve been ignoring them for awhile.  It’s a personal thing.

They have different specials that last a whole month.  This month, it’s an Hawaiian theme. for burgers, apps, and hand-helds.

Also on the menu, sandwiches, salads, and assorted other goodies. They’ve just opened a second location in McHenry, IL, another town you probably haven’t heard of, also an hour from downtown Chicago, but more north, not west, like Woodstock.

Server Angelica was top-notch.  She “gets it.”

I will return.  Click for the full menu.

DC Cobbs Review

Mozz, Boursin, Peppers


DC Cobbs Review

Tenders, Buffalo Sauce, Blue Cheese

DC Cobb's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
DC Cobbs Review

DC Cobbs Review


Sonic Drive In “Slingers” Review – Nationwide Chain in 46 States


Sonic Drive In "Slingers" ReviewCan’t say who thought of this concept, but naturally the “Mushroom Council” is excited about it.

The idea is to use finely diced mushrooms and seasonings as an extender for beef with a two-fold goal: to make hamburgers juicier and more flavorful, and also to do a bit for the environment – if we’re using less resources for beef, that’s supposed to be a good thing.

Seems like the suggested percentage is ‘shrooms in the 25-30% range.

Boldy going where no chain has gone before, the people at Sonic jumped on this, and are currently offering two different LTO blended burgers which they call “Slingers.”  Bigger than a slider, not as big as a “regular” burger (tho I have strongly suggested they get with that!).

The “Classic” is cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayo. An upgrade gives you bacon/cheese without the produce. $1.99 and $2.49, respectively.

An affinity for mushrooms came to me quite late in life. I could possibly be a little shy about some of them still.  But I was committed to diving into this for the sake of you, dear reader.

Glad I did. They ARE tastier. They ARE juicier. You can’t see or ‘taste’ anything mushroomy. At least I couldn’t.

I did enjoy them. I would prefer them over most fast food standard burgers. Nice brioche bun, as well. Soft but sturdy, how we like ’em!

So that’s that.  Sonic menu. All items available all day.  (I like their breakfast “toasters” too, and I’ll always go out of my way for tots over fries).

Sonic Drive In "Slingers" Review


Sonic Drive In "Slingers" Review

Bacon Cheese Edition

Sonic Drive-in Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Sonic Drive In “Slingers” Review

Sonic Drive In “Slingers” Review


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