Monday, December 15, 2008

BurgerFest-O-Rama #3 - Vinsetta Grill

One of the things I thought I would most enjoy about my epic burger eating adventure is that I would force myself (and maybe others) into experiencing a whole subset of dining institutions at which I have never previously eaten for one reason or another. One place on The Free Press' list in particular stood out to me for this purpose.

I am a creature of habit, and as such, I complete the same 4 or 5 mile running route every day. At about the 1.5 mile mark, I round a bend at the intersection of Vinsetta (one of Royal Oak's prettiest roads) and the great Woodward Avenue. The northeast corner of this intersection is home to the popular local eatery known as the Vinsetta Grill. Over the past five years, I have probably run within 40 feet of the Vinsetta Grill about 1,000 times, and yet, I have never eaten there. That statement held true until Sunday evening for family dinner. I'm not sure if a waitress likes or dislikes when all four members at her table order a hamburger.
The Vinsetta Grill is quite popular for it's traditional American fare, including dishes like ribs (several different varieties). I did not spend too much time looking through the non-burger menu as my sole purpose in life is meat-consumption, but the selections I did glance at on the menu and other's tables looked scrumptious. The main (and only) room was a fairly low-light environment with a dark-hue theme (blues, greys). This isn't a sports bar, but there are two TVs for all those who can not remove themselves from the current football or basketball game. It was also very clean, organized, and some unfortunate person spent a large amount of time attaching a festive Christmas tree ornament to every single intersection of the panelled ceiling. This must have created quite a cramp in this person's neck, but I approve of other's cramping for my satisfaction.
The Vinsetta Grill is called out on the list as a "Best Loaded Burger". If you trust nothing I say, at least trust that this place knows how to load a burger. Every burger is of the "make your own" variety where you check off your desires on a little sheet and hand the sheet to the waitress. They do not have any pre-selected burgers. I haven't seen options like this since a party I went to recently and dessert was a buffet of jars full of different types of candy. You can choose 1/3, 2/3, or 1 lb of beef, turkey, chicken, or veggie for your burger. Standard with the burger order is the choice of one of 10 cheeses (gruyere?), 4 toppings (20 choices including dried cranberries and hard boiled egg), and 1 sauce (18 choices like caramelized onion marmalade and sun dried tomato vinaigrette). Everyone in my family got something quite different and diverse, and I went with 1/3 lb beef with grilled pineapple, grilled onions, iceberg lettuce, roasted red peppers, American cheese, and soy-ginger glaze sauce. We also ordered one order of regular fries and one order of sweet potato fries for the table. The burgers hit the scene, and like I said, loaded (I recommend clicking on the photo below for a slightly higher resolution version):

This one is a hard one for me to review. The massive pile of toppings worked as both a positive and a detriment. As a general food-eating event, it was quite good, but as a pure burger experience, I found it lacking in some regards. I don't mean to say it was bad because it definitely wasn't, but some things were a struggle for me. There were so many toppings, the burger itself was almost entirely lost. It also may have been the toppings I chose, but everything on top of the meat kind of turned into a big pile of soft. The lettuce was shredded the thinnest I have ever seen lettuce shredded, and the texture of the lettuce was lost because of this. The sauce, which I expected to be pre-glazed on the burger, was served in a separate little cup. Because I poured it over the top of all the rest of the toppings, the sauce got all over the bun, the bun got super soft, and then the whole thing became pretty impossible to hold. Steve did not want to put the burger down for fear of not being able to pick it back up, and he ended up pounding the thing. The only way to counter the toppings would be to get more meat, but 1/2 lb is not an option and 2/3 lb is far too much for most people. A knife and fork became the standard operating procedure for the other 3 of us at the table.

Pros: burger loadability (like the burger gods threw up delicious topping options and they fell all over the Vinsetta Grill), best sweet potato fries I maybe have ever had, very courteous wait staff, all burgers initially assumed as medium unless requested otherwise, regular fries tasted like McDonald's fries (believe it or not, a huge plus for me), burger-in-a-bowl option for the carbohydrate conscious, local establishment that has stood the test of time, quick service, on my running path

Cons: meat was overwhelmed and could be lost in the fray, meat itself could have had more seasoning, cooked correctly but food not as hot as it could be, Steve and I had some red-ness in our buns (maybe blood?) and that was unexpected (hamburger buns. Don't be a weirdo), lettuce too thin, would have liked selected sauce pre-sauced

Again, I remind you that pretty much everything on my burger scale is a good burger (I have maybe only once eaten a "bad burger" and I'm pretty sure that it was made of asbestos but even still I ate the whole thing), so my goal is not to discourage anyone from eating anywhere (unless I have a truly terrible experience somewhere). The Vinsetta Grill served a great food product, but when taken purely as a burger, we have our first...
I have nothing against lots and lots and lots and lots of toppings on my burgers, but it is critical that there is the proper balance between the meat and the non-meat. Unfortunately, the meat lost the battle today, but I know you will enjoy yourself and your meal if you eat at the Vinsetta Grill. Until next time.


Jeff Caminsky said...

Not that I have any pickles in this happy meal, but for the sake of throwing some added seasoning on the sweet potato fries, allow me to play devil's advocate for a moment:

Assuming, for the sake of discussion, an emporium whose proprietor allows the customer to select his own burgering enhancement, whose responsibility is it to ensure that the meat is not overwhelmed by a surfeit of extras? Granted that our tendency toward governmental intrusions into many aspects of our lives has raised expectations on the parts of many that someone else will make most of our important decisions for us, still it seems to this observer that the individual must accept some personal responsiblity, even in this day and age.

Thus, unless we import the less-savory aspects of current system of tort liability---and conclude that it is the mere availability of these options, rather than the individual's choice of how to employ them, that is the source of "fault" for the consequences---then I question the notion of assigning culinary fault to an establishment's decision to maximize the consumer's flexibility in achieving culinary Nirvana.

Though lost amid the Nanny-State predilections of some modern legal scholars, our system of government was founded upon the principle that government's responsiblity was to guarantee merely the pursuit of happiness (in addition to life and liberty), rather than happiness itself. (Its inability to accomplish any of the three in a reliable fashion is an interesting topic of debate for another day, but largely irrelevant to our concerns here). In like fashion, a culinary emporium can only provide the opporunity for exquisite dining; intervening actions by the culinary hopeful---such as over-swathing a burger in toppings...or bathing it in an ocean of ketchup, for that matter---are not, in this view, attributable to the dining institution itself. And though culinary litigation specialists may yet succeed in foisting this view of vicarious liability onto our legal system, it is one that, in this observer's opinion, food critics everywhere have a duty to resist...else, we face a future of not of burgeristic artistry, but of homogenetic sameness in all aspects of American hamburgerescence---which, I'm sure all would agree, would be a loss akin to banning pickles from our potato salads.

This is not, of course, to excuse placing food that is less than optimally hot onto the diner's table. But that, again, is a topic for another day.

Ken said... attempt to paraphrase this legal masterpiece - isn't it my fault if I put the wrong things or too many things on my burger?

On one hand, I agree, it is partially my responsibility to ensure that the burger meets my exacting standards. My main point of differentiation, though, is that the Vinsetta Grill was specifically called out for it's Loaded Burgers. Based on this, I felt justified loading my burger to the pre-defined allotment (without adding anything beyond "the normal") and basing the ranking on this meat+toppings combo.

On another note, Jeff, would you mind if I post the text of your article about Metz and include a link to your blog? Let me know!

Jeff Caminsky said...


By all means...and to be honest, I wouldn't mind cross-linking to your blog now and again, as well. And for the have blanket permission to repost anything you'd like (well, as long as it's not in the "Can You Believe What Some Twits Are Saying??" section); just let me know.

I do, however, appreciate your "Mythbusters" approach to pushing the envelope on burgers---ie, if it's worth doing, it's worth doing (a) to the extreme, and (b) in such a way as to cause an explosion (in your case, a taste-explosion caused by pushing their concept to its limit).

As you've cogently noted, there seems to be a huge difference between lawyers and normal people, at least in the way they use the English language. I wonder if that's why your mom went to law school: so she could try to understand what in the world your dad was saying.