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

Cafe Gardens

Cafe Gardens
www.cafegardens.net
1643 Northwest 1st Avenue
Gainesville, FL 32603-1813
352-376-2233




Thomas' take
Scheduled to close before the start of summer, this is easily the saddest tour locale we've been to. While it would be a shame if any of the places we had toured decided to close, Cafe Gardens is a truly deep loss not only to burger lovers, but the community at large.


An ideal hangout spot, the Gardens' decor and atmosphere were almost as delectable as its fare. Very cozy inside sitting was complemented by a tiki-style outside bar and eating area.


The Burger:
From the Blue Moon Burger to the BQQ Burger, the Gardens' list of cooked meat on a bun looked pretty mouthwatering. I went with the classic Garden Burger because we like to be as scientific about our burgering as we can (we like science almost as much as we like burgers). I was not disappointed.

A mighty burger topped with a zesty cheddar on a full, fluffy, perfect-sized bun was just what the doctor ordered (actually I don't know if a doctor ordered it, but I did). Even though it was cooked a little pink for my taste in medium meat, this was one awesome burger. Juicy and full of flavor this burger was damn near perfect.

The downs:
Tortilla chips instead of fries. This actually more of a "neutral" than a "down". I love me some tortilla chips, but when I'm eating a burger I want fries (freedom or french, I don't care what you call them as long as they are potatoey and delicious).

I also was not in love with the service. The waitress clearly knew a lot of the people and talked a lot to the regulars, which is a good sign, but it did slow her down a lot. Jess and I don't need a lot of care, server-wise, but for how empty the place was when we went to eat it took way too long for everything. Not so long that it was painful, it was a Sunday afternoon after all (we're easy like Sunday morning) but still.


The ups:
I have immensely enjoyed touring, but I was worried we had peaked early by doing the Copper Monkey first because we had not found a burger that was nearly as good; until now. The Garden Burger was a true joy and anyone who can get one before the place closes should do so posthaste. 

The Rating:
4.5 out of 5

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

BJ's

The Place
BJ's is one of my favorite neighborhood places.  It's just down the street from my apartment (1/4 mile, maybe?) and has a gigantic menu, comparable to that of the Cheesecake Factory.  I like it because everyone can always find something at BJ's.  Plus, they brew their own rootbeer and a bunch of microbrews.  Double plus, the restaurant shares its name with my dad.  Awesome! 

I've been to BJ's lots of times but had never tried their burgers, so I thought it was about time.  I mean-- everything else I've ever had there has been great...

The Burger
Look at that burger.  Doesn't it look kind of... not like a burger?  It reminded me more of some kind of club sandwich.  On the menu, it sounded delicious, but in reality, it was less than impressive-- which was surprising because I usually have good luck with the food at BJ's. 

The meat itself was a bit on the dry side, yet the cheddar cheese on the top was great, but then the weird bread roll it came on was a little too dry to make for a good burger bun.  However, I thought the fries were pretty awesome.  Based on Tom's review of his sweet potato fries, I think the shoe-string fries are the way to go here. I enjoyed them immensely.

Pros
Stellar location, great atmosphere, huge menu, awesome name, best rootbeer around, fantastic french fries.

Cons
Veering away from the fixings of a "traditional" burger did not play out well in this case.  Had it come on a regular bun, the burger would have improved a bit, but the meat was still somewhat lackluster.

The Score
I will keep going back to BJ's because I love it... but probably not for burgers.  And in their defense, BJ's is best known for its pizza (which is out of this world), rootbeer, and microbrewed beer.

With that being said, I give BJ's burger...

2.5 / 5

BJ's Restaurant

The Place: 
BJ's Restaurant
www.bjsbrewhouse.com
6611 W Newberry Rd
Gainesville, FL 32605
352-331-8070





Thomas' take
BJ's is a restaurant we've tried several times and have been incredibly impressed with their fare. Excellent food mixed with the variety and quality drinks of a brewery made me pretty sure their burger would an absolute treat.


The Burger:
The BJ's style burger is a 1/2-pound Angus patty on a French cheese bun. In theory this was going to be one hell of a good burger. In practice I was little disappointed.

While I loved the idea of the French cheese bun and the unusual shape of the burger, there was not a whole lot else going on here. The patty itself was a little thin and the taste was overpowered by its charred exterior. I don't mind a little bit of burnt flavor as long as there is enough tasty meat flavor so I remember I'm eating burger and not charcoal.

I would certainly be interested in eating another burger there, particularly because there are two more types of specialty burgers.

The downs:
The fries were not nearly as good they should have been. Seasoned potato wedges should by default be like a tiny party in your mouth. These were more like a book club meeting. They were fine and not unpleasant, but you have the sense there should be something more interesting happening and you're disappointed by Margret's rambling explanation of the use of simulacra in "Pride and Prejudice."(Margret ruins everything...)

The ups:
The most amazing root beer I have ever had. BJ's has its own microbrewery and makes about a million flavors of beer including root style. If I was going to rate this burger just on the root beer it would get a 30 out of 5.

However I actually rate it a...

The Rating:
3 out of 5

Monday, April 5, 2010

110th Street Grille

The Place:
110th Street Grille
10901 SE US Highway 441
Belleview, FL 34420-3844
(352) 245-9077‎

I could argue that the 110th had the best atmosphere of all the burger joints we've tried. Set inside a strip mall (like most things in Florida), it didn't look like much from the outside. Inside, it was small, but had awesome Florida-themed (manatees!) murals on the walls, along with Conch Republic flags and other Jimmy Buffet-esque paraphernalia. I liked it. It was... tropical.

There were also lots of "regulars", as we say in the restaurant biz. Customers yelling their "hellos" back into the kitchen... it was nice. And if a place has lots of repeat customers, you know it has to be good. And it was.

I'm told that there are signs along the 441 that tout this place as having "the best burgers in Belleview", so we were excited to put them to the test. Here's what we found...

The Burger:
Or should I say burgerS. Yes, my burger was actually TWO burger patties--side by side--on one bun. I don't know why they did this, but it was still delicious. The patties were clearly home made-- obvious because of their irregular shape.

Tommy had the "Paradise Burger" which was described on the menu as being served with "lettuce and tomato, Heinz 57 and french friend potatoes". He didn't get the reference... poor kid.



I had a plain 'ol classic cheeseburger, which was fantastic. The meat was cooked to a perfect medium (half of the time, when I order "medium" I get "well done" and that does NOT impress me). The flavor was great, too. It tasted smokey and juicy and delicious.


The fries were very good but not the best I've ever had. But they get extra points for giving me a GIANT mason jar full of diet Coke.

The Score:
Overall, I really liked the 110th street. It's about 10 minutes from Tom's place in Ocala, so that makes it a place we'll probably come back to again.

Pros: Great flavor, cooked perfectly, good price, Floridian atmosphere, convenient location

Cons: Fries could have been better

Score: 4 out of 5

110th Street Grille

Thomas' take

It's been awhile. For that we are sorry. A small string of events involving killer whales, intense grad school schedules, out-of-state visitors and family emergencies (a co-workers, not ours) kept us from touring the last several weeks. Though during the incident with the killer whales and this one time when we found Unicorn Forest, we did eat burgers with the express intention of rating them, but we didn't for some reason.

So we're back, in burger-eating black and decided to tour the "Best Burger in Belleview"

The Burger:
To be the best of anything in Belleview is not a tall order. Nestled along SR 441, this 2-mile stretch of strip malls, karate dojos and discount stores is pleasant but certainly not overwhelming. But the 110th Street Grille is a diamond in the rough for sure.

The aptly named "Paradise Cheeseburger," (Jess had to explain the cleverness of the name and the menu description to me) might as well have been a little slice of burger nirvana. A juicy home-style burger with plenty of flavor, this one went straight to the top for me.

This mighty-sized burger was made lickity-split by a lovely staff who still spent plenty of time greeting customers, even coming out of the back to talk to regulars (a definite good sign). Topped with some haystack fries, cheese and onions, I found it remarkable this burger did not have one overwhelming  flavor. All the tastes played together well and shared my taste buds (they must have learned well in kindergarten). The result was a damn fine burger.


The downs:
The fries were good, but nothing special. You could get fries like this anywhere there are sliced potatoes and super hot grease.
While delicious, this was perhaps the messiest non-open face burger I have ever eaten. Not only was it constantly shedding its insides, the fluffy bun came apart a bit and eventually the entire thing split asunder as if Moses was trying to march some Israelites through my lunch. 


The ups:
It was a damn fine burger.
The staff was very nice and efficient.
The inside had a lovely Floridian lake house kind of thing going on which was pretty cool.
30 bonus points* for a pirate flag flying near the kitchen.

The Rating:
4 out of 5

* Bonus points do not translate on a 1 to 1 ratio to the rating points.