Thursday, February 14, 2013

FOOD REVIEW: Burger Lounge (San Diego, CA)

While I was visiting San Diego for a conference recently I stumbled across a burger joint called Burger Lounge in the Gaslamp quarter. I had not heard of the chain before and was surprised to see that it was primarily a Southern California-based institution, with two locations in two gayborhoods (Hillcrest in San Diego and West Hollywood in Los Angeles).

As longtime readers of this blog know, I have been on a quest to find the best burgers in America for quite awhile. Some of the excellent ones I have previously found are brgr:shack (Arlington, sadly now closed!), Ray's Hell Burger (Arlington), Lazy Ox Canteen (Los Angeles) and Burger Joint (New York City). These are all in the burgeoning category of "better burger" joints with often higher quality ingredients and very modern and sleek dining environments. These are not your average $5 burger. For that, #1 on my list is still In-N-Out burger (Five Guys is close behind, but no one can beat In-N-Out for it's quality:price ratio.

But let's talk about Burger Lounge.  I generally try to order the same thing at burger places that I am trying out for the first time, usually some kind of cheeseburger. At Burger Lounge I had The Lounge Burger™ ($7.95) which consists of "100% American Grass-Fed Beef, Lounge Bun, Crisp Lettuce, Fresh Tomato, House-Made 1000 Island, Organic American Cheese and Grilled Onion." I added the small French Fries ("Fresh-Cut, Twice-Cooked in the Belgian Tradition") for $2.99 and the delightful Organic Cane Sweetened Maine Root Soda ($2.25).

The burger was excellent with the bun impressively light, but slightly toasted. It was too much bread for me, so I actually ate the burger as an open-faced sandwich, which worked quite well. It was grilled exactly to my specifications (amazingly some places do not know what medium-rare means: light pink in the center and moist throughout the patty). No single ingredient overwhelmed any other and they all blended well together; the only thing that could have improved it would have been the option of adding bacon (but then again, doesn't bacon make everything taste better!?)

Many of the better burger joints often lose points with me for neglecting to maintain the quality of their sides in their single-minded focus on the burger. But, to me, it is about the combination of burger plus fries plus beverage. Here, Burger Lounge really outdoes itself. The twice-cooked fries are simply excellent. Piping hot, very crunch and in a cute very solid paper box (like a chinese take-out container for rice). My one quibble is that they cut them into pieces which are slightly too small. The fries, combined with the drink (high-quality soda over shaved ice) make Burger Lounge one of the best of the better burger joints I have sampled. I would definitely rank it among one of the best burger experiences I have had on the West Coast, and in the upper echelons of burgers in the country.

Name: Burger Lounge (Gaslamp Quarter).
Location: 528 5th Avenue, San Diego CA 92101.
Contact: 619-955-5727.
Visit: January 11, 2013.

FOOD: A+. 

OVERALL: A (4.0/4.0)

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