Featured Restaurant: ACME Burger Company
May is National Hamburger Month, and in a state known for its burger, shake and french fry culture, there are plenty of options to choose from if you’re looking to satisfy that All-American urge for one of our country’s most iconic of foods. To be sure, the burger ‘culture’ of both Salt Lake and most of Utah has long been built around local, fast-food ‘style’ restaurants such as Hires Big H, Crown Burger, and the western-based chain, Arctic Circle, but on a recent trip to the state capital I decided to fulfill my curiosity for something a bit more “gourmet.” Not that the ubiquitous, griddled-to-a-hockey puck quarter pounder on a sesame seed bun isn’t appealing (it is, after all, what America is all about), but there are days when I long to challenge my past culinary experiences, which in the realm of burgers have been few and far between.
Enter ACME Burger Co.
Located just a stones throw away from Pioneer Park and the Gateway mall, ACME touts a menu filled with foodie-friendly ‘upscale’ burgers and sides that come with the familiar buzz phrase slogans that speak to a commitment in the quality of their ingredients and their staff’s personalized and attentive service. But ACME isn’t just another pretentious urban hangout where 20 something’s brag about the beer list or the locally sourced meat and sustainable cooking practices, as the restaurant’s award list testifies to an upscale burger eatery with some serious hitting power. Not only did they come in second in Salt Lake City Weekly’s 2010 Best Burger” category, but their Spicy Moroccan Lamb burger was Food Network Magazine’s choice as the one burger “you just have to try” in the entire state. That’s some pretty high praise from reputable sources, but could ACME deliver when it came to a relative beef burger novice like me?
In a word, yes.
For starters, the menu has something for everyone. Are you a tried and true beef purist? If so, a collection of variously sized beef burgers is yours for the taking. Are you – like me – the kind of person who usually just has to order Buffalo every time you see it in burger form? You’re in luck, as their Chipotle Bison Burger is considered among the city’s best takes on the western staple. What about something a bit more ethnic? A lamb burger and ground chicken burger show influences of the Mediterranean and Middle East, while tempting looking fish options – such as a salmon burger and Ahi tuna burger – displayed distinctly Asian flavor profiles. Burgers come as described on the menu, but additional add-ons (such as cheese and premium toppings) and sides are available. And while their burgers do conform to familiar flavor profiles in their description, the folks at ACME are more than receptive to helping build a burger to your specifications.
While the many menu choices made deciding on a burger extremely difficult, I ended up going with the $10 springtime lunch special; A ‘Nakad’ Kobe Beef burger with a side salad and drink. I was tempted to add a slice of buffalo mozzarella atop my burger, but having never experienced the supposed marvels of Kobe beef before, I wanted to get the an appreciation for the meat without the interference of too many additional flavors and textures.
The burger itself came out in a fairly prompt manner, and was cooked to what you might call a “more than medium but not quite well done” (and yes, I’m trademarking that phrase). I had ordered the burger to a medium-well, but the chef, probably recognizing my relative burger wimpiness, knew better than to serve me such a finely ground product at a temperature that wouldn’t properly represent the meat or the cook. The burger patty (which looked to be about 5 ounces) came simple and unadorned on a sweet potato bun with lettuce, tomato, red onion, and four dill pickle chips on the side. Described as “like” the standard brioche bun that the burger comes with, the sweet potato bun reflected an oversight by the waiter, who told me I could get the burger on a potato-dill bun. Willing to go with the flow, I nevertheless raised no objection, although found the bun a tad under-toasted on the underside.
Any issues I had with the size of the burger (smallish) or the bun oversight disappeared with my first bite. With a crispy crust and excellent looking grill marks, the exterior ‘backyard’ texture of the burger yields to a deliciously juicy interior that brims with a slightly sweet yet no-less rich natural beef flavor. The salt and pepper seasoning was just right, while the natural juices of the meat weren’t overwhelmingly messy nor completely grilled out. I delighted in the flame-broiled and smoky aftertaste of the meat, and took pleasure at seeing the tiny bits of fat globules drip out with the juices after each bite. Dressed only with the condiments given (as well as a modest portion of yellow mustard and Heinz ketchup) the burger was everything I could have asked for, and reflected a “higher end” and better executed application of the backyard cookout burger that leaves us all nostalgic for those summer days in Leave it to Beaver-land, USA.
This was the kind of flame-broiled burger Burger King can only dream about creating, and an exceptional introduction into the world of Kobe Beef for a first timer. I don’t know if Kobe is always superior to “regular” beef, but based off this experience alone I would be more than happy to take up the banner of shanghai massages and open pastures for our bovine friends. The meat seemed amazingly fresh, while the sweet potato bun didn’t overpower the slightly sweet flavor of the meat itself. As for my guests, they loved their burgers. My father ordered the mini burger “trio” of chicken, bison, and elk, and could not stop raving about the flavors. My mother’s veggie burger looked amazing, while the sweet potato fries she ordered as a side were enjoyable. Slightly soggy but unquestionably fresh, they displayed a sugary powder that made eating them an almost dessert like experience! Even my side salad was well composed, and I found it well-tossed with a not-too-tangy balsamic vinaigrette.
ACME Burger Co. isn’t the best restaurant in Utah. My visit there revealed some inconsistency in service (the case of the missing potato-dill bun), while the burger portion for their lunch special seemed a tad too modest. Nevertheless, the Naked Kobe burger delivers on every account, and reveals that when it comes to upscale burgers in the Beehive State, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better dining option. I may not be the most well-tasted foodie when it comes to beef hamburgers (although when it comes to Buffalo, that’s a different story) but the flavorful and juicy rendition has piqued my interest, and made a believer out of me when it comes to the superiority of Kobe beef.
Check them Out:
ACME Burger Company
275 South 200 West
Salt Lake City, UT 84101-1843