Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Grindhouse Killer Burgers - Atlanta

There’s nothing quite like a good burger and Atlanta, with its recent burger renaissance, is a fine place to explore the classic American treat. So when needing something quick, satisfying, and relatively close to Buckhead for lunch, I went to see Grindhouse Killer Burgers’ new location on Piedmont Road. I haven’t had the opportunity to try the original location, but just looking at the menu, this burger place has potential. Electing to save the build your own option for a later time and date, I went with two of the house burger styles.

First up was the cowboy style burger.


Consisting of a single patty topped with thick cut bacon, cheddar cheese, a Vidalia onion ring and bbq sauce, it looked spectacular.

With a pillow soft bun, sweet and slightly tangy bbq sauce, and a big, crispy Vidalia onion ring, this burger had all the right toppings but the patty didn’t really show up for the party. This was a decent, albeit salty burger, but there wasn’t very much beef to stand up to the toppings, especially the bacon. I knew I should have gotten a double.

Simply because a burger is always made better with the addition of fries, I also ordered a side of Grindhouse’s crinkle cuts.

Once I tried this limp waste of potatoes, I realized I should have ditched the fries and gone with the double patty burgers.

In an effort to get a baseline reading on Grindhouse’s style of burger, my second burger was the Grindhouse Style.


It was almost criminal to eat this burger, the American cheese was just too beautifully melted, but I made the sacrifice and took a bite.
With onions, pickles, and Grindhouse’s take on 1000 island dressing, this was a decent burger, but the beefy addition of a second patty was sorely missed.

This first look at Grindhouse revealed a few things. First, it wouldn’t hurt for Grindhouse to cook their burgers a little less. Second, when in doubt, go for the double patty. Based on some glowing reviews, the double decker is really the key to beefy goodness at Grindhouse. Hopefully that little trick holds the key to success at Grindhouse, but that will have to wait for my next trip to Atlanta.

Grindhouse Killer Burgers Address & Information

1842 Piedmont Avenue NE, Atlanta, GA 30324 // 404.254.2273 // Grindhouse Killer Burgers Website // Grindhouse Killer Burgers Menu

Grindhouse Killer Burgers on Urbanspoon

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Yeah! Burger - Atlanta

It’s time for more hand ground, cheese topped burger goodness. For this installment, I made my way to Howell Mill Road for a little wine at Perrine’s and lunch at Yeah! Burger.

Since opening last year, I’ve read mixed reviews about Yeah! Burger. Some like Food Near Snellville and Todd Brock of Serious Eats praised Shaun Doty’s latest venture for the White Oak Farms beef, the sheer variety of choices, and the special seasonings. Others, such as Foodie Buddha and Eat It Atlanta , have been less complimentary. Hoping to carve out my own opinion, I did my best to decipher the menu, placed an order, and took a seat to see which side of the Yeah! Burger aisle I’d call home.

Even though I had come to Yeah! Burger for their namesake, I lost sight of my goal when I read about their sandwich of the month for April, the lobster roll.

Named their “special” lobster roll, this small mountain of lobster was dished up with house buttermilk mayo and copious amounts of celery, green onions, and greens.


This lobster roll had good intentions. The big chunks of lobster were juicy and perfectly cooked.
and the subtle twang of the buttermilk mayo was a welcome addition but there was just too much of everything.

Calling this roll unwieldy would be too kind. As soon as I picked up the bun, everything started to fall apart. Pretty soon there was a growing pile of lobster in the tray, but the roll was still overflowing with meat. While I did enjoy the peppery bite of the greens, this lobster roll was just too over the top. Is lobster with a minimal amount of mayo and celery really too much to ask?

Moving on to the burgers, I decided to start simple and get a burger on white with cheddar.

Two beef patties topped with beautifully melted cheese, it’s a work of art.

One thing that stood out was just how much bun there was for this burger.

As expected, Yeah! Burger does cook their burgers a little too long but with each came a well-seasoned rush of salt and pepper but nothing particularly beefy to go with it.

This burger and its cheese had a great looking exterior, but there wasn’t anything that wowed me. It’s a good burger, but not outstanding.

By any standard that should have been more than enough food, but I was intrigued by Yeah! Burger’s section of hot dogs, particularly the chili & cheese dog and the southern dog. I decided to save the pimento cheese and hot Alabama relish for another time and order the chili & cheese dog instead.


Resting on top of that Coleman Natural grass-fed, nitrate-free dog were onions, American cheese, and a prodigious amount of Shaun’s red chili. I knew I should have asked if the chili had beans.

While the hot dog, onions, and cheese were astounding, I was disappointed in the chili. Even outside the beans, there wasn’t much depth to the chili’s flavor. It had a touch of lingering heat and that’s it.
Aside from the lackluster chili, this was a superb hot dog. The bun was crunchy from the griddle, the dog was juicy and beefy, really the perfect foundation.

After the lobster roll, burger, and hot dog, I’m still not exactly sure where I stand on the subject of Yeah! Burger. I barely scratched the surface of the myriad of available combinations but I wasn’t blown away by what their burgers had to offer. Sure, it was a decent burger, but nothing ground breaking. Maybe I should have expanded my choice of toppings, maybe I should have added a sauce or two, maybe Yeah! Burger shouldn’t cook their burgers so much. At the very least, I’ll be back at Yeah ! Burger to try more of their hot dogs, I’ll just leave the bean laden chili for someone else.

Yeah! Burger Address & Information

1168 Howell Mill Road, Suite E, Atlanta, GA, 30318 // 404.496.4393 // Yeah! Burger Website // Yeah! Burger Menu

Yeah! Burger West Midtown on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 13, 2011

Valenza - Atlanta

Have you ever left a restaurant with a feeling of ambivalence? There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with the service, ambiance, or food, but there was nothing that stood out and made you take notice. It can best be summed up in the immortal three letter word “meh”, “m” “e” “h” “meh”

It’s not often that a restaurant rubs me this way, but it did occur the last time I was in Atlanta. Due to traffic, I had arrived in town a little late. As a result, Jennifer and I were looking for something nearby, preferably in the Brookhaven part of town. We settled on Valenza, a small Italian restaurant on Dresden Drive.

Even though the appetizer section of the menu lists a salumi e formaggi plate, I went with something a little out of the ordinary, the polpo.

Grilled octopus, potato salad, pickled red onion, celery and mint make for quite a lively appetizer

The octopus was nicely chargrilled and perfectly tender while the celery and red onions provided a pleasantly tart contrast. I didn’t really see the point of the potato salad. The potato slices were undercooked and were an odd addition to the plate.

Although the promise of silky short rib was enticing, I went the pappardelle for an entrée. I suppose the allure of a veal, pork, beef, and pancetta ragu was just too much to resist.

This was a plate of big flavors and big textures. The thick ribbons of pappardelle, the hot, well-rounded ragu, and the homemade ricotta made for a very nice combination.

With so much meat, cheese, and wide flat noodles, this was eerily similar to a plate of lasagna, but in a good way.

There wasn’t anything wrong with Valenza, the service was decent, the food was, for the most part, well balanced and quite filling, and it was an overall pleasant experience. I just can’t shake the neither here nor there impression I had about the place. In the end, this is a nice little Italian restaurant for the neighborhood, not worth going out of your way, but convenient for the residents of Brookhaven.

Valenza Address & Information

1441 Dresden Drive NE, Atlanta, GA 30319 // 404.969.3233 // Valenza Website // Valenza Menu // Valenza Reservations

Valenza on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Gus's Hot Dogs - Birmingham

For as often as I drive through Birmingham, I had no idea it was a hot dog town. It wasn’t until Serious Eats began their search for America’s best hot dog that I realized what a goldmine I was missing. When covering the Southern region of the United States, Serious Eats listed two Birmingham institutions, Pete’s Famous Hot Dogs and Gus’s Hot Dogs. A little more googling revealed the friendly rivalry between the two downtown eateries and, in their usual, fastidious manner, The Southern Foodways Alliance’s interview with the owner of Gus’s Hot Dogs, George Nasiakos. It was painfully obvious, I had a lot of ground to cover on the subject of Birmingham hot dogs.

With this new found information on hot dogs, the last time I passed through Birmingham I was determined to try one or two for myself. It was simply a matter of where to go first. Exiting off I-20, I soon found parking in downtown Birmingham and saw Gus’s Hot Dogs just down the street.

Gus’s isn’t a large building; with little more than an open kitchen and two small sections of counter space, there isn’t much room to spare. It’s a two man operation at Gus’s. The owner and head cook, Goerge Nasiakos mans the grill while a second takes the orders and packs things to go. After a quick introduction to the Gus’s menu and a short wait, I had my order in hand.

As far as I can tell, Gus’s is known for their special sauce and their slaw dog. I decided to save the slaw dog for another time and start with a classic chili cheese dog instead.

With the paper tinged with grease and most of the bun dyed a deep shade of chili red, this was an enticing chili cheese dog.

Starting with a Kent Quality dog from the Evans Meat Company, this frank had been griddled to perfection, saddled with a slice of melted American cheese, mustard onions, and crowned with a smoky chili. On its own, the chili wasn’t anything special but when topping a Gus’s hot dog, it was brilliant.

With each hot dog costing less than two dollars, a second dog was a foregone conclusion. I went with the special for my next dog and it came dressed all the way.
Even though the sauerkraut was most visible difference, the real highlight of this dog was the special sauce topping.


Oddly sweet, it made for an interesting combination with the sauerkraut.

This hot dog with its sauerkraut crunch and tantalizing special sauce had a lot of offer, but it was a definitive second to the chili cheese dog.

Curious about the burger side of the Gus’s menu, I ordered a classic cheeseburger to see what sort of Greek accented spin Gus's put on the American standard.
When Gus’s says “dressed all the way” they mean it. This burger was overflowing with toppings, although the unmelted cheese looked a bit sloppy.

Frankly, I was unimpressed with the burger. It had a fine griddle texture but it was lacking any real beefy flavor. What did catch my eye was the prodigious amount of special sauce.

What had been an odd addition on the special dog was sweet, spicy and well rounded on the burger.

Gus’s Hot Dogs may have a simple menu, one side for hot dogs and one for burgers & sandwiches, but with quality griddle cooked hot dogs and an alluring special sauce, I can see why Gus’s has become a Birmingham landmark. I still have a lot of hot dogs, burgers, and sandwiches to try at Gus’s, not to mention his competitor down the street, but if this one visit was any indication, I’ll have a delicious time eating my way through the menu at Gus’s.

Gus’s Hot Dogs Address & Information

1915 4th Ave N, Birmingham, AL 35203 // 205.251.4540

Gus's Hot Dogs on Urbanspoon