Sunday, March 27, 2011

Special Space Edition: Orbit Cafe at Kennedy Space Center

Orbit Cafe
Kennedy Space Center
SR 405, Kennedy Space Center, FL, 32899
Phone: 352-753-0077
Kennedyspacecenter.com

Thomas' take
Jess and I have talked many times about restarting the tour after our unplanned hiatus, however it seems between me getting randomly called in for extra shifts or hours at work and Jess getting her Masters we've been putting it off. Our recent trip to Kennedy Space Center provided me with an excellent chance to get things rolling again in a very fun way. Being what it was, I wasn't expecting the burger to knock my socks off, but eating a space burger would have to be an awesome story.

I wasn't expecting much from what was essentially a museum cafeteria trying to be an amusement park theme restaurant. However, overall I was pleased with the experience. The decor was simple and pleasant, the food was above decent and the only draw back was the service.

The burger:
This was a nothing-fancy, down to business burger. Two patties, lettuce, tomato and a slice of American cheese were standard though I was led to believe there were some other basic options as well. The patties were on the smaller side so together they were just about the perfect size. The bun was fairly unremarkable, but the bun-meat ratio was pretty spot on. The burger really shined in the flavor category. The meat was very fresh and tasted meaty. What I would guess was an amount of lean pork in the burger gave it a distinct flavor that really stood out without overpowering.

Not a burger worth going to space for, but definitely one worth getting if you are touring a visitor center dedicated to space travel..

The downs:
Food was served cafeteria style and there were two lines for food and two cash registers and apparently only one person doing any work in a dining room that could probably easily seat 100 people. This one lady was definitely driving the struggle bus full tilt. She took so long with the people in front of us we thought that no one was around and we wouldn't get anything to eat. She told me my burger would take "just a minute" when she meant it would be almost 10 minutes. Pro tip: Don't lie to a customer's face. And when I finally got my food we had to wander around to find someone who would let us pay for our food. In their defense they had only been open 2 hours and you can't really expect people to do anything for at least the first 3 hours of work.

The ups:
The fries were nothing special but I'm going to give them points because they were space fries.
Finishing off the meal with some Space Ice Cream and then going on tours of technological marvels and monuments to humanity's boundless passion and ingenuity.

Things we learned:
They will let just about anyone work near NASA. 

The rating:
3 out of 5

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Glenview Country Club Restaurant

Glenview Country Club Restaurant
3194 Glenview Road
The Villages, Florida 32162
Phone: 352-753-0077
www.glenviewrestaurant.com

Thomas' take
This stop on the tour comes courtesy of one of my co-workers, Mike Rostas. He was kind enough to notice an ad for Glenview's burger special which included a tag line claiming the best burger in The Villages. Well of course we can't pass up the chance to put that kind of claim to the test.

I was a little uncertain about the country club setting at first. But I was pleasantly surprised. Despite being very new, the restaurant had a traditional, almost old-timey feel to it. It was a very relaxed place. The kind that made me want to get an iced tea and sit around talking about taking strokes off my back nine (I've been told it helps to play the game) or something of the sort. There were a couple tables of people laughing, lounging and having a good time enjoying each other's company, which is always a plus.

Excellent lunch setting.

The burger:
With no other Villages' burgers as comparison, this is definitely the best burger we've had in The Villages. Though really this was an excellent burger. Cooked to medium, the burger was still the right amount of juicy. That is to say it was juicy, but not so much so that it became a mess-making problem.

There was nothing fancy about this burger and it works perfectly for it. For $5 (if you get a drink) this is a solid burger meal. Everything you want without any frill (not that frill is always bad). Even with bacon and cheese the taste of the burger wasn't overpowered, a big plus in my book.

The downs:
Really the only down is that it is not a central location unless you live in The Villages near the country club. But I guess that's part of the appeal.

The ups:
Lovely place to eat lunch. A great weekend, take-it-easy kind of place. Awesome burger-to-bun ratio. The bun covered the whole burger but maintained a pretty consistent bun thickness. Solid burger. Good price. I keep coming back the word relaxed and I think it's a good word as any to sum up the whole experience.

It's also worth mentioning the chips are an awesome homemade barbecue-flavored delight. I usually prefer fries to chips. But I would get these chips again.

Things we learned:
I should not be trusted with soup. Jess got a bowl of the soup of the day, a steamed tomato beef. She offered to let me taste it and I promptly trailed steamed tomato beef soup across the table and my plate. I can be dressed up but I can't be taken out...

The rating:
4 out of 5

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Brick City Cafe

Brick City Cafe
210 Northeast 1st Street
Ocala, FL 34470-6651
352-629-4700


Thomas' take
We haven't had a whole lot of luck with finding burgers in Ocala. Mostly because I spend most of the time that I'm out of my apartment in an office in The Villages so my knowledge of Ocala is very limited. On my trips around town though I have always eyed the Brick City Cafe. Its side entrance (seen above) leads through a small courtyard/alley that I liked and any place that has a Brick City Burger get points in my book.

The inside of the cafe wasn't overly... anything. It was small, but clean and well kept (as well kept as an older building can be). It had a very small town, everyday regulars kind of feeling. The servers were very nice, talkative (but not overly) and remembered enough about customers to comment to one that she didn't think he'd like the new soup as much because she remembered he likes thicker soup.

The burger:
A 1/3 pound Angus beef patty, I got mine all the way, which included mayo, lettuce, tomato, onion and a pickle spear speared to it. I added ketchup and mustard and threw the onions away. Still not sure why I didn't ask to have them left off.

The burger itself was pretty spot on, fully cooked but still juicy and tasty. And just as important, it had excellent bun, burger ratio. The bun was just a little bit big than the burger to ensure every bite of delicious meat was cradled in fluffy bread goodness.

The downs:
I'm struggling a little bit here. No major down points come to mind. If I had to pick something, I would say the interior. It didn't detract in anyway, there was nothing wrong with it, but it didn't do them any favors. It just kind of was there.

The ups:
Like the venue, there is not a lot of pizazz in the burger but neither needed it. This was a good everyday, always good burger. The bun was good, the meat was good and they complimented each other nicely.

It's not the kind of burger that is going to make a place famous, but it is a burger that is going to keep people coming back again and again.

And curly fries were standard. And these were good curly fries.

The rating:
4 out of 5

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Big Burger

I'm super stoked to be back in Florida and back on the burger tour!  And as our first stop upon my return, Big Burger was a solid choice.

The Place
I've driven past Big Burger dozens of times and it has always intrigued me.  It's on a busy stretch of University Ave in downtown Gainesville.  A prime location for serving up burgers.  I liked the inside of the place, mostly because I'm an incurable Elvis fan and couldn't get over the collage of Elvis albums plastered on the walls.  I thought it was great!

The Burger
While Tom tackled the "Big Burger" itself (a one-pound hunk of meat on a bun), I went for the "Baby Burger", which was a more manageable 1/4 lb patty, and topped it with American cheese and bacon. 

Let me just say this, I have eaten a lot of burgers and I think I have found my niche in the burger world-- I'm a 1/3 lb kind of girl. 

My options at Big Burger were 1/4 lb, 2/3 lb, or 1 lb.  I was a little stumped by this at the counter and had to ask my burger partner, "How much is 2/3 of a pound?  Can I eat that?"  He looked at me and said, "Not all at once..."  So I decided to play it safe with the 1/4 lb.

The flavor in my "Baby Burger" was good.  The meat was juicy and not over-cooked, so that was a good start.  However, I am suspicious that most of the flavor came from the added bacon. 

This makes me want to give Big Burger another try, wherein I will order the same burger sans bacon.  Also, neither of us ordered fries or any other sides with our burgers, so I would like to go back and give their fries a chance.

Pros
It's at a good location, though a little ways from my apartment, if I were out and about downtown, I could definitely see myself stopping by for a burger.  Also, we can't overlook the great King-themed atmosphere and the overall quality of the burger.

Cons
Big Burger keeps really weird hours.  Something like 11am to 4pm Mon, Tues, Weds, and then 11am - 4pm, reopening at 11pm - 3 am Fri, Sat, Sun.  Definitely catering to the bar crowds downtown.  However, it doesn't really leave itself open to much dinner business, which is a bummer because that's usually our time for burger touring.

Also, what's the deal with those weird sizes?  Can I just have a 1/3 lb burger please?

Score
As I said, I would like to try Big Burger again, but overall, I was satisfied with my burger experience.  All things considered, I give my Baby Burger at Big Burger...

3 out of 5

Also...
Tom's blog talks about our original search for "Face Burger".  I later found out that it's actually called Big Uly's Burgers, which I still want to add to the burger tour.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Big Burger

Big Burger
21 West University Ave.
GainesvilleFL 32601

352-380-0001


Thomas' take 
Our first outing back since the summer hiatus was shaping up to be a good one. We knew of a place in downtown Gainesville that we heard had good burgers. Most intriguing about the place was we didn't know the name. We just knew there was a big smiling face on the sign. 



So we went out in search of "Face burger" as we dubbed it. Luckily Jess was able to guide us right to it but the parking lot was overgrown, there wasn't a light on in the place and the windows were dirty. I made the call to abandon Face Burger and we headed to Big Burger.


A small locally-owned burger place slash want-to-be sports bar, Big Burger is a nice little place downtown. Plenty of Elvis memorable lines the walls, and the booths, tables and chairs are stylized like a '50s diner. Lettering on the windows carried some catchy slogans like "We're grillin' and chillin' for you" and "Home of the 1-pound burger."


The burger: 
When an establishment makes a point to advertise a specific burger it is like practically begging us to tour it. The aptly named Big Burger is two 1/2-pound patties on a pretty decent bun. I got mine with lettuce, tomato, pickle, ketchup, mustard and mayo, but the burger menu is of the get-it-how-you-like-it variety and the list of possible add-ons and condiments was extensive. 



The downs:
There is nothing very remarkable about this burger. Sure it's big and that's neat... but in terms of flavor it was lacking anything to really define it. 



That being said, it is a solid burger. It does everything right and certainly fills you up. I enjoyed eating it, it just was not worth writing to mom about. 


The ups:
I liked the atmosphere and would like to go back and actually eat there (it might be their summer hours, but the place closes at 4 p.m. most days). It was a simple, no frills, to the point kind of burger which I really appreciate. 



Jess and I decided we definitely would go back for their burgers and maybe even for another review.


The rating:
3.5 out of 5




Thursday, July 15, 2010

The wait is over - almost

Thomas' take

Jess recently finished up her internship at the Detroit Institute of Art and is heading back to the Sunshine State this weekend which means the Burger Tour summer hiatus is nearing an end.

We have plenty more burgers to eat and I'm extremely excited to have my burger buddy back.

To whet your appetite for real burger blogging I'm going to offer a little review of a recent Burger King visit. This does go against one of the tenets of the Tour, but because I was burgering on my own and because this was a standout experience we're going to allow.

Burger King A1 Steakhouse Burger

This was completely an impulse buy. I was seeking a quick fast food burger during my lunch break and ended up in Burger King. My gaze wandered from the Whopper to this relatively new creation.

If I had known then what I know now... I would have gone to Wendy's.

The burger: 
On paper this was going to be a solid meal; steak-like patty, A1 sauce, cheese, haystack onions, tomato, lettuce, and mayo. I knew going into it that this wasn't going to be the bet burger ever, hell, to be honest I wasn't expecting much, but I was still disappointed.

The downs:
The first negative surprise was the Thousand Island-like dressing that was slathered on the burger. It was extra zesty and applied with way too much zeal. I've never been a fan of this trend. To me it's like putting ketchup on steak, water in whiskey or mayonnaise on cake. Why take something delicious and add something to it to make it taste like poop?

The next startling realization was that the pseudo-steak patty had almost zero flavor. Maybe the workers at the Burger King factory put too much "nondescript meat flavor" juice it or maybe it was supposed to be like escargot -- chewy, flavorless and kind of gross. Either way there was no distinct flavor to the burger and the only way I knew I was eating something (aside from me chewing stuff) was the sting of the super zesty dressing.

The ups:
This burger provided me with much needed perspective. It reminded me that simply being a burger doesn't make a burger good.

The other good thing is that it was very filling. In fact I was full of a "sick to my stomach" feeling for much of the night, and my throat was full of stomach acid from the raging heartburn and reflux it gave me.

The rating:
0.5 out of 5 I could probably be talked into eating it again, but I wouldn't pay for it.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Cafe Gardens

The Place
Cafe Gardens is one of my favorite places in Gainesville.  It's right across from campus, no more than a 10 minute walk from my home in the Fine Arts Complex.  As a result, I have been there many times with many people and everyone agrees that the burgers are great.  The place has a very college-y atmosphere-- you know, lots of crazy crap on the walls, Gator paraphernalia everywhere, and waitresses in mini-skirts and fishnets.  Artsy.  It's a tiny place on the inside, but they also have a ton of outdoor seating, which is really nice.

The Burger
Cafe Gardens offers a number of different specialty burgers, many of which I have tried, but my favorite is the Blue Moon. I love the combination of bacon and blue cheese, and I love it even more on my burgers.  Yet, in attempt at neutrality, I ordered a burger I had never had at Cafe Gardens-- the BBQ Burger.


Per the usual, I loved it.  The meat is well seasoned and juicy (without being overly greasy) and the crispy onion / tangy BBQ combo with the slight sweetness of the beef is fantastic.  Does that sound a little too Top Chef for this blog?  Well, how about this-- it came with tortilla chips that are awesome.  Now, those were oily and delicious.

I also give major points for the proportions of this burger (and all burgers at Cafe Gardens).  A lot of times, you'll find a patty that is too big for its bun, (or the other way around) or too many toppings to the point of the burger falling apart... but this is not an issue here.  The physics of these burgers were near perfection.

Pros
Great location (for me and other UF students), straight up awesome burgers, cool atmosphere.

Cons
Not the best service in town (not rude or unpleasant, just a bit slow), and they're closing down soon!

The Rating
All in all, this is one of my favorite burgers in Gainesville.  It's right up there with the Copper Monkey at a 4.5 / 5