Thursday, February 19, 2009

BurgerFest-O-Rama #5 - Duggan's Irish Pub

This post marks the long-coming but triumphant return of BurgerFest-O-Rama. As I noted earlier in the week, I have not been updating at the necessary pace to complete all 40 burgers on the list, but with the way our local and national economy continues to move, maybe some of the places will go out of business and I’ll catch a break. Hilarious, right?

On inauguration day at the end of January, my mom, brother, and I hit the road for the 2nd or 3rd closest location on the list relative to our home – Duggan’s Irish Pub at approximately Woodward and 13 Mile in Royal Oak. Duggan’s is centrally located for the Woodward Dream cruise and often attracts mass attendance in and around Dream Cruise day with their huge and openable (not technically a word as far as I can tell) windows on the second floor of their establishment. I have been to Duggan’s many times both before and after going for BurgerFest-O-Rama, so in this instance, I mostly knew what it was I was getting into. I rarely eat the burger when I go there (they have a glorious sandwich that they call their “Italian Sub” which has a bunch of red salty meats and a ton o’ cheese to which I am fairly partial as well as a $40 platter of fried everything. On a side note, my family is a group of huge eaters – which you may be able to tell from this series of posts – and we were not able to easily complete as a group the entire platter of deliciousness) but I had my typical focus for this dining experience.

From my experiences at Duggan’s Irish Pub, I would say that it is about as outwardly and inwardly Irish as I am if I were wearing a Notre Dame sweatshirt (something you are unlikely to catch me doing). There is a redundant theme of green about Duggan’s, from the painting on the outside to the color of the seats on the inside, and they have a bunch of Irish-y and non-Irish-y looking knick-knacks plastered about the walls and a leprechaun kicks you in the balls if you don’t pay your bill, but that just about sums up the Irishness. Their building is quite huge for a restaurant - two floors, with the majority of the flat panels being up on the second floor with a wide-open floor plan. There are also pool tables up on the second floor and a few video and pinball game machines scattered around. Duggan’s is one of those rare establishments that provides as much free popcorn as you can consume (until guilt gets the better of you), so I often consume quite a bit of the kernel before my food makes its way to the stage. It is also one of the last of a dying breed, the remaining stronghold of Cruisin’ Woodward diners that sprung up when people would cruise Woodward on days other than the Dream Cruise. As such, they have purchased many recipes from many of these now-defunct restaurants and keep their names on the menu in memoriam. Today, my family kept our focus on their Big Chief burger, the Cadillac of Big Macs. If you’re wondering what the Cadillac of Big Macs looks like, it looks like this:

Pros: Burger holds itself together exceptionally well as a unit, allowing for both putting down and picking up the burger, the Big Chief sauce is something that you think you’d hate from the description of it but most certainly does not suck, bun does not look or taste artisanal but it performs its function quite well, in keeping with the theme – the fries reminded me of the Cadillac (ok, maybe Buick) of McDonald’s fries, toppings were portioned and distributed evenly

Cons: Were not asked how we wanted our burgers done (probably ended up a tad more than we would have wanted), cheese seemed distinctly Kraft American-Singles-esque, the meat all by itself had the tiniest bit of funk to it, like it tasted gamy (Steve agreed), potato chips are standard accompaniment for burger with fries being additional (really Duggan’s? potato chips? What the hell)

Of all the burgers I’ve assessed to date, Duggan’s is providing me with the biggest internal conflict. The Big Chief Burger is largely defined by its special sauce. This special sauce is a curried mayonnaise/mustard sauce. That’s right – curry + mayo + mustard. I’m not a huge fan of the basic curry flavor profile in general, but in this sauce and on this burger, it is a fascinatingly stellar combination. I would bet that my mom’s last meal would be a Big Chief slathered in its inherent sauciness – it’s just a really interesting and memorable taste. The biggest thing that stood out to me from the dining, though, was that because I ordered my sauce on the side, there was something…off…about the meat. It had that slight hint of peas that some foods acquire when something weird is going on. It’s hard to explain more clearly than that, but you know what I’m talking about if you’ve had some food with a slight hint of funk. The real tear here, though, is that the sauce dwarfs the off taste when added to the burger. The burger is largely defined by the sauce, but without the sauce there are some more significant problems. I can’t break my own rules on my ranking system so I can only give one final ranking to the burger. To only moderately bend the rules, burger+sauce (which you could argue IS the burger) I could be quite happy giving 2 Hamburglars, but it is too hard for me to overlook that one main element of “what is that taste?” in the meat and the fact that the standard accompaniment is potato chips, so I have to go with:

We had great debate on this topic within my dining group and my mom dissents and my brother half dissents with my opinion, but I’m the one who took the time to write up the review so I WIN. What do you think, my two readers mom and dad? Can I partially separate out the burger’s most unique and special component in assigning my final score? The burger with fries costs $6.95+$0.95=$7.90, but despite my final score, I do recommend trying the Big Chief with its special sauce.


BobA said...

Since asked, I think you have to evaluate the entire burger experience and not just the meat. Otherwise you should just be asking for plain patties and comparing those. The sauce needs to be part of the experience.

I am not sure why I was omitted from this fest-o-rama experience, but I endorse Duggan's as a good place to eat (as long as your taste isn't too elegant).

Ken said...

We went for lunch and mom and Steve were both home and you were "working" - whatever that means.

Dan Anderson said...

I have to make a similar comment in that in your other ventures you've felt free to pile on the toppings as seen fit...I mean if you were to go to Red Coat which boasts such a large topping selection then you would help yourself, and base the entire burger experience on that.

Ken said...

So here's my deal - this is more than an inexact science, and there is no way that I can be 100% consistent all the way through. Otherwise, I would have to get a burger with lettuce and tomato everywhere, and by that time, I would be sick of the whole experience. I'm trying to maintain some measure of consistency, but it is certainly a challenge. For Duggan's, I think if you ate my meat (haha) you would understand why I would not be comfortable giving them a higher score. If I ate roadkill with a delicious sauce that entirely overwhelmed the roadkill, would that deserve two hamburglars? Surely not.

My goal here is to insult no one's product (unless it is truly terrible), but rather celebrate the burger and its wonder.

Dan Anderson said...

I can safely say w/o the eating meat part that I think you've made a fair evaluation; though it could have been a little more clear on how bad the meat was...?