Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Trying Hard To Keep It All Together In Greenwich

Burgers, Shakes & Fries
302 Delavan Ave.
Greenwich, Connecticut
Visited August 3, 2010

Beer selection: None

Food: Duh?

Look, I’m the first to admit, I don’t keep up with pop cultural trends. I mean, I spend prime time trapped in a metal tube 35,000 feet above the planet four or five nights a week. And I wouldn’t know a TiVo from a Tweet.

But I notice things.

You can’t help but catch on to certain roadside trends as you wander from one metropolitan area to the next. If it’s popular in Denver, you can be sure it won’t be long before it’s popping up in Detroit too.

Well, maybe not Detroit.

Nothing good ever comes to Detroit. But you know what I mean.

In the age of 782 cable channels, the internet and, yes, sites like “Suits in Strange Places”, it doesn’t take long for the unique to transition into the ubiquitous.

The gourmet burger joint is a good example.

Good, high quality ground beef. Cooked to medium rare – not the over-cooked dried up Big Mouth burger down the street at your local lawyer-phobic national chain restaurant. High quality buttered buns. Cool-sounding exotic globe-trotting cheeses.

And a kaleidoscope of outlandish, imaginative toppings and condiments.

What’s not to like about that?

From Five Guys to your local mom & pop joint like Burgers, Shakes & Fries, gourmet burgers is the new black.

Like most of these places popping up all over suburbia, BSF has been open just a few years, here in the hoity-toitiest of suburban American enclaves, Greenwich, Connecticut.

It’s the type of place that Wall Street trophy wives can bring their polite, freshly scrubbed kids on their way home from $25,000 per year private school and enjoy a fast-food-toy-free burger indulgence.

First, let me state that the burger and fries at BSF are outstanding. But like the other gourmet burger joints I’ve patronized around the country, it is missing one important ingredient.

Structural Burger Integrity.

Maybe the idiot-proof society we all live in had desensitized me to such concerns.

We all wander through life expecting the government or the CEO or the body-cavity-searching TSA agent to keep us safe. Protect us from our own bad choices.

Well, no. You are on your own. And that’s damn well the way it should be.

I learned this lesson painfully the first time I patronized one of these suburban fancy burger places.

The menu said I could add as many toppings as I wanted.

So I figured, who wouldn’t want a 2/3 lb. medium rare burger piled high with grilled onions, sautéed peppers, ham, bacon, Tillamook cheese, cheddar cheese, Monterey jack cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, special burger relish and a zesty “bistro” sauce?

Sounds a little unwieldy to me, but hey, what the heck, they are the burger masters. They know what they are doing right?

Well, no.

A straw was the most appropriate utensil for that monstrosity.

Lesson learned.

Now, when I stumble into one of these places, I discipline myself to stick to two or three toppings, max -- including cheese.

So it was a tough choice at BSF.

I decided to forego the bacon, lettuce, gorgonzola cheese, mustard, ketchup and fried egg. That was tough.

I settled on simplicity. Grilled onions – no burger is complete without them. Cheddar cheese – the classic. And special sauce – I’m a sucker every time. Oh, and I had to throw a tomato on there too.

But discretion was not the better part of valor at BSF.

All BSF burgers are served on a buttered, grilled Texas toast.

It sounds delicious, and I’m sure it is. But I’ll never know because my grilled onions and special sauce quickly conspired to convert the bread into a sticky wet paste oozing condiment remainders all over the counter and my Hart Schaffner Marx suit.

While what remained of my burger stew tasted good, there is something to be said about that all-important Structural Burger Integrity (SBI).

Some places have SBI mastered.

I’m convinced that alone explains the cult-like popularity of chain burger joint In-N-Out among the hipster and Hollywood set.

An In-N-Out burger is a work of art that would put Renoir to shame.

Every time.

No matter which pimply-faced cheerful teenager in a funny hat constructs it. Consistently delicious construction, form and function. All wrapped up so snugly in that wax paper you have tear the darn thing off piece by piece to get to the burger.

No special sauce is ever dripping on your tie when you go through an In-N-Out drive through, no matter how many O.J.-esque high-speed chases you get into on the 405.

For once, mom and pop could stand to learn something from a national chain – SBI.

No matter how many cool toppings these guys dream up, they’ve got to come up with a way to keep it all together.

So if you come to Burgers, Shakes & Fries, be prepared to spend about $15 on their namesake meal (this is Greenwich after all). And save a few more bucks for your dry cleaning bill.

Rating: Would Wear the Shirt If They Paid Me (And Paid to Dry Clean It)

Burgers Shakes & Fries on Urbanspoon

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