It’s highly unusual for this blog to receive attention from a celebrated national figure when we can barely get family members to read it. But it happened recently when the following missive arrived in our mailbox from Mr. Ronald McDonald. With tongue firmly wedged in one cheek and a hamburger in the other, here’s what he had to say:
I am outraged. Your approach to the hamburger reviews on Amelia Island is not only unAmerican but your methods verge on a vicious and disgraceful form of public humiliation.
You had me fooled; I never took you for an unpatriotic, bullying sort of guy. But you’ve cooked up a giant McShameburger this time my friend.
Let me start by weighing in on your obvious discriminatory tactics. Labeling the two-man burger judging team as “Fat Men From Space” is a disgusting body-shaming insult. You have no understanding of the pain and suffering this type of public abuse can inflict on weight-challenged folks. How can you expect these two portly gents to discharge their heavy responsibilities with the weighty burden of the community’s disdain created by your ham-handed approach? You deserve a fat lip for this morbidly obese slur.
In addition to your hefty disregard for weight-challenged folks the myopic un-American direction of your burger ratings is equally contemptible.
Where is there a single mention of that greatest American hamburger icon of all time — McDonald’s? You also say that “price matters.” Do you know that as I write this McDonald’s is offering two Signature Crafted hamburgers for the price of one? You know why you don’t know any of this? It’s because you don’t have the MCD’s app. Who are you to direct hamburger critiques?
While I do appreciate your efforts to generate community awareness of the hamburger arts locally, it should not be so shallow as to be all about taste. You and your blog are better than that.
So, let me set you straight.
I think the Fat Men From Space’s efforts should be more about the “hamburger experience.” That’s where the Americana issue comes into play. One in eight Americans will work at one time or another at a McDonald’s. Almost all the store managers are promoted from those ranks and many of the franchise owners are former “Do you want fries with that?” guys and gals. It’s the country’s 6th largest private employer. Did I mention its stock is up 27% year to date (MCD: NYSE) and has paid an increasing dividend for 41 years? Now that’s a truly appetizing American experience! Or it is for me anyway. Every time I look at my MCD-weighted stock portfolio my mouth waters.
You think you are so smart about hamburgers? How could you ignore McDonald’s when it sells 75 hamburgers per second to 68 million people worldwide and has its own Hamburger University which has graduated 80,000 with bachelor’s degrees in hamburgerology. You think the guys at the Putt Putt or T Rays have degrees in hamburgerology? No, they do not.
McDonald’s even has family friendly statues of me located at many of its franchises. Or at least the last time I checked they did. But in this current statue-bashing political climate, who knows if they still stand even though I’m pretty nonpartisan when it come to issues other than burgers and fries.
So stop being so McBigoted Dave and change your un-American and shameful approach to the search for Amelia Island’s best burger. It’s hard to swallow and you’ll get no fries with that attitude.
While I digest and totally disregard Mr. McDonalds weighty words, following are the first five hamburger reviews submitted by the Fat Men From Space duo. Agree? Disagree? Let us know. There are lots more coming before the Fat Men determine the island’s top five.
Beach Diner: This Fat Man kicked off the renewed search for Amelia Island’s best burger, at Beach Diner, the corner of South 8th Street and Sadler. The Classic Beach Burger, priced at $9.49, is served with the standard accompaniments (cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions and dill pickle slices) and includes your choice of French fries, fresh fruit or potato salad. The burger is a seven ounce patty that appears to be hand-formed and cooked to order. It is served on a toasted brioche bun (a bit more on that in a moment). My burger arrived competently cooked to a perfect medium. The searing indicated that it was prepared on a flat-top grill, the preferred method for producing maximum Maillard reaction (delicious browning). The lettuce was a tad wilted, as if it had spent a little too much time under the heat lamp. So I jettisoned that. The burger was juicy and tasty and I would order it again. That said, I’m not sure the brioche bun is the perfect delivery system. It does stand up nicely to the juiciness of the burger. But it seemed a tad firm. A softer bun might be a better call (like a potato roll). I realize this is getting nit-picky, but I am a Fat Man From Space and have the right to pick nits. In the end, the Beach Diner’s Classic Beach Burger is a worthy option for those seeking a quality burger at a reasonable price on the Island. Is it the best burger? We shall see, earthlings. We shall see.
The Sandbar and Kitchen: While space may be the final frontier, even us fat guys know the beach is where it’s at. Throw in a cheeseburger, well, reason enough to make the ole’ light year leap. Found myself recently at the newest island eatery, The Sandbar and Kitchen, located at Main Beach. For a few decades, the joint was known as Sandy Bottoms (Who thought THAT would be a great name for a place to EAT?!) Butt, I digress.
Cheeseburgers are the name of my game and I was pleasantly surprised when the burger slid into place onto the bar with my favorite culinary rainbow on display- blue bar, green pickle, red tomato, purple onion (Just barely enough to be included in this metaphor) orange cheese and yellow fries. Get the idea that space is monochromatic? Well, it is. Somebody even saw fit to toss on a ribbon of bacon. Whaaat?
I’ve traveled too far to fib, folks, it was a damn good burger. Combine it with the salty sea breeze pouring into the building and the view of the intrepid beachgoers through the big new windows, and it added up to a very pleasant meal. But, here’s a few additional thoughts.
Does a great view of the Atlantic ocean and a few semi-clad beach bodies worth an extra 4-5 bucks? I’ll let you decide. My burger was $12.50 and it came with some fries. Want sweet potato fries or some other side instead of your basic Idaho sticks? Be prepared to shill out a few more bucks. Toss back a few drinks and your average Fat Man will spend $30 plus a tip. Boy, that ocean sure is pretty….
Doo Wop Diner: Themed restaurants. Clearly an idea whose time has come and gone – but hasn’t quite managed to STAY gone. In preparation for the eclipsical solar circus, this Fat Man From Space found himself at the 1120 South 14th Street Doo Wop Diner after a long trip and a short re-entry. I was in need of comfort food, a cheese burger would do nicely. What I got was a trip back in time, a weak nod to the future, and a burger drier than a Dwight Eisenhower speech to the United Nations.
If you’re going to try to emulate the 1950s, you need to have a carefree, “Hey we won WWII” vibe. The mood needs to be breezy and light. What the Doo Wop staff has is a sadly desperate “We might just loose the Cold War” vibe, due in part to their iPads they use to take the orders. I watched Happy Days like a house-bound crack head, and I’m pretty sure Ritchie Cunningham and the gang at Arnolds didn’t have iPads. Those things really slowed the waitresses down.
But let’s talk cheeseburgers for a moment. A flat top is a great way to cook a burger. No drips, no fiery flare-ups, just good, greasy beef. A little crusty on the outside is good, but a few moments too long and you wind up with something that looks and tastes like a feral cat on Bikini atoll after an atomic test blast. Ka-Boom! At $10.49 the Bopper Burger also gave my wallet a case of radiation sickness. Nearly $15.00 with a tip, my lunch wasn’t a trip back to the fun, frolicking 1950’s. It was more like a return to the dark days where you dove under your school desk and prayed the intense flash to follow didn’t burn too long or too hot, like the cheeseburgers at the Doo Wop Diner. Try this place for breakfast instead, as it’s always good.
The Picnic Basket: Ever since I was just a little skinny fat man, I’ve loved the cooking show, Barefoot Contessa. Truth be told, it’s more about its star, Ina Garten. Larger than most, warm, soft, she’s like the towels at a spa…and, man, she can COOK! She’s always planning some extravagant, yet simple, meal including the best of EVERYTHING, which she lovingly shops for at all the fancy shops in small, toney, beachside communities. Well, it’s just a matter of time until I run into her at The Picnic Basket at 501 Centre St.
While I have been to a number of the wine tastings they hold from time to time, the star of the show is the food, more specifically the $8.95 “Classic Burger” (It comes with cheddar cheese, relax!) but that’s just the beginning. While it may only be a 6 oz. burger it has a TON of taste! It also comes on a fresh Brioche bun. While I don’t know what that is, exactly, I can tell you it makes a cheeseburger taste like a good hug from Ina Garten would feel.
Cool, crispy Romaine lettuce, a thin, ripe slice of tomato, and a smear of mayo so perfect and creamy that it defies description. Like the lovely Ms. Garten herself, this burger is worth crossing huge distances of outer space to experience for yourself. (see what I did there?). While you’re at The Picnic Basket, be sure to load up on cheeses you can’t pronounce, from farms you’ll never visit. Grab a bottle or 12 of wine (They have BOTH colors!) and do the Fatman a favor….don’t buy up ALL the goose liver Pate’- I’m using it for Ina bait.
Tasty’s Fresh Burgers & Fries: Located at the corner of Centre and 8th Tasty’s is a family-owned eatery that opened in late 2011 and has attracted a loyal following on the island and off (they recently opened a second location in Yulee). It offers a variety of burgers, hot dogs and hand-spun shakes with a freshness angle, utilizing a proprietary blend of fresh, never frozen Angus beef and hand-cut fries.
This Fat Man opted for the quarter pound cheeseburger priced at a modest $5, that’s served with crisp iceberg lettuce, a slice of tomato, pickles, onions and “Tasty sauce” (a house condiment consisting primarily of ketchup and mayo, in my estimation). Fries are an extra two bucks. I splurged on the $3.50 Crabby Tots – a large portion of perfectly crispy tater tots dusted in Old Bay and served with tartar sauce. Plenty for two people. Delicious. Anyway, the burgers at Tasty’s are smashed on a flattop grill, producing a thin, well crusted patty – a technique very similar to that of Steak n’ Shake. The menu states that they cook the burgers to “medium-ish” unless otherwise requested. Served on a wonderfully soft potato roll, the result is, indeed — tasty. The lettuce and tomato seemed fresh while the pickle slices were slightly thick and crisp. However, I don’t think you could characterize my burger as anything other than well done. But all-in-all, the burger is a solid offering for its price-point.
A few drawbacks. At risk of sounding like a glutton, the quarter pound burger seemed a little on the small side. I could easily have eaten two. They do offer a half pound double cheeseburger for $7. That might be the better option. I am, after all, a FAT man from space.
Parking on property is also quite limited, and it can be challenging getting a car in and out of their lot. It’s probably best to park nearby and walk. Also, it seemed to take quite a while for my food to arrive. Upon closer inspection, nowhere do they purport to be fast food so relax. Finally, Tasty’s is very family friendly. So there are lots of kids running around the place. But don’t let that deter you. Patrons can medicate themselves with a nice selection of cold beer.
Editor’s Note: There will be more Fat Men hamburger reviews as we move along. If readers have area joints with burgers that you think should be looked at and commented on or if you disagree with these let us know. By the way the “they-all-taste-alike” chains of McDonald’s, Burger King, Krystal, etc. didn’t make the cut to be reviewed and probably never will.
Football Dummies: No other industry in America has created as many young black millionaires as the National Football League (Not even the NBA), which has produced thousands. Yet those black players that stay seated during the national anthem are not doing themselves or those they think they are helping any favors…just the opposite. Their message — whatever the hell it is — is totally lost by them sitting on their butts. Instead of advocating their cause, they are alienating the fans and sowing disunity among teammates even before the first play of the game. These games are suppose to be a team effort, but these dim bozos are ripping that game plan up before the first snap. Maybe the concussion issue has been under reported as these folks appear to have been hit on the head several times too often With their celebrity they can appear on TV or radio anytime they want or call a reporter to get a piece written about their cause in a newspaper or magazine. How does sitting for the national anthem help whatever it is they are protesting? These twits are dumber than a barrel of hair. I’m not a Dallas Cowboy fan, but that team’s owner, Jerry Jones, got my attention and respect recently when he said: “Any player who sits during the national anthem is off this team.” We need more no nonsense owners like Mr. Jones. I used to have a lot of respect for Florida Times-Union Sports Columnist Gene Frenette, but since he’s been advocating that the Jaguars pickup quarterback Colin Kaepernick as a free agent I’m beginning to think he’s in need of a head examination too. Kaepernick, who started all this “sit for the national anthem” crap and wore socks with pigs wearing police hats and a t-shirt with Fidel Castro’s image, would be toxic to any team that employs him. The hapless Jaguars have enough problems attracting fans and trying to win games without adding that misfit.
Drinking, Dining & Dancing: A couple of weeks ago a reader here commented on the blog that she phoned Karibo to ask about its happy hour and was told by a bartender there that discounts apply only on certain drinks. Well, ma’am the bartender was wrong. Karibo’s Theresa Poynter reinforced the fact that the happy hour runs from 3:30 – 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and folks can get one-half off on all drinks ranging from a bottle of Bud Light to a Grey Goose martini. So collect your friends and check out one of the best priced happy hours in town. And if it’s Thursday call ahead at 904/277-5269 and tell them you want a Muffuletta, available only on Thursdays and not listed on the menu, says Mrs. Poynter. Local cuties Christy Le Lait and Tara Dunlop will do a live broadcast of their popular “Under the 8“, podcast from the new BuyGo during its Grand Opening on Saturday, September 2 from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. BuyGo is located where Fred’s once stood at 22 S. 8th Street and the corner of Ash.