By Mike Thayer
I'm traveling around the Wichita Metro, sampling the burger offerings from any joint that has burgers on the menu, local, regional, national chain, it doesn't matter. In order to determine a true champion of burgers in the metro, I'll have to sample them all in the name of "burger science" (cough).
As a former Certified Competition BBQ Judge, I've taken that scoring system and tweaked it to judging burgers. Being evaluated on a point system scorecard will be a plethora of categories that includes but is not limited to the appearance, meat, bun, meat to bun ratio, the cheese, how the burger is dressed (that means the assortment of veggies, sauce and/or condiments for those of you who live in Haysville), price and more. Weighing most heavily in the score of course, is TASTE and depending on the size of the patty, I could be sampling a single or a double, there's a quarter pound minimum. After scoring the burger, I'll post a review for the respective burger joint, compiling all that data as I go from restaurant to restaurant and I'll post all the numbers for each burger sampled in a final report.
Today for lunch, I went to AJ's Sports Grill at The Alley to see how their version of a bacon cheeseburger measures up. Of note, AJ's recently went through a change in ownership, resulting in menu changes as well as recipes.
I walked into AJ's on Sunday morning, just after 11am. The lone patron, I selected a seat at the bar. I was greeted by Jessica, the bartender/waitress who asked me what I wished to drink and if I needed a menu. Hoping they had a red ale of some kind to go with the burger lunch, there was no such luck. But Jessica did offer up the regular beer with tomato juice alternative so I went with that. Unfortunately, AJ's was out of tomato juice. A Miller Lite it was...
Having looked at the menu online before traveling to AJ's, I already knew what I was going to order. I went with their "Super Cheesy Burger" a double decker with white American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles and red onion. For my side, I subbed the regular fries with Garlic Parm fries.
It took awhile for my burger to make it out to the bar, more than 15 minutes, but I'm not blaming the kitchen. I think the burger basket sat for a bit before Jessica brought it to me. The fries weren't just out of the fryer hot and the burger was warm, not fresh off the flat top hot. Sigh, part of the evaluation...
I took the first bite. Under seasoned, I had to apply some ketchup and mustard to put a little more umph in the flavor department. The beef lacked a good caramelized crust. The patties were juicy, but lacked a depth of flavor. The two slices of white American cheese were melted nicely and delivered the classic creamy notes that American cheese does, but calling this burger a "Super Cheesy Burger?" Nope, not appropriately named. There was nice coverage with the veggies, which helped balance out the two patties of beef. The meat to bun ratio was good, but it was an ordinary bun with no toast on it. C'mon AJ's, everybody knows a burger bun is WAY better when it's lightly toasted!
While the bacon was cooked to perfection and crisp, I have a pet peeve with two slices of bacon being placed on a burger in an 'X' on top of the patties. Simple construction yes, but it's not a proper way to assemble the bacon because it means you don't get bacon in every bite. It's frankly a lazy application, it's not aesthetically superior in presentation either with a length of bacon hanging out like a cow's tongue and to repeat, it's poor coverage. There are many bacon-less bites on the edges with the 'X' way and if you bite down wrong on that cow's tongue piece hanging out, you run the risk of pulling the whole piece out from the burger. The proper ways to top a burger with two slices of bacon are:
- half slices side by side
- shape the slices in a triangle, then cook it
Either way provides bacon in every bite with very little prep time added to the assembly of a bacon cheeseburger. Result: A better burger experience and a happy customer.
Side Note: The fries were decent, but as I stated earlier they weren't fresh out of the fryer hot. The garlic flavor was a bit on the light side, it could have been bolder and the shredded Parm was nice, but it wasn't added right after the fries came out of the fryer. There was very little melt, resulting in the shreds of cheese falling to the bottom of the basket rather than staying on the fry.
The burger basket cost me $14.69 for the "Super Cheesy Burger" and Garlic Parm fries with a $2 bacon add-on for a total of $16.69. AJ's version of a bacon cheeseburger scored 50 out of 63 possible points, earning 4 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars. It's a good burger but far from great and the higher than average cost prevents this from being a repeat buy. It's a burger that looked better than it tasted. A&W's burger scored higher than this. Of the burgers sampled so far in this challenge, AJ's score is the lowest.
AJ's Sports Grill at The Alley is located at 11413 E 13th St N, Wichita, KS 67206. The burger and fries were good but far from great and on a slow Sunday, the service was less than attentive. Jessica was friendly, but was slow to bring out my burger, I had to ask for a drink refill and it took forever to get my ticket so I could settle up. You would think a basket with a dirty napkin in it set far to the side along with an empty mug would be a hint for her to come over and ask if I needed anything else.... Texting on her phone was more important...
$pend Wisely My Friends...
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