Thursday, March 25, 2010

Restaurant Review: Burgermeister

Burgermeister opens in the corner storefront that Baja Fresh used to occupy before it mysteriously closed a few months ago. Baja Fresh was the sort of restaurant that I very much would have liked to patronize; its California take on south-of-the-border cuisine (maybe we'll call it Cal-Mex?) was reasonably unique to the downtown Berkeley area. Including "fresh" in their restaurant's name wasn't specious--you could actually appreciate the freshness of the ingredients they used. And they had some legitimately good salsas and other sauces.

The restaurant's downfall, though, was its unnecessarily high prices. I felt like every meal I ate there was two or three dollars more expensive than it should have been. Maybe it comes with the territory--Burgermeister has exactly the same problem.

Today around lunch time, I walked past Shattuck and Kittredge to see a massive decorated grill sitting outside the newly-opened burger restaurant, with a throng of people (mostly obnoxious high school kids) standing around it. Naturally, I went to investigate, and found that the grill was offering free half-hamburgers. I ate one, and it was tasty enough that I felt my decision to eat there for lunch was a good one.

I had the San Diego burger (most of the hamburgers have California-inspired names; I'm not sure whether they actually exemplify regional California cuisine or not), which had pepper jack cheese and jalapenos, in addition to the usual hamburger complements of lettuce, tomato, and onion. It came with a decent handful of fries.

Here's the thing: the burger itself was tasty and obviously made or order, as I got to specify that I wanted it medium. The toppings were unique, and the vegetables were fresh. The fries were obviously made recently, and they were crispy and had just about the right amount of salt. But I could have gotten a lot more meal for 8 dollars at probably dozens of restaurants in the downtown area.

To be fair, I could have "upgraded" to a 1/2 pound burger (from a 1/4 pound burger) for two more dollars, and I probably would do that if I ate here again, especially if I didn't get a free half-hamburger before I ate. I could have gotten a shake or float to go along with my burger, and it probably would have been delicious, but it would have run me another four or five dollars.

Step-up-from-fast-food hamburger and shake for thirteen dollars? Funny, I could go to Steak and Shake and get the same thing for eight or nine. Actually, in California, I can't, so Burgermeister may be the next best thing. It's tasty, and I can see myself going back there again, but in a town where a La Burrita burrito plus all the chips and salsa you can eat is under six dollars, Burgermeister probably won't become a prominent part of the lunch rotation.

Currently listening: "Again", Flyleaf (via Pandora)

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