About Scott R Kline
Scott R. Kline is a photographer, father, traveler, husband and burger-lover based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He loves road trips, Burning Man, scotch whiskey, mid-century furniture, his dog Rex, building houses in Mexico, and seeing what comes next in life. You can visit the Facebook page for Scott R. Kline Photography at http://tinyurl.com/2eodlxu.
Latest Posts by Scott R Kline
Every year millions of Hoosiers and other Midwesterners blast through Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia on Interstate 75, trying to get to Florida as fast as they can. Corbin, Kentucky, is one of dozens of little towns that we blow by without even seeing, hidden by the mountain ridges.
Probably all of them have a hidden treasure of a diner or two, but a couple of things make Corbin more worthy of others of a brief detour. If you’ve got an hour to spare, it’s the town closest to Cumberland Falls, one of the great under-appreciated natural wonders east of the Mississippi. And foodies may recognize Corbin as the home of Colonel Sanders and birthplace of Kentucky Fried Chicken.
And indeed, you can still enjoy a meal as well as tour a museum in the quaint refurbished cottage where Colonel Sanders started his empire. But, this blog is not called “Hoosier Chicken Boy.”
Or you can ask someone where to go for the local color. Odds are, they’ll be delighted to tell you that the Dixie Café is open again.
The Dixie is a classic hole-in-the-wall main street diner, serving breakfast and lunch, that dates back at least to my mother-in-law’s childhood in the 1930s. A few years ago it closed and the space briefly became an Italian restaurant, but in the last year new owners bought it and restored/updated it to a version of its former “glory.”
It’s still got the 2’x4’ acoustic ceiling and the red-and-white tile floor, accompanied by new, no-nonsense booths and tables, with a lunch counter in the back. The walls are freshly painted in the red and gray colors of the local high school, the Corbin Redhounds (hey, there’s another alternative nickname for the Washington Professional Football Club), and adorned with a combination of letter jackets, old sports calendars, and framed artwork of local landmarks for sale, including a striking image of an L&N locomotive, a tribute to the employer that kept my in-laws fed and shod through the Great Depression. You have to get close enough to read the price tags to realize that the images are filtered and soft-focused photographic prints. If they had actually been paintings, I would have bought a couple for $105. I may still.
Whether your clientele is locals or tourists, if you’re down the street from the original KFC, you need a gimmick. At the Dixie, it is the “chili bun” – a hot dog bun filled with finely-ground beef in a chili sauce, with no frankfurter involved. The sauce has just a touch of heat, seasoned primarily with black and cayenne pepper, and maybe a hint of cumin. They come two to a platter with a side for $4.25, and they are ample enough that my 14-year-old didn’t need dessert afterwards.
Hoosier Burger Boy and I grew up in rural northern Indiana, where his family raised beef cattle and my family’s blood money came from poultry, so I ordered the Dixie Eggburger for $5.65, plus a 50-cent upgrade to onion rings. The onion rings were of the frozen variety, but of good quality for that kind, well-drained so they weren’t greasy, and plentiful.
The burgers at the Dixie are fresh and hand-made. No perfect circles here – mine was bigger than 6 ounces but not a half-pound, and bore a striking resemblance to a map of Ireland. It was thick enough that they probably should have asked how I wanted it done. It came out medium-rare, which was perfect for my tastes, but maybe too pink for some. They did ask me how I wanted the egg, and they nailed the “over-medium”, with just enough yolk to drip some on the plate without getting the large, white-bread bun soggy. The burger lacked any kind of seasoning to make it truly memorable, but was more than satisfying for the price.
Despite the antique coke machine inside the front door, the Dixie offers Pepsi products and both sweetened and unsweetened tea, which is a pleasure. In this part of the country, if you order iced tea without asking, you’re probably going to get “swait tay.”
I don’t think you need to be accompanied by a delighted Corbin expatriate to enjoy the Dixie, but that was surely part of the pleasure. Every household at my wife’s family reunion made a detour from the state park into town to have at least one meal at the Dixie. With or without a Corbinite (Corbinian? Corbinaria?), a trip to the Dixie feels like a homecoming.
Burger 3 Spatulas out of 5
Onions Rings 2.5 Spatulas
208 S. Main St.
Corbin, KY 40701
Contributed by Ron Newlin.
The Pink Pony in Scottsdale, Arizona was a must for burgering when we made our first sojourn to Arizona to watch the Giants at Spring Training. The Pink Pony is a long-time tradition in Scottsdale for all those who attend the Giants games a few blocks away at Scottsdale Stadium. My friend Gil Zeimer, who recently wrote a guest blog here, said we had to get the Pony Burger.
After the Saturday game, we headed over to the Pony. The newly remodeled Pony has little in common with the old dive it once was, according to those we spoke with. It is modern and sleek and would not feel out of place in Los Angeles. We were told it was a two–hour wait for a table so we decided to wait for a spot to open up at the bar. We put in our name for a table, just in case.
At the bar, Giants fans traded stories and we joined right in. Four men who share season tickets at AT&T were on their 14thconsecutive outing to spring break. We chatted with them as we waited for a bar spot to open up. After a mere 45 minutes my pager went off and we got our table.
I ordered the Pony Burger ($12) with Wisconsin Cheddar, crispy Pork belly, avocado, garlic aioli, slow roasted tomato, bibb lettuce and butter bun + fired egg. But our server, Vincente, said that the Giants fans had made a run on the place and the huge trove of buns they had at the beginning of the day were gone! No burgers. I was crest-fallen. He promised to see what he could do. Sure enough, Vince came back and said the chef did not want me to go away disappointed. He would make a special bunless version of the burger just for me!
It was fabulous. The meat was salty and juicy. Very flavorful. The roasted tomato added a nice counter-note to the garlic aioli. The avocado was more like guacamole in consistency and could have been left off. The sunnyside-up egg was a great topper. The bibb lettuce cradled the whole thing next to some excellent fresh-cut fries.
I will definitely head back to try the bun version in the future, but this one was fabulous and the service was stellar.
Burger 4.5 spatulas out of 5
Fries 4 spatulas
3831 N. Scottsdale Rd.
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
Roam Artisan Burgers on Fillmore is the second location for this San Francisco burger chain. It is a warm and friendly place to meet friends for burgers, which is exactly what we did one Wednesday night. We all ordered our food at the counter and staked out 10 places at the communal table in the middle. Roam has a very nice wine and beer selection which is definitely a win. But go here for the burgers, which are some of the best I have had in San Francisco.
I got the Sunny-Side ($8.25) with the beef patty, organic free range egg, aged white cheddar, caramalized onions, greens, tomato, sweet chili sauce. The patty is 4.5 ounces but seems bigger. The meat is moist and nicely spiced, cooked just the right medium. Sesame bun toasted and spongy. Sauce is just the right amount of sweet and spicy. Onions sweet and perfect. Fresh tomato slices were fresh and tasty. My only quibble would be the egg yolk should have been runny, not cooked hard.
|Russet Fries from Roam Artisan Burgers
The Russet Fries ($2.99) are medium cut and sprinkled with parsley. These were not as hot as they could be.
Zucchini onion haystack strings ($3.49) are ok. They were tough to eat and indeed stringy.
The place offers a nice choice of meats including beef, turkey, bison and veggie. I didn’t consider anything but beef, but a lot in our party did. They seemed equally pleased.
I will be back. Sorry for the photo quality. The place was very dark. I lit the food with my iPhone.
Burger 5 spatulas to of 5
Fries 4 spatulas
Onion Strings 2.5 spatulas
Roam Artisan Burgers
1923 Fillmore Street,
San Francisco CA 94115
Shake Shack in Madison Square Park is the original location for this New York City icon. When in New York I felt compelled to give it a try. On a lovely fall Sunday in the shadow of the Flatiron Building, the line at noon was only about 5 minutes. I ordered a double Shack Burger ($7.20) fries ($2.70) and a chocolate shake ($5). It only took about 5 more minutes to get our food.
The burger is special. The two patties were fresh and lightly compacted. There was lots of room for the juice to flow. The meat was salty to the best degree and cooked a perfect medium. Melted American cheese oozed nicely blending with the mayo-based sauce. A couple of firm tomato slices and some fresh green leaf lettuce topped it off. The hinged bun was toasted and spongey, holding everything together in the two minutes it took me to eat it.
The fries were crinkle fries cooked brown and salted. Medium thick, they were good, but not unusual.
|The original location for the Shake Shack in the shadow of New York’s Flatiron Building.
The shake was fabulous. Creamy thick and cold, but still drinkable through the fat straw. The Chocolate quotient was perfectly balanced. I sensed a slight hint of coconut.
If you get to New York, don’t hesitate to give it a try. Try to get to the original location for a great experience.
Burger 5 spatulas out of 5
Fries 3.5 spatulas
Chocolate Shake 4 spatulas
Southeast Corner of Madison Square Park
Madison Ave. and E 23rd St.
New York, NY
|The Flatiron Building looms next door to Madison Square Park.
Trick Dog is first and foremost a bar. But it is a bar named for its hamburger. An imaginative concoction on a sesame encrusted, toasted, hot-dog shaped bun. Despite this gimmick, the burger is tangy and satisfying.
We sat upstairs with a great view of the drinking and schmoozing taking place below. Mixed drinks consumed in mass quantities were the norm. Trick dog subscribes to the new artisanal cocktail craze in San Francisco, and I suspect elsewhere. We had met the bartender, Morgan, one night at Bar Agricole and sipped cocktails there at the bar of the master.
|The bustling bar at Trick Dog in the Mission District of San Francisco, CA.
I ordered up The Trick Dog ($8) composed of “house ground blend of chuck, brisket & sirloin”. It also comes with shredded lettuce, onion, pickles, cheddar cheese and a delightfully tangy sauce that is some bastard child of thousand island and cayenne pepper. The burger patty itself is juicy and perfectly cooked with a luscious pink center.
|Thrice-Cooked, Manimal-Style Fries.
The Manimal-Style, Thrice-Cooked Fries are a must. ($7). These awesome, salty fries were thick and crispy topped with all manner of stuff. I am not sure what was in the topping exactly but I was in mind of deviled eggs in thousand island dressing with cayenne pepper. Cheese and mushrooms also resided atop the comely mess.
As we ate and I sipped my Manhatten, we enjoyed the ambience of a lively bar, but from a safe, comfortable distance upstairs. Our server had just the right amount of warmth and irony and let us consume at our chosen pace. I felt so at home I chased the whole thing with an ice-cold Miller High Life. Next time I will try the scotch eggs.
Burger 4.5 spatulas out of 5
Fries 4.5 Spatulas.
3010 20th St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
|An Antique Trick Dog Toy sits above the bar.
Paradise Cafe is a great burger joint in the middle of down town Santa Barbara, California with outdoor seating available. Inside the vibe is very Santa Barbara with ferns printed on the seat backs and bamboo tabletops. Our blonde, ponytailed server flitted about smiling the whole time.
Food came quickly after ordering. It is a huge looking burger served open faced with all the hot stuff in one side and the veggies on the top half of the bun. Assembling resulted in a 4-inch tall stack.
The 1/2 pound Paradise Burger sells for $11.95 plus $1.50 for bacon. I selected Swiss cheese instead of standard Cheddar. The patty was smokey and tasty.
Juicy meat was nicely salty. Red onions were piled on top and sweetly grilled. Bacon was smokey but a little flaccid. There was a nice thousand island style sauce on the side. Iceberg lettuce. Tomato slice. Pickle chips. The Onion bun was a little smashed but properly toasted.
The burger comes with thin cut fries; cold, soggy, not impressive.
Paradise Cafe is a pleasant place to have a solid burger that will fill you up. Soak up a little bit of Santa Barbara charm while you are there.
Burger 3 spatulas out of 5
Fries 1 spatula
Umami Burger in the Cow Hollow area of San Francisco is one of several California locations of this upscale burger chain. The space is dark and inviting. We arrived around six on a Thursday evening and to our surprise were ushered right to our butcher block table. We have eaten here several times and it can be very crowded, particularly on a weekend or later in the evening.
Our server appeared immediately to take our order. I ordered the Umami Burger ($11). It is one of several burgers built from the ground up. Umami takes pride in concocting each burger with toppings and custom sauces to make each one a unique experience.
The 1/3-pound burger is house-ground from some “proprietary blend of high end cuts” as our server told us after inquiring with the manager.
It is griddle fried rather than flame broiled, which I always prefer. The Umami Burger itself includes Shiitake mushroom, caramelized onions, slow roasted tomato slice, parmesan crisp and Umami ketchup. (Don’t miss the Umami Ketchup on your thin fries either. The ketchup is more tomatoey and spicier than your normal Heinz 57.)
The burger arrived sitting atop a white bun, perfectly dome-shaped and stamped with a “U”. The bun is finely toasted to perfection.
The burger itself is a work of art. I have never seen one so finely assembled and presented. Biting into the burger, which is prepared a perfect medium rare, you get each taste hitting your tongue separately and then blending in unison. I noticed the mushroom first, then the beef, cheese and ketchup. It is really a delight.
The Thin Fries ($3.50) are little matchsticks that really live up to their name. Crisp, salty and tasty, you need to eat them fast, because they don’t hold the heat for long.
The Onion rings are surprisingly uniform in appearance. Their light batter covers and somewhat overwhelms the soft onion inside. I dunked them in the jalapeño ranch sauce and they added a nice little kick.
My wife Pat had a burger with only cheddar cheese. Called the kids burger, it is the same size and bun as my burger. It is really the margarita pizza of burgers. In its unadorned state, it achieves a certain burger perfection that only works when the beef is flavorful, sparingly spiced and fresh.
Skip the pecan, bacon pie. Microwaved to a tongue burning temperature, it disappointed after the quality of the rest. Crust should never be subjected to a microwave, so it was hard to tell how good it was. The bacon was more of a gimmick than an addition. Instead, have another beer or glass of wine from the nice selection.
According to Cookthink, the tastes of sweet, salty, bitter and sour are familiar, but there is a fifth taste we can perceive with our tongue. Called umami, its taste has been described as rounded, rich and savory. I think this aptly describes the Umami Burger.
Burger 5 spatulas out of 5
Fries 4 spatulas
Onion Rings 4 spatulas
2184 Union Street
San Francisco, CA 94123
|This Samurai Sword sits in the entrance.
Smashburger in Thousand Oaks, CA presents a clean modern looking restaurant to have your hamburger. I liked the laminate wood grained tables and wood chairs. No faux 50s aesthetic that has become a cliché in burger places. You walk right up to the counter and order from the flat screen menus behind the server. I ordered up a Classic Smash in the big size ($5.99). The regular ($4.99) is 5 ounces. The big is a half pound. They also offer a double, which is two quarter pound patties rather than one half pound ($5.99).
I barely sat down and my order was there. It is a nice looking burger. The yellow bun was left open with the burger on one side and all the veggies and condiments on the other. I assembled as served and took a bite. The patty was cooked through, but still plenty moist if not particularly juicy as billed. The theory on the “smash” in Smashburger is that they start with a ball of fresh Angus beef and then smash it onto a buttered griddle, searing in the flavor and juice. I have always thought that you compress the ground beef as little as possible to keep the patty light, juicy and soft. The thicker patty also allows more pink beef in the middle. Having said all that, this is a very high quality enjoyable burger. The meat tasted savory and flavorful. All the flavors had a nice balance with the very fresh veggies: pickle chips, green leaf lettuce, tomato slice and red onion. There is also mustard and ketchup. The American cheese was mostly melted, although it could have been more so.
The Haystack Onions ($2.29) were light, thin, peppery and flavorful. Served hot and crisp they were supposed to be served with a dipping sauce, which I did not get. I had to go back to the counter and ask for it. Turns out that they were out of the containers for it and had to improvise a french fry container for it. Not a big deal, but leaving that great sauce out of the order would have robbed me of the delightful concoction. The sauce stings the taste buds with a delightful, creamy horseradish mix.
The Smash Fries were the best of the lot. For a chain, I really appreciate the creativity here. Smashburger rolls the thin, crisp fries in rosemary, olive oil and garlic. The subtle garlic didn’t overpower like garlic fries. These fries would be great without the extra spices, but with them, they are a don’t-miss addition to the burger.
Smashburger is a worthy option against other burger chains. It compares well with In-N-Out and beats Five Guys in my opinion. The more substantial burger is a plus. It is more expensive than the previous mentions, but that is not unexpected given the quality of the items ordered.
Burger 4 out of 5 spatulas
Haystack Onions 3.5 spatulas (Get the sauce)
Fries 5 spatulas
650 North Moorpark Road
Thousand Oaks, CA 91360
Next Page »