Game of Burgers: Burger Barons, Round One

Categories: Game of Burgers
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We've got no shortage of places in Orange County that specialize in burgers and only burgers. They're not diners (not enough blue hair and orthopedic shoes on the waitstaff), they're not fast food (not at these prices), and they're not gastropubs (which have non-burger foods). The question is, are they any good? Is it worth the $11 average cost for a burger at these places? We pit eight of them together in the initial round.

The Counter vs. Umami Burger

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Dave Lieberman
The Counter is the best-known of the custom-built burger chains; there are two in Orange County and a bunch more in L.A. and elsewhere. The idea is to fill out an order form and hand it in, have a beer, and enjoy a high-end burger. The problem with the Counter burger, though--which I ordered with roasted chiles and bacon--was the same problem it always is: the burger is practically unseasoned. As unpopular as the idea is with cardiologists--and when was the last time you met a cardiologist who recommended a bacon cheeseburger for heart health?--meat requires a lot of salt to bring out the flavor. This was just flabby, and it seemed like they over-salted the fries to make up for it. The bacon helped in this case, but a burger shouldn't be dependent on smoked, cured pork belly for its flavor. Also, the burger was overcooked. I lied through my teeth to the server when asked how it was, though--you get one chance to bring your best to Game of Burgers.

gob-umami.JPG
Dave Lieberman
Umami Burger, frankly, suffers from its hipster reputation. That may be the case in L.A., but the long-awaited Anaheim location was thankfully hipster-free. Their burger, which came on the bun with the trademark U branded into the top (why?), was smaller than the Counter burger but had a quite good flavor. The chiles were spicier, the cheese was better, the grind was better, even the fries were better. The only criticism I'll give is that the bottom bun got kind of leathery from the weight of the stuff on top of it; it's also expensive for what it is. That said, it's the quality of the burger we're after here, not any of this ancillary nonsense, and so the decision here is clear.

Winner: Umami Burger.

Location Info

The Counter

6416 Irvine Blvd., Irvine, CA

Category: Restaurant

Umami Burger

338 S. Anaheim Blvd., Anaheim, CA

Category: Restaurant

Umami Burger

610 N. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA

Category: Restaurant

Umami Burger

2981 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, CA

Category: Restaurant

DG Burger

3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, CA

Category: Restaurant

Macy's Signature Kitchen

3333 Bear St., Costa Mesa, CA

Category: Restaurant

G Burger

421 E. La Habra Blvd., La Habra, CA

Category: Restaurant

Peter's Gourmade Grill

16851 McFadden Ave., Tustin, CA

Category: Restaurant

Slater's 50/50

8082 Adams Ave., Huntington Beach, CA

Category: Restaurant

Slater's 50/50 Burger By Design

6362 E. Santa Ana Canyon Rd., Anaheim, CA

Category: Restaurant

25 Degrees

412 Walnut Ave., Huntington Beach, CA

Category: Restaurant


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