Purveyor: Charing Cross Hotel, Waverly NSW, Australia
Menu Item: Fried Chicken Burger
Price: $19 AUD (+$3 for Chips/Fries)
Squawk: This pub used to be dire. Gross, dirty and full of professional drunks. So when a friend we hadn’t seen in a while suggested we meet there and that food is good, we we’re to say the least, surprised. And slightly worried about our friend. Turns out all that worry, like most worry, wasn’t worth the energy. The “Charo” has been renovated, and for the most part, very nicely. We loved the outdoor seating area, that as far as we could tell, didn’t cater to smokers who seem to have ruined outdoor seating at every other pub in Australia. We were sad when we got kicked out at 5:30pm when the outdoor area magically becomes part of their fine dining experience. Inside the thoughtful renovation continues with the highlight being a vintage game room with some great old arcade games.
But we digress. We know why you’re here and it ain’t to hear about vintage video games. The Charo’s fired chicken burger sounds good on the menu and our Waitress thoughtfully suggested we order it with bacon to which we (always) readily agree. A nice surprise was that when the burger arrived, not only was the bacon perfectly crispy, but someone in the kitchen had the brains to trim the fat off it. Seem obvious, but you’d be amazed how many places get this simple thing wrong. Another nice touch was the oversized, fresh leaf of Iceberg Lettuce which added a some additional crunch. We also appreciated the condiment shelf which had all the usual suspects along with some new sauces we hadn’t seen before from Lillie’s. They are all mostly for red meat (BBQ), but still, being the sauce aficionado’s we are (and with our Founder having gone to school in North Carolina, aka BBQ Country) it was a welcome surprise to see some new sauces on the shelf.
Buaawk: First the burger: The roll was way too sweet, more like a marshmallow than a brioche. We like sweet buns on our women, not our burgers, and this one bummed us out. The chicken was fried thigh meat and was supremely neutral in flavour, texture and appearance. There’s no special attention here to the batter or spices and its a major flaw. Also the portion of meat was on the small side, and there wasn’t enough bird to fill the bun. We later discovered this wasn’t always the case as a late arrival’s burger was much better proportioned. So they lose points for inconsistency.
Now the venue. While the new renovation is great, two things bring it down. One is the noise. Even with the few acoustic tiles in the ceiling the place is annoying loud which turns mealtime conversation with friends into a shouting match. Add in the multiple TV’s and plethora of wobbly, aforementioned, professional (loud mouthed) drunks and it almost makes us not want to come back. The second thing is the staff. Jeez, they act like they’re doing you a huge favour when you order. Anything. Get over yourselves.
Bonus Points: Beer selection, vintage game room, nice renovation to what used to be a crap pub.
Purveyor: West 4th and Jane, Santa Monica, CA USA
Menu Item: BLTAC*
Price: $12 USD
Squawk: This place is a bit of a sleeper. Not only is it hiding in plain sight smack dab in the middle of Santa Monica, but its poor signage speaks to the unpretentious attitude of pretty much everyone who works and visits here. In a city full of lip and boob job bimbos and egocentric fools handing out “Executive Producer” business cards to anyone who will listen to their BS, West 4th & Jane is a bit of an oasis. Great beers and lots of them on tap. And a surprisingly good chicken sandwich. The bacon on this one comes crispy without you even having to ask for it that way. Nice. The side of pickles is another nice touch, but there’s still plenty of room on that rectangular plate for some fries (Hint). And they got a great hot sauce selection too. Special shout our to our friends at the WestSide Comedy Theater for turning us onto this place
Buaawk: You’ve read it here before, but no chips/fries always bums us out. Yes, we know they’re bad for you and yes, we still want’em. We’re also not so sure about the shredded kale – and we generally enjoy kale, just not so much on a burger – in this case we felt it added a little too much chewiness. We do love chargrilled chicken, but this one was a bit dry. Thankfully their great beer list helps it go down easy.
Bonus Points: Beer selection, unpretentiousness, good music at a level where you can still enjoy it and still have a conversation without shouting.
*In case you didn’t know, that’s and acronym for Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, Avocado, Chicken
Purveyor: Son of a Gun Los Angeles, CA USA
Menu Item: Fried Chicken Sandwich
Price: $16 USD
Squawk: First of all we applaud any seafood restaurant that so prominently features a Chicken Burger on their menu. It doesn’t make any sense to us why its on there, but we’re glad it is. This burger gets a lot of hype. Google “Top 10 Best Chicken Burgers in LA” and this one will be on almost every list. Naturally we had to see what all the fuss was about. They open at 6pm and by 5:45 there’s a line out the door – mainly of people without reservations hoping to snag one of the four or five seats at the bar. Clearly they are doing something right. The delicious aroma of their smoky ribs nearly made us give up on the whole idea of a review, but we resisted and soon had our hands on this much revered sammie. We loved the slaw with a touch of ginger that makes this one truly unique and the size of this thing is just right.
Buaawk: Surprisingly and disappointingly this one doesn’t live up to the hype. Our Waiter confidently told us it would be the best chicken sandwich we’d ever have. Maybe he meant, best chicken burger in a seafood restaurant? The bread was nice, not memorable. The chicken was nicely fried, but the meat was so thick in places that the crunch was lost, and blandness set in. We would have liked to see more thinly sliced meat. No fries always bums us out (You can order Kennebec Fries for another $7), but to their credit they have a ton of other smaller dishes that could easily sit aside this sandwich including their mini lobster rolls, oysters and of course a few of those ribs we wished we ordered.
Bonus Points: Very helpful and attentive wait staff, friendly reservation staff, hot sauce selection
Menu Item: Chipotle Chicken Burger
Squawk: Man, this was tasty. Two generous hammer flattened, grilled chicken breast fillets cooked to perfection. Not dry at all. The brioche bun was fresh and squishy and the tomato and lettuce inside juicy and crisp. The pièce de résistance was the huge dollop of avocado and chipotle blended sauce. It was literally dripping out of the bun. Just the right level of spice for everyone.
Not a traditional fried burger but extremely fresh and juicy. An at $8.50 a filling bargain.
Buaawk: It’s cash only but the cashier just said “We will start making it while you go get cash”. Good sales tactics and really friendly. Some slaw would be a great addition to help hold in all the sauce. So underground they don’t have a website
Bonus Points: Despite this not being a sit down venue the Thai English misspellings on the menu and delightful staff makes this hole in the ground one not to be missed. Plus its cheep cheep.
Purveyor: Lucky Pickle, 509-511 Crown St (entrance off High Holborn St), Surry Hills, Australia
Menu Item: Katsu Chicken Sandwich
Squawk: You gotta hand it to these guys. They do one thing, and they do it well. OK – maybe they do three or four things, but really the Katsu Chicken Sandwich is the star at this tiny little place and people line up for it. The chicken is perfect. And the sandwich is simple: Chicken, bread and slaw. This is both its beauty and its (partial) downfall.