Game of Burgers: Dominion of Diners, Third Round

Categories: Game of Burgers
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Edwin Goei
Mick's Karma Burger

In this third round in the Dominion of Diners, we are left with two very good competitors. Taylor called it exactly like I would have if I had judged round two. Whomever should ascend to the next round will fight on to what I assume will be the most difficult-to-judge and hard-won battles yet.

Mick's Karma Bar vs. Memphis

It is an understatement to say that Mick's Karma Bar has made its name on its burgers and that it is arguably the first burger in OC to go viral on the social networks.

But despite the lines (which move more quickly than you'd think) and the follow-the-Facebook-herd mentality of its mostly young, college-aged customers, these are "Like"-worthy burgers. If it's possible, it actually juicer than the first time I had it over a year ago. The meat is key, made from a sirloin steak ground into an asymmetric, ragged-edged, melting into softness and crumbling-apart patty where it hasn't been singed to charred crispness by the grill. But as juicy as it is,  the burger as a whole is inexplicably  non-greasy. Perhaps, some of this has to do with the bun. I like this bun, though Taylor did not. It stays firm and steadfast, without disintegrating, but also without usurping or suffocating the meat. It is the foundation on a remarkably well-constructed burger that stays whole, and not slipping apart like tectonic plates, from the first chomp to the last.

Edwin Goei
Memphis' Soul Burger

Now onto Memphis. Despite being a bonafide Southern food dive with fried okra and probably the best fried chicken plates I've ever had, Memphis truly does a great burger. I say that even though the burger I ate for this round tasted and looked nothing like the one I had during the first round. And I ate it at the same exact location--the original Memphis next to The Lab in Costa Mesa. 

The bun, which was nicely toasted near char last time was nearly untouched by heat this time around. And the field greens and errant pieces of mint I encountered under the bun of the first burger were non-existent now, replaced by lettuce and a few salad greens.

Whoever cooked this burger also had a lighter hand on sauce application. This time it was swiped on thinly, not glopped on, and by the time it came to the table, the bun had already fully absorbed the chipotle aioli. The onions had a thicker cut, and there was only one long slice of a pickle instead of two. The meat was exactly as it was last time. I asked for medium, but it was just a shade darker than that--closer to well. Though it was a good, greasy burger, I noted that the patty is of tighter-pack than Mick's, and thus a little firmer and a touch dryer in mouth feel.

But here's where it falters: The tomatoes, pickles, and red onion are now disembodied from the burger, served on the side...which would've been fine by me any other day, but not when I'm looking for the tiniest detail with which to take away points. 

To me, when it comes to burgers, anything served on the side, especially something as crucial as the tomato, pickles and onion, reads as a lack of confidence. Had I wanted to omit any of these items, I would've said so. This is, after all, not Korean ssam; this was a burger, and a good burger needn't ever to be assembled. 

I also believe that this may also be the reason why the burger fell apart 75% of the way in, which the first Memphis Burger I ate two weeks ago didn't do. Thus, with these factors in mind, I name Mick's Karma Bar's Karma Burger the victor of the Dominion of Diners. 

Though it wasn't part of my decision-making, it must be noted that there's a difference in cost between our two diner finalists. 

A Mick's Karma Burger combo, which includes thick and hot steak fries and a freshly mulled basil-strawberry lemonade, retails at $8.75. Mick's Karma Bar has very few inside seating and no wait staff. 

The Memphis Soul Burger, which includes your choice of thin-cut shoestring fries, onion straws or salad,  is $11, without drink or tip.  Memphis is a full-service restaurant and bar.

WINNER: Mick's Karma Bar

Location Info

Mick's Karma Bar

2010 Main St., Irvine, CA

Category: Restaurant

Memphis Soul Cafe

2920 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, CA

Category: Restaurant

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