Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Gourmet burger emporiums are proliferating like mushrooms on a damp lawn these days. Case in point - within a 10-minute drive of the Canteen, we've got a Five Guys, Burger 21, Red Robin, and two Steak and Shakes, not to mention all of the usual fast food offerings (which, to be fair, are not exactly as good as the others - sorry, Burger King). As of last month, a new arrival has thrown its bun in the ring on our side of town: Burger Monger (BM), a small franchise that began in Philadelphia and, with its new location in Safety Harbor (2454 McMullen Booth Rd. - just down the street from our church), now has four spots around Tampa. Sure, BM touts its hand-cut fries and premium ice cream shakes (as do the others), but has an ace in the hole, so to speak - the beef they use is 100% Japanese Akaushi Kobe Beef, sourced from a cattle herd brought specifically from Kyushu Island, Japan to Texas and sold under the name HeartBrand (if you go to the HeartBrand website, you'll notice that their product is not commonly sold outside of their home state). Reading the purported health benefits of this special beef versus the garden variety grain-fed cattle (it's low in cholesterol and high in monounsaturated fats), you'd think you were eating a kale smoothie instead of fried ground steak. Anyway, one Sunday after church, we decided to pop in for lunch and put a BM burger to the test against our current local favorite, Burger 21.
When I first saw the menu, I was a little daunted by the choices (they offer 9 different cheeses and a whole host of other toppings, yielding about a bazillion possible combinations), but instead of spending more to add bacon, I upgraded my burger to include 8 oz. of beef instead of 6. My other topping choices included the "special monger sauce" (a combo of Jamaican relish and chipotle mayo), lettuce, tomato, grilled onions, and banana peppers. The burgers come on a garlic butter-grilled challah bun, sourced with almost the same care as the meat (an old Italian bakery near Miami, Cusano's, makes the BM rolls). After one bite, I was immediately glad that I got the bigger patty - the Akaushi beef is rich and absolutely delicious, squarely putting BM on my short list of best burger purveyors in Tampa. The fries were good (but not destination-worthy) and the housemade beef franks are nearly as spectacular as the burgers (I sneaked a bite of Hackknifette's hot dogs when she wasn't looking); however, it's hard for me to imagine coming back and not getting pretty much the same order as the first time...