Saturday, March 1, 2008
There Will Be Bloody Burgers
I was happily redeemed from my bad burger experience in LA (twice in a row -- Lucky Devils and the Stand, but that's another post) thanks to a long-awaited trip to delux in Phoenix during a recent visit.
I had read much about this place on message boards and admit was a bit worried it may end up being more of a 25 degrees-kind of place with a scene and buzz but disappointing food. So it was with some trepidation that I walked into the ultra-chic delux, complete with communal counter-top-style table in the middle with cozy tables lining each side of the smallish place.
As soon as I bit into my perfectly-cooked medium rare standard classic burger with the works, I was sold. It helps that the place uses both stickers (rare, medium rare, medium, etc) and wooden sticks to keep track of desired level of doneness, which I consider the second most important thing about a burger after the actual meat quality (bun is third in my book). The menu boasts that the meat is "freshly ground, all natural, grain-fed, certified premium beef" that is an exclusive blend from Harris Ranch." And it shows. The meat had enough fat (or "marble" depending on who you ask) for it to be juicy and the meat tasted fresh.
The works included a choice of american, cheddar or jack cheese (I chose american), shredded iceberg lettuce (I would have preferred arugula), beefsteak tomatoes, red onions and pickles. It was a winning combination. The bun that brings it all together was toasted just right with the right level of denseness. Because the meat was cooked medium rare, the lower bun did soak up the juices a bit but not too much.
I took a bite out of the delux burger that comes with a blue cheese and gruyere cheese blend, caramelized onion and bacon mixture, arugula on a bread it called "demi-baguette." I didn't really consider it a baguette and it was far too dense to complement the meat. I'm also not a big fan of blue cheese on my burger a la My Father's Office in Santa Monica (another hyped burger joint that doesn't measure up).
I also liked delux because it offers sweet potato fries, which I venture to say I like more than french fries. Curiously, few burger places offer this delectable accompaniment to a dripping burger. The best sweet potato fries I've had so far are at Mr. Bartley's in Cambridge. (sidenote: I think it renamed my favorite "Tiger Woods" burger THE TEDY BRUSCHI -- a football player -- and added some pretty offensive names to the menu.) But I digress. Unlike at Bartley's, it's a shame one has to order fries separately in fancy burger joints.
However, I liked that delux has only two burger options, just like my favorite burger place in LA -- Houston's. My all-time favorite burger is the $16 California burger (right, with arugula and avocado, with bbq sauce on the side) at Houston's (the one in Santa Monica seems to be consistently better than the one in Century City mall or Pasadena). The burger at delux was very sumptuous and I liked the $9 price tag, but for the whole package, Houston's still reigns for me despite the sweet potato fries disadvantage.
Even though I'm not a beer aficionado by any stretch, the final clincher for me was the extensive beer selection at delux. It serves local microbrews and a wide array of international ones. I tried the $8 sampler with three 5oz glasses of beers either chosen by delux or you. I chose a local Hefeweizen (wheat beer) called Papago Orange Blossom, which was so light and citrusy that it hardly tasted like beer; a Belgian beer called Hoeguarden that I also liked because it was airy and had hints of citrus; and finally a rich dark stout from England called Young's Double Chocolate Stout that was so incredibly decadent it could have almost passed for dessert. This lovely stout was smooth, creamy and really the closest thing to "dessert beer" I've ever had. The foam on top looked and tasted like milk froth in a tiny expresso cup and I relished every sip. Plus, all three glasses came in a cute little labeled container to make sure you kept track of which is which.
Takeout is available, it opens till 2 a.m. and there's a decent gelato place in the same mall. What's not to like? Warning: the evening scene may be different from lunch, but I would recommend this place nevertheless.
3146 East Camelback Road (Biltmore Plaza)
Phoenix, AZ 85016