Boston: Eastern Standard's Standard Burger

[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

Eastern Standard

528 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston MA 02215 (map); 671-532-9100;
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: Juicy, spot-on cooking, and simple
Want Fries with That? The best fries in the city
Prices: Standard Burger, $12

Gone are the days when Jamie Bissonette (currently of Toro and Coppa) used to grind butter directly into the burgers at Eastern Standard, but the Standard Burger ($12) is still pretty killer, and the restaurant space is still as nice as ever to pass the time in. It's the type of large, comfortable, classy, but still casual atmosphere that you'd have to wait three hours on a Tuesday night to get into in Manhattan. Eastern Standard only gets that way when the Sox are playing home games (it's in Kenmore square in the shadow of Fenway Park).

The patties come from Kinnealy, one of the better respected meat purveyors in New England. They make a mean patty. 50 percent of it is chuck, 25 percent is brisket, and the last 25 percent is rib lifter, which is the meat that gets trimmed out from under the fat cap on a ribeye. Lifter is actually one of my favorite cow parts ever. Though difficult to find in the consumer market, if you can get your hands on some, snatch it up! It's excellent ground, and tasty when grilled and sliced thin.

At Eastern Standard, the sizable burgers are well-seasoned and grilled spot-on every time (I've never had an overcooked burger there, and I've had dozens). They come pretty naked: A slice of just-aged-enough Vermont cheddar, and that's it. You get some roughage on the side of the plate, but you really only need the pickles to round out the sandwich.

Can I go on a brief aside here about fancy cheese on burgers? I don't like it. Cheese on a burger should always play a secondary role, adding texture, fat, and flavor, without overwhelming the beef. What's the point of constructing and cooking the perfect beef patty if the whole sandwich is going to be overwhelmed by a three-year-old cheddar that doesn't even melt properly? It's one of the reasons why fancy-pants burgers so often fail. Fortunately, Eastern Standard seems to get this. Their cheddar is tasty, but not overwhelming.

Full-flavored and juicy, my only complaint would be that they have a tendency to leak out their juices too fast, wringing out like a sponge and leaving the last few bites of your burger much drier than the first few.

The bun is toasted in butter and is somewhat brioche-like in appearance, but is thankfully quite soft and not too sweet. It does an admirable job of standing up to the juice onslaught.

The fries at Eastern Standard have always been good, though for a little while a couple years ago they seemed a bit inconsistent. Thankfully these days, they are consistently good, like competing-with-Minetta-Tavern-on-a-good-day good. World class.

Crisp, fluffy, and golden blond, you couldn't ask for much more. Except perhaps a side of mayo. And a sidewalk seat in the summer.

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