So, she did it. Yup, Chelsea gave in and said I was allowed to do a special review of the “Best Hamburger Joints” in San Diego (she didn't actually specify that this means I get to do the whole county, but I'm going to go out on a limb here).
Yes sir. I'm a happy man. I have the privilege – nay, the honor – of going to the finest beef slingers (in the county) and sampling their wares. And when it comes to hamburger joints, I'm pretty sure I've come up with a solid way to evaluate their delicacies.
The first and most important thing to consider (post-consumption, or in my case, post-destruction) is going to have to be overall flavor. Does the hamburger give me the impression that there has been a sophisticated consideration of balance between meat, bun and trimmings? And does all of that architecture come together in a crescendo of flavor ecstasy? This, of course, will conversely be evaluated against what I consider a sin commonly committed by some establishments: “salad burger,” or the overabundance of things like lettuce to make up for a lack of actual substance in relation to what would otherwise be considered a pitifully sized burger. And don't forget how well they cook their meat (holy crap…have you ever seen what Denny's calls a hamburger?).
The second factor would have to be size and contents. I have lived all over the western half of this country and come from a blue collar background. If there is one thing I DEMAND from an American establishment, it is that they respect my dollar. This is really determined by one thing. If, by the time I am done eating my last bite (in some cases with franchise establishments this is also known as my 3rd or 4th bite), I regret in any way handing over my hard earned and (for now) federally backed green notes, then the grading of the burger is significantly reduced. In short, if I pay for a ten and eat a six…we've got a problem.
Finally, and most interestingly, I have the “20 mile rule.” This essentially comes down to a simple question: “Would I drive 20 miles to eat this hamburger?” You might think this question to be arbitrary and perplexing, but if you look at gas prices today maybe it'll make sense. Also, keep in mind, we're not talking about the chains you find on too many street corners these days. What we're evaluating are not the peddlers of faux hamburgers that are over advertised and under constructed. We're judging the “mom and pop” artisans that made a name for themselves on the palates of their literal consumers, not in ad space. So if, when I am done, I would be willing to drive at least 20 miles to eat another (or even bring a friend from just as far), then it has passed the final and most conclusive test.
One of the most important things to consider in this is actually what to order. To fairly evaluate, you have to find the “staple” burger. The one that a burger joint would call their flagship. Not necessarily their juggernaut (some behemoth novelty burger that simply exist to impress the eyes and destroy your stomach…as fun as that might be), but their everyday go-to burger that would be recommended to any first timer. Also, it must be ordered “as is”. There will be no When Harry Met Sally ordering here. If it is supposed to be on the burger, give it to me. If not, then leave it off. This way there can be no adjustment made on my end that would alter the “natural” reaction of my flavor tester (tongue).
And so, here I am, at the threshold of a glorious adventure. I stand before the monumental task with a steely heart and unbreakable vigor peering out upon the obstacles before me. My first opponents: Hodads' double bacon cheese (in downtown San Diego and OB) and their nemesis, Rocky's. I really know little about Rocky's so it'll be up to them to decide what hits my plate. Should be interesting.
If you know of any establishment that I should add to my list of soon-to-be victims, let me know. Keep in mind, you may have a special burger up your sleeve, but I'm sticking to my rule. It's going to be a “staple burger.”