Hamburgers — The final gastronomic frontier.
These are the voyages of the Fat Men From Space.
Their one year mission:
To explore all available Amelia Island hamburger possibilities.
To seek out new and better burger enterprises.
To boldly go where no burger reviewers have gone before!
With their cholesterol levels soaring to astronomical heights, the Fat Men From Space* are munching their way to the finish line, leading up to next week’s listing of the most preeminent places to order a hamburger on Amelia Island.
These two 21st Century fatties are as significant historically as the 19th Century Lewis and Clark team was when it returned following completion of its lengthy trek through the Louisiana Purchase and beyond, reporting back after more than two years, to president Thomas Jefferson in 1806 with a satisfying and resounding: “URP!”
The search for the island’s best hamburgers began exactly one year ago this month but kept getting extended as more and more new burger galaxies were discovered ranging from Down Under and Lagniappe to Sandbar and Island BBQ among others. The fat boys even flew into a burger black hole at the newly opened Pogo’s, discovering too late that there were no burgers available in that part of deep south island space, but were beamed back up without any negative consequences, albeit, after enjoying a tasty and economical but burgerless lunch.
These two space fatties ate their way through every greasy spoon, hoity-toity island eatery and those in between that serve non-national-chain-burgers and reported back through this blog with my only job being to wipe the grease off their comments and post them here. They initially began looking for the top five local burger joints but may expand that to a top 10 list depending on what they discover in the last restaurant at the end of this island’s hamburger universe next week.
(He sat down. The waiter approached. ‘Would you like to see the menu?’ he said, ‘or would you like to meet the Dish of the Day?’
A large dairy animal approached Zaphod Beeblebrox’s table, a large fat meaty quadruped of the bovine type with large watery eyes, small horns and what might almost have been an ingratiating smile on its lips.)**
Who are these two obese orbiters? I can’t say as their identities might influence burger cooks to provide incentives to sway their reviews. In the past I didn’t think this blog carried any weight in the restaurant arena until a couple of BBQ joint owners told me they sold out of certain items early because of positive mentions here, a bigger surprise to me than them.
So far the fat guys discovered the most expensive burger at the Ritz Carlton (no surprise there) at $30 plus with valet parking and tip, and the most economical at last year’s champion Putt Putt ($6.75 without tax). But Putt Putt became the Rocky Marciano of the local burger ring, retiring its Beach Bum Burger undefeated when it inexplicably pulled out of the burger business after a change in ownership to concentrate on ice cream, hot dogs and miniature golf, leaving the burger field wide open to challengers.
The original Fat Man, who retired last year and moved to south Florida’s Burger Raton, departed the island with the following as his top five local selections: 1-Putt Putt at Main Beach; 2- T-Rays (202 South 8th St.); 3- Salty Pelican (12 North Front St.); 4- Leddy’s Porch at the Florida House (22 South 3rd St.); 5- A tie with Halftime Sports Bar & Grill (320 South 8th St.) & Karibo (27 North 3rd St.).
The new Fat Men have hamburger standards as high as their cholesterol count. And if you’re anything like them you appreciate a really good burger, understanding that mushrooms, eggs, avocados, truffled arugula, garlic aioli, or any other such space clutter doesn’t belong on one…..ever. Also, if a restaurant serves a burger, it must serve it for lunch to make the Fat Men’s list, thus knocking a couple of north end and one popular dinner-only south island eatery out of contention from the start.
Here are the Fat Men’s latest reviews — in no particular order — prior to next week’s final listing of the best island burger joints:
Bar Zin: What makes a great cheeseburger? It’s so much more than a slab of beef and a crusty bun. That much we can agree on, but what makes a great cheeseburger? As I ramble about in the twilight of space, I’ve given this some serious thought. On a recent visit to a local bistro, Bar Zin, most of my suspicions on cheeseburgery were confirmed. The Bar Zin burger is a $12 study of delicious. Nothing fancy here. Cold, crunchy lettuce, ripe tomato slice, a thin slab of a dill pickle 6-7 oz burger with a generous topping of the stinkiest blue cheese I’ve ever had. And then, there’s the bun. Grilled, with char marks. After all, it’s the little details. Throw in a huge pile of shoestring fries, well, there you have it. No special sauces, no shaved truffle, no clowns, no kings, just a great lunch. One more detail to add. Bar Zin also pipes in some great music to include Sinatra, Bennett and Bobby Darin. The Bar Zin Burger is a true feast for the senses. All of them.
Lagniappe: Most planets in this Fat Man’s home space are easier to pronounce than this restaurant’s name, but not many have offered up a tastier burger, no matter how you say it, and I’m told it’s pronounced lan-yap, a Creole word meaning “something extra.” And something extra is just what this spacey guy got when server Kiki slid it across the bar. Listed on the lunch menu as the “Classic Double Cheeseburger” for a reasonable $12, this half pounder of two quarter pound handmade patties and a couple of slices of American cheese is as tasty as they come. It’s cooked perfectly on a flattop to medium unless you ask for it otherwise. No burger silliness here, just pure hamburger excellence with this beauty topped with shredded romaine lettuce, a big slice of sweet red onion and a hearty slice of tomato on a very fresh buttered bun, that tasted great and held its shape during consumption. A special sauce consisting of mayo, ketchup, Creole whole grain mustard, and relish added to the experience. It was one of those meals where you want more but couldn’t take another bite. This succulent burger comes with a pickle spear, and a scoop of Creole potato salad, called Creole because, once again, it has Creole whole grain mustard in it, mixed with the red skin-on potatoes. The potato salad was OK, but next time I’m opting for the fries for an extra $4.00, a Belgian specialty, that are blanched, and then double fried and are dangerously delicious. Brian Grimley, the Earthling Englishman owner, tells me they are made in house from special “chip” potatoes grown in south Florida…”chips” being that Englishman’s word for fries. Oh, malt vinegar is also available. I had a glass of ice tea and left a 20% tip bringing the total to $18.63 in Earth money. The newly opened eatery at 4810 First Coast (A1A) Highway, is next to the Harris Teeter shopping complex.
Island BBQ:Most things that drip are bad. Gutters, faucets and house paint for example. Drip, drip, drip. Cheeseburgers that drip are a wonderful exception to the rule. Cheeseburgers that come from BBQ joints are generally a culinary waste of time. But…a cheeseburger from Island BBQ on South 14th Street is a wonderful exception. While most mortal space travelers would settle for French fries, you can have among other sides, corn nuggets, or Mac n cheese! But back to our drippy masterpiece, our 6-7 ounce patty was absolutely covered with melted cheese. The tomato, lettuce and onion were cold and crunchy, the burger was flavorful and medium rare. But, when you drag a hot corn nugget through cheeseburger drippings well, you get it. It’s just an exceptional burger! For just $10.95, skip the BBQ brisket, just once (I know it’s tough!) and Order the Island burger. Spaceman, out!
Crab Trap: Pretty sure everybody hereabouts is aware of the Crab Trap. But do they know it serves a burger? As a result it was added to the list of burgers I must try in the Fat Men’s quest for the prestigious “Best Burger on Amelia Island Award.” Or as we call it, the BBAIA. For anybody who hasn’t been to the Crab Trap (all 6 or 7 of you), it’s in a historic building downtown on North 2nd Street. Both the interior and exterior recall days long past — 1876, to be exact. From the weathered brick to the worn wood you can feel the history. But is a notable burger a part of that rich past? Patience. All will be revealed. The Burger is styled as “Build Your Own Burger.” You can opt for an 8 oz. or 4 oz. Angus patty handmade in house, priced at $7.95 and $6.95, respectively. It comes dressed only with lettuce and onions. Tomato is an extra $.50. Booooo!!! Cheese is, also, extra and ranges from $.95 to $1.50, depending on the type. Hissssssss!!! I wanted fries so I had to order those separately for $3.95. More boooo!!!!!! The burgers are cooked to order. I went with the 8 oz. patty cooked medium and topped with American cheese. My beverage – obligatory Bud Lite(s). When my order arrived, I noted the unassuming, almost humble appearance of the burger. Nothing fancy or even decorative. Just a simple burger in one of those plastic baskets lined with wax paper. I started with the fries. The portion was large and could easily be shared by two people. Presumably, they had once been hot, but were now merely warm. They were somewhere in between crisp and soggy. But they tasted fine, so I ate my share. I dressed the burger with the usual mayo, mustard, ketchup trifecta. In so doing, I saw that the patty had been grilled and the Kaiser roll, upon which it sat, toasted. The burger was slightly overcooked (more medium well than medium), but still tasty and juicy. It had a near perfect 1:1 burger-to-bun ratio. All in all, this is a burger that will suffice when you’re in a pinch and really gotta have a burger. Somewhat satisfactory, albeit unremarkable. But hey, the Crab Trap is first and foremost a seafood restaurant, so…
Amelia River Golf Club: Might it be possible that the Best Burger on the Island resides at a golf club? Well, I had been advised by the United Federation of Planets (UFP) that The River Café, located in the quaint and welcoming clubhouse of the Amelia River Golf Club, has a burger worthy of consideration. So I had to give it a go. The River Café is your standard 19th hole, located adjacent to the pro shop, with a bar and a dozen or so tables in a dining area. I went around 1:00 p.m. on a Saturday, and there was ample seating. Priced at $10, the River Burger is an 8 oz. patty made in house. It’s served with choice of cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion. I went with white cheddar. A side of chips is included. But I splurged for fries, which were extra – $3.00. Ouch! The burger is cooked to order, so naturally, I went with medium. And a Bud Lite to wash it down. When my order arrived, I started with the fries. They were crispy, hot and very good. It was a decent size serving that two people could probably share. The burger itself is grilled and served on a slightly toasted bun akin to a Kaiser roll. The veggies were fresh and good. A nice dill pickle wedge was a bonus. To my delight, the patty was cooked to a perfect medium. The guy on the grill absolutely nailed it. Wonderful flavor and very juicy. It’s a burger that requires many napkins and I enjoyed eating the entire thing. Bottom line: A bit pricey, but this is definitely a burger worthy of your consideration.
*Editor’s note: “Fat Men From Space” is a children’s book by Daniel Pinkwater about a group of aliens who attack Earth and eat up the planet’s supply of junk food, leaving only healthy stuff behind, a book introduced to me by the first FMFS burger taster, about four years ago.
**Excerpt from Douglas Adams’ “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.”
Something You Need To Know: Bubble gum is pink because Walter Diemer, a Fleer employee, only had pink coloring left when he mixed up his first successful batch.
The Best Of Times, Worst Of Times Local Scenario: My wife, Linda, took a tumble this past Sunday injuring her ankle so severely she was unable to stand without excruciating pain, so I drove her to the Nassau Baptist Medical Center’s Emergency Room for a look-see. One of the duty doctors that day was Chip Ross, who is also a Fernandina Beach City Commissioner and one I never agree with about much of anything and who accuses me of being ill-informed in my commentary about him. While skillfully treating Linda, Dr. Ross was nothing but gracious, professional and reassuring. The hospital and the residents of this community are fortunate to have such a dedicated individual available for their care. We traded light-hearted jabs and a well-bandaged Linda left with an understanding she had a severe sprain that needed elevation, ice, etc. in order to heal properly. I left with a high professional regard for the good doctor’s skills and bedside manner, but still don’t agree with him on most of his positions on local city issues and the pompous persona he assumes at City Hall.
Maxine Waters Meet Peter Strzok, who just knocked you off your perch as America’s most disgusting, deranged and disgraceful government official. The Federalist’s Sean Davis says, “Strzok — who slept with an FBI co-worker behind his wife’s back, texted that he wanted to stop Trump, that he was an f—ing idiot, and that Trump voters were ignorant hillbillies — just claimed that he held himself to the highest possible standard while investigating Trump.”
The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel said: “The question every American should ask is this: How would you feel if he’d expressed such disgust toward you, and was also investigating you?” Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), expressed the same sentiments saying: “Imagine if you were under investigation and the investigator hated you, disparaged you in all manner of ways, and fraternized with another employee working on the case who also hated you.”
Strzok had the audacity to whine, “I have the utmost respect for Congress’s oversight role, but I truly believe that today’s hearing is just another victory notch in Putin’s belt and another milestone in our enemies’ campaign to tear America apart.”
Only folks as unhinged as Waters, and her mentor Nancy Pelosi, could defend this arrogant, lying, pompous little twit. It’s equally disturbing that this unelected, self-righteous jerk is still on the FBI payroll and may even be authorized to carry a badge and a gun after the humiliation, embarrassment, and dishonor he brought to the FBI and its hard working dedicated agents. Good grief!
Drinking, Dining & Dancing: Folks like me, who were used to paying $19 for a whole and $14 for a half of a magnificently delicious muffuletta sandwich at the old Surf, will be slack-jaw-shocked at the price of this wonderfully delicious sandwich at the newly refurbished and recently reopened Fletcher Avenue eatery. General Manager Joey Ledet tells me that the price on the new menu coming out Monday lists one-quarter of one of these tasty New Orleans special sandwiches at $11. Four of those make a whole and that’s $44, which is $25 more than the $19 I paid at the old Surf last year, a 131 percent increase, a price that knocks me out of the market for this sandwich no matter where it’s sold. Joey tells me that’s temporary and will eventually come down. When it does I’ll be back. He also says the new menu will increase the Surf’s burger offerings from one to five. Speaking of price, last Thursday I wandered into the south island Harris Teeter grocery store about 2 p.m., shopping list in hand, and walked out with two prime rib dinners that weren’t on that list. As I entered there was a chef in a toque carving an enormous steaming roast. He told me that every Thursday was prime rib day and he loaded up two take out boxes for me that included a generous helping of mixed vegetables (squash, green beans, broccoli and cauliflower) and roasted potatoes. He tossed in two containers of au jus and horseradish sauce. Each slab of meat was at least 12 ounces if not more and I couldn’t eat it all in one setting. Did I mention that it was all delicious and each meal was only $9.00. I defy anyone to find another establishment anywhere hereabouts with a prime rib dinner for $9.00. I can’t make one at home for that price. By comparison, these two prime rib dinners were six bucks less than one whole muffuletta sandwich sells for at the Surf.