Burger bites

In case you missed it, here is my review of R.G. Burgers that appeared in Thursday’s Go! section of the Monterey Herald. 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.

Every now and then, I just crave a burger. But when it comes to burgers, I don’t just want the usual fixin’s thrown on top of a charred patty.

I’m wholly in support of the gourmet burger. Maybe it’s because I don’t eat beef, so I rely on toppings and condiments to jazz up a turkey patty or a store-bought veggie burger.

R.G. Burgers features a variety of burger combinations from the usual favorites to combinations off the beaten path.

In these parts, R.G. Burgers — with two locations in Monterey and Carmel — is my go-to stop for a fancy burger.

The burgers are available with beef, turkey, bison ($2.25 extra), chicken (95 cents extra) or vegetarian falafel patties (95 cents extra) and come topped with lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickle and the signature r.g. sauce.

R.G. Burgers uses Le Boulanger buns, which hold up remarkably well against the juicy burger, a rare feat even in the fanciest of burger shops.

If you’re a burger purist, you’ll probably want to stop reading here. Fried eggs, jalapeños, bone marrow fritters — the weirder the toppings, the better, in my book.

On my first visit, I sampled the jalapeño cheddar (turkey) burger ($8.95), jazzing it up with a fried egg ($1.50 extra).

The jalapeno cheddar burger is one of my favorites, especially when topped with a fried egg.

The turkey patty was nice and juicy, topped with a generous portion of jalapeños — though it could have used more cheese for balance. I ordered my fried egg over medium, and I was pleased to see it was still gooey in the middle, not crumbly.

On my second visit, I tried the California burger — with avocado and Jack cheese ($9.25) — with the vegetarian falafel patty ($0.95 extra). I added onion rings (two for $1.50 extra) and bacon ($1.50 extra) because, well, everything’s better with bacon.

Unfortunately, the veggie falafel burger didn't make for such a tasty combo.

The patty was pretty dry, but the falafel was nicely seasoned. The toppings didn’t really do this burger any favors — the bacon was fatty and tough; the avocado was a little bland. The onion rings were a nice, albeit indulgent, touch.

With a hit and a miss, I picked up a burger to-go this weekend to break the tie.

This time, I ordered the Firehouse Burger — a (turkey) patty dusted with Cajun spices and topped with pepper Jack cheese, jalapeños and hot sauce ($9.95) — and added bacon ($1.50 extra).

The burger was spicy, but not overwhelmingly so. (Granted, I have a high tolerance for spicy food.) The spice of the jalapeños complemented — but didn’t overpower — the hot sauce and bacon (cooked properly this time).

And I was impressed the bun even survived the dreaded takeout wait — after about 10 minutes in the bag, the bun was none the worse for wear.

Whenever I get a burger, fries are a must. Certain things just go together naturally — peanut butter and jelly, cookies and milk, a burger and fries.

In my opinion, the best fries are seasoned simply with salt — when I’m eating a burger, I don’t like sweet or spicy fries that take attention away from the star of the show.

Despite my reservations with seasoned fries, the r.g. seasoned fries weren’t bad. Still a tad too much seasoning for my tastes, but at least they were well cooked.

Casual eateries tend to be pretty relaxed when it comes to service, and R.G. Burgers is no exception. Service suffers most during the dinnertime rush at this popular family restaurant.

When you’re shelling out more than $10 for a burger, I’d appreciate a little more attention to detail, a little more polished service. But that’s a tricky balancing act, trying to be both casual and refined.

R.G. Burgers walks that fine line between a classic burger joint and a high-end burger bar. The menu is diverse enough to satisfy burger lovers of all sorts — from the purist to the gourmet.

R.G. Burgers is at 570 Munras Ave. No. 30 in Monterey. 372-4930 or www.rgburgers.com.

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