Like I need more food right? Actually it is a sacrifice I am willing to make for you. Introducing the KTOM Burger World Tour 2012.
For the next few months, we will sample some of the finest Burger establishments here on the Central Coast, so you don’t have too. From gourmet, to fast food, we will give you the good, the bad and the ugly. If you want to recommend a place that we may have missed, contact our Burger Tour Manager here. firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
2149 Fremont Street - Monterey, CA
So often we treat food as an inconvenience. We eat when we can – usually on the run. Can you blame us? We all lead busy lives. However, when we get a chance to slow and truly enjoy our food, well, the FOODIE comes out in all of us. If that sounds like time well spent, you’re gonna love The
Our tour makes a stop where food is fun, playful and awesome tastes await. I have driven by the Monterey Cookhouse in Monterey many times but never had the opportunity to stop in. As we parked the wonderful scent of wood fired anything filled our nostrils and prompted smiles of anticipation. Do I now regret not stopping in earlier? Yeeeessss.
When we entered the Cookhouse, I spotted a Wood Fire Oven. This is good news. Even better – I spotted a wood fire grill. Oh yes, this is going to even better. The atmosphere is casual; the staff is friendly and are eager to give you a great dining experience.
We met briefly with the owner of the cook house, Linda Cantrell. Linda sets the tone of the Cookhouse with her fun, flirty and passion for authentic home made food is infectious.
Linda informs us that she believes in “Food integrity”. What does that mean? That means no additives, everything made from scratch (with the exception of the bread, pasta and fries). Linda also tells us that they use no condiments with their burgers. None. The Cookhouse doesn’t want to bury the quality and flavor under condiments. Case in point – the Cookhouse Burger comes fire grilled with Olive oil, salt and black pepper. Simple? Yes. Yummy. Oh yes.
After pursuing the vast menu (where comfort food is prevalent), we settled on a couple burgers. ‘The Beast’ and ‘The Cookhouse Burger’.
As our food was delivered, I could see we were in for a treat – when it takes a steak knife to hold your nearly 7-inch burger together, you know good times are on the way.
Our first was The Cook House’s ‘Beast Burger’ - a ½ lbs. of Angus beef surrounded by tender, tasty brisket, with Cheddar cheese on a sesame seed bun, braised in a coffee beer mop sauce. Again, no ketchup, no mustard – just naked, quality ingredients to tantalize your taste buds.
Upon first bite, I became aware of what that wood fire grill could do. The smoky flavor poured out of the Beast’s tender, juicy brisket. The combination of the Angus beef was a perfect blend of a carnivores delight. This Burger is not for the light eaters. This is a man’s burger – full of flavor. A multi-dimensional burger where allot of awesomeness is a going on.
Next was The Cookhouse Burger - ½ lbs. of Angus Beef a bun and not much else. Why? It doesn’t need anything else. If it all comes down to the beef, then this is the true test. This one comes open faced so you can create it as you wish. I wanted to try just the beef on this one. So I sliced into the patty for the true test of taste – I cut open the middle to see how far the smoke flavor would penetrate. We weren’t disappointed. The flavor goes all the way through the beef for deep, rich flavor.
Special mention to the Cookhouse Poppers. Bacon wrapped poppers with real Jalapeno peppers. If you have a sinus infection, one of these will clear it up, stat.
Also, the Double Chocolate Tort was a mousse delight. Highly recommended.
After sampling other parts of The Cookhouse menu, we learned what it means to “play with your food”. Now we get it – don’t take it seriously. But when it comes to flavor and taste – take it seriously. That would be the Monterey Cookhouse.
One of the things I love best about the burger tour, is we
get to discover new places here on the central coast. Our next stop is one I have been wondering about for awhile…
Grillin’ & Chillin’ off Highway 156 just west of Hollister
off Union Rd. I see it on a regular basis on my jaunts to Fresno with a bunch of cars in the parking lot – what’s going on in there?
The answer? Possibly the BEST collection of burgers on the Central coast. That’s what.
Once again, my burger partner in crime Marty joins me for
the tasting festivities.
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OK, let’s start here. What happens when you are passionate
about food, brews and pairings? Aside from a guaranteed great time, you get a stellar food experience. One where the pursuit of perfection rewards you with excellence.
Such is the case at Grillin’ & Chillin’. The owners love
food and decided to create a place that they always wanted, but no one was doing. So, they did it themselves. They wanted to create an atmosphere where Jimmy Buffet and Kid Rock would hang out. Mission accomplished.
So what happens when you fuse passion, excellence and the
pursuit of perfection combined with beer pairings? Wonderful things.
Beer pairings with food is still a new and growing art. It
take a good palate, good senses and a curious sense of adventure. At Grillin’ and Chillin’ they take pairings
to the next level.
Right now we are sitting next to the bar with over 30 brews
on tap. Ross, Grillin’& Chillin’s Brew Master is our guide for our pairings and he is on it.
If you are new to beer / burger pairings, this is the place
to start your adventure. Ross’s passion for the pairings provides the perfect setting for this growing art.
We started off with the Pastrami Burger. ½ lbs. of Top
Sirlion with generous portions of pastrami, fresh toppings wrapped around, a pretzel bun! Our first bite was burger ecstasy. The beef was juicy, the mustard had just the right spice. That pretzel bun is a first for us and should be a standard on most burgers! Dill pickles, onions and red ripe tomatoes rounded out this
masterpiece. This one is so full of flavor! Hands down, one of the best burgersm on our tour thus far – and that is saying allot!
Special mention to the ‘Drunk Burger’ – ½ lbs. of Top
Sirlion beef infused with seasonings, onions and a special Stout beer. Yes, beer in your burger. And it works. The meat in the Drunk Burger is where the
party is at! Amazing!
Perusing their diverse menu is an adventure in itself. They like to take chances at Grillin’ and Chillin’. As the kids say, “Yolo!” (You Only Live Once).
All burgers can be made into sliders. Just ask!
Special mention for the Tomahawk Rib Eye (bone in), with flavor
just oozing off the bone. Flavor, tenderness rank it up there with the Big steak houses around. Are you listening Mortons?
If you’re really into brews, try their Brewery Night on
Tuesdays. A great place to hang!
In all we were impressed with the passion of their craft. It
shows in the employees as the service is second to none.
So whether your on a bike run through Hollister, or taking the family on a drive, you HAVE TO STOP AND SEE WHAT THIS PLACE IS ALL ABOUT! Highly recommended!
You cannot go wrong with experience. That’s true with JJ’s
Burgers in San Juan Bautista. When you have been around for 50 years, you tend
to get things right. Once again, my friend and burger connoisseur Marty joins
me on this adventure – mostly for his onion rings expertise.
JJ’s is one of those “destination” burger joints, where
people from all over the central coast make a day and visit for a great burger experience.
The décor is a small town, home grown feel where pictures on
the wall tell the story of JJ’s. We arrived on one of those days where you
could eat indoors, or out. We choose indoors and looked over the diverse menu.
We saw something that caught our eye – a burger that was sweet & spicy. It
goes under the name ‘The El Jefe Burger’. Yep, that’ll do.
A side of Garlic Fries and Marty’s mandatory order of onion
rings will join us on the side.
It’s good to know that JJ’s serves up 100% Angus Beef from
Harris Ranch. Harris Ranch is all about flavor. As our order was delivered, I
noticed a collection of pictures of a bunch of guys with a “Burger hang over”
look on their faces. You know, where you have a great burger and eat way too
much? Apparently, these guys took the “JJ’s Burger Challenge” - NOT
faint at heart. A 4 patty Burger with 1/3 lbs of Angus beef, 4 buns, lettuce tomato, grilled onions, cheese,
a heaping order of fries, and a thick rich milkshake. The challenge? Eat it all in 20
minutes or under – it’s free.
We considered it for another visit. Our minds were on the El
Jefe Burger. This one is spicy – Jack
cheese, Jalapeno’s, Peppers, grilled onions, avocado, bacon and pineapple? Yes.
Pineapple. Spicy and sweet? Sweet!
All senses were firing as the scent of peppers were evident
as we bit into the El Jefe. Our first reaction was it had a “good fire” in it.
The collection of spices were working, but the surprise was the pineapple. Great
combo here. Delicious and full of flavor. This one is going in the Burger
rotation, right now. We love spicy and this one brings the heat. How hot? Let’s
just say if you have a sinus infection, this will clear it up - right now. Messy?
You bet! Any burger that is this messy gets extra points with us.
The Garlic fries were true garlic fries and not sprinkled
with a little garlic. Nope, JJ’s garlic fries had flavor INSIDE the fries. More
bonus points for JJ’s. Marty gave JJ’s onion rings a 9 on scale from 1-10. His
review on them? “Crunchy, but soft and juicy on the inside. Kind of like a New York steak.”
I have no idea what that means. You’ll have to forgive Marty – he’s from
We also tried the Dino Burger and The JJ Burger. Both were good
for safer fare.
So, if you’re up for a something spicy and sweet, love great
garlic fries and are down for a visit to a Hamlet, JJ’s Burgers in San Juan
Bautista is worth the visit.
Carmel. You hear the name and you think quaint, quiet, high end shops and well, that Eastwood
guy. Bet you don’t think of, hamburgers, do you? Can I help change that?
Nestled on the corner of 7th and Mission in is Carmel’s first and ONLY, gourmet burger establishment, 400 Degrees. This casual yet modern newbie is managed by the same
folks who brought you one of the finest restaurants on the central coast, Luca’s.
I loved the atmosphere as when we entered. TV screens on multiple walls are great eye candy and the décor is classy, casual and hip at the same
time. We stepped up to order at the Burger counter where the service was warm and very friendly. The menu is simple
and uncluttered. We ordered The Jack, Kobe and their namesake, The 400 Degree Burger. The chef and staff at 400 Degrees are
pedigreed from Luca’s in Carmel, so I was really looking forward to our meal.
400 Degrees is a great name. In this case, the locally owned and operated store get’s its name from a special one-of-a-kind grill that
operates at 400 degrees. This grilling element is critical for optimum flavor and texture. No
one else has this grill, it is an exclusive to 400 Degrees. Great, now my mouth is really watering.
As we approached out table, we noticed something else that was unique to 400 Degrees - a tablet
This 7 inch interactive, versatile marvel that allows you to do many things. You can order from the tablet, and your food magically appears.
You can also alter you order, in case you change your mind.
You can also play games on that magic box. Games for kids, couples and if you’re flying solo, games just for you. And when you’re done,
you slide you credit card on the tablet and you are good to go. No one else is using this on the central coast – it is an exclusive to 400 Degrees and it is very cool.
After updating my status on the tablet, our food arrives, with a pleasant surprise – SMOKEY Thousand Island dipping sauce for the fries.
OK, now I am drooling.
The Jack Burger is juicy grass fed beef with Ortega Chiles, pickled onions and jack cheese. The buns are excellent with a sheen that says, “Oh
yeah, I taste good.”
Our first bite was phenomenal. The Jack just pops. If you love a great southwest flavor, this is the burger for you. The chilies really bring
out the flavor of the beef. Excellent.
My friend Marty, who along with me is a Burger Connoisseur. It takes allot to impress him. He was not disappointed. I can tell by the burger
juice on his face.
We sampled the 400 Degrees signature burger – The 400 Degree Burger. Adorned with Sweet Onions, and sauces make this one a burger to reckoned
with. Marty loves onions. He eats them raw like an apple. So his opinion is critical on the 400 Degrees Onion rings. When I asked how they were,
well, honestly, I couldn’t tell you what he said as his mouth was full, but the onion ecstasy on his face said it all.
Kudos on the Garlic fries as well. Also, thumbs up on the House wine on tap. The reds are great with the Jack Burger.
So, now when you are in Carmel, you have a choice of a gourmet burger in a classy, relaxed atmosphere where it won’t break the bank.
If you miss this, you’re missing out.
Address: Corner of Mission of Seventh Street
City: Carmel by the sea
FEATURED BURGER: The Jack, 400 Degree Burger, Kobe Beef Burger.
You. You’re not faint of heart. You like a little adventure
now and then. May introduce you to, the Mucky Duck’s ‘Wharf Burger’.
Those of you who know me, know I loathe fish. Never liked it and haven’t found a taste for it
yet. So when I found out the Mucky Duck
wanted to feature their Wharf Burger – honestly, I freaked out a little bit.
Although I am familiar with the Duck, as I have thrown a
number back with some of our artists that have come through over the years,
this fish thing was getting to me.
Under new customer service focused management, The Mucky
Duck’s 23 year heritage is once again on the forefront for those looking for a
great hang and adventurous brews. With emerging names like Undertaker Ale and Reaper
Weed Ale, it leaves most of the corporate beers in the shadows and “danger” in the forefront. It behooves
one to belly up and say, “Give me a
Right, even as I write this, I am looking for a distraction
from my destiny with today’s fish meal. Ugh.
Now I am psyching myself up for my lunch meal. “Suck it up Jim;
you are here to showcase some of the finest burgers on the central coast. Focus
on the beef. Focus on the beef.”
Our order is taken. I actually uttered, “A Wharf Burger
please. And a Fat Tire.” I am going to need a couple of these me thinks.
I am pleased to know that all Burgers at the Duck areGRASS
And it is delightful. The difference? Most beef is corn fed. Grass fed beef’s
texture is extremely consistent, easy to eat, easy to digest and superior in
flavor. The Wharf Burger features ½ lbs patty, with Fried Monterey Bay Calamari
(yeah, that thing that swam in the
ocean), Pepper Jack Cheese and the Duck’s own Chipotle Aioli sauce. Sides
include steak or curly fries, the healthier
sweet potato fries, salad for hot days - soup for the cold days.
I saw my plate across the restaurant. There it is. My fish date. As it arrived we were
served by Mama Duck - a fixture for at the Duck for well over a decade. She is
sweet and informative. Jorge is the chef at the Duck and oversees the diverse
menu. I am doing it again – I am stalling…
…I thanked Mama Duck and then looked over my Burger. OK,
YOLO (You Only Live Once), here we go…
…first taste… …hey… …this is… … pretty good… …wow…
This has got to be the most unique burger I have ever
tasted! It is bursting with flavor! The grass fed beef and calamari are a
perfect combination! First you taste the beef, then a very nice finish with the
calamari. It’s like two treats in one! The Ducks Chipotle aioli sauce is
fantastic and rounds out each bite. Jorge, you are the man!!
The menu is diverse with a couple of highlights – if you
love lamb – try the Lamb Burger. Half Lamb, half beef. Or the Merchant of
Venice if you’re a big eater – 1/2 lbs of Angus, ½ lbs. of corned beef,
sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Thousand Island dressing.
Wanna be cool and order off the menu? Ask for ‘The Frogman’ (named after the elite Navy
SEALS). Guacamole and other secret ingredients (much like the SEALS).
I told ya, The Duck is all about adventure.
The Mucky Duck LOVES the military folks. Every Monday is Military Monday. Happy Hour
The Duck is perfect for lunch. You can get in and out within
30 or less. Full menu and some of the best customer service around.
Now I am still NOT a fish fan, but that Wharf burger would
be the exception to the rule…
Address: 444 Alvarado Street
When it comes to Pubs, I got game. I mean, I dined in the
OLDEST Pub in the U.K. (it’s in York, built in the 1600’s). So when we
approached the Britannia Arms on Alvarado St. in Monterey , I was looking
forward to seeing what The Brit would bring. I have walked by The Britannia
Arms many times, I was looking forward to seeing that they had to offer.
I Love the British Culture. The comedy, their TV (Love ‘Top
Gear’ on BBC), Movies and loved the time I spent in London. It’s one of my
favorite places in the world. One thing
the Brits are not known for is great tasting food. Mmm, this one was going to interesting.
We met the owner Paul (who is from the UK, authentic accent
and all) and I was instantly connected to the UK again. We started talking about
Football (we call it Soccer in the U.S. WARNING, DON’T WEAR A MANCHESTER UNITED
JERSEY WHILE @ The Britannia Arms, YOU MAY WALK OUT WITH A LIMP!), familiar
places and great conversation.
The décor is spot on – The Britannia Arms feels like a trip
back in time, with the exception of the flatscreens all over the wall to show
the Football Games (both American and British) and the large screen used for
events and Karaoke on select nights.
My conversation turned to food with Paul. I was a little
nervous about trying a “British Burger”, since British food has a reputation
for being , well, bland. Paul laughed and told me “Not to worry mate. We got
Paul then insisted
that we have a Lager to go along with the Burger. At the Brit, they are big on
Beer / Burger pairings. They got it down. Right. “A Stella Artois will do you
fine then” as Paul orders the drinks. Beer pairings for Burgers? Yes, they take
it seriously here at the Britannia Arms. Things
were looking up.
It was then, not one, but THREE Brit Burgers appeared. All with
a ½ Pound of CHARBROILED grilled corn-fed beef. We were then informed that you
build it how you want it – no matter how you like it, they will make. The three
versions included, the Southwest, Mushroom / Guacamole and The Bacon Cheese
As you may know, Charbroiling brings out the flavor in a
unique way. Yes I said it, Charbroiling at a British Pub? You bet.
I choose to save the Guacamole for last, since I am not a
big fan of the Guac. So I dove into the Bacon Cheese Burger adorned with Red
tomatoes and green crisp lettuce. All my “bland British food fears” were set
aside as I relished the Charbroiled taste of this half pound delight. All the
flavor is there, that wasn’t when I visited the UK. I didn’t even notice I didn’t
place any condiments on it. The Brit Burger didn’t need it and probably would
have been insulted if I did.
Next was the Southwest, tasty as the first, with a hint of
American Southwest flavor. The Guacamole Burger was sitting in the “que” (that
means waiting next in line in the UK) for it’s turn. I told Paul that I am not
a fan of guacamole. He stated confidently in his thick accent with a laugh, “You
might be after this.”
I am not one to be told, so I was further in my resolve to continue
to my non-love affair with the Guacamole Burger. Just never have been a fan. So
came the time. The Guacamole Burger waited with its mushrooms nesting in the
guacamole sauce. Well, it’s now or never. I grabbed it and took what could have
been a fatal bite (I mean here I am,
cheering on Manchester United to a Chelsea Fan, about to eat his food - what am
I, nuts?) As I took it in, I waited for that Guac bitter, “veggie” type
taste. To my surprise, THAT never happened. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised
by the “Bite” the guac had. It was a
great combination of full flavor with a pepper tinge to it. “What you think
mate?” Paul asked. “A bit of a bit to it?”
I was fully surprised. I ACTUALLY LIKE A GUACAMOLE BURGER!
It was spectacular! Paul then let me in on the secret – “a bit of pepper in the
guacamole”. I never tought I would say this about a Guac Burger, but here we go
- this one is highly recommended.
With our meal about done, I asked Paul the question on your
behalf – “If I were in a hurry for lunch, how soon could I get in and back to
work?” He stated confidently “A Half hour – easy.” Nice. Great food, great
atmosphere, great conversation and a great 30 minute escape from work? I will
And, all this week, the Britannia Arms being a true British
Pub, are showing the UEFA 2012 Championship Games ALL THIS Week.
If you are in Monterey, and looking for something different
and you may even be in a hurry, you have to check out the Britannia Arms. Just
don’t wear your Manchester Jersey…
The Brit Mushroom Guacamole Burger!