15688 North Pima Rd., Scottsdale AZ 85260 (map); 480-609-8677; skepticalchymist.com
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: An Irish Pub simulation makes an authentically good cheeseburger
Want Fries with That? Indeed! The burger is very good, but these skinny cut fries are even better
Price: Rasher Cheeseburger (w/fries), $10; only $5 on Mondays; bowl of soup, $7
Aside from my adopted hometown of Los Angeles, the city where I've most tried to hunt down a great burger is Phoenix, where my beloved older sister lives. When I visit her I also make it my business to sample some of the local fare. But upscale casual burger spot after upscale casual burger spot left me underwhelmed by the Valley of the Sun's burger offerings. Then it occurred to me: stop going to upscale casual burger-themed restaurants. So on a recent Monday I made my way to an Irish pub to see if I could get lucky.
The Skeptical Chymist is the kind of Irish pub that you might find at Epcot center. The decor is pure simulation, but a damn good one. In this case, the referent is Robert Boyle and the theme is Irish apothecary. Once upon a time in Ireland, the pharmacy would serve double duty as a pub. The name Skeptical Chymist is a reference to Robert Boyle's book that would become one of the cornerstones of modern chemistry. This pub runs with the apothecary theme with a room full pharmacy items, many of which were sourced in Ireland. There's even a library room filled with Boyle's works.
Of course, all the authentic interior design in the world won't make up for a substandard cheeseburger. Luckily the one you'll find at Skeptical Chymists is just what the doctor ordered.
Out of their seven burger choices, I opted for the most standard offering, the Rasher Cheeseburger ($10) topped with cheddar, Irish bacon, iceberg lettuce, tomato, and red onion. The bun is called brioche, but it's mercifully much more Irish than French.
The patty itself isn't so much the star of this show, but it certainly is worthy of a little praise. It's a hefty eight ounces of chuck in a medium grind. The beef itself isn't stellar, but the grilling on my mid-rare patty was spot on. The patty was full of juice and had a full serving of salt to bring out the flavor. Add to that a nice crust and you've got a nearly perfectly grilled burger.
The bun had a shiny exterior, but the substance of it was spongy like a standard commercial bun. It was actually really good and nicely proportioned to the large patty. The rest of the toppings were in order, if not stand outs. The cheddar and bacon made for a nice combination in this case, as the bacon flavor wasn't overpowering.
I would't call this burger exceptional, but it was very good. The exceptional part of this meal was the fries. These skin-on, skinny cut spuds were perfectly cooked and full of potato flavor. The seasoning was absolutely spot on.
I also tried a bowl of the cheddar and potato soup ($7). It was, as you'd imagine, bland and satisfying. There's something soothing about a soup like this. It's not a stand out, but it's got just enough flavor to make a great dip for the accompanying wheaten bread.
It seems I've finally found a burger worth going back for in Phoenix. The Skeptical Chymist serves up a solid pub burger with some exceptional fries. And here's even better news: on Mondays they'll only charge you five bucks for any burger! It feels like a bit of larceny to get such a good meal for so little. It's a fair deal at twice the price.
About the author: Damon is one of our roving burger reporters and food writers. When he's not eating more than is warranted or healthful (and then writing about it) he can be found writing and producing for television and film. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.