222 S. 1300 East, Salt Lake City ; 801-582-7200
A University of Utah institution, made-to-order burgers beloved by students and anyone who frequents the neighborhood.
Hours: Open daily, 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m.
Reservations: Not accepted/necessary
Recommended Dishes: Bacon cheeseburger, milkshakes.
January 8, 2009
Local burger joints excel at comfort food
Three fast-food havens serve up delicious ways to break your New Year's resolution.
By Vanessa Chang
Before you read on, just know that I'm not advocating a total disregard of medical advice or personal goals, especially at a time when most people have gone through some introspection and goal-setting. But I find it odd that, just when people need the heft of warming, filling food, we shovel in salads and other ascetic things that are as warming as fishnet stockings. Resolutions aside, I'll go out on a limb and say it's perfectly all right to indulge in a mighty fine burger.
Upscale burgers (essentially, the antithesis of fast-food creations) have been the rage. But in these lean times, American Kobe beef is extravagant and altogether unnecessary for proper burger therapy. The appeal in the hamburger is that it's simple, approachable and affordable. This week, we take a look at three locally run burger havens: Hires Big H, Crown Burger and B&D Burger. I realize by limiting the article to three, I'm omitting other noteworthy places.
But understand that, however delightful, a greedy girl can only go so far in breaking her resolutions.
Pure nostalgia » Hires Big H's original location at 400 S. 700 East is a living time capsule/homage to the days of car hop service (you leave your lights on, a server comes out, takes your order and then delivers it to you) and menus that covered the four basic food groups.
Had it been up to me, one of those food groups would've been the Hires' root beer float in an achingly frosty mug ($3.35). The ice cream is soft serve, but dense enough that it requires some lung power to get into that icy cold, refreshing root beer. It's nostalgia in drinkable form that's available at all three locations.
Hires also has an eponymous house burger ($3.85, $4.85) that's further embellished once you venture into the "specialty and gourmet" territory of the menu. Tangy barbecue sauce enhances the meaty heft of the western H ($4.85, $5.85). A stack of crispy onion rings adds height to the golden H ($4.55, $5.55). Cheese fries ($2.95, $4.45) are simple -- shredded Tillamook cheese melted atop fresh-cut fries -- and good. To some, it may conjure up a simpler era. To most, it'll probably be a temple of approachable food. The dining room at the original location, where I visited, seems perpetually busy with quick and filling office lunches, family gatherings and hordes of teenagers enjoying their first taste of freedom with a side of chili cheese fries ($4.45).
A B&D Ritual » Anyone who frequents the University of Utah or its environs knows about B&D Burger. The aging sign outside advertises "Good Food, Good Fun." For being in the genre of fast-food joints and greasy spoons, B&D's interior is more upscale with its low-lit, earth-toned dining room, booths, fireplace and flat screen TV chronicling the outrageously successful Ute football season. It has a reputation for made-to-order food, admirable milk shakes ($3.29) of any flavor combination imaginable and for slow service. I've encountered the pros and cons of all three traits. But for whatever reason, my experiences and others' have come mainly from the convenience of take-out. Like clockwork, a few friends of mine call up B&D Burger at 8 p.m. and 10 minutes later the order is ready to pick up and take home to be part of a vital winter ritual: Monday Night Football.
B&D's selections are less greasy than others in the SLC burger universe -- a huge appeal for those who bellyache about B&D's food coma-inducing peers. The bacon cheeseburger ($4.09) is particularly good -- thick-cut bacon, crisp but not stubborn against the soft, yeasty bun. The beef patty tastes like beef, too. I even know a vegetarian who hearts B&D -- his soliloquy on the veggie burger ($3.29) and the quality of the avocado actually prompted me, someone who considers bacon its own food group, to try it out. And it is pretty good. But I'll stick to the beef, thank you.
Burger Royalty » I dedicate most of these column inches to the glories of the Crown Burger ($4.95) for good reason. I can't even begin to articulate the endorphins that rushed through my body as I sank my teeth into the bun. I'd just spent the day roving the South Towne Expo Center with its double header: The Utah Chocolate Show and the Gun Show (don't ask). I needed sustenance.
The combination of thickly layered cured pastrami and griddled beef patty is either grotesque or sheer music to people's ears. For every gripe I hear about Crown Burger's unappetizing heft, I know several folks who wax poetic about this combination. Most of them aren't foodies, which proves to me that the love of a good burger transcends sociological and gustatory boundaries.
The Crown Burger is also one of the few local foodstuffs that SLC-expats consistently yearn for. I would, too. There is indeed something heavenly about the excess. But, if a bit of an effort at moderation is required, the Crown Burger does come in a junior size ($4.25).
Each of Crown Burger's seven locations has a vibe that outclasses what anyone would normally associate with a restaurant whose name has the word "burger" in it. For one Andrew Jackson, two people can feast like the hunting noblemen depicted in the tapestries overhead. Noble digs, indeed. The menu covers territory from baklava ($1.50) and gyros ($4.95) to a steak platter ($9.95) and fry sauce (free) with fast-food pacing.
Yes, I said it. Fast. Food. It's hardly appropriate for New Year's resolutions. But then again, who doesn't break them?
Tribune's rating system
1 star Good
2 stars Very good
3 stars Excellent
4 stars Extraordinary
$ Entree under $10
$$$$ Above $25
1 bell Quiet (under 65 decibles)
2 bells Can talk easily (65-70)
3 bells Talking somewhat difficult (70-75)
4 bells Raised voices (75-80)
A bomb Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)
The Tribune covers the cost of all meals at reviewed restaurants. Star ratings are based on a minimum of two visits. Ratings are updated continually based on at least one revisit. There is no connection between reviews and advertising.