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Burger Picks for Santa Cruz

I've been hearing about Kelly's French Bakery for some time, but I haven't been able to try them out until today. It's a little difficult driving to the west end of Santa Cruz sometimes. What I found was delightful.

Kelly's is next door to some of my favorite wineries. I'm definitely going back there for a bite to eat during my next wine tour.

Today I tried the burger and fries. The burger is very tasty. It was a little soggy though. It reminded me of the burger I had at Five Guys yesterday. I didn't think it was worth 10 bucks, including fries. The fries tasted like they were baked instead of fried. The other menu items looked really interesting, so I'm excited to go back. However, it's just down the street from Burger Santa Cruz. So when I'm on the west side and craving a burger, I will probably head over to Burger Santa Cruz instead of Kelly's.

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Kelly's French Bakery
402 Ingalls St, Santa Cruz, CA

Dec 14, 2010
Burger Expert in California

Burger Picks for Oahu

I'm back from my trip to Oahu. I was able to sample quite a few burger places that were recommended. Before I begin, I have to say that Papa Oles has the best Loco Moco I've ever tried. It was like Wow!

Formaggio: This was a fun time for me and my traveling partner. We're wine reviewers too, so we could do two reviews for one meal. The wines were all well chosen. This place is hard to find, but once you're inside it feels like a completely different place than its surrounding environment. For dinner we had the Lobster Mac and Cheese and the Kobe Panini Burger. The Lobster Mac and Cheese was out of this world! Nice chunks of lobster too. The Kobe Panini Burger had great flavor, but I didn't care for the panini bun. Of all the burgers we tried last week in Oahu, this one had the best flavor. Formaggio provides a great dining experience. They also told us that they run Burgers On The Edge. So we tried the burgers there as well.

Burgers On The Edge: We had the King Arthur special burger with kobe beef, ham, garlic aioli and mozzarella. We also had the Steakhouse kobe burger. I liked it better than the King Arthur because I'm partial to BBQ flavors. They have a nice variety on the menu. The flavors were good. I wouldn't say they were spectacular. The sweet potato fries were cut thick and crispy on the outside, but soft on the inside - the way they should be cooked. Nicely done BOTE.

Liliha Bakery: The burgers are small dinner roll sized. I liked the classic touch. The burger was full of fresh ingredients and the meat was juicy. However, it wasn't high on flavor. I was a little disappointed with the Coco Puff. It was served cold. I thought it would come warm and fresh out of the oven. However, I will be going back there for breakfast. The egg dishes are delightful.

W&M: We decided to try the deluxe cheeseburger. We should have ordered the Hal's special instead because I couldn't really taste the meat. The fries were not that great either.

Honolulu Burger Co: We ordered the Paniolo BBQ Burger (of course) and the Hawaiian Beach Boy. Again, I preferred the Paniolo BBQ Burger. I loved the jalapenos in it. They really kicked it up a notch. The Beach Boy was good, but I thought the pineapple salsa was a little wimpy. We liked Honolulu Burger Co. a little better than Burgers on the Edge. There was more flavor in the burgers, yet the meat was slightly dry. We loved the fries.

Papa Oles: Loco Moco is so much better than chicken fried steak. And this Loco Moco was the best ever.

Other burgers we tried:

Bob's Triple D: This used to be Bob's Big Boy until they lost their franchise after the fire. Now they're serving a limited, custom menu so we decided to give it a try. The deluxe cheeseburger was fairly good. They even created their own special sauce. The fries were good too.

Moana Surfrider: We ordered a burger and daiquiris from the bar outside near the pool. It was a decent tourist burger, but it was nothing to write home about. The banana daiquiris were delicious.

On a separate note, we inhaled the lamb souvlaki at The Olive Tree.

I still intend to sample some of the other burger recommendations that we missed on our trip last week. I'll be back early next year with another round of reviews. Overall, I'm very pleased and surprised with the local burger knowledge on Oahu.

~Mahalo

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Burgers on the Edge
890 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816

Nov 20, 2010
Burger Expert in Hawaii

Best Burger & Fries in Sacramento

It's quite nice to see so many burger and fries offerings in Sacto. Many of them are on the way to Tahoe, which is good for me. Great thread.

Nov 20, 2010
Burger Expert in California

Burger Picks for Santa Cruz

This time we went back to burger. on a Sunday at 12:30 and it was packed. We were very lucky to find two bar stools. What a treat! The bartender was awesome and placed our food orders too.

We had the lobster sliders and the lamburger sliders. They were both good. I loved the lobster sliders. They were like mini lobster salad sandwiches. I'll eat almost anything with lobster in it. The lamburger sliders were good too. They came with lots of grilled onions, but I found myself adding Cholula hot sauce for extra flavor. They did taste like lamb though. We also had a Caesar salad, which was good. However, the croutons were very oily.

We finally got to try the beers on tap and some wine too. Kyle the bartender let us try anything we wanted. It was very cool. We tried the Urthel Hop It, a Belgian IPA. It was mild in flavor, but high in alcohol content. Next, we tried the Chimay Belgian tripel - strong and earthy. We moved on to the St. Louis Framboise lambic. It was very sweet and fruity like a sparkling Pinot Noir. For the last beer tasting, we tried the Duvel Belgian pale ale. Not bad, but a little tart. I settled on the Urthel for my pint of choice, although they served it in a snifter. It was strange, but I actually enjoyed it. I've never heard of most of the beers there, so I'll have to try more sometime. We also tasted the St. Julia organic chardonnay (2010) and the St. Julia 2009 malbec. The chard was smooth and the malbec was peppery smooth.

Overall, it was a fun day at burger. on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Oct 18, 2010
Burger Expert in California

Burger Picks for Santa Cruz

Today was a good day at burger.

We had the Dude and the Hank Williams Sr. They were both excellent. The Dude is a guacamole bacon burger and the Hank Williams Sr. is a BBQ burger. Our favorite was the Dude because it was a very well balanced burger with great flavor. The BBQ burger was also very good. The pickles were a nice touch. You rarely get that on a carb-heavy BBQ burger. I still need to try the beers there. I've never heard of the ones on tap. I might go back on Sunday when pints are four dollars. I wonder if they have a sampler?

Both burgers were spot on today. They were not too heavy on lettuce and tomato. The BBQ sauce was fairly light and delicious. There was just something about the Dude that made it a little bit better. I think it was the avocado, very fresh and tasty. I will probably try this combo of burgers again. We had a mix of regular fries and sweet potato fries too.

I'm going to try the lobster sliders even though I had a so-so experience with the kobe sliders.

I love burger. It's a fun place to chow down. I'm gravitating towards this place. I hope they open a second location on the east side of Santa Cruz, maybe Capitola? Yeehaw!

Oct 14, 2010
Burger Expert in California

Burger Picks for Oahu

Wagyu-kobe burgers are my absolute favorite. I go to Ono Cafe on the mainland to get my wagyu-kobe burger fix when I'm in the mood to splurge.

Formaggio looks very interesting! The kobe panini burger there might have some competition with the lobster mac and cheese for my affection. I'm pleasantly surprised to learn about some places that I've never heard of before I started this topic, like Formaggio and W & M. I'm going to set aside a special day for burger tastings like people do for wine tours.

Oct 09, 2010
Burger Expert in Hawaii

Burger Picks for Oahu

Alright, K-Man. I promise not to ask for "real" BBQ. I wouldn't want to look silly.

Nice tip on Bob's Giant BBQ. I heard they have good Hibachi chicken too.

Oct 09, 2010
Burger Expert in Hawaii

Burger Picks for Oahu

Yes Jazzaloha, very good point. I will clarify.

Conveniently, I love both tomato BBQ and teri-style. I think maybe I like teri-style better than southern or western BBQ. Teriyaki is one of my favorite sauces. In fact, I'm having teriyaki beef this morning for breakfast.

Oct 09, 2010
Burger Expert in Hawaii

Burger Picks for Oahu

Thanks fatstern.

W & M BBQ Burger looks awesome! I love BBQ burgers. I'm not sure why I haven't heard of it until now. Really good recommendation there. The Hal's Special is making me salivate. BBQ burgers have a special place in my flavor profile.

I wont have high expectations for the burger at Liliha because I'm probably more interested in the Coco puff. I'll try them both. I'm looking forward to the whole experience.

I was going to try Hukilau for Loco Moco, but I might change to Papa Ole's. I'm hearing more good things about it.

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Hukilau Cafe
55-662 Wahinepee St, Laie, HI 96762

Oct 08, 2010
Burger Expert in Hawaii

Best Burger & Fries in Sacramento

There's another location in Folsom on Bidwell St., which is where I usually go to Islands on my way to Tahoe. I will definitely try Smash Burger next time!

Thanks for the recommendation.

Oct 07, 2010
Burger Expert in California

Burger Picks for Oahu

Thanks Jazzaloha. I appreciate the honest review. I'm getting a pretty good idea of what to expect from Honolulu Burger Co. I'll be there in a few weeks!

Oct 06, 2010
Burger Expert in Hawaii

Burger Picks for Santa Cruz

We tried the Spicoli burger today. It was ok. I couldn't really taste the aoli. Again, the lettuce and tomato were just too much for the burger. We had another Syd Barret too. This is turning into one of my favorites. I guess I just like mushrooms on my burger. Haven't tried the beers yet. I'll wait till I get can get there on a weekend to sample them.

Sep 16, 2010
Burger Expert in California

Burger Picks for Santa Cruz

I think the main draw for Jack's is the fast food crowd that wants something a little better than the drive-thru.

Sep 06, 2010
Burger Expert in California

Burger Picks for Oahu

Liliha Bakery looks interesting. I may need to try their burger. The coco puffs look good too. Thanks for the cross-purpose recommendation.

Sep 06, 2010
Burger Expert in Hawaii

Burger Picks for Oahu

Agreed. This is a good review. Thanks K-Man. Honolulu Burger Co. is definitely on the must visit list.

Sep 02, 2010
Burger Expert in Hawaii

Burger Picks for Santa Cruz

I tried the Kobe sliders today. They were small. I think the regular sized burgers are better so far, but I need to try the lobster sliders and the lamb burgers. The shakes are delicious. I had a mint chocolate chip shake with my meal today and it was the best part. Parking and seating still not a problem if you get there at 11:41am. I parked in my "usual" spot. When it's not crowded, the service is very good.

Sep 02, 2010
Burger Expert in California

Burger Picks for Oahu

Thanks for the bacon tip. I definitely like my bacon on the crispier side. I love a good aioli too. Garlic is my friend.

I have to say that money is not a concern for me. I'm certainly interested in saving money when possible, but this trip is all about the best flavors available. And a slight nod towards convenience.

Aug 26, 2010
Burger Expert in Hawaii

Burger Picks for Oahu

Wow, these are great recommendations!

The Pineapple Room and Honolulu Burger Co. look most interesting to me so far. I've been to Alan Wong's, but I haven't been to the Pineapple Room yet. Mariposa looks good too, although it was the lobster club that drew my attention.

Thanks for all of the wonderful reviews. I'm looking forward to posting my own when I return from my trip.

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Alan Wong's Restaurant
1857 S King St Fl 3, Honolulu, HI 96826

Mariposa
1450 Ala Moana Blvd # 2101, Honolulu, HI

Aug 26, 2010
Burger Expert in Hawaii

Burger Picks for Oahu

Aloha,

I'm looking for the best burgers in Oahu. I've been there several times, so I have some ideas. What I'm really looking for is some local knowledge on the burger scene. Of course, all contributions are welcome.

I have to say, I've had some fairly pedestrian burgers in Oahu. I'm wondering if there's a place that makes Wow! burgers.

It would make my next stay there more memorable.

~Mahalo

Aug 25, 2010
Burger Expert in Hawaii

Burger Picks for Santa Cruz

I went to burger. again today and had the Syd Barrett, a mushroom-swiss burger. It was served well done. I did add a little hot sauce. Overall, I liked it. The bun held up much better this time and the lettuce and pickles were just right. I still need to try the sliders. That's next on my list. I'll try the shakes too.

Aug 24, 2010
Burger Expert in California

Burger Picks for Santa Cruz

You're right cruzgirl, Red is amazing. I haven't been there since it was the Sports Bar and Grill. The ambiance is much different. I like it, although I have to admit that I still miss the Sports Bar. I like sports and burgers, so it was a good fit for me.

Nevertheless, I knew what to expect. The staff was very friendly and attentive. We arrived before the dinner rush, which is usually good timing. We had the Bluto Burger and the Lil Mac trio of sliders. The trio had a bbq with cheddar, bacon and gorgonzola, and a pesto with swiss. Everything was great. I liked the roasted red pepper aoli and I loved the bbq sauce.

We ordered both the Lil Mac and Bluto medium well. The Bluto was well done and the sliders were medium rare. However, this was not a game changer. Red knows how to prepare their plates. We also had shoe string fries and a baby spinach salad, which were yummy. The meal started with delicious bread and cloves of roasted garlic.

I can't believe it took me so long to go back there. I'm pleasantly surprised with the quality of the food and staff. I'll try them again sometime to see if they're consistently good.

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Red Restaurant and Bar
1003 Cedar St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Aug 22, 2010
Burger Expert in California

Burger Picks for Santa Cruz

I'm also from LA, the birthplace of the double decker burger. When I was young, I preferred rare and medium rare burgers. I would only eat prime rib that was center cut and pink all over. When I first heard about food borne illnesses, I realized that I should develop a taste for end cuts and well done burgers for safety reasons. Along the way, I learned that there is much good flavor with a caramelized, smokey, well done burger. End cut prime rib is also chock full of spices and marbling flavor.

I don't care for rare burgers anymore. Not because I don't like them. It is simply a safety issue for me. Based on my experience, I know that I'm going to continue eating rare and medium rare burgers as they are served. And I will enjoy them with guilty pleasure.

I'd recommend to anyone that prefers rare burgers to broaden your palate and try to enjoy a broad spectrum of flavors. It's good for your health and may give you more perspective on other people's preferences.

While I agree with you that the burger patty is what it's all about, the supporting role of buns, lettuce, onion, tomato, etc. do play an important part. After all, a burger without a bun is a Salisbury steak. If the bun is dry and crumbling, then it degrades the overall burger quality. Condiments have the power to make or break a good review.

Aug 21, 2010
Burger Expert in California

Burger Picks for Santa Cruz

I can certainly appreciate your point of view, although it is somewhat contradictory. I've had many below medium burgers in my experience. It's not hard to find a burger joint that will take less time to cook their meat. On the contrary, most of them under cook their meat on a regular basis. I don't dislike the flavor of a rare grounded beef burger as opposed to a center cut, pink piece of prime rib. I would just rather have it cooked. This is where my expertise comes into focus. I don't denigrate people that prefer a rare burger. However, those that say a rare burger lover is more of an "expert" is incorrect.

The real challenge for any burger maker is to give the customer what they want. If someone orders a medium well patty, then it needs to be prepared and served with all of the flavors that one would expect. The same thing holds true with rare burgers. It's about the flavor quality, whether it's brown or pink inside.

Aug 18, 2010
Burger Expert in California

Burger Picks for Santa Cruz

Ok, so we finally tried the new burger joint on the west side. It's called 'burger.' (aka: burgersantacruz.com).

We had a regular burger with cheddar cheese and shoestring fries, and the Chuck Norris burger with sweet potato fries. No drinks, just water. We'll try the shakes and beers later..

The regular burger was cooked medium rare, while the Chuck Norris was well done. We didn't ask them to cook to order, we just accepted what they offered. They were both tasty burgers, although the Chuck Norris was a little too hot for me. If you like whole jalapenos, then this burger is for you. Not me. I like jalapenos sliced or diced. The other condiments were too much. You get a big slice of onion, lettuce and tomato. It was overkill. It puts too much stress on the bun, which is a little soggy.

However, the meat is very good. It's grass fed beef and it's very tasty. I put some of the mustardy secret sauce on the regular burger and it was yummy.

I wasn't crazy about the shoestring fries. They were actually twice fried, which I don't like. The sweet potato fries were much better and I don't even like sweet potato fries.

Service was actually quite good. We arrived at 12:15 today, ordered within 2 minutes and picked a nice open booth. There's plenty of seating outside too. We got lucky on parking. A few minutes later and we would have been parking down the street. This will be my new preferred burger restaurant on the west side and I'm looking forward to other menu items. Overall, I give burger. a big thumbs up for attempting to capture the burger spirit in Santa Cruz where it is sorely needed.

PROS: Good meat. Secret sauce is good (if you like mustard). Plenty of seating inside and outside with tables, booths and lounge couches and chairs. Shakes and beers look delicious.

CONS: Big slices of onion, tomato and lettuce. Jalapenos are too big. Buns are soggy. Parking is limited. They don't take Amex.

Aug 05, 2010
Burger Expert in California

Burger Picks for Santa Cruz

You prefer a medium rare/rare burger as stated above. That means you prefer a rare burger.

Apr 07, 2010
Burger Expert in California

Burger Picks for Santa Cruz

You obviously prefer a rare burger. Good luck with that. I stated that it was well-done because most burgers are served medium rare no matter how they're ordered. Most burger aficionados would know this already and wouldn't feel compelled to change their "ratings" of a burger cooked according to specification. They would also know that you can't always special order the way your burger is cooked. I don't always order well-done. I prefer medium-well for kobe and wagyu burgers.

Apr 04, 2010
Burger Expert in California

Betty's Burgers - Santa Cruz

I agree with Carb Lover and Matt of Aptos. Betty Burgers are dry. It's a shame to see success coming from mediocrity. It just goes to show that a good business plan can make any so-so restaurant work. However, I won't be tempted to try the new location until they call me for a consultation.

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Betty Burgers
505 Seabright Ave, Santa Cruz, CA 95062

Mar 30, 2010
Burger Expert in California

Burger Picks for Santa Cruz

I think.....mmmmm both! They are well-executed burgers that were ordered well-done. I don't care for raw meat. I like my burger e.coli free with a nice, cooked flavor. We're not talking about carpaccio here. I like the end cut of prime-rib too, not the pink middle cut that other people want. If I order a well-done burger and it's served medium-rare, then I will not enjoy it as much. If it's rare, I won't eat it.

If you're suggesting that burgers cooked well-done are not worthy of reviews, then you are not a true critic. Just because I don't like rare, doesn't mean I can't appreciate someone's affinity for it. I don't like eel either, but you won't see me bashing someone's flavor profile over it.

Mar 30, 2010
Burger Expert in California

Burger Picks for Santa Cruz

Ok, so this is a follow up for Smoqe. It's not called 'Smokay', it's just smoke with a Q. I tried the 1/2 lb burger with gruyere cheese. Let me tell you this, the meat was good. It had good flavor and was well done, as requested. However, it was more like one of those unimaginative build your own burgers from wherever. Nevertheless, the meat was good. That's important. On a side note, the side salad was very satisfying. I like a good burger with fries or a salad. That's the perfect meal for me. And the fries are good. Darn good.

So, Smoqe gets a thumbs up for overall flavor and performance. They need a little polish though. Maybe combine the Irish cheddar on the 1/2 burger and get a new bun.

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Smoqe Bbq
10110 Soquel Dr, Aptos, CA 95003

Mar 28, 2010
Burger Expert in California

Burger Picks for Santa Cruz

I went to Smoqe for the first time today. They are a BBQ joint with wood-fired pizza on the menu. However, I went there to try the bison burger and some brisket. The burger was quite good. It definitely had a tasty, smokey flavor to it. A little gamey tasting too, but that made it interesting to me. It came with Irish cheddar and grilled onions, which I always like. The special sauce put it all together for me. You can douse it with ketchup, mustard and other condiments, but I wanted to experience the recommended flavor profile.

The bun was a little flimsy though. It was a focaccia bun. The flavor was good and it was shaped like a burger bun, but it fell a part a little bit. There was no tomato or lettuce available either. Also, I ordered the burger well done and it came medium rare. Still, not a big deal. Overall this was a tasty burger.

The staff are friendly and fast. Since this place is new, it's very clean inside. It's conveniently located off the freeway too.

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Smoqe Bbq
10110 Soquel Dr, Aptos, CA 95003

Feb 20, 2010
Burger Expert in California