Monday, July 11, 2011

Trip Report: A Desert Oasis of Burgers & Fries

The Slider Trio at Burger Bar.  All photos courtesy of Renee B. Photography.
Two weeks ago The Folk Singer and I ventured out to Las Vegas for a well-timed work conference. In between titillating continuing legal education classes and night time networking events, we were able to squeeze in a few research and development excursions for MVB, and we brought along Willy Wonka, our resident burger aficionado, as our neutral taste tester. Considering the high likelihood that most of our readers will at one point find themselves wandering the Strip in search of burgers and fries, here is a quick report on two of Sin City's most popular choices.

Nutella Shake at Burger Bar.
After a nice dinner at Fleur on my previous trip to Las Vegas, I decided that Chef Hubert Keller's cooking warranted a second tasting, this time at his wildly popular Burger Bar, also located in Mandalay Bay. Apparently we were not the only patriots craving a ground beef version of Americana, as upon arrival we saw a crowd of 50 people gathered outside the restaurant, which equated to a 25 minute wait for our table.

The menu boasts quite a number of choices - 4 burgers (angus, organic, kobe, and buffalo), 5 buns, 30+ toppings, and 4 types of fries. Out of respect to The Pope's mantra of "go big or go home," I ordered the kobe version, and I must say that it was delicious, as it should have been for $17. The angus, on the other hand, was not nearly as flavorful.

The buns were a step above grocery store styrofoam but nowhere close to freshly baked. French fries were frozen, but I was a huge fan of the 6 different dipping sauces available. Onion rings and zucchini fries could have easily been replicated off the menu at T.G.I. McFunsters.

The high point of the meal was hands down the Nutella milkshake topped with dark chocolate whipped cream. Other than the Moorea Beach Club, this shake is probably the only reason that I would make the treak out to Mandalay Bay again.

Burger Bar Las Vegas - Par

Many a West Coaster has succumbed to the strong call of this siren. As someone who had never before experienced the pleasure of a Double-Double, most of my prior knowledge concerning In-N-Out Burger came from watching The Big Lebowski. (If Donny says that those are good burgers, that's all the validation that I need.) I have heard friends rave about In-N-Out for years, but with each instance of praise I thought to myself: "How good can a fast food burger really be?"

The answer: Very good. Yes, it is fast food. But to lump these burgers into the same category as McDonald's is a crime against humanity.

All of the ingredients tasted fresh, and the burgers stand tall with thickly sliced onion, tomato, and a heap of lettuce. The burgers themselves were thin, greasy goodness, and I especially liked how the cheese melted over, in between, and around the two patties. I had done some research beforehand, so I ordered my burger "Animal Style" - with mustard fried into the burger, the usual dressings, plus grilled onions, and extra spread (like thousand island dressing). I highly recommend.

The fries, in my opinion, were average, but TFS said that I was being a food snob. (Likely.) Regardless, the menu boasts fresh-cut fries, for which In-N-Out deserves unending praise.

The place was a circus during our time there, with customers lined up 10 deep at every one of the 5 registers, and everyone jockeying for seats inside the restaurants lest they be relegated to the 110 degree heat at the tables outside. But the food came forth fast, every employee was smiling and chatting us up, and we left vowing to return.

In-N-Out Burger - Birdie


Kevin said...

As someone who lived in Southern California, two of the restaurant phenomena I miss most in Louisiana are decent Thai joints every block or two and an ample supply of In-n-Out burger shops.

The slider place ... why can't high-end chefs stick to what they do well and leave the kidult food to others?

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with the comment about the Thai and In and Out! l love In and Out Double Double Animal Cheeseburgers!

Max said...

Next time in Vegas, try Lotus of Siam, one of the best in the country.

Anonymous said...

Order burgers "chopped chilli" style if you like jalapeño.

Anonymous said...


Mo said...

In-n-Out. in LA last week and my son dragged me to In-n-out - in my view its just fast food. Burger at best ok, and fries poor.