25 July, 2009

Cheeburger, Cheeburger, Egg Cream

In a market crowded with specialty burger restaurant chains, every place needs a gimmick. For Red Robin, it's "gourmet burgers" and "bottomless fries;" for Johnny Rockets it's a nostalgic, post-war-Norman-Rockwell-Americana theme. For Cheeburger Cheeburger it's a one-pound burger challenge, the ability to infinitely customize your own milkshake, and a really good egg cream despite being far away from New York City.

Friends and I recently visited the Cheeburger Cheeburger location in Columbia Maryland. Located in a shopping plaza storefront, the sign and facade are friendly and inviting, with large windows allowing passers-by a glimpse at the interior lit with old-fashioned "schoolhouse" style hanging lamps accented with warm red neon tubes.

Inside, the neon combines with glass block section dividers, chrome accents, and linoleum-topped tables to give a nostalgic faux-1950s feel to the restaurant. Lots of reproduction tin signs and other ephemera hang on the walls to enhance this atmosphere, and it has the desired effect: It's an absolutely modern restaurant with an obvious theme, but it still feels familiar and comfortable. Congratulations to Cheeburger Cheeburger's design team - they hit a bullseye.

Their menu is fairly extensive for a "burger joint," but our party concentrated on the burgers and traditional sides and the milkshakes. The burgers come in quite a range of sizes, from the 20-ounce-before-cooking "Famous Pounder" down to the 5.5-ounce-before-cooking "Classic." Finish a Famous Pounder, and the staff will take a snapshot of you in all your gluttonous glory to post on a bulletin board with other, uh, "winners" on a "Wall of Fame." Tempting as this chance at immortality seems, I opted to go with the more manageable yet still oversized 10-ounce-before-cooking "Serious" burger with cheddar cheese and bacon. It was delicious and juicy, topped generously with three thick-cut slices of bacon, and thoroughly enjoyable. I didn't bother with any ketchup or mustard (my usual burger condiments of choice) because I wanted to experience the full flavor of the beef, bacon, and cheese - all of which was excellent.

To compliment the burgers ordered round the table, we also got a "Best of Both" basket of fries and onion rings. The fries were fairly standard shoestring fries, cut with the skins on, and done quite nicely: crispy on the outside, soft on the inside. I wish I could say "creamy on the inside" but unfortunately Cheeburger Cheeburger seems to use mealy Russet potatoes for their fries and I prefer the waxier Eastern potatoes we grow here in New England and in the Canadian Maritimes. The onion rings, though, were outstanding. Big sweet onions, thinly sliced and batter-dipped, were light and delicious and not overly greasy. Best of all, it was obvious that the restaurant keeps it's frying oil fresh and cleam - there was not the slightest hint of "old oil" flavors in the basket. The fries were so good, in fact, that when the Best of Both basket was gone, we ordered a large side of just onion rings for our table of five - and that order disappeared just as quickly as the first.

As I mentioned in the beginning, one of the things that makes Cheeburger Cheeburger special is their "Invent Your Own" milkshakes. Their online menu lists 75 milkshake flavors (and there were others on the printed menu at the restaurant;) any of these can be combined in any way you like to produce a customized shake or malt. I can imagine some of the results coming out pretty heinous (Peanut Butter and Root Beer, anyone?) but the two ordered by my dining companions (Chocolate-Raspberry and Chocolate-Gingerbread-Cookie Dough) were decent and the portions generous enough that Cheeburger Cheeburger will cheerfully give you an extra glass for sharing.

For me, one of the best things about Cheeburger Cheeburger was their delicious egg cream. Made from milk, chocolate syrup, and seltzer (no eggs or cream!) good egg creams are hard to find outside of New York City. Cheeburger Cheeburger egg creams are mighty fine and quite authentic right down to the bit of chocolate that settles down at the bottom of the glass for a last-sip burst of flavor at the end (though I'm not sure they were using genuine Fox's U-Bet chocolate syrup in the drink.) The egg creams alone would bring me in to this place if there were one in my area.

As for the service: our waitress seemed a little inexperienced, but she was still friendly and helpful, and enthusiastic without crossing over into obnoxiousness. Overall, we had great food and a great time. I wouldn't mind a franchise opening close enough to home to enjoy them more frequently.


Cheeburger Cheeburger's website - Check out their menu, read company news, and more.

New York Egg Cream - History and Recipe - The definitive page about real egg creams.


1 comment:

Michele said...

you know...after reading this I had to go to the store for some U-Bet syrup to make egg creams with. I'm having one instead of dinner tonight! :)