San Diego: Brisket Burgers at Leroy's Kitchen + Lounge

AHT: San Diego

Burger reviews in the San Diego area.

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[Photographs: Erin Jackson]

Leroy's Kitchen + Lounge

1015 Orange Ave., Coronado CA 92118 (map); 619-437-6087; leroyskitchenandlounge.com
Cooking method: Grilled
Short Order: An intensely beefy burger made from freshly-ground brisket
Want Fries With That? Yeah ya do. Go 50/50 on the truffle fries and the sweet potato fries. Both are delicious
Price: Burger, $14, add bacon or avocado for $2
Notes: Brunch served Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. - 3 p.m., Happy Hour 3 p.m. - 6 p.m. daily

After reviewing nearly 100 burgers, it's not often that I see a new patty formulation. Most are the standard chuck, some have a few different cuts mixed together, but nothing I've tried so far has been like the burger at Leroy's Kitchen + Lounge. The farm-to-table restaurant uses 100 percent brisket, ground daily, in house.

The hand-formed patties are grilled to order, topped with cheese, and served open-face with lettuce, onion, thick-sliced tomato, spicy house-made pickles, and a smear of seedy mustard. Thin-cut truffle fries with pomegranate ketchup come on the side. You can get a burger at brunch, lunch, happy hour, or dinner, but I'd time your visit for brunch time (so you can start with beignets), or happy hour (to take advantage of the $4 craft brews).

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What you'll notice immediately is the juice. Cutting the burger in half revealed that the core of the patty was saturated with moisture. When I picked it up, juice dripped off the patty, soaking the bun and my fingers in the process. Remarkably, the brioche bun stayed intact, though it only took me about five minutes to eat the entire burger.

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The burger was well executed, but could have benefited from having more char, or a bit more seasoning. Fortunately, the fatty patty was so moist and rich that despite being cooked a bit past my requested medium rare, there was zero danger of it being dry. Most of the toppings were excellent, like the thick slabs of ruby red tomato and the perfectly melted cheese, but the spiciness of the house-made pickles threw me. They're great on their own, but on the burger, they're cut too thick and end up being a distraction. Despite a few missteps, Leroy's serves a solid burger. Even naked, it would be great. With some subtle tweaks, it could be magnificent.

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Thin-cut fries tossed with truffle oil and parsley come standard and are executed with precision. The oil is measuredly applied, giving the fries an earthy essence without overpowering them. Put another way, you taste the truffle flavor only while you're eating the fries, not while you're eating everything else. They're also perfectly cooked, with a crisp outer layer and just enough salt. It's clear that a lot of effort went into making them exactly right, and it was worth it. The sweet potato fries are cut thicker and have a fluffier texture. They're also a better match for the pomegranate ketchup, so I'd suggest going 50/50. Both types of fries are so good that you should really eat every last one, or else a few hours later, when your hunger creeps back in, those last few stragglers left on the plate will come back to haunt you.

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