Battle of the Burgers, Round 1

In case you missed it, my column in this Thursday’s Go! section of the Monterey Herald is the first in a two-part look at the bay’s best burgers. I’ll be reposting my reviews and stories from my weekly column for the Herald here on my blog along with extra photos that didn’t appear in print.

Burgers are probably one of the quintessential American foods. From cheap burger bites eaten on the go, to gourmet burgers topped with truffles and foie gras in trendy gastropubs, everybody loves a good burger.

Everybody loves a good burger, but who makes the best in town? I set out to find out!

For the last month or so, I’ve been making the rounds about town to see who makes the bay’s best burgers.

I’ve been eating about two or three burgers a week — much to the chagrin of my doctor, no doubt — and now I’m ready to report on my research.

To level the playing field, I kept my order as consistent as possible: just a simple hamburger with cheese — cheddar whenever possible — with lettuce, tomato and red onion.

On a few instances, I embellished with bacon or avocado. All burgers were ordered medium rare or, in a couple instances, just medium.

I’ll spread my Battle of the Burgers out over two weeks. This week, let’s take a look at some of the casual eateries in town — grills, pubs and the like.

Check back next week when I’ll explore the bevy of burgers available at the Peninsula’s more formal sit-down restaurants too.

Now let’s eat!

In-N-Out Burger

For my burger sampling, I excluded chain restaurants and fast food joints — I wanted to highlight the burger bounty at our local restaurants. But I had to make one exception: In-N-Out.

In-N-Out may be fast food, but their delicious Double Double is a guilty pleasure!

In-N-Out is the undisputed king of cheap, delicious burgers. The Double Double — two beef patties with cheese, grilled onions, lettuce, tomato and sauce ($3.30) — certainly makes my short list for the best burgers in town.

While the closest In-N-Out is over in Salinas, I usually find myself instead stopping at any of the handful of locations along 101 during the late-night drive back from the Bay Area. In-N-Out is perfect for those late-night burger cravings, pick-me-up’s and potty stops.

In-N-Out Burger is located at 151 Kern St. in Salinas. 800-786-1000. www.in-n-out.com.

Loulou’s Griddle in the Middle

Loulou’s Griddle is a very unassuming spot to grab a bite. This little shack overlooking Wharf No. 2 has a lot of, um, character that masks the caliber of the food inside.

The "Monster burger" at Loulou's is on the shortlist for the Peninsula's best burgers.

The “Monster Burger” includes a seasoned half-pound beef burger with lettuce, tomato and pickles, served with fries ($8.95). I added cheddar ($1 extra) and bacon (two strips for $2.50), crafting what seriously ranks as one of the best burgers in town.

The meat was nicely seasoned and cooked perfectly medium-rare. It was a good reminder that no matter what toppings go on top, the patty really makes — or breaks — a good burger.

My only complaint was the bacon — because it was pre-cooked and reheated, it was a little dry and crispy.

Loulou’s Griddle in the Middle is located on Municipal Wharf #2 in Monterey. 831-372-0568. www.loulousgriddle.com.

Duffy’s Tavern

Last Friday night, my friends and I ventured over to Duffy’s Tavern. This pub is off the beaten path to most, but nestled next door to the Presidio, it’s always bustling with local military personnel.

I tried the “Presidio Burger” — an eight-ounce patty of seasoned, charbroiled Angus beef, topped with lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles ($9.95) and cheddar ($1 extra).

Off the beaten path, Duffy's makes a great burger.

The burger was so juicy and full of flavor. Next time, I’ll pair one with Duffy’s house pale ale — what’s better than a burger and a beer on a Friday night?

Duffy’s Tavern and Family Restaurant is located at 282 High St. in Monterey. 644-9811.www.yelp.com/biz/duffys-tavern-and-family-restaurant-monterey.

The Bulldog British Pub

One of my friends thinks the best burger in town comes from The Bulldog. The Bulldog’s menu features nine different burger combinations, all pub-friendly choices that pair perfectly with a pint.

The Bulldog's signature burger is loaded with grilled onions, mushrooms and gooey cheese.

I tried the fan-favorite, “The Bulldog Burger,” topped with sautéed mushrooms and onions, bacon and Swiss cheese ($9.50).

The patty was a tad overcooked this time, but it was nonetheless very tasty and still pretty juicy.

I was impressed how well the bun held up despite the heaping portion of mushrooms and onions on top.

The Bulldog British Pub is located at 611 Lighthouse Ave. in Monterey. 658-0686.www.yelp.com/biz/the-bulldog-british-pub-monterey.

Phat Burger

Phat Burger is an old-fashioned burger joint — the kind that’s a little rough around the edges, but charming nevertheless.

Burgers are the focus of the menu here. Patties come cooked medium and minimally dressed — the kitchen can add cheese, bacon, mushrooms and the like while your burger is grilling, but the rest is strictly DIY thanks to a well-stocked condiment bar.

Phat Burger was a charming shop, but the burger was a little bland.

I ordered the basic “Phat Burger” ($5.50), and added cheddar cheese ($0.50) and bacon ($1.50), plus lettuce, tomato and onion from the condiment bar.

I found the patty a little under-seasoned, honestly. But I appreciated the diverse selection of toppings available to dress up the basic burger.

Phat Burger is located at 1520 Del Monte Boulevard in Seaside. 831-394-7428.www.phat-burger.com.

Cannery Row Brewing Company

The Cannery Row Brewing Company boasts a number of burger combinations, ranging from classic to gourmet.

CRBC grinds their burgers with a touch of butter — this makes for a juicier patty, but not without some drawbacks. For one, the addition of butter has made it difficult to grill to the proper temperature — I’ve found most burgers arrive on the rarer side. The patty was also so juicy that the bun became drenched and almost impossible to eat with my hands.

The Cannery Row Brewing Company may use fancy, gourmet ingredients, but the burger itself was a little underwhelming.

I did appreciate the selection of gourmet toppings — the other day, I tried the “Blue Pig,” with Point Reyes blue cheese and applewood-smoked bacon ($13.45). And I’m a fan of the crispy shallots ($1.25 extra). But a burger can get pricey quickly if you’re not careful.

Cannery Row Brewing Company is located at 95 Prescott Ave. in Monterey. 643-2722.www.canneryrowbrewingcompany.com.

Got a cheap burger bite that didn’t make the list? Send tips my way at offthemenublog@gmail.com or tweet me @offthemenu831.

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3 Responses to Battle of the Burgers, Round 1

  1. tr says:

    oh dear, I gained weight just LOOKING at the pics

  2. Bj says:

    Two of my fav’s here! Phat Burger and Duffy’s, very different from each other but love both!

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