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January, 2012, Page 120
Photos by Madison Kirkman
The Valley is in the midst of a burger boom, grilling the gamut from fast-food favorites to haute hamburgers.
But who’s busting out the best? We graded nine of the city’s favorite meat retreats – rating everything from beef to bun and sides to service – to discover the winner.
Decked in a striking palette of royal blue and black, with dramatic wrought-iron design flourishes and a picture-window-framed desert view, the Scottsdale location of this local mini-chain is one cool burger joint.
Blu has a handful of signature burgers as well as a Build Your Own Burger, and I did just that, choosing the Black Angus beef burger ($11) on a white bun with American cheese. From the toppings section (up to five), I went for lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle. (Specialty toppings such as bacon, sautéed mushrooms and the like are $1 extra.) There is also a choice of up to five condiments. Mustard is my burger go-to, but I also asked for chipotle mayo.
The friendly, efficient server offered her advice on sides, and the burger was promptly brought to the table. The eye-appealing, glossy-domed bun (courtesy of Breadcrafters) had just the right heft and full yeasty flavor, and cradled a cheese-draped patty that was rather finely ground and well-compacted, but nevertheless juicy and robustly beefy. All the toppings were top-notch, and the whole thing came together to make an ultra-satisfying burger.
The freezer case of gelato on the way out is a crafty bit of marketing. Even those lacking a sweet tooth might surrender to temptation and exit with a blood-orange gelato cone.
: Our server suggested sweet potato fries. They’re dry, small and nothing special, but that chipotle mayo made a powerful spicy, smoky statement. It’s the best I’ve tasted anywhere.
: Three Valley locations,
Talk about location, location – situated directly across the street from ASU, this modest establishment must be a gold mine. Originally a hot dog stand, then briefly a Chinese restaurant, The Chuckbox has been feeding students, professors and burger-loving citizens for forty years.
To say it’s nothing fancy would be an overstatement. The shack-like structure shows plenty of wear, but the place is immaculately clean, with a beautifully groomed condiment bar, and good-humored employees who get the job done with near-magical efficiency. The menu is admirably tight (burgers, hot dogs and a few chicken options), and “The Big One” is the way to go ($4.29, cash only). After you choose your bun and cheese, the patty’s slapped on the grill and ready to eat minutes later.
I dismantled my burger to add crisp lettuce, ripe tomatoes and onions, which are chunked instead of sliced in rings. The 1/3-pound patty barely fits the big, puffy, Aunt Hattie’s brand bun. I requested medium rare beef, and considering the large circumference and resulting thinness of the patty, it came very close. Infused with the distinct taste of char-grilling, it achieves the burger ideal: extremely juicy meat, the perfect mesh of toppings, and softly draping cheese. Factoring in the odd bit of gristle, this was the best example of burger-bang-for-your-buck.
: The zucchini/mushroom combo was pretty good, fried in clean oil to the perfect level of crispness outside and softness within, and goes well with the ranch dip from the condiment bar.
: 202 E. University Dr., Tempe, 480-968-4712,
Few fans would argue that Delux is the Valley’s gold standard for burgers. The slim space is always packed and noisy, but no matter how busy, the service is attentive and refreshingly non-attitudinal. Next door, its takeaway wing, D2Go, tends to those emergency burger breaks.
The meticulously prepared Classic Standard ($9.90) is everything a burger should be. The bun – made for Delux by MJ Bread – has a high, glossy dome, and is firm yet pliable, with a rich, bready flavor that bravely stands up to the beef. The 10-ounce Niman Ranch patty is done exactly to order (medium-rare is suggested) and draped with cheese. This is top-quality meat, medium grind and juicy, with nary a nibble of gristle. It possesses that elusive umami quality, mouth-filling and satisfying, that reminds us why we are carnivores. And proportions are perfect: just the right amount of shredded lettuce, ripe sliced tomatoes and red onion, with crisp pickle rounds neatly arranged on the side.
There’s even a colorful mini fruit salad on the plate, which might serve as dessert for some, though others will save room for a fresh-baked cookie or red velvet tower.
: Delux’s fries are every bit as good as the burger – slim, crispy, spangled with salt and natural-tasting. Order them mixed with sweet potato fries for an intriguing flavor contrast, and dunk them in the tangy chipotle aioli dip, which makes a zingy burger-topper as well.
: 3146 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 602-522-2288,
: A +
A trip to Greasewood evokes nostalgia for days gone by, when a meandering drive through pristine desert culminated with a burger and beer. Now, for the most part, high-end housing and sleek commercial buildings have supplanted the javelinas and roadrunners. But Greasewood still looks the same.
Once a stagecoach stop en route from Fort McDowell to Phoenix, Greasewood reeks of, um, authenticity. The ramshackle bunkhouse that houses the bar and kitchen is tattooed with graffiti and seemingly held together only by the staples anchoring thousands of dollar bills and business cards to the walls and ceiling. Seating is outdoors, in a picnic table area strewn with rusty farm equipment.
We bellied up to the “order” window and asked for the half-pound cheeseburger ($7.75) done medium rare. The patty and two halves of the bun were haphazardly assembled and askew, sitting atop a bed of sogging ruffled potato chips. The cheese was vulcanized to the decidedly well-done patty, which was not only dry and gristly but had that metallic taste that comes from being refrigerated too long. Holsum Bakery supplies the soft, spongy onion bun. So much for misty, watercolor memories.
: The cook informed us that everybody adores the chili. Everybody, presumably, who likes Midwestern-style – mild as milk, thick with canned tomatoes and kidney beans, utilizing burger grind meat and topped with cheese and chopped onion. Not me.
: 27375 N. Alma School Pkwy., Scottsdale, 480-585-9430,
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