The British Invasion, Part 1: London Grill Calling

Burger Breakdown

London Grill - Map It!
Take your pick of two: American cheese, cheddar, provolone, boursin, brie, blue cheese, Swiss cheese, sour cream, roasted peppers, bacon, caramelized onion, lettuce and tomato, raw onion, avocado, or caviar. Pithy condescension is free of charge.
Fries are included with the meal, as is guilt for over 800 years of Irish slavery and abuse, you bastard.

The last time I ate at London Grill, I threw up.

Two years ago, in the middle of brunch, I rushed to the bathroom to throw up. Suddenly realizing I was done eating, I walked home, stopping to throw up along the way. Once I made it back safe, I decided to have a nice vomit, followed by a nap, which was interrupted when I had to blow chunks. (This expulsion was itself interrupted by a separate spate of vomiting, a regurgitorial aside if you will.) After some nice puking, I decided the best way to end the day would be with a little spew nightcap. Across the pond, this experience is known as "English breakfast."

Naturally, I was excited to go back and check out their burger.

On this trip, the first problem we encountered was with the burger listed on the menu: it didn't exist. We've encountered this before, and being pros, knew that the only way to deal with this calamity was to drink beer. In this we were fortunate, finding some choice Young's Double Chocolate Stout on tap. Unfortunately, the second problem we ran into was that they do indeed serve a burger, meaning I had to eat there after all.

The Burger: The London Burger is a solid hunk of beef that comes with any two of the following toppings: American cheese, cheddar, provolone, boursin, brie, blue cheese, Swiss cheese, sour cream, roasted peppers, bacon, caramelized onion, lettuce and tomato, raw onion, avocado, or caviar. It also comes on an English muffin. Those British are just so gosh darn clever.

London Burger at London Grill

Kyle: Several of my friends speak highly of London Grill, and speak highly of the London Burger. Prior to my bout of explosive gastronomy I also thought highly of the bar, so despite my apprehension I was curious and wanted to do this meal right. Because the bar places such emphasis on the London gimmick, I wanted to make my burger as English as possible. The most British thing I could think of was stealing from other countries, so I selected bacon and Swiss.

How did it compare to my expectations? My burger: burnt. English muffin: burnt. Bacon: burnt. French fries: burnt and soggy at the same time. Swiss cheese: bland. Beer: warm. So it was an accurate representation of British cuisine.

It's not all that bad. The beef had a great taste, or would have if it hadn't been overcooked. Similarly, the bacon had promise and the English muffin was a novel idea, and both could have gone over well if they hadn't had their most interesting characteristics bombed out worse than 1940s' London. The fries (which, in a shocking display of good taste, weren't called "chips" or "crisps") were cut thickly, not unlike their UK cousins, but lacking in flavor and season. Everything about the meal was perfectly mediocre, not unlike our UK cousins, but lacking in flavour and Anglo-French word terminations. It's not all that bad, but it's not all that good, either.

Maybe it was an off-night: it happens to every restaurant, and I'll give them the benefit of the doubt in this situation. It's unlikely a chef would consistently torch each component of a meal on a normal evening. I'll consider going back to jolly old London Grill, and may even try the burger again, because if nothing else, England is known for good taste. Rating: 5/10.

London Burger at London Grill

Laurence: FACT: When Benjamin Franklin walked into the London Grill more than 200 years ago he punched the proprietor in the face, hardcore, simply for naming a pub after our enemies in the city that patented freedom. Franklin later established the precedent of bringing suit against other places for intellectual property infringement. The Civil War was actually over this same parent dispute: the South wanted independence and that is against the law according the Constitution. Anyway, so Ben socked this guy, breaking his nose, and proclaimed that the English have no right to try to build a burger because our nation was founded on it. The owner of London quietly took the food off of the menu for more than 100 years, until he was sure Ben wouldn't be coming around anymore, and even then only kept it on the bar menu so that people just walking by would never know. Furthermore, if you're seated outside you have to ask for it with a secret handshake (hold you hand the way you would if there were a burger in it, put it two inches away from your waiter's face and scream, "I want to eat a hamburger sandwich").

During that burgerless century, the owners of London Grill were trying to make a British-style burger. Sadly the only thing they could think to do to it was to put it on an English muffin instead of a normal bun. This doesn't work out as poorly as you think it would. The bread is light but contains many pockets that help contain the messiness of the meal. Even so, it's still a regular English muffin and likely you've eaten it for breakfast a few times as there is only one recipe.

London's patty is good. Mine wasn't cooked perfectly but it was close. It had a nice char on the outside and still a bit of pink on the inside. The meat was good, but it wasn't superb; it wasn't the richest, fattest or leanest. At least it did appear to be hand-sculpted, which as far as I'm concerned is a minimum bar for entry to receive passing marks.

The aspect of the burger I was most fond of was the choose-your-own-adventure menu. The burger comes with two topping choices from a list of about 10 standards such as cheese, bacon, onion, etc. I went for onions and bacon, because that's the path to a flavor powerhouse, rather turning to page 73 for the boring ending. The onions were soft and rich and the bacon was savory and lean. Sadly, at London Grill it would seem any adventure leads to the boring ending, because even with all the assistance I felt that the meal lacked substantial flavor. It should never be the case that the bun is the most memorable part of a burger. It may be a side effect of eating too many burgers, but I always hope for a magnificent burst of flavor and I was let down, especially after deliberating on flavor for a full round of drinks.

Though I like London Grill, I wasn't crazy about the burger. It's a fine meal, perfectly sating and, for the novices out these, it's probably ranked top notch. However, I can't help but conclude that if you're in the neighborhood and needing a burger you should walk the extra block and go to Rembrandt's, where at least you'd be safe from the wrath of Franklin. The night we were there he threw a lady down the stairs. True story. Rating 6/10.


You know all those cliché jokes about British food? Yeah.

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