1805 Newton Ave San Diego, CA 92113 (map); 619-233-7010 ; blueprint-cafe.com
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: Towering half-pound burgers made with Meyer Ranch Natural Angus beef
Want Fries With That? Fried potatoes in many forms are available, but my money's on the mac and cheese!
Price: 1/2 pound steak burger, $9.80 (includes one side); Carrot cake, $4
Notes: Limited operating hours mean you've got to get your burger fix at lunchtime, or before 6 p.m. on Wednesday-Friday
So far, my reviews for AHT have been about much loved and lauded burger eateries in San Diego that have already attained local legend status. This time, I'm hoping to start a stampede to a hidden gem in Barrio Logan where the burgers are huge, the options for sides are plenty, and you can finish your meal with a perfect slice of carrot cake.
Blueprint Cafe is a lunch spot just southeast of downtown that has a limited everyday menu as well as an eclectic list of daily specials. There are two burgers on the menu: the #1, topped with avocado, bacon, chipotle sauce, vine tomato and cheddar; and the #2, with sautéed mushrooms, blue cheese and barbecue sauce. Burgers are made with a hefty half-pound of Meyer Ranch Angus beef. Sides include three variations on fries (sweet potato, shoestring and spicy potato wedges) plus slaw and mac and cheese.
I opted for a #1 burger with mac and cheese and an additional side of sweet potato fries (my weakness). As soon as I saw the towering steak burger emerge from the kitchen, I was glad I was dining with my husband, who has seen me mow down on some serious chow many times. This was a good thing because it's physically impossible to eat Blueprint Cafe's burger in anything resembling a ladylike fashion; it demands a take-charge attitude and quite a few napkins.
The patty was nicely cooked, just to the point that no pink remained in the center, and was juicy enough that it could stand alone, but also didn't interfere with the myriad flavors from the other ingredients. It was served on a toasted kaiser roll seasoned with salt and pepper. The bun did a valiant job of containing the massive amount of goodness within, without getting soggy or breaking under the pressure. Caramelized bacon and cheddar cheese were cut in thick slabs, which made the flavors stand out and gave many different textures to the burger.
The biggest surprise about the burger was the chipotle sauce. I was expecting an adobo-based glaze to contrast with the mashed avocado, but instead, it tasted more like In-N-Out sauce with subtle smoky notes. This made the burger less spicy than I was hoping for, but tasty nonetheless.
The burger's only downfall was the lettuce. Placing the patty on a nest of shredded iceberg definitely helped to give it some height, but gobs of lettuce fell out the back and the sides after each bite, taking bits of avocado along with it, which resulted in a strange impromptu side order of "burger salad".
The sides were superb. The mac and cheese was topped with a crunchy breadcrumb and asiago cheese blend and was deceptively light, which made it work surprisingly well as a side to a massive burger. The sweet potato fries were perfectly executed and served with a spicy-sweet dipping sauce whose potential ingredients confounded me and my dining companion. I detected citrus (possibly orange), while he said he tasted sesame oil and whole mustard seeds. All I can say for sure is that it doesn't have horseradish or wasabi in it (that's all I could wrangle out of the staff).
And though dessert isn't typically mentioned in AHT reviews, I have to make an exception for the slice of carrot cake I eagerly devoured, after an already formidable feast. Chef/owner Gayle Covner has been making this same cake for decades, and after she assured me that it doesn't have "bits of stuff" in it (like nuts, raisins, or pineapple), I had to sample a slice. The four-level cake was deliciously dense, perfectly spiced, and even though there was frosting throughout, it wasn't cloyingly sweet. Win!
In short: Come early, come hungry, and save room for cake.
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