Grind Brgr Bar
262 South Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs CA 92262 (map); 760-325-5200; grindbrgrbar.com
Cooking method: Grilled
Short Order: A tasty fancy-pants burger made with beef imported all the way from Tasmania
Want Fries With That? Definitely; the crisp-skinned sweet potato fries are a great option
Price: Mexi-Cali burger, $9.50 (plus 16 other options, ranging from $7-$20); sweet potato fries, $4
The prospect of date shakes, full sun, and a change of scenery drew me to Palm Springs, and when it came time for lunch, I gravitated toward the obvious: burgers. Of the two main options on the strip, Grind Brgr Bar was the most intriguing.
Many burger joints advertise the merits of their beef, but this spot was hanging their hat on something I'd never encountered before: grass-fed beef imported from Tasmania, an island located 150 miles south-east of mainland Australia—aka way the heck across the Pacific Ocean.
The imported beef is ground daily, and burgers are composed of a blend of sirloin and chuck. The menu praises the beef's nutritional benefits, saying that it is lower in saturated fat and calories than traditional ground beef, and has about the same level of Omega-3s as wild salmon. Nutritional claims aside, what I was most curious to find out is whether the flavor of the beef merits its unusually large carbon footprint, especially considering the fact that the region's most highly acclaimed grass-fed beef producer, Sage Mountain Farm, is located an hour away.
I've been a big fan of grass-fed beef ever since I lost my grass-fed virginity to the burger at Roam. Typically, grass-fed beef is leaner, with a clean, robust flavor. This burger had neither of those attributes. The beef was soaked with fatty juices and tasted like a traditional, ground-chuck patty—perfectly tasty, but not the least bit revolutionary, which seems to be what they're going for.
A lot of things went right: The freshly ground beef was coarsely ground, not packed too tight, and exceptionally juicy. A heavier hand with the seasoning and a higher flame would improve the crust and flavor, but even as-is, it's still a burger worth eating. The toppings were fresh and high quality, with the exception of the pickled jalapeños, whose rubbery texture and lack of heat seemed at odds with the housemade salsa and buttery slices of avocado. It's like the burger got almost completely dressed up, and then threw on a pair of flip flops at the last minute. I can relate, but still—not cool.
The default bun preparation is a lightly toasted Kaiser roll. Burger juices almost completely obliterated the bottom, while the top remained soft. As Kaiser rolls go, this is one of the fluffiest on record, without much of a crust. Even though the juice-soaked bottom bun made for messy eating, the bread-to-meat ratio worked.
With so many non-beef options, including buffalo, Italian sausage, turkey, lamb, portobello, and the "Deadliest Catch" made with lump crab meat, veering away from your comfort zone is tempting, but you might want to stick with a more traditional protein. The only adjective I could wrestle out of my dining companion to describe the crabby patty was "salty."
The motto that "if some is good, more must be better" clearly applies to the list of sides. In addition to standard fries, options include truffled parmesan fries, garlic fries, chili cheese fries, onion rings, and sweet potato fries. My decision to go with the latter was a smart one. The crisp skinned spuds were lightly fried and achieved the perfect balance between crisp and fluffy, and salty and sweet. The "single" size ($4) is plenty to split between two people, but if you're partaking in a little aioli on the side, you might want to get two servings. It's tasty enough that triple-dipping seems only right.
Grass-fed beef can be a beautiful thing, but in the case of Grind Brgr Bar, importing it all the way from Tasmania is an unnecessary effort that doesn't pay off. With better beef right in their own backyard, they'd be much wiser to shop local. If you want a juicy burger with upscale toppings, you're set...but if the taste of grass-fed is what you're after, keep moving along.
About the author: Erin Jackson is a food writer and photographer who is obsessed with discovering the best cheap and tasty eats in San Diego, including all things sweet and sugary, for her dessert blog San Diego Sugar.