Battle of the Burgers, Round 2

In case you missed it, my column in this Thursday’s Go! section of the Monterey Herald is the second 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.

Foodies converged on the Pebble Beach Food and Wine festival last weekend. While they were gorging on foie gras, I was grabbing a quick bite at In-N-Out on my way to Santa Barbara. It was nothing fancy, but that Double Double hit the spot.

Don’t count out the humble hamburger — from the ever-expanding empire of LA’s trendy Umami Burger to the impending opening of 400 Degrees Gourmet Burgers in Carmel later this spring, burgers are getting a gourmet makeover.

The Battle of the Burgers continues this week with a look at the gourmet burgers available around town.

Last week I started the Battle of the Burgers with a look at some local cheap burger bites. This week, I’m taking a look at fancier gourmet burgers.

You remember the rules, right? All restaurants were judged on a classic cheeseburger, ordered medium rare and topped with cheddar, lettuce, tomato and onion — though many of the gourmet burgers forced me to bend the rules and allow bites with bacon, avocado or mushrooms.

So let’s get to it!

La Bicyclette

Carmel’s La Bicyclette consistently makes many critics’ short list of best places for dinner. But La Bicyclette offers equally delicious breakfast and lunch service. The lunch menu includes the Vélo burger, topped with bacon, avocado and tomato jam ($13).

The Vélo burger at La Bicyclette was absolutely delicious, with juicy meat and a flavorful tomato jam.

The fire-roasted tomato jam was a great touch. It added flavor that was simultaneously sweet and savory.

The bun was a little weak to carry such a fully loaded burger. Lunch got quite messy trying to hold the bun around the burger, bacon and avocado, and I lost a few slices in the process. While it made a mess, the flavors were spot on.

The side salad — with bitter greens — was a nice contrast to the earthy umami of the burger.

La Bicyclette is located on Dolores Street at Seventh in Carmel. 622-9899.www.labicycletterestaurant.com.

Red House Cafe

Pacific Grove’s quaint Red House Cafe offers an old-fashioned cheeseburger with choice of blue, Jack or cheddar cheese, with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise ($11). As with the other sandwich offerings at the café, you can add avocado for $2 or applewood-smoked bacon for $3.

The Red House Cafe makes a mighty tasty burger, even if it's a little pricey.

I decided to go all out, ordering a burger with cheddar, avocado and bacon. Sure, it was a little pricey — $16 — but it was mighty tasty.

I was impressed the bun managed to stand up reasonably well to the juicy burger and all those toppings loaded on top.

Red House Cafe is located at 662 Lighthouse Ave. in Pacific Grove. 643-1060. www.redhousecafe.com.

The C Restaurant + Bar

One of my favorite burgers in town comes from The C Restaurant + Bar inside the Clement Hotel on Cannery Row.

Their Clement Bistro Burger is made with Angus beef and topped with cheddar cheese, with tomato, kosher pickle and lettuce on the side ($15.50).

The C Restaurant + Bar has a great burger, which makes for a great bargain bite during happy hour.

The accompanying garlic herb fries were delicious — packed with garlic and sure to repel any vampires!

During happy hour, Sunday through Thursday, 4-7 p.m., all small bites — including that tasty burger — are half-off. You can get a burger and a glass of wine for about $15!

The C Restaurant + Bar is located at 750 Cannery Row in Monterey. 831-375-4800. www.thecrestaurant-monterey.com.

Montrio Bistro

Chef Tony Baker spins unique California twists on American classics at Montrio Bistro. The signature Bistro Burger comes topped with Portobello mushrooms, Mélodie cheese and bacon with fries and a side salad ($14).

The signature Bistro Burger at Montrio Bistro spins some gourmet twists on the classic cheeseburger.

The addition of creamy Laura Chenel Mélodie cheese was nice. This tangy goat cheese made an unexpected pairing with the sweet tomatoes and earthy mushrooms.

On both occasions I tried this burger, I wound up eating my burger with a knife and fork because the thin bun became too soggy to handle. But other than the anemic bun, the flavors were quite nice.

Montrio Bistro is located at 414 Calle Principal in Monterey. 648-8880. www.montrio.com.

Point Pinos Grill

Chef Dory Ford and the Aqua Terra Culinary team offer a menu of iconic clubhouse staples with gourmet sophistication at Point Pinos Grill at the Pacific Grove Golf Links.

The lunch and dinner menus include a burger — an eight-ounce natural beef burger with tomato relish, Dijonnaise, California cheddar, smoked bacon, avocado and onion rings ($12.95).

The onion rings added a good crunch and zing of flavor. But the burger needed a little more oomph of flavor. I preferred chef Dory Ford’s gourmet nod to the iconic In-N-Out Double Double at last month’s Independent Marketplace.

But the Kennebec kettle chips were a nice alternative to fries, perfectly crispy with a light touch of spicy seasoning.

The Point Pinos Grill is located at 79 Asilomar Ave. in Pacific Grove. 648-5774. ptpinosgrill.com.

R. G. Burgers

R. G. Burgers is one of the few shops in town dedicated solely to burgers. Their menu boasts a number of combinations available with a beef, bison, turkey, chicken or veggie patty.

R. G. Burgers has great burger combinations, but the basic patty was a little disappointing.

I ordered the bacon cheddar beef burger ($8.95). While the bacon was crispy and the cheese perfectly gooey, I found the patty a little bland, honestly.

I did appreciate the hefty buns on the burgers at R. G. Burgers. I’ve never had to break out my fork for any of their burgers.

R.G. Burgers is located at 50 Munras Ave. No. 30 in Monterey. 372-4930. www.rgburgers.com.

The Top 5

So after all that work, who makes the best burger in town? Here’s my short, but by no means exhaustive, list of the Peninsula’s best:

1. La Bicyclette (Carmel)
2. Red House Cafe (Pacific Grove)
3. Loulou’s Griddle in the Middle (Monterey)
4. The C Restaurant + Bar (Monterey)
5. Duffy’s Tavern (Monterey)

Readers have already sent me some great tips, so I’m already making a list of places to check out for the next Battle of the Burgers. Stay tuned for more in future columns!

Is your favorite burger missing from my list? Send your favorites my way at offthemenublog@gmail.com, or tweet me @offthemenu831.

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