Of course we love our mom & pops, and our favorite burger joints around the country are pretty much all independently owned, but there are certain times in life—overnight layovers, hungover Sunday mornings, all-day shopping trips at the outlets—that the only options around are the chains. Chain Reaction is here to help you decide when to go for the burger, and when you're better off sticking with the chicken fingers.
BGR The Burger Joint
3960 West Point Loma Boulevard San Diego, CA 92110 (map)
18 current locations, with more in the works. Full list at bgrtheburgerjoint.com
The Schtick: Loosely '90s-themed burger shop, serving a variety of different meats, including beef, turkey, salmon, and lobster
The Burger: The basic burger is edible, but nothing special. The Wellington is salty and sloppy
Want Fries With That? If you like your sweet potato fries bland and not at all sweet, sure
Setting: '90s themed burger joint. Album covers on the walls and tables. Retro music videos on the tube
Price: Lunch box set (burger, fries, drink), $8.99; Wellington burger, $8.99
San Diego needs another chain burger joint like it needs another barefoot slacker in Ocean Beach, which is to say, not at all. Despite the superfluous supply of grilled beef patties between buns, every week, there's a new contender...not that I'm complaining. The expansion of burger businesses is directly related to that of reviewing them, and at this rate, I'll be set until we're all eating lab-grown patties. BGR The Burger Joint, a chain with 18 locations, and another four more in the works, is the latest kid in town. If their Facebook page is to be trusted, they serve "The one burger YOU MUST HAVE before you die!"
Inside, they're going for a retro theme. Album covers dot the walls and a TV plays '90s videos. You can get several variations of beef burgers, plus non-traditional options like ahi and lobster. There are also two burgers that have been supposedly been featured on Food Network: The Greek, a lamb burger that's billed as winning on Throwdown! and a nine-pound burger that has reportedly been featured on Food Network and Travel Channel. It's true that there was a lamb burger on Throwdown!, but it was made by an opera singer named Susan Mello, no relation to BGR. As for the nine-pound burger, the episode list for Man v.s. Food has no record of a burger from BGR.
In any case, I tried two burgers: a classic hamburger (no cheese, even!) and The Wellington, a former burger of the month that made it into the regular rotation. The standard burger came with the expected roughage, while The Wellington, a riff on beef wellington, was much more complicated. Caramelized onion, roasted mushrooms, garlic, mustard seed, blue cheese, and "mojo sauce" topped the griddled beef patty.
The good news for all of the other chain operations (and local indies) is BGR is in no danger of becoming a runaway success. Both burgers were pretty awful. My burger, which was ordered medium rare, came out closer to well-done, with no pink in the center. The patty was unevenly cooked, dry, and had no character. The only real flavor came from the salt, which was a bit too generously applied. The toppings were a mess as well. A giant leaf of lettuce all but obscured the meat, and the hunk of tomato was the same thickness as the patty. It's a sad but true fact that the toasted, buttered sesame bun was the best part, and it wasn't all that spectacular.
Trust me, you don't want to see a better photo of The Wellington. The patty was covered with grey/green slop that plooped out every time it was picked up or bit into. By the half-way mark, there were wet globs of it all over the waxed paper that serves as a placemat. I trust that you can imagine how unappealing that looked. Sadly, the taste was no better. All of the ingredients blended together and the only remarkable characteristic was that it was salty (and looked like baby poop—there, I said it).
By the time I got to the sweet potato fries, I was pretty desperate. And, though they looked promising and had a good, crisp texture, they were all starch and no sweet. Liberal salt application and a lot of mojo sauce was necessary to render them worthwhile of eating.
The one good thing about the meal (besides saving my burger loving brethren some wasted calories) was playing with the Coke Freestyle machine.