It is a well-accepted fact that if you live in the Boston area long enough, you're going to have a buddy named Sully. With that in mind, I'd like you to meet mine:
Located in Somerville, Massachusetts, next door to my friend Pete, O'Sullivan's serves up some amazing burgers. They're thick, they're tall, and they take a long time to cook. I would suggest showing up at O'Sullivan's about a half an hour less hungry than you think you are. That's complicated math, but trust me, it's worth figuring out. You're going to wait, and it's worth it. So, sit down and relax, pally.
Every burger starts out at half a pound of lean ground sirloin and includes fries. From there, you have nearly thirty suggestions for how to top your burger, or you can make up your own. According to a 2002 article in the Boston Globe, Sully's "goes through 1,000 pounds of Idaho baked potatoes a week, and 400 pounds of ground sirloin." That's no small potatoes, ha ha.
On my most recent trip (disguised as a visit to congratulate friends on their recent engagement, but they knew what I was really there for) I decided to explore the mystery of the Radish Burger. Described as being topped with a "tangy radish sauce", I wasn't really sure what to expect. But I trust Sully, and he almost never lets me down.
It is worth mentioning, maybe, that I was recently disappointed here. The second to last time I was in Boston, I made plans to hit up O'Sullivan's with friends. I knew I wouldn't be getting into town until late, and I asked someone to call ahead and find out how late the kitchen is open. My friend reported back that we had until one o'clock. Boston isn't much of a late night city, and this surprised me, but I was happy to hear it. Sure enough, it turns out the bar is open until one, but the kitchen closes at ten. We managed to squeak in just past ten, and the waitress told us it was ok. Sadly, she was on the money: the burgers were just ok, nothing special. My friends seemed to like theirs, but I knew the restaurant could do better. But everyone has off-nights, now and again. Furthermore I would not recommend being the last customers of the night anywhere.
So, back to the Radish Burger... I ordered it cooked medium, and substituted onion rings for fries. The fries here are closer in size to a KFC's potato wedge, but taste considerably better. Still, I prefer onion rings, so there you go. In the interest of full disclosure, I also ordered a house salad. The requisite twenty minutes later, I had a perfectly cooked burger and onion rings sitting in front of me. They would not be there for long.
The radish in question turned out to be of the horse variety, and was indeed tangy. Some sort of cheese had also made its way onto my burger, although it had not been requested. I checked the menu to see if cheese was an automatic inclusion on the Radish Burger. It wasn't, but I like cheese, so no big deal. I have no doubt in my mind that they would have corrected their mistake cheerfully and without issue, but given the potential wait, it really wasn't worthwhile. In any case, the burger was delicious, and I will certainly order the Radish Burger again.
O'Sullivan's is a small pub-style restaurant, with tables along the walls, and a horseshoe shaped bar in the middle. It gets very crowded on Friday and Saturday nights, but the wait (for a table, not for a burger) never seems to be all that long. The burgers are cooked on a small grill behind the bar. There are no secrets in this kitchen, as you can see absolutely everything that's going on. Sitting at the bar is the way to go, if you can, as the banter with the staff is consistently entertaining and informative.
The fact that I ordered the Radish Burger prompted the guy behind the bar to tell me about how much he likes the Radish Burger, and how he's a big fan of rolling the burgers in pepper and then adding radish sauce. That sounded delicious, and I told him my usual favorite is the Black and Blue (fresh crushed black pepper, topped with blue cheese and comes with 1/2 fries and 1/2 onion rings). He said that was a popular choice, but that many people now order the Out of the Blu (stuffed... with fresh blue cheese) rolled in black pepper. I was full, and yet, I wanted to eat again.
A burger this big might be too much. Then again, Sully's also offers the Empire State Burger, "a large 1/2 pounder covered by a fresh Italian sausage then smothered with Mozzarella cheese" and suggests you top it with grilled onions and peppers. Take that, Fourth of July Burger. I find the pricing here quite reasonable considering the quality and portions. O'Sullivan's is the kind of friend I wish I lived next door to, but I'm somewhat relieved that I don't.
R. F. O'Sullivan & Son
Address: 282 Beacon Street, Somerville, MA 02143 (map)
Short Order: My favorite! Tall, slowly cooked, and topped however you like. Hamburger or cheeseburger with fries is $7.95 and only moderately more expensive from there.
Want Fries With That? You're getting 'em! Thick, well-seasoned potato wedges come with every burger. Half frieshalf onion rings costs only 75¢ extra or comes automatically with the Black and Blue.
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