Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Guest Article: BurgerFest-O-Rama #1 - Bagger Dave's

As a public service, the Management would like to present the first in a series of reprinted articles highlighting Michigan's fine burger establishments, taken from the internet site of an up-and-coming local wit. The writer is Ken Agacinski---noted food critic, ranconteur, and soon-to-be-married son of a prominent Michigan attorney (my friend, Bob...who will probably never forgive his son for understanding computers)---who writes his own blog on various aspects of Michigania. You can read Ken's blog at: We Are Of Michigan.

BurgerFest-O-Rama #1 - Bagger Dave's
by Ken Agacinski

And so begins the most significant and important quest of my lifetime - specifically, eating far more burgers than any reasonable person should intend to eat. During the 3rd quarter of the Michigan/OSU game, I decided that I had enough of watching the destruction of 100+ years of history and Maureen and I determined that today would be a great day to begin my quest to eat as many of the burgers called out in The Detroit Free Press as possible. Maureen lives out in Ann Arbor and the list focuses primarily on metro-Detroit burger spots, but I was able to manipulate the list ever-so-slighty. One of the burgers specified in the "Other Burgers Not To Miss Section" is from a relatively new restaurant on the Michigan scene called Bagger Dave's. The first of their restaurants opened in Berkley in, I don't know, let's say 2006. At the end of August of this year, they opened their second restaurant in Ann Arbor on Eisenhower Parkway. Even though the Berkley location is specified in the Freep's list, I am making up my own rules for my burger eating and felt that the Ann Arbor location would give me an appropriate understanding of their burger quality (or, possibly, lack thereof). Because this was the start of my adventure, Maureen took a photo of me outside of the dining establishment. Because I'm wearing gloves, you may think that I have my two least-appropriate fingers in the air. I assure you that this is not the case, and rather my index fingers are pointing at the sign with nervous and hungry anticipation. I promise.

Bagger Dave's name comes from the fact that they serve all of their burgers in these paper sleeves. The inside of the restaurant was quite clean and pleasant and had an unexpected kind of dark wood feel to it. The only weird thing is that some of the seating booths aren't exactly connected to the ground, so if you are sharing an opposing side of the booth with a person of heft, you may find yourself unexpectedly moving about on occasion. Bagger Dave's also has a functional toy engine train running around the top of the store. We did not see any crashes of the train, so I am pretty sure that they have a no text messaging rule for the train operators. Here's a picture of the train (speeding at a blur of bad photo-taking by me in the top of the frame) with Maureen.

Finally, time for some burgers. Because this is my first burger post, I am going to try to give a quick breakdown of the rating scale that Maureen and I determined with corroboration from my brother, Steve. Because I love even the crappiest of burgers, we have a slightly different scale than most may naturally assume, but I believe it will serve the necessary purpose. The scale is as such:

0 Hamburglars - Edible and enjoyable, but not altogether great burger. Think McDonald's original hamburger as the baseline for 0 Hamburglars.

1 Hamburglar - officially determined as "good" but not life-changing. Again using fast food guide, a 1 is probably closer to a Whopper. I would eat a Whopper any day of the week, but we're working on eating Metro Detroit's "Best Burgers"

2 Hamburglars - "Very good", as in "that was better than a Whopper but I'm sure better is out there"

3 Hamburglars - "Excellent", you would not kill for an excellent burger, but perhaps you would be willing to maim

4 Hamburglars - "The Best", while "the best" normally refers to the one to rule them all, we are going to allow a few of "The Bests" for the purposes of this quest because at a certain point, it becomes impossible to enhance a burger to further greatness. Otherwise, you are eating a burger in heaven.

Maureen ordered a "Create Your Own Legend Burger" with mozzarella, tomatoes, grilled onions, romaine lettuce, and one 3.5 oz beef patty (someone in the kitchen was feeling quite kind and provided her with two 3.5 oz patties, +1 for Bagger Dave's) and a sesame bun with a side of fries. I ordered the "Trainwreck Burger" as the most expensive item on the menu (at $6.99), and a burger I felt most adequately represented what might make Bagger Dave's special. This burger consisted of two beef patties, super sharp cheddar, grilled onions, sauteed mushrooms, iceberg lettuce, mayo, fries, and an egg - all on the burger. All burgers are cooked to medium-well, -1 for Bagger Dave's if you are the kind of person who likes to consume actually red meat.

Pros: Quality meat (never frozen), fantastic buns (I highly recommend the "Plain Bun", it tasted like it came from a bakery), relatively inexpensive for the quality of the meat experience, large circumference straws (highly appreciated by Maureen), good but slightly weird fries (they actually tasted like potato), onions neither under nor over-grilled, filled me up for $7 - and that is hard to do.

Cons: Inconsistent lettuce application - my lettuce pieces were chopped oddly, small, and kept falling out of the burger. Maureen's lettuce piece was under the meat which kind of cooked the lettuce and made it soft and wilted. Mushroom distribution uneven, if I did have cheddar on my burger as promised, I definitely didn't notice it was "super sharp", only five total fries included in the Trainwreck Burger. I imagined them piled high and smashed under the bun in potato-ey/meaty harmony, fries do not come with burger order

Based on the newly-devised Hamburglar scale, we rate Bagger Dave's:

I am very comfortable declaring this a 2 Hamburglar "Best Burger" dining experience. The food was affordable and enjoyable, but lacked the little things (like the lettuce issue) that really push a burger to the next level. Next up, who knows. I guess it depends on when I'm hungry.

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