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Athens Burger Restaurant, Dublin CA

When we opened the door to Athens Burger Restaurant on 6999 Dublin Blvd, the delicious smell of char overcame us.  Visually, it was impressive to watch the tables and booths fill up quickly.  Based on the messages received from those two senses alone, we knew that a third, taste, would be on par.  Happy crowds don’t lie.

housemade onion rings, zucchini sticks, and ranch

housemade onion rings, zucchini sticks, and ranch

Many of the menu items are made in house, such as the onion rings and zucchini sticks.  The onions used were super quality and cooked to the perfect point of doneness, so the breading was crunchy and the sweet onions remained slightly crisp.  It’s always a plus to be able to bite through an onion ring without pulling the onion out of the breading.  The zucchini sticks had a different breading than the onion rings with more of a bread crumb base.  Lightly breaded, the sweet tender centers contrasted the texture of the crunchy exterior.  Both the onion rings and the zucchini sticks were yummy, but the ranch dip really complemented them.  Housemade as well, like most of the condiments, the ranch was thick and creamy with a bright array of herb flavors, dill being the star.

chili cheese fries

chili cheese fries

Daily sandwich specials come with a choice of soup, salad, or fries, but Zach wanted to try the chili cheese fries so he upgraded his side.  While the fries were prepared from a frozen state, they were not poor quality.  The main attraction, though, passed picky Zach’s chili test because it was housemade and tasty.  No beans meant more need for meat, so the chili was very thick and hearty.  Medium spices with flavors of cumin and chili powder were balanced well, and tons of cheddar cheese made it gooey and sumptuous.

chipotle burger, doubled

chipotle burger, doubled

Zach’s daily sandwich special was the chipotle burger with cheese, bacon, and chipotle sauce.  He doubled the patty and also swapped out the regular bun with seeds for a “junior bun,” so we can attest to Athens Burger’s customer accommodation.  The bacon was crisp and smoky, and the chipotle was more tangy than spicy – don’t be afraid of this burger if heat isn’t your thing, because the chipotle taste is there without the burn.  Loads of fresh, crispy vegetables complete each mouthful.

greek burger

greek burger

August ordered a signature burger, The Greek.  This had the same fresh, crispy veggies as Zach’s burger, but with its own cheese and sauce for distinction.  To give this a Greek twist, feta cheese and a housemade Greek dressing were added.  The feta had its oh-so-familiar flavor but was mild enough not to overpower the burger.  The dressing was tangy and rich with olives and a nice vinegar.  It was flavorful but, like the feta, not so much so that the delicious char of the meat was buried.

For dependable quality that entertains multiple senses, Athens Burger ranks high.  The concept of a burger is simple, but execution is key.  The crew at Athens Burger recognizes that, and the pride is apparent in every bite.

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Pub 1842, Las Vegas NV

The MGM Grand Hotel & Casino is way bigger than we thought.  Once inside, it’s labyrinthine.  Don’t be afraid to ask your way around, though, because Pub 1842 is worth the maze.  Chef Michael Mina’s gastropub has a completely different vibe than the nearly solemn San Franciscan Bourbon Steak, but his signature style and demand for quality are on par.  More finger foods and casual yet inventive takes on classics cry out to the younger Vegas partying crowd, especially if paired with one or many of the alcoholic libations available; the place is named for the year pilsner beer was invented, after all, so beer plays a big role here.

Try a sampling of the more than fifty beers on hand with a beer wheel.  “Wild World” crosses the globe with eight ales, stouts, and lagers, which our server and beer enthusiast Will described as being a more malty selection.  Because August likes hoppy brews, we went with “Born in the USA.”  PBR Lager, Anchor Steam CA Common, Batch 19 Vienna, Blue Moon Witbier, Deschutes Pale Ale, Ommengang Abbey Ale, Dogfish Head Double IPA, and Speakeasy Porter represented a broad range of brewing styles and tastes, and coincidentally when tasted in order alongside our food, there were some serendipitous pairings that surprised our palates.

crab louie deviled eggs

crab louie deviled eggs

Zach had been studying the menu since Pub 1842 opened not even two weeks ago, and knew immediately that he wanted to try the deviled eggs.  The tender egg whites were not overcooked, perfect vessel for the super creamy yolks.  Thankfully the tangy and somewhat sweet filling wasn’t overly spiced, or else we might not have been able to appreciate the crab.  Each egg had a large lump of Maryland blue crap with a sprig of dill and a sprinkling of paprika.

duck spring rolls

duck spring rolls

The spring rolls, extra light and crispy, were made with wonton wrappers rather than phyllo dough or egg roll wrappers.  Zach almost thought they were wrapped with what they weren’t, since the wonton wrappers were deceptively thin.  Tender, well seasoned duck was rolled with cabbage, mushrooms, and cilantro.  An orange sauce was more tangy than sweet with a touch of mild warmth from chili pepper (we won’t call it spiciness), and the cilantro made the sauce more earthy to balance the tangy.  At this time August was sipping the Batch 19 Vienna, and she found it to accentuate the duck very well, and vice versa.

avocado kale caesar

avocado kale caesar

This might be one of our most enjoyable Caesar salads ever.  Avocado makes nearly any dish better in August’s book, so we liked the fresh, ripe slices for garnish here.  Instead of croutons, artichoke chips served as a playful interpretation.  They were lightly crunchy and helped to round out the mix of flavors.  A garlic streusel with sugar made the salad sweet, but the bitter kale mellowed that.  Freshly shaved Parmesan added that cheesy, salty bite necessary for Caesar salads, so in that regard tradition was honored.  Otherwise, this was a modern and almost scientific experiment kind of way to present a Caesar.

the "2 pound" lobster roll

the “2 pound” lobster roll

Tender, hand picked lobster was buttery and sweet, nestled in a crisp buttery roll.  It was accented by jalapeño, tarragon, green onions, creamed corn, and popcorn.  The jalapeño provided flavor with no heat, acting as a seasoning like the tarragon and green onions.  Popcorn is not usually our thing, but here we had a decreased likelihood of getting it stuck in our teeth because there was so much more involved with each bite.  Zach particularly liked the roll; as a pastry chef, he felt that it complemented the filling quite well, and whoever grilled it did an impeccable job.  The fries, prepared from a frozen state but handled well, were herbed with variety but sage was the most predominant flavor.

peanut butter crunch burger

peanut butter crunch burger

Wagyu beef, creamy peanut butter, ruffled potato chips, bacon jam, and pimento cheese combined for what our server Will described as most patrons’ “amazing burger” or “best burger ever.”  We have to agree, never would we have considered peanut butter with beef but it was in fact amazing.  With creamy, salty Jif instead of sweet, the savory quality worked well with the juicy Snake River Farms patty.  Zach doesn’t typically go for potato chips, but here they provided an essential crunchiness.  The bacon jam was smoky, tangy, and very slightly sweet, while the pimento cheese gave a little kick and gooeyness to the burger.  It came on a potato bun baked with cracked pepper, adding flavor as well as an interesting visual appeal.  We liked that the fries here were distinct from the lobster roll’s; like the others these were previously frozen but well handled, but with a different cut and different seasoning.

big chocolate layer cake and chocolate malted

big chocolate layer cake and chocolate malted

Peanut butter was the star a second time in our final course of a tasty dessert and milkshake pairing.  Will told us that some customers are dumbstruck after already having such rich flavors in the appetizers and entrees, so he simplifies it for them, asking if they like chocolate, lemon, peach, or coconut desserts.  That’s a tough choice, but the chocolate one’s description with “peanut butter, pretzel, delicious” lured us.  Moist chocolate cake with a medium chocolate flavor was layered with smooth, creamy, chocolate butter cream.  Dollops of delectably smooth peanut butter ganache dotted the cake, while salty, crunchy, chocolate-dipped pretzels offered a contrasting texture, as did a kind of candied nut.  A simple yet delightfully malted shake was not overly malted but just right, for another kind of chocolate to pair and share.

Foodies, families, and fraternities alike can all find something here.  With modernized variations on classical themes, Chef Mina is a master at taking something known and making it new and vibrant.  It would seem that Pub 1842 has had an excellent opening, and we hope they continue to tantalize the palates of many Vegas diners.

Flipside, Oakland CA

It’s National Hamburger Day!  Clearly a celebration was in order.  Zach did the research to find Flipside, a comfortable joint serving burgers, fries, shakes, and more.  Besides beef on your burger you can also choose chicken, turkey, garden burger, and portabella, and the three meats are all natural and hormone free.  However, despite the tasty patty selection, we came here in honor of the day and just had to get traditional beef burgers.  The beef is Certified Angus and never frozen, and the quality is noticeable.  Next time, though, we’ll try some other varieties (and yes, there will be a next time).

chili cheese fries

chili cheese fries

Zach is picky about chili.  Very picky.  It’s a “he’s won a couple of cookoffs” kind of picky.  The chili cheese fries were a special today, and Zach asked to try a bite before ordering.  We were happy when he nodded his head in approval!  The fries may be frozen, but the chili makes up for them.  The cheese whiz complemented the rich, meaty, beanless chili, which was very bold in spices but not overly spice-y.

the hangover

the hangover

All burgers are served on one of three breads: Texas toast, 9-grain, or signature classic.  We both stuck with the signature which is a giant, soft brioche that held together through the end of the meal.  For his burger, Zach chose the “Hangover” for its combination of toppings including a fried egg, American cheese, applewood smoked bacon, french fries, and tabasco mayonnaise.  To this he also added jalapeño jack cheese and grilled ham, calling it a “Zachover.”  The fried egg provided a nice richness when the yolk was broken, blending with the spicy tanginess of the tabasco mayonnaise.  We agreed that the beef on both our burgers was thick, well seasoned, and tasty, and Zach’s particular pile of toppings made his burger memorable.  He says, “Meaty, cheesy, extremely filling, and all-in-one, this burger is hard to beat.”

the california sensation

the california sensation

The burgers come with choice of french fries or a house salad, and for a small upcharge you can switch to sides like sweet potato fries, garlic fries, curly fries, and beer battered onion rings.  The rings, like the french fries, are frozen, but the person at the fryer really knows what (s)he’s doing to make these taste fresh and maintain great texture.  August enjoyed her onion rings with the “Californian Sensation” burger, featuring avocado, Swiss cheese, sprouts, and “flip sauce” (the house’s version of thousand island).  She’s always liked sprouts but has rarely had them on a burger, so this was a nice change of pace from standard lettuce.  The green taste was deep and earthy.  Having an extensive history with avocado (it was her first food, after all), August appreciates more than anyone can know the importance of fresh, ripe avocado.  She was very happy here with how the avocado was ripe enough to spread itself out and be a part of nearly every bite of the burger

Like we said, we had burgers today because it’s National Hamburger Day, but there’s plenty of other items to try from Flipside’s menu.  Salads, a “kids’ corner,” and fountain-style shakes and malts, plus vegetarian options, make this a place suitable for all ages and all tastes.