Saturday, July 16, 2016

a quick OK Burger update

If you saw my two photos from yesterday, then you know I visited OK Burger again last night. What follows won't be much more than the addition of a few scattered remarks to the review I'd written earlier.

OK Burger's menu continues to evolve, much as Joe McPherson said it would. Joe has brought back his Brunswick stew, which I didn't order last night. Instead, I went for a different, but equally new, menu item: the chili fries. I also went for Joe's Spicy Smoked Jerk Chicken Burger (in his recent blog post, Joe noted that it's a Korean thing to refer to this as a "burger" and not as a "sandwich," despite the fact that the chicken isn't a ground-meat patty).

Manager John came by as I was eating (he also took my order), and after I had polished off the food, he asked me which I had liked better—the sandwich or the chili fries. I said it was a hard choice, but in the end, the sandwich was the winner. John winced and told me that, because of my decision, he and Joe now had equal scores in a friendly contest that the two are running. I suppose it's good to know that both guys are putting out equally good food, statistically speaking. That says something about quality and consistency.

John's chili definitely deserved praise for its smoky savoriness, as well as for its recognizable Americanness. It's billed as "Texas chili," but not in the classical sense: truly old-school Texas chili has no beans, no tomatoes,* and is little more than beef and spices—much more Mexican than Texan. I had ordered the chili without first asking whether there'd be onions on it. As you can see in the photo, there were plenty, but the chili was so good that I ate everything.

Joe's chicken burger (read more about it here) was a surprise: the first time I saw a picture of it on Instagram, I mocked it in a comment, saying it could be finished off in two bites and had better not cost more than W6,000, or someone was going to get shot. Frankly, it looked tiny. Joe calmly replied that most people's initial reactions to the burger are about how big it is, and I conceded that I might not have the best sense of scale.

The chicken burger is big. It's a large slab of meat that's been brined, rubbed, and smoked to perfection, the way jerk chicken should be. As advertised, it comes with lettuce, tomato, fresh cucumbers, spicy mayo, and pineapple salsa (more of a chutney than a salsa, I think, but that's semantics). The burger is somewhat steeply priced at W12,000; I think maybe W9,000 would be more reasonable (W12,000 strikes me as the price for a set including fries and a drink), but I imagine Joe has his reasons for the pricing. The burger's shape also takes some getting used to: normally, a burger bun is smaller on the bottom and bigger on the top. The vaguely conical shape of Joe's burger, though, does nothing to impede your eating thereof. If anything, a larger bottom bun does much to solve the drippage problem that many burgers have.**

The jerk chicken itself is what makes the burger work. I could eat a bucket of nothing but that. As with the smoked chicken that I had last time, this chicken was moist for every mouthful, and very flavorful. Joe writes that he's been making jerk chicken for years; as with John's chili, the expertise shows. After smoking for hours, there's a firm and even crispy outer layer, immediately backed up by that juicy, succulent interior. Sublime, and definitely not gone in only two bites. I'm happy to be wrong about that.

So yeah—a good meal. Next time around, I'll go back for the Brunswick stew, and to see what else might be new on OK Burger's constantly evolving menu.

*To be clear, I'm pretty sure that John's chili didn't have any tomatoes in it (I could be wrong), but it did have beans.

**A place called Spelunker's in Front Royal, Virginia, serves incredibly good burgers. The only problem is that no one there knows how to build a burger correctly, resulting in off-puttingly soggy bottom buns. If you look at the photos of Joe's burger, you'll see that he stacks smartly: lettuce on the bottom to intercept any gravity-assisted meat juices. Joe's bottom bun is also thick enough to serve as a Plan B: if the lettuce doesn't stop the dripping, the bun is able to absorb the juices and still remain firm without getting too soggy.


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