The Lincoln Room
901 4th Ave., San Diego CA 92101 (map); 619-696-8888; thelincolnroomsd.com
Cooking method: Grilled
Short Order: A tasty burger for the price, during Happy Hour
Want Fries With That? Skip 'em. The burger comes a la carte and the fries aren't worth the extra expense
Price: Angus burger, $5 (+$1 for cheese); turkey burger, $7.95; fries, $3.95
Notes: Happy hour is 3-7 p.m. daily, and all night on Wednesday
Happy Hour is the best time to be in the Gaslamp Quarter. The high concentration of bars and restaurants means lots of options, and the stiff competition keeps prices low enough to imbibe on a budget. One of the smartest spots to eat during Happy Hour is The Lincoln Room, where you can get a variety of food items for $5, like mussels, mac and cheese, deviled eggs, or a 1/3-pound Angus beef burger. On the regular menu, there's also a 1/3-pound turkey burger, topped with avocado and pepper jack cheese, so I did the only reasonable thing: I ordered both of them, plus a side of fries.
Five bucks buys you a pretty solid backyard cookout-style burger, served à la carte with butter lettuce, tomato, red onion, sprouts, and bread and butter pickles. Burgers are usually cooked to medium, but my request for medium rare was honored (though not exactly executed). The coarsely ground and simply seasoned patty was charred nicely on the outside, while the inside remained fairly moist, even though it was a smidge overcooked. Veggie toppings were crisp and fresh, but flavor-wise, the patty was lacking any in-your-face beefiness, and didn't reach the outsides of the bun. It needs a little help. Adding some strips of bacon would go a long way to ratchet up the flavor, or going with a more robust cheese. My choice (pepper jack) was cut too thin for the flavor to register.
What did stand out was the eggy brioche bun, which had the best characteristics of this divisive bread choice (it was soft and fluffy), and none of the fallbacks (it wasn't too sweet or too cakey). In hand, the buttery, toasted bun squished down to provide the ideal bread to meat ratio.
I was expecting more from the turkey burger. Instead of a patty made from ground turkey, seasoned with herbs and spices, I got a highly processed, reformed turkey patty, seasoned only with salt. Lots and lots of salt. The sodium blew away all of the other components, rendering them undetectable. Any calories you might save by choosing this option over the classic burger wouldn't be worth it. Just stick with the beef.
The burger comes solo, and the fries aren't worth ordering. Mine were dry and tasted too much like cardboard to bother with. You get a decent portion size for the price, but unless you use your fries as a ketchup delivery system, you might as well skip them and look to a pint of beer for extra sustenance.
For the price, The Lincoln Room serves a solid burger at Happy Hour. Pair it with a beverage and you can get both for $10 or less. That's a deal by any standard, especially in the Gaslamp.