What does it take to make a truly tasty burger? Just ask Chris Ponte, Executive Chef at Burger 21 in Tampa. Chef Ponte has sated this foodie's appetite for a good burger. I only wish it was in West Sussex, England and not Tampa, Florida. Living in England since last year, I have not enjoyed nearly as many burgers as I would like. Actually, that's not true, but because England still hasn't mastered what's needed to make a great burger, I haven't had many that were good. The Hinds Head in Bray is the only restaurant in England to deliver something that resembled a decent burger. But even then, it was glorified and made regal by using Balmoral Venison.
There are many who have commented on my blog about my obsession with the great American hamburger. Nearly every time I post on a burger I get floods of comments and emails. People either hate them, or love them. One reader actually insulted not only all American's, but the entire burger industry saying, "burgers are for children, people that can't use cutlery and Americans." And, they're right. When you haven't tasted a proper hamburger, that's the impression that you get.
And then there's Burger 21. A gourmet burger bar that serves burgers with names like The OMG!, The Tex-Mex Haystack and The Gyro Burger. A great burger is not the same without great sauce to go with it. And to that end, Chef Ponte provides not just one type of sauce, but 8. Thai Ketchup, Apple Cider, Chipotle Mayo, Ragin Cajun, Toasted Marshmallow, Honeycomb Mustard, Mustard, and of course, regular, good 'ole fashioned Ketchup.
On this visit my fellow diners and I had the BBQ Bacon Burger with Lettuce, Tomato, Applewood-Smoked Bacon, Cheddar Cheese, Crispy Onion Strings and a Hickory BBQ Sauce on a Brioche Bun. We also had the Tex-Mex Haystack with Lettuce, Tomato, Applewood-Smoked Bacon, Smoked Cheddar Cheese, Guacamole, Crispy Onion Strings and Chipotle-Jalapeno Sauce on a Brioche Bun. And finally, the Gyro Burger; Burger 21's Burger of the month, it had Mediterranean-seasoned Lamb with Vine Ripe Tomatoes, Cucumber, Red Onion and Lettuce topped with Cucumber Tzatzki Sauce.
It is fair to say, that Burger 21's burgers were the best I've ever had. In fact, they make In-n-Out, based on the West Coast of the U.S. look like a mediocre, half-assed operation. And that takes some doing.
For all of those out there that think burgers are for children, people who can't use cutlery, or American's, please take a trip to sunny Tampa, Florida, you'll become a believer and nothing will satisfy your craving for tasty, messy food quite like a good 'ole fashioned hamburger.
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