Sunday, June 10, 2007

Restaurant review: Fuddruckers

I'm sure you can tell by looking at my picture, I'm a man who loves a good meal. I have pretty broad tastes, but I'm also very picky as to the quality of my food. Being so far from home, I also think as I eat at different places, if someone was visiting from California, and they said they were feeling like, whatever kind of food, would I take them there? Or would I take them somewhere else - or just say I'm not sure about places around here with that kind of food. So far we have Mexican down - Chico's. We have Italian down - Olive Garden is good for Italian food, but they have that in Cali. So I'd take them to Marabella's. It's an independent place that just opened in Washington, NC, real good food for a fair price. Or if it were my favorite cousins, it'd have to be Cici's - pizza buffet. But as for a burger... well, I haven't looked much. As far as fast food, Hardees is the clear winner with the 2/3lb. Monster Thickburger, the best burger you're like to get from a drive-thru window.

I'd always wanted to check out the Fuddrucker's in Greenville, NC, but we just never stopped there. Funny, I always thought "Fuddruckers" was an offensive slang, or a play on one (swap the F with the first R) so I kind of laughed it off as I passed. But the claim on their sign "World's Greatest Hamburgers" always intrigued me, but I'd been craving chicken for so long after I came out here that I never did. But today was different - I'd been craving burgers, so I decided to get trying Fuddrucker's out of the way, and I'm so glad that I did.

When we came in, I did not know what to expect. The place was big to start with, and we couldn't see the counter from where we came in. We could see a secondary counter, where they have drinks and treats. Looking around we saw antique cars hanging from the ceiling and up in the rafters. The walls were lined with rock and other music memorobilia, kind of like a Hard Rock, but much more casual. The antiques gave it an almost Cracker Barrel feel. Oh, and there was a Harley of some significance roped off near the front. And tables everywhere. Basically, imagine a big room with a + shaped divider in the middle - more like crosshairs, as it was open in the center.

So we come over on the right of all that, made our way up front. The cashier was very friendly, and when I mentioned that we had never been to a Fuddrucker's, she happily took the time to go over the menus, simple as they were. The first thing I noticed was in addition to them having more burger choices than most places (fast food or sit-down restaurants), you could choose the size. They were all the same price, really, it was just the choice of size that changed the price. 1/3 lb., 1/2 lb., 2/3 lb., and 1 lb. were the choices. I chose a 1 lb. Three Cheese burger, and Jen went with a 1/3 lb. Portabella Mushroom and Swiss burger. I got fries, she got "Frings" - combination fries and onion rings. They also asked us how we wanted the burgers cooked. We both asked for medium well. They gave us a device, a cross between a pager and a coaster.

This particular Fuddrucker's offers three choices for seating. First, wooden chairs at wooden tables, the most common seating. Second, regular-old booths - they had maybe half a dozen booths. Third, they had three private circular booths that could each sit about 4 or 5. One was dedicated to Elvis Presley. One I didn't get a good look at because it was occupied. We took the third one, dedicated to the Beatles. (Yes, I'd take the Fab Four over the King any day of the week.) These booths were raised up and had a fire station pole between the seat ends, which, I discovered was great for getting up after a full meal. Our booth had at least 2 dozen framed prints of Beatles photographs, mostly from their early days. I imagine the Elvis one was similarly adorned. I can identify Lennon in the more recent pictures, but when they all had those bowl cuts, if you ask me they all looked the same. Anyway, we both messed around in the arcade waiting for our food. I was just getting started on a shooter when our pager went off. I cut my game short - burgers are best hot and fresh. They don't stay edible long. And the game sucked anyway.

So we take our food back over to where you order, because they don't put any condiments or rabbit food (what I jokingly call vegetables) on it. Just the burger as described, the buns, and the fries. On mine I put mayonnaise on the top bun, ketchup on the bottom, and on the burger, 3 jalepeno peppers, two tomatoes, 3-5 onion slices (rings actually), and 2-3 pieces of iceberg lettuce. I didn't see what all Jen put on hers, but I saw her hit the Pico de Gallo up, and they also had pickles, banana peppers, diced onions, shredded lettuce, honey mustard, spicy mustard, BBQ sauce, nacho cheese (!), and various sauces - Tabasco, A1, some other stuff. The soda was all Pepsi products, the one weakness - I love me some Sprite and Sierra Mist just ain't the same. So I made my Pepsi-bar cocktail, Mountain Dew with some Tropical Punch mixed in. Kinda comes out like the Mountain Dew Code Red that Taco Bell used to have.

We get the burgers back to our booth, and mine was simply amazing. Jen liked hers, too, though I didn't ask her about it. Mine was more well than medium well. When I say medium well, I like to see a little pink in the middle. Not red, mind you - I'm afraid of eating undercooked meat - but pink. That way it's still juicy. You order something well done, the outside is burnt and it's tougher than it has any right to be. My burger was juicy enough, but could have and should have been more so. The cheese blend was good, though I think (not sure) Swiss was up there - something was giving it a sour taste. Cheddar, jack, and pepper jack is how I would do a 3-cheese burger. But again, despite a minor complaint about the cheese, the burger was good. I had a good mix of condiments as well, though I would have preferred diced onions to the full ones, down below the burger in the ketchup, McDonalds style (much as I hate Mickey D's). And diced tomatoes would have been preferrable.

I can't fairly say it was the best burger I've had. It beats Ruby Tuesday's, but Bennigan's Big Irish is pretty good. I think the Fuddrucker's burger is a little better. But I know two places out west - Cloverdale's Hamburger Ranch and Healdsburg's Bear Republic. My mother's a fan of Santa Rosa's Heavenly Hamburgers, but I thought they were kind of average. When Jen and I visit in November, I am taking her to both if we have time (Cloverdale and Healdsburg) to see if they're as good as I remember. But as far as Eastern North Carolina goes, I would have to say that Fuddrucker's impressed the hell outta me today. I got a good tasty and filling meal, the atmosphere was really nice, and we only paid like $22 for the two of us. That's about what we pay at Cracker Barrel or Chico's, so it's on par with our other favorite restaurants. For most burgers, it wouldn't be worth it to pay that for burgers, but for burgers of this class, I would say so. (We actually pay more to eat at Quizno's, now that I think on it.)


Allison said...

What does Marabella's have? Is there a menu online somewhere? I live in Washington, NC and would like to go sometime, but I just haven't had a chance to go yet!

Nathan Jolly said...

Well, Italian stuff. ;-) Their salads are good, and the bread that comes with it. The appetizers aren't very good, though. What I've tried of the pasta is pretty good. My wife and I eat for about $20 for the two of us. I don't know about online, but they have takeout menus you can get, they have them there. Email me if you have any other questions, and I'll try to answer them if I can.