Thursday, June 16, 2011

Brooklyn Burger Battles

The burger scene in Downtown Brooklyn is changing by the day, and the chain restaurants are taking over. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Shake Shack's announcement that they'd be coming to Brooklyn, right in the middle of Borough Hall, anchoring the Fulton Street Mall has seemingly set off a burger arms race in the area, and with Shake Shack is taking its sweet time, in the meantime, two other niche burger chains, Jake's Wayback Burgers and Smashburger, have seized the momentum.

On opening day a few weeks ago, I went to Jake's Wayback for an early lunch, ordering a Jake Cheeseburger with fries. Burgers are ordered much like at Five Guys, where you can pick from a list of free toppings. I added pickles and onions (and possibly jalapenos). 

I had zero expectations. In fact, since this chain is based on Long Island chain, I was even more suspicious. Yet the burger was surprisingly good, reminiscent of Steak & Shake, which I'm pretty sure is the effect they were going for, and the two patties had developed a nice crust without losing too much juiciness. The fries were well seasoned, but that's probably the only good thing I can say about them. I'd go back, but not after Shake Shack opens.

Smashburger after the jump.
Located in a burgeoning area just off Flatbush Avenue in Fort Greene, for many, Smashburger may be too far to walk from Borough Hall, but my post will be much better if I stretch my premise to include it. 

For comparison's sake, I also went to Smashburger on opening day. I'd never tried Smashburger, but my expectations were high after reading so much about it. I purposely went at the end of the lunch hour so I wouldn't have to wait in a killer line. I was rewarded with a 10 minute wait and only another 5 for my All American (without ketchup) and fried pickles.

The cheese placement made the burger look like a dying Pacman. Despite the deep, dark brown crust that is Smashburger's trademark, the patty, a 1/2 pound "Big Smash," had very little crunch in the crust itself. I'm not sure what to attribute that to, but the texture was strange, with the meat being a little too finely ground. Even so, the burger was plenty juicy. The bun, a gigantic potato roll, did an admirable job containing the even more massive patty.

Overall, I was disappointed with the burger. The perils of high expectations had done me in. But I have an open mind, and will definitely be back to try some of their more creative burger offerings. 

Frickles, however, were awesome. Living in the South made me a huge fan of frickles (and I grew up loving pickles already). The only time I'll eat ranch is with frickles, and Smashburger's version had a tangy kick.

Still to try: the upcoming Shake Shack and the recently opened two8two Bar & Burger. Their signature burger is served with roasted poblano chiles, cheddar cheese and two8two sauce. An even dumber name than Jake's Wayback, but I'm willing to give it a shot, for science.

125 Livingston Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Jake's Wayback Burgers on Urbanspoon

80 Dekalb Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Smashburger on Urbanspoon

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