Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hook Burger

I was sad to see, on one of my first drives on this Pasadena vacation, that Wolfe Burgers had closed. Yeah, the quality was not nearly what it used to be, and the friendliness of the joint had waned over the years, but for as long as I can remember, it was a solid standby. It wouldn't blow anyone away, but nobody complained. And on an autumn or even winter weekend, when the weather was warm, there was almost no place more enjoyable than their back patio, nursing a Pacifico and chowing down a burger.

But a door closes and a window opens, as they say. First they take Ugarte and then she walks in. I read that Hook Burger had opened, not too far from my parents' house, by the same owners of The Habit, a burger joint I like very much. So when my mom asked what we should do for lunch one day, I said "Hook Burger."

It was crowded inside but the line moved pretty rapidly. Like The Habit, the customer service at Hook was outstanding. All restaurants - from fast food to fine dining - can learn something from how Hook Burger's employees act. When was the last time an employee at a fast-casual burger joint came to your table to ask how everything was or offer to refill your drinks for you from the self-help fountain? (The latter has never happened to me until this visit.)

I had a Diet Coke, my mom had an iced tea.

Despite how crowded the place was (we weren't even sure we were going to be able to get a table; every one of them was occupied when we walked in) our food came out in less than ten minutes.

I had the Hickory Burger: Prime chuck, bacon, barbecue sauce, crispy onions, tomato (which I removed) and lettuce. I loved it. The brioche bun was wonderfully soft and fresh. I wish more burger places used buns like this. The crispy onions were really good and the patty was nice.

If I were to issue a complaint it would be this: the 5-ounce patty seems a little small for a burger like this. I mean, $5.95 seems like a fair price - hell, a lot of fast food restaurants are charging that for their burgers now - so I am not upset... I would just prefer a half-pound patty, even if it cost a dollar more. The toppings were very good, they just overpowered the small-ish patty.

My mom had the Prime Burger, adding avocado. She definitely liked it - and loved the bun like I did - though she wished there had been an extra slice of avocado. 

I ordered the fries and onion rings, realizing (correctly) even while ordering that they would be too much food. Normally I would have just ordered the onions, but I saw another customer had shoestring fries. As I wrote a couple of days ago, I love shoestring fries when they're fried up crisp.

Hook Burger's fries aren't as good as those I had at Ruth's Chris, but they were still damn good. Perhaps the second-best shoestring fries I have had in the last couple of years.

They onion rings were very good, too. They were breaded (I prefer the battered type that I showed you yesterday) but I still enjoyed them: they weren't too greasy and each ring was a good size and covered with batter. (I find it annoying when onion rings are carelessly breaded and half the ring is uncoated.)

I was impressed with Hook Burger. If I still lived in Pasadena, it would definitely be placed ahead of The Habit in my burger rotation. Habit's burgers are good, but this Hook Burger was just little bit better, and the fries are no comparison. I won't be back on this trip - I have about twenty places I want to visit in 13 days; it doesn't seem feasible - and I may never get to try it again, but I'm quite glad I went. 


sfmitch said...

Those burgers looked cooked well done - how did you order them?

Bekah said...

That is the best damn fast food burger I have ever seen.
And a plate? Wow.

SuperLarge said...

Gourmet burgers are the new fro-yo. Used to be one couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting an Italian place in Pasadena, now it's burger joints. Wait til you hit Umami Burger, it's twice as expensive for their cheapest burger and just about the same size. Folks do love it, though.

Anonymous said...

Regarding what you said "when was the last time", chick fil a has always had this level of service for me. Someone is always around to see how your meal was and if you need a refill

JustinM said...

sfmitch - I didn't specify, and yeah they were pretty well done, but they were still juicy and really good. If they offered larger patties, I would probably ask for it medium-rare.

Bekah - I'd still take the Double-Double, even if it weren't a couple bucks cheaper, which it is.

SuperLarge - I don't really plan to eat there. It's never held that strong a pull for me. I almost went there my first week in town because an acquaintance wanted to, but it was too crowded. This meal for my mom and me was 21 bucks - I've heard of two people dropping more than 50 bucks for an alcohol-less meal at Umami

Anon - Tuesday night was my second-ever meal at Chick-fil-a. I have not had that level of service either time, but I realize this is a small sample size and I can certainly see how some locations are run that way.

Amanda said...

Wolfe Burgers closed?!?!? I guess I have no place to complain as I hadn't been there in ages, but I liked their food and loved their patio - they were a Pasadena institution. Any evidence of what is gonna go in there?

And yes, Hook looks pretty good for the new gourmet burger trend, I'll have to try it.

Unknown said...

Hey, loving the blog the food looks amazing i'm drooling as i scroll down. Not to be rude but I was wondering how you're keeping your weight down with all these foood! I can't imagine myself eating so much goodies on a weekly basis without gaining weight at an astounding rate.

JustinM said...

Don't worry, I get asked that question a lot. The answer is twofold: 1) When I'm not eating the foods you see, I eat much healthier meals, and 2) I exercise every day.