I watched an episode of Kitchen Nightmares once where Chef Gordon Ramsey was at some shit hole trying to help them make it work. One of the biggest problems they had was their “chef” who wasn’t very good at cooking. To test him, Chef Ramsey asked him to make an omelette. He couldn’t.
You see, Chef Ramsey asked the guy to make something simple. Not some sort of French duck dish. A fucking omelette. And he couldn’t do it.
This is how all restaurants should be judged, and this is how I judge all that I go to. I have certain things that I order, depending on what kind of restaurant I go to. My wife yells at me for never trying new things. But, it’s all part of my master plan. You see, among all other kinds of restaurants, if I go to a place that sells burgers, I order a burger. Specifically, a mushroom swiss burger, if they serve them. And if they can’t do that right, then why the hell would I want to order anything else from them?
Burgers are as American as American gets. They’re so American that on any given street where businesses abound, you can have three fast food burger joints lined up next to each other, and a new place will open across the street also selling burgers. Burgers are a staple. Anybody who cooks food of any kind should know how to cook a hamburger correctly. It’s not hard.
It is literally this easy. Take yourself however much ground beef you need. A quarter pound, third pound, half pound, whatever. You smoosh it with your hands until it resembles a patty. You cook it. It’s done. Sometimes you can even go all out and season it with a sprinkle of salt and pepper on each side while it cooks.
Now, was that so fucking hard? If you go to a sit down place, it shouldn’t take but 5 to 10 minutes for you to get your hamburger after you order it, depending on how busy the place is. They don’t take long to cook, and they’re easy to cook. And if you’re really good at making them, they don’t even need a lot of TLC. Once they’re on the grill, you literally only have to flip them once. I had a girlfriend who was like that.
The reason I bring this up is, my wife and I decided to try a new place that opened up here a couple years ago called Cheddar’s. Since I’m a fan of cheese and the name of the place is one of my favorite cheeses, I thought this would be a no brainer. Besides, the place looks awesome.
We had a date day one day and decided to eat there before going to see a movie. I saw they had a mushroom swiss burger and promptly ordered that, while getting the business from my wife about always ordering the same shit. She ordered fried chicken strips. I’m pretty sure we ordered an appetizer, like a quesadilla or something, but it wasn’t good enough for me to remember if we actually did order one or not.
Cheddar’s are located all over the mid-west. That doesn’t mean they’re good, it just means they’re a chain. Same could be said for Applebee’s. Fuck Applebee’s.
One of my wife’s chicken tenders was pink in the middle. When she brought it up to our waitress, the waitress barely apologized but made absolutely no attempt to fix the problem. She didn’t offer to bring out a new one, bring out a new order, take it off the bill, or even throw the undercooked one back into the fryer for a minute. Nothing.
My burger, if you want to call it that, was fucking terrible. Cheddar’s has a tad more to their name. It’s actually called Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen. They have this bit on their menu, and also on their website. I just HAVE TO SHARE.
At Cheddar’s, the key ingredient that goes into all of our cooking is time. We don’t take any shortcuts to shave hours out of the process. We invest the effort to prepare each and every recipe the right way.
With so many incredible choices on our menu, this means we’ve always got a lot on our plate. But with double the number of cooks vs. other restaurants, we’re standing by to make everything fresh just for you. After all, we know your time is valuable too.
My burger was a frozen, preformed patty. It was not made fresh. As far as burgers are concerned, it was literally the shortest shortcut they could take aside from getting a burger from McDonald’s and then serving it to me. Hell, THAT would’ve taken more time to prepare than what they actually did.
It had no seasoning on it. No salt or pepper. Nothing. It actually had no flavor at all. It was the most tasteless burger I’ve ever eaten, and believe me, I’ve eaten a ton of burgers in my life. When McDonald’s beats you at making a decent burger, you fucking suck.
The mushrooms and swiss were decent, but did nothing to help the burger out. The bun wasn’t anything special. Even the mayo they put on it was flavorless. All around, it was a worthless fucking burger. I told the waitress that I wanted my burger medium, but of course it wasn’t medium because you can’t really cook frozen patties anything other than well done, or they’ll still be frozen or cold in the middle.
We weren’t happy.
We had been done eating for quite a few minutes, watching our waitress walk past our table multiple times. She looked at us and the table several times also. But she never stopped. Not for refills, or to check on us, or anything. Finally when she did, we told her we wanted our check. It took her another 20 to 30 minutes to get it for us. Needless to say we missed the movie we wanted to see. We were so pissed we just went home.
I’m never going back. Just like a ton of other places I’ve been that made shitty burgers. And there’s always someone who says “Well maybe you should try their…” No, maybe the fuck I shouldn’t. If they can’t cook a burger right, how am I to trust them on something more difficult?
If you’re wondering, my favorite mushroom swiss burger that I’ve ever had… is actually a tie.
Back in the day Hardee’s used to be around my neighborhood, and their mushroom swiss was the first I ever had. That’s what got me hooked on them. Theirs was made with the mushroom gravy/sauce, but it was delicious. I’m a fan of that type. And it was a decent sized burger, too. So much so that even back then, when everything was cheaper, their burger was still between $4 and $5. That was a bit expensive back then for a burger, but it was worth it. They’ve since moved out of Cincinnati and changed their menu completely, but the next closest burger that comes close to that particular one is at Rally’s/Checkers. If you’re into that type of mushroom swiss, try theirs.
But, my favorite two that are tied with each other, are from Red Robin and Steak n Shake, of all places.
Red Robin gets the nod because their burgers are thick, juicy, and tasty. They don’t do the mushroom sauce, they just sautée up a handful of mushrooms and put them on the burger. You literally get a small mountain of mushrooms. That’s how you do it.
If you ever order a mushroom swiss burger and they put the sautéed mushrooms on, and they only put a small layer on, they have failed. McDonald’s introduced their Angus third pound burgers once, and one was a mushroom swiss, and it was fucking terrible. It was like they were scared to put mushrooms on it.
The one from Steak n Shake is a different story. They didn’t set out to do a mushroom swiss, they set out to make a tasty fucking burger, and they succeeded. Technically called the Grilled Portobello ‘n Swiss Steakburger, it comes with two tasty beef patties, sautéed Portobello mushrooms, caramelized onions, Swiss cheese, and a delicious garlic mayo. It doesn’t compete with Red Robin’s, which is how a basic mushroom swiss should be made, but it is the tastiest mushroom swiss type burger I’ve had.
So there you go. Fuck Applebee’s, fuck Cheddar’s, and fuck any restaurant that tries to sell frozen preformed beef patties as hamburgers. You lazy fucks.
Do you have a favorite mushroom swiss burger that I didn’t mention? I’ll try them all.
FYI: If you happen to live around the Cincinnati, OH area, check out Snow’s Lakeside Tavern in Colerain. If you’re familiar with the old Snow’s, this isn’t that place. That place was bought and rebuilt into what it is now. They have really good mushroom swiss burgers, too. On par with Red Robin.