It would seem that The Burger Club has gotten off to a rocky start. First, there was the name fiasco; then the opening date was repeatedly pushed back. After all that, the lukewarm reviews started to come in. Despite these adverse factors, this Vinings burger joint seems like a bustling hotspot; at least that was the case during lunch the other day.
Packed near capacity, families, local businessmen, and a slew of shopping entourages lined up to get their fill of classic American gluttony. Inside this friendly little space, meaty food trays flew about with purpose. Severs and food runners ran around with haphazard fervor and there seemed to be a 50’s diner energy to the restaurant.
Tossed on my tray were a large handful of well-toasted tots, a spear pickle, and a heavily stacked Nuclear burger. Across the table, a Georgia patty, stripped of it’s namesake peaches, but topped with a thick-coated fried green tomato, stood at attention. With the peaches offloaded to a tin and some curly q’s to keep her busy in between bites, the large tray did a good bit to dispel the reality of the ample portions.
What ultimately settled inside the two buns was an 8 oz. angus beef patty, some fried jalapeños, spicy mayo, melted pepper jack, some Burger Club hot sauce, and the requested avocado slices. At most any other establishment, this example would be passable; however, for an eatery whose seminal influence is the burger, this was nothing more than a flop… and for multiple reasons.
With the Nuclear, the purported presence of spice was almost non-existent. The spicy mayo drifted in and out of tastes as a supplement to the shredded lettuce. At times it was there, at times it wasn’t. That’s all well and good; however, there was just no kick to the mayo: egg and oil, that’s what it tasted like.
There were rumors of that aforementioned house sauce. Not knowing what it should taste like, I can only say that there was no discernable special element to the flavor of the burger. The pepper jack was definitely a mild rendition and the jalapeños were the only semblance of heat there. Lightly fried, the batter never held the crispness it should have and left me pulling out the jalapeños so that I could appreciate them. They certainly held enough spice to get most out of their seats; however, I’m no rookie and the pile of other toppings drowned out the j’s on most every bite.
Yes, the toppings were reasonably fresh. However, not in that farm fresh way dictated by the price point; rather, they just didn’t sit around for long periods before becoming chew for yours truly. Still, a great patty can overcome the highly subjective reaction to the toppings and win a prize on the execution alone. This is where we really felt underwhelmed.
As both orders were cooked two or three notches beyond the requested temperature, it’s a safe bet that TBC employs yet another cook in the long list of those who have no idea what [Insert Temperature] is. Okay, so even if I had pierced my meat with a trident, the utensil would have stood at attention for god knows how long.
The bun is neither of point of success nor failure: soft, slightly crusty, and able to withstand the heavy amount of toppings. But again – nothing notably special. The meat is where a burger makes and breaks its reputation. This was a fail. When you have a high quality cut of meat, you can pretty much leave your salt and pepper shakers on the rack. This straightforward sampling of Angus was neither inspiring nor well delivered. Flavor was long gone (if it was ever there in the first place). The texture could have been playful, charred, and crunchy. Nope. Ahh… but then the softness of the meat could have played well with a good amount of juice … nope again. My uncomfortably placed avocado slivers aside, the burger was not an example of portion control. Everything oozed out of the bun leaving me to shovel condiment drenched bits into my mouth. Not doing well here y’all.
The meal ended on a sour note … that should have been sweet. With a selections of shakes, we took an order of the peach. The server again showed her competence and her friendly nature with not only a split of the cups … but to-go cups as well! Score. Still, as I sucked down my foam, I was befuddled. What was delivered was a soupy milkshake with little bits of peach in a bath of vanilla. Blurg! At $16/head, this meal was one significant case of highway robbery.
Not everything is a bust though. Owner Paul Albrecht has gone the fun route with the vibe. The staff rapidly saunters around the Swiss cheese divides and chalkboard walls. A pastel pallet and a slew of TVs give this joint some personality, and that might be enough to get it by. If the service and servers are consistently like ours, that will be another strong point for the restaurant.
This may be yet another example of just how insignificant the opinions of the media, and those of us who sit on its cusp, might actually be (at least in this field). The bottom line is that the ultimate say in what is good is the bottom line. It’s hard to say if this lunch is any true indication of The BC’s popularity. But … if the wide-eyed gasps and round of applauses that I saw are any indication … this place has a very strong following. Who cares if the food is terrible?
Atlanta Foodies on The Burger Club
- Creative Loafing on The Burger Club (11.20.09)