Whenever I post about burgers, someone invariably says, “Hey! Why isn’t such-and-such on the list! It’s so much better than what you picked!” Usually, “such-and-such” is a burger I don’t particularly like, but every once in a while, it’s one I haven’t tried. In an effort to be as well-informed as possible, I’m trying to hit up these burger places. The Fiance doesn’t mind, since after a week of eating fairly healthfully, the first thing he wants is a burger. Two weeks ago, our Saturday burger involved a trip up to Sammy’s Gourmet Burgers in Blue Ash, which several of you readers suggested as your favorite.
Sammy’s is very near to Through the Garden, at the intersection of Creek Road and Kenwood Road in Blue Ash. Being so close to Ethicon and several office complexes, I’m sure it gets great weekday lunch business. On weekends, it’s all sports bar, with a bunch of TVs showing soccer and football. The atmosphere is pretty casual, which is appropriate for a burger joint. The menu is very sports bar too– deep fried everything, including jalapenos, “Bengal striped” onion rings (I’m not sure I want to know how this is achieved), quesadillas, chili, and nachos. The menu has a lot of Mexican influences, which is appropriate, since the same family owns El Pueblo Mexican Restaurant, also in Blue Ash. There are a lot of dishes with “Mexican Melting Cheese” (I assume to be asadaro) and sauces like sabi (a hot sauce), ranchero (tomato-based) and ragita (based on chilis, but I’m not entirely sure it’s Mexican, and extensive searches of Chow, Epicurious and a couple of food dictionaries didn’t help). They also have Nathan’s Hot Dogs, and a couple of them are prepared Sonoran-style, that is, wrapped in bacon with a variety of toppings. I’ll try one next time I pop in. With all of these Mexican touches, I’m surprised that the nachos were cajun. Ah, well. We weren’t there for the nachos: we were there for the burgers.
We took a quick look at the burgers, and decided that we’d emphasize the “gourmet”. Terry picked the Hawaiian Burger, which included teriyaki, mayonnaise, ham, pineapple and Swiss cheese. The presentation (and, frankly, the recipe) reminded me of Red Robin: so many toppings it has to be wrapped up, or else you’d end up wearing the burger. The burger itself wasn’t much to write home about, and after a bit of deliberation, we realized it was probably frozen. The “gourmet” is necessary in order to make the burger anything other than average. Unfortunately, this too fell short, since the pineapple was canned, and the ham, though grilled, was bland. Upgrading the ingredients could make this a pretty good burger.
My burger fared slightly better. Same mediocre patty, but the combination of the ragita chili sauce, ranchero-cilantro dressing and “Mexican melting cheese” was very flavorful. It was spicy without being overwhelming (I don’t like hot for its own sake; so hot you can’t taste anything else), and just a little different and creative. We agreed that my burger was by far the better of the two.
Lastly, the fries. As we walked in, we saw a cook from the kitchen shaking a gigantic bag of frozen fries in the doorway to the kitchen. Not a good sign. And, to be honest, they weren’t much to write home about. They’re described as “famous beer-battered bottleneck fries”, but I’m certain that they’re famous at every restaurant that has them. They’re okay– crispy– but taste pretty processed.
Sammy’s Gourmet Burgers unfortunately falls short. They’ve got the burgers part right– they do have them, and some of them aren’t bad– but the gourmet part is lacking. They need to upgrade their ingredients– fresh burgers, fresh pineapple, better ham, fresh fries– to truly be “gourmet”. This isn’t a bad stop if you’re in the neighborhood, but I wouldn’t make a special trip.