Game of Burgers: Gastropub Gentry, First Round
|The Playground's off-menu burger|
A standard sesame-seed bun? Oh, no. What you'll find at the restaurants I sampled are tall, soft egg buns. Or buttery brioche buns. Perhaps an herbed whole-wheat, or fresh pretzel, or Hawiian sweet roll bun. A slice of processed yellow cheese food product will not do. A carefully thought-out pallete of cheeses await in the kitchen to add ooey-gooey melty fat, and so too a selection of condiments and greens like arugula that you'll never see in a diner's larder.
The wide range of ingredients chefs use in a gastropub burger colored the approach I took in assessing this category. Where Edwin ordered a stripped-down basic burger at his diners to keep contestants on a level playing field, I ordered my burgers exactly as the chefs intended them to be served, with no changes to their visions of how a burger's components come together on the plate. The only consistent request? Make mine medium-rare. Other than that, I ordered up the best-sounding burger on the menu, and judged how well they balanced all their fancy ingredients into a cohesive whole.
The Playground vs. The Crosby
|The Playground's burger, cooked medium-rare|
The meat here was delivered medium-rare, as ordered, the blend of beef wasn't too fatty, and the outside of the patty was caramelized but not charred. I wasn't a fan of meek shreds of iceberg lettuce, which doesn't have the crunch of hand-leafed lettuce, nor do I love yellow mustard on my burger. Other than those personal nitpicks, it's a fine burger. Too bad it had to face the Smoked Angus Burger from The Crosby.
|The Crosby's Smoked Wagyu Beef Burger|
The downside to the flavor boost is a slightly overcooked patty that's well past medium rare. Good thing it's made with the richly marbled wagyu beef, which still retained enough juice. If you prefer yours cooked medium-well, the massive premium-meat tower combines all those other assertive flavors and blends their juices with the oozing yolk of a sunny-side-up egg.
Side note: a fried egg option is also found at 320 Main, a gastropub that should have been in this bracket, but somehow slipped past all of usWeeklings as a candidate. I guess we needed to venture up to Seal Beach more often in recompense. Sorry about that oversight, 320 Main, you coulda been a contender...
Anyhow, the winner of this joust? The Crosby! The tall stack of super-ingredients elevated the superstar smoked beef patty to the win.