Monday, May 10, 2010

Burgers, Burgers Everywhere ....

I registered with the Restaurant Reviewers BlogRoll recently, because so many of my posts were dedicated to eating out that I felt I was earning the title even if I didn't have anyone backing me up with an expense account. (I don't want the clout or the power that come with being the New York Times reviewer, God forbid! I just want someone to pay my tab ....) And then, of course, I started cooking again and writing up soups and desserts and such. But I'm baaaack! I've been to two different restaurants this past week, and I'm here to tell the tales.

On Thursday night, Jeremy and I ate dinner at Great Plains Burger Company, which essentially makes only 3 items -- burgers, fries and shakes -- but makes them exceptionally well. Okay ... they make beef burgers and turkey burgers and black bean burgers, and they offer chocolate, vanilla or strawberry shakes. And you can order either a standard supply of fries or an entire basketful. But these are merely variations on a theme -- make 3 things, and do it right.

Jeremy and I each ordered a beef burger, and picked most of the same toppings from the list of lettuce, tomato, ketchup, mustard, etc. and so forth. We split a regular order of fries, as the basket would have been enough to feed a family of 4. And Jeremy ordered a strawberry shake which, as you can see, was so enticing and so luscious that in the time it took me to answer a phone call, he could not resist sucking down half the shake before I could take out my camera to photograph it in all its unsullied glory. Topped with whipped cream, drizzled with syrup, and creamy beyond my admittedly verbose descriptive abilities ... if I had to choose only 1 favorite item at Great Plains, it would be the shakes without hesitation. They are that good.

The fries were crisp and freshly made, without the raw taste that I've noticed in some other fries I've had recently. (Shhhhhh ... Rabbi Israel Salanter stated that "Not everything that is thought should be said."). And there are thousands of potatoes to be found in their crates and boxes, such that the fries are not frozen or pre-packaged, but started their trip to your plate as spuds in Idaho and didn't metamorphose into fries until just after you placed your order. The burgers are hand-formed and only cooked when you show up at the counter and pay, so they are ridiculously juicy and literally dripped down our hands and onto the baskets' paper liners. This is how burgers and fries were meant to be!

And yet, they have some serious competition from the Sidetrack Bar & Grill, which I've written about before and which I chose specifically for my Mother's Day lunch with Jeremy and Tom. Other people can go to fancy brunches where they wear corsages and panty hose (aaauuuggghhh!!!); I wore jeans, sat next to folks with tattoos and paint-splattered pants, and even noted that the country music -- which I normally loathe -- perfectly suited the ambience, since thankfully it wasn't too twangy.

As per usual, my brain went into paralysis over all the options -- and I'd even looked up the menu the night before, just to try to settle on something pro-actively!!! BBQ pork sandwich with cole slaw and yam fries? Spicy Louisiana-style cornmeal-crusted-fish sandwich, highly recommended by Tom? The fabulous beer-battered fish? The fish tacos with fruit salsa? Burger, the fabulous ol' standby??? Oh, my God, please make it stop!!!

I am trying to eat nobly for awhile. ("Ha!" said my alter ego, the woman who ate a piece of strawberry-rhubarb pie last night -- albeit a small one -- simply because it was there.) I'll be attending a fancy dinner and the graduation ceremony next week for Tom's beautiful and dynamic daughter, who is currently finishing up the final crush of work (due tomorrow) for her Master's program in Urban Design from the University of Pennsylvania. Not only will I be meeting Cassidy for the first time, but I'll also be meeting the ex-wife and her family ... hmmmm.

I am therefore feeling even more pressure than usual to tone my floppy underarms and to suck in my stretchmarks. My days of gym membership ended along with my marriage, and I spend way too much time sitting in front of this screen to be in any kind of shape (BMI on the borderline between "underweight" and "normal," but flabby nonetheless). Societal standards are oppressing me as I read the menu -- feed my soul or wear my jeans with no muffin top nonsense going on while the ex assesses me???

But I digress ... ah, but what else is new?

With all of this swirling around in my mind, it's a wonder I didn't just pass out and hit my head on the floor. But I persevered, and ordered a Springtime-only -- so it's just found its way back to the menu! -- spinach salad with oranges, strawberries, dried cherries, and grilled chicken, all served with a lovely raspberry vinaigrette. Some of my favorite foods (with the exception of chocolate) on one plate, gorgeous colors, nutrition ... I was happy, truly.

The "boys" ordered like men: Jeremy chose his usual Reuben, having become quite the connoisseur after eating them in virtually every restaurant he's ever been to ... if there's a Reuben on the menu, there will likely be a Reuben on Jeremy's plate. This one was not gargantuan, but was most certainly very generous. And by the time he'd eaten the sandwich and moved on to the fries, Jeremy -- a 19-year-old male, remember, whose sole purpose in life sometimes seems to be eating me out of house and home -- couldn't finish everything. Thankfully Mom has a good appetite, and finished the fries for him ... :)

And Tom chose the classic and award-winning burger 'n' fries, which always seems to call more loudly than anything else on the menu and wins above the din of the other options. (There are times when you need earplugs not to hear the Siren song of that burger!) With tomato, lettuce and onion, as well as the pickles that can be added from the excellent assortment of condiments (hot peppers, pickles, Tabasco sauce, and vinegar among them), the famous burger -- hand-crafted with freshly ground beef -- is a thing of beauty that is only exceeded by its exceptional flavor.

Once we'd finished eating, a waiter came up to ask us if we were interested in dessert. We had discussed the strawberry shortcake before ordering lunch; it is an astoundingly gorgeous thing -- big as a plate and easily just as tall -- which could be shared by 3 as an entree if desired. But after eating all that chicken and beef and corned beef, there was no way dessert was going to be an option. The waiter asked, and I let out some sort of yelp of ridicule that made the waiter -- as well as Jeremy -- giggle. It was obvious that we had eaten all we could manage, expressed entirely without words but without any vulgar noises like burps, I'm happy to say.

I'm glad that there was no competition between burgers or ranking system required -- there's no way I could choose a favorite among these options. Fortunately, I don't have to! But then, my wishy-washiness is why I get paid no money for my reviews and have to pay my own tab, too ....

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Charlotte said...

Just stopped in from LBS (sooo happy that's up and running again!) and boy am I glad I did. Although it's barely 10am and already I'm drooling. THANKS A LOT :p LOL!

I love your vivid food descriptions and photos. The strawberry rhubarb pie sounds superb--I don't think it's that bad for you, is it??

Yenta Mary said...

You're so sweet, Charlotte -- thank you! I tell myself that the pie had fruit, so it was actually nutritious ... :)

sandwich365 said...

YM, You're doing it again with this beautiful bunch of burgers (+sprintime chicken!) Jeremy needs to start his own blog or at the very least his own menu of Reuben sandwiches! He sounds like a real pro! And like you say, what red blooded American can pass up a freshly made, hand-formed burger with REAL fries? Toms was a thing of real beauty in my biased book. Looks and SOUNDS delicious. Keep up the great work. Your blog is looking fabulous. Thanks for sharing. P.S. I think I know the dessert yelp you speak of. Kudos for not belching at the waiter. Keri ( - - and/or

Sarah - the Breakup B*tch said...

I am so hungry reading that! Stopping by LBS Tea Party. How I miss American burgers! You guys do them so well! And the fries...*sigh*

Will email you soon too :)

Yenta Mary said...

I told Jeremy that he needs to start the Reuben Review, but we'll see if he does ... and how much of a kickback there is for the idea ... ;)

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