Or, 'The Things I Do for You'
When I told Adam I was stuck in jury duty, he said it might be a good opportunity to taste-test a burger I wouldn't otherwise encounter. So when I saw five or six signs proclaiming "Teriyaki Burger!" I felt I had to try it.
And, look, I knew what I was getting into. I'd never eaten at (or even seen) a Samurai Sam's before, but the area around the Kew Gardens courthouse wasn't exactly throbbing with burgertunities, and I figured a sign is a sign, right? At any rate, how could I not try it? This is the same impulse that forces me to order tacos at Le Croissant Cafe because they have a tiny "we serve Mexican food!" sign in the window. My sense of adventure has a stubborn way of manifesting itself at the most inopportune times.
Every person before and after me ordered either a Teriyaki or Yakitori Bowl. I walked up to the counter and smugly asked for the Teriyaki Burger. The cashier asked if I wanted it with cheese. I said no when what I should have said was "nevermind, I'm leaving." Cheese plus teriyaki sauce? My mind was already reeling, but I forged ahead.
While I waited, two court officers (with guns!) walked in and ordered yakitori bowls, no vegetables. They, um, could have used some vegetables.
It seemed to be taking a while to get the burger, so I chatted up the cashier. I asked if many people order the burger. She said that it's pretty popular. I asked if she liked it herself.
"I'm very sorry," she said. Uh oh. "I am a vegetarian. I do not know."
Eventually the burger arrived, and darned if that package didn't look totally round. In fact, it was about the size and shape of a grapefruit. (The court had confiscated my camera, so all I can offer is cell-phone evidence, your honor.) I had been looking forward to a light lunch, but this burger was as tall as it was wide. When I unwrapped it, however, it revealed itself to be about one-third iceberg lettuce. Clearly, I wasn't about to spoil my dinner. Smushing it down a bit, a slice of mushy tomato popped out. I shoved it back inside and took a bite.
The first few bites of this burger were surprisingly good. The meat was thin and floppy, however, drenched in teriyaki sauce. I liked it less and less as I worked my way through, and ended up being done before running out of burger. The roll was probably my favorite part. It was large, bready, and seeded. So many seeds, in fact, that they kept falling off in my lap. Something was strange about the patty, although I can't put my finger on what it was. I can, however, tell you that in addition to teriyaki sauce, there was a copious amount of mayonnaise. It didn't taste bad, exactly, but teriyaki and mayo were just never meant to share a bun. Add to that the strange floppy meat and the overall squishiness of all the other vegetables, the lettuce was the only thing saving this burger from being a teriyaki-flavored sponge.
The idea behind this chain appears to be Sam, the Samurai, who exists solely to protect you from unhealthy eating, "guarding the honor of your plate." He "wards off the evils of greasy, fatty foods" and proclaims "where burgers once rained supreme, fresh vegetables now grace the land." Yet everywhere I looked, signs were imploring me to try the Teriyaki Burger. Can you have it both ways?
The menu states "chopsticks cannot pick up a hamburger for a reason." It was a good theory, and they should have chop-stuck with it.
Address: 124-34 Queens Blvd, Kew Gardens, NY and nationwide
Short Order: I'll try anything once so you don't have to! Don't go out of your way to eat this burger. $3.75 plus tax
Want Fries With That?: Too bad! You can have salad, soup, noodles, or a gross-looking grilled egg roll.
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