Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hamburger Mary's

CIRQUE SAYS...

The Vanessa!


the patty 5.9
the bun 7.5
the fixin's 7.6
the sides 7.8
total package 6.8

accessibility 7.4
the service 8.2
cleanliness 7.1
the price 6.1
"it" factor 5.5

TOTAL 72



CIRQUE TEAM
Hamburger Mary's (Map It!) is the burger place with an identity crisis. From Hamburger Mary's to Universal Grille and back again, hopefully the new (old) name and renovated interior are here to stay. As a recognizable spot to hang out with a diverse group of friends, Hamburger Mary's hits a home run. As a burger joint, it strikes out. Mostly, the burger is overpriced. You'll pay well over ten bucks for an average burger and decent sides (the onion rings were great). Also, request your burger to be cooked less well done than you prefer. Those who ordered medium rare were served medium well, and those who ordered medium well were served a burnt piece of meat. The service was great, and the atmosphere is fun (especially once renovations are complete), but the overpriced burger probably isn't worth a visit.

BRAD
What’s the expression that horrible VP candidate used in the election? Something about a bulldog being a bulldog even with lipstick? I think that works for Hamburger Mary’s. They throw a bunch of super good fixins on their mediocre burger, slap in a killer bun, and it’s still….just mediocre. If you like decoupage, you’ll love this place. The tables are shellacked with it.

LEAH
I often go downtown for business lunches, and there's no good place to grab a quick lunch in that area, but Hamburger Mary’s is by far the best possible option.

STEVE
One of my least favorite burgers on the tour. My patty was burnt, and the toppings couldn't hide the charred flavor. The burger was sloppy and way overpriced. Any place that charges over ten bucks for a burger needs to get over themselves, especially when they serve slop.

EMILY
Hamburger Mary’s burger was good but not amazing. Mary’s is a nice (re)addition to downtown, and I’m glad it's back. While the burger doesn’t stack up next to a lot of our other tour stops, I would recommend it if you happen to be downtown and catch a sudden case of burger fever. The afternoon drink prices were great, and my mimosa was delicious. Welcome back Mary!

JASON
I used to frequent Mary’s back before it closed. I remember loving the burgers and onion rings. The onion rings are still really good, but my burger was pretty weak this time around. They claim that the patty had never been frozen, but I’m not convinced. I ordered mine medium-rare, and it came out well done. I was excited about the drink prices listed on the sign out on the sidewalk ($3 bloodies, $2 mimosas), but I was quickly disappointed. The mimosas were strong and decent, but my bloody was possibly the worst I’ve ever had. It had way too much, way too cheap vodka in it. Oh yeah, and I was being swarmed with fruit flies the entire time I was eating. On a positive note, our waitress was super nice and did a great job of explaining the menu. I think Mary’s is great for downtown, and I’m glad its back. Maybe I just ordered the wrong kind of meat.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Habits Cafe

CIRQUE SAYS...

The Theo!


the patty 7.6
the bun 6.3
the fixin's 8.3
the sides 7.8
total package 7.5

accessibility 9.5
the service 8.8
cleanliness 8.4
the price 7.9
"it" factor 7.7

TOTAL 81



CIRQUE TEAM
(This week's post is dedicated to our number one fan, CJ.) Habits Cafe is located in the heart of Oakley (Map It!) and offers a nice variety of gourmet burgers. Overall, the experience didn't wow us, but if you prefer your burgers with a spicy kick—Pepper Jack cheese, spicy onion straws, jalapeno mayo—Habits is the place for you. The selection of fries was nice, but if you're looking for their best side, try the potato rags appetizer. It's a real crowd-pleaser. The price seemed a little high for what you get, but the restaurant had a nice vibe, and the service was friendly. Definitely worth a stop for any burger lover.

BRAD
If I had the metabolism of an 8th grader I'd come here and get the potato rags every weekend. Best appetizer in Cincinnati. Habits is one my favorite joints in the city for a bite. Always good food, good vibe and in a good part of town. Good to the third power. They should pay me for that tagline. They'd end up getting their money back on account of my p-rags addiction. Get the Godzilla burger. It's literally the hotness.

JASON
Habits is a pretty cool place, but I wasn’t crazy about the food. I had the Godzilla Burger, with Pepper Jack, spicy onion straws and jalapeno mayo. The toppings were flavorful, but the patty was not. My onion rings were watery and gross, and my bun was stale. I do love their house specialty Potato Rags appetizer. It’s a hash brown and veggie concoction that is pretty tough to beat. I think Habits is a sweet bar, and the burger would be tasty after a few beers. Its just not anything near what I would consider the best burger in the ‘Nati.

EMILY
I like the feel of Habits. I can't really describe why, but it is what I picture a pub in England would be like. I'd say my burger was a little bland (I had the Euro burger). Others said theirs were delish, so I would try another next time. As for sides you must get the potato rags and sweet potato fries! They were amazing!

LIZ
Habits Cafe is a great place to relax and watch the proverbial "game." I don't know that it's the place to get THE burger. The burger was good, but not great. Habits had a tremendous amount of options as far as toppings and styles of burgers. In a similar fashion, there was a nice choice of "styles" of fries; but, at the end of the meal, I wasn't overly impressed. I think next time I'll check out something else on the menu other than the burger.

STEVE
Overall, I was satisfied. At this point in the tour, I base my score mostly on how likely I would be to return to a place. Habits - probably not, but that doesn't mean it was a bad burger. Just not the best.

CHAD
Habits is a pretty good place to hang out and get some grub. The burger won't blow your mind, but was definitely solid.

NICOLE
I decided to get the Ostrich burger and I loved it. Habits has a great variety of burgers no matter what your taste is from "heart attack on a plate" to "lean machine."

JANA
Habits is a great neighborhood joint. I really liked the burger there (I got the Cajun - Black Hole style) and it was awesome. But, I couldn't remember what I got a week later, so I feel like it wasn't the best burger in the world. The potato rags are what you need to go to Habits for...freaking incredible.

LEAH
Habits is one of my favorite local joints. The food is consistently good, and the atmosphere is fun and casual. The burgers are really tasty and affordable.

ALLIE
Habits was good, otherwise I don't have much to say. I loved my first experience with the potato rags, definitely a MUST have and the Bloody Mary was nice and spicy. I had the Godzilla burger, the name is more impressive than the burger actually was and unfortunately the bun seemed stale. Habits is a great place for some potato rags, a few rounds of after work drinks and a game of pool.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Quatman Cafe

CIRQUE SAYS...

The Vanessa!


the patty 8.3
the bun 6.8
the fixin's 5.3
the sides 5.8
total package 7.8

accessibility 9.0
the service 7.9
cleanliness 8.1
the price 9.3
"it" factor 8.4

TOTAL 78



CIRQUE TEAM
Quatman Cafe (Map It!) is a well-known Cincinnati burger establishment. Start a conversation about burgers with anyone in the Queen City, and Quatman will surely be mentioned. Without a doubt, the restaurant is cozy and friendly. It feels like you're hanging out with a room full of old friends. But the burger is just average. The patty itself was tasty, but bland french fries and a limited choice of fixin's dropped the score considerably. For a great price (about six bucks gets you a burger and fries), you get plenty of food to fill you up. Quatman Cafe is worth a visit, but keep your expectations reasonable. The best burger in Cincinntati probably lives somewhere else.

JANA
Here's the thing. I really didn't want Quatman to be good because of the hype...I like it when I find the diamond in the rough! But, it wasn't too shabby. It definitely wasn't the best burger I've ever had, but it was good. The patty had a good flavor, and the price is hard to beat. I'm a fan of more than pickles and an onion on a burger, but the simplicity of that combo is part of what makes Quatman a place that people come back to. Everyone is a friend.

NICOLE
I thought that the burger was awesome. I knocked off some points because of the lack of topping options, but since I like a plain cheeseburger it was good for me. Anyone who likes to load up their burgers with extra stuff, this may not be the burger for you.

CHAD
Quatman Cafe has a real throwback feeling to it. The burger was definitely good, but not the best. Between the well priced food and welcoming atmosphere, I'd say that generations of Norwoodians have had many a good time here. Also, any place that runs on the honor system is cool with me.

JASON
Simplicity is king at Quatman Cafe. No menus, no fruity drinks, no BS (and, unfortunately, no tomatoes or lettuce). You simply look at the options conveniently posted on the wall behind the bar and place your order. The daily special is one of about five sandwiches, fries and a drink. No matter if your drink is a diet coke or an ice cold Hudy Delight draft, they can make it happen. The place is packed with locals, probably because the service is friendly and the price is right (my bill was about $13 for a burger, fries and a pitcher of Hudy). The patty was big and full of flavor, the fries were pretty boring and the bun was just a bun. While I’m not in love with the burger at Quatman, the place is sweet and I will be going back.

BRAD
This Norwood legend is worth going to for numerous reasons. 1. Ice cold Hudy Delight on tap. 2. You can eat picnic food without having to eat outside in some random park with strangers eyeing your food. 3. You live in Norwood and you're out of JTMs. I liked (not loved) this joint. It kind of reminds me of my hometown. Good, honest burgers your mom would pack and your dad would grill.

LIZ
In a word, Quatman is cozy. The burger tastes exactly like what you'd imagine the perfect backyard burger to taste like - juicy, flavorful, and well-cooked. I opted out of the fries (and it seems that was a smart choice). There's a very comfy, homey feel here - right down to the little glass with ice they serve your soda pop with. I don't know if it lived up to some of the hype, but it was awfully tasty, and with my dentist right next door, it's the perfect post-cavity filling joint!

STEVE
Honestly, not to be offensive, but I don't get the hype. Quatman has a pretty cool atmosphere. The patty is juicy and good. But other than that, it's an average burger with average fries. The only options to top the burger were pickles and onions. Not a huge fan of either. I've had worse burgers, but I've also had much better.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Five Guys Burgers and Fries

CIRQUE SAYS...

The Theo!


the patty 8.2
the bun 8.2
the fixin's 9.2
the sides 9.3
total package 8.6

accessibility 8.4
the service 7.8
cleanliness 8.4
the price 8.4
"it" factor 7.9

TOTAL 86



CIRQUE TEAM
Five Guys is definitely not your typical chain burger joint. The meat is fresh, not frozen. The fries are cut daily in the restaurant. And the free peanuts add to the great ambiance. Cincinnati is lucky to finally get one of these very popular establishments. Located near the University of Cincinnati (Map It!), hungry college students will likely swarm the place before and after class. Beware, the regular burger is actually a double, and the portion of fries is insane. A large order is enough to feed a basketball team. The menu is simple, but delicious. Definitely worth a stop.

JANA
I LOVE Five Guys. I was shaking with excitement when I realized that they were coming to Clifton AND there is rumor that they are coming to other places in Cincy soon (Kenwood and West Chester)! I think they are the best "fast food" burger out there. The patty is well done (which I would never order personally) but I think it is what makes it great and all juicy. The toppings are fresh and mix together perfectly. The portions are huge (which is awesome) and you will literally be stuffed all day. Cajun, fresh cut fries, are the way to go. I would go to Five Guys every day if it wouldn't mean I would end up in Supersize Me 2.

BRAD
I imagine it went down like this for this Washington D.C. establishment. Guy 1 worked for Jimmy Carter. But not in politics, peanuts. Guy 2 had a cow that local high schools used for that raffle where you pick a plot and wherever said cow craps you win cash. Guy 3 really bought into McCarthyism and was scared to death of pinko commis. So he had a bomb shelter full of potatoes and ketchup. Guys 4 and 5 were brothers and record collectors. They dreamed of spinning wax on AM radio. So, one day, these 5 guys ran into each other in front of the Washington Monument protesting something or other. They get to talking about dreams and skills and boom, the rest is history. Good burgers, fries, peanuts and tunes. Worth a trip down to Clifton.

JUSTIN
I'm struggling with how to classify Five Guys. To lump it in with Wendy's or McDonald's would be a travesty. It is definitely not a run-of-the-mill fast food joint. I would also hesitate to put it in the same class as Terry's or Zip's. It's somewhere in the middle. The menu is simple, but thankfully you still have a lot of topping choices. The patty is cooked to well done, and draped in American cheese. The fresh jalapeno adds kick like a slapped donkey. The cajun fries would have Paul Prudhomme speaking in tongues. I would recommend Five Guys to anyone looking for a quick and delicious burger without the frills. Judging by their growth, you should have one in your neck of the woods soon. Hit it up...cajun fries and double jalapeno cheeseburger.

LEAH
For a fast foodish burger, I'm quite certain it doesn't get better than Five Guys. Downside- no Bloody Marys. Upside- incredible music, really good food, and plenty of seating to fit large parties. I'll be heading back for sure.

STEVE
For the first time on tour, less than a week after I ate a burger, I was craving it again. I'm not saying it's the best burger in Cincinnati, because it's not. But the burger and fries combined were quite and experience, all for a pretty reasonable price (considering the portions). Thank God it's located right next to UC's campus. I'll be back for more in the Fall.

NICOLE
The "little" burger I got was not little at all and it was ridiculously good. Pair it with the generously portioned and amazingly tasty fresh cut fries and you'll be full for days! Besides the cold and corporate decor, I really enjoyed Five Guys!

CHAD
I once went to Five Guys in DC when I was a kid, and was left a lingering memory of a massive and flavorful burger that was before its time. Much like an episode from my youth when I got my hands on a bottle of Patron, as a young burger lover I really had no idea how to appreciate the experience. So when I heard that Five Guys was coming to Cincinnati, it was a given that we would make it a stop on the tour. This time I tackled Five Guys with an empty stomach and a mature palette. It was awesome. Think Penn Station, but with Burgers (and the fries are way better). Some may want to jump on the bandwagon based solely on the numerous awards and articles hanging on the walls, but if you're a true burger lover you owe it to yourself to beat a path to Five Guys and give them a go. My only gripe is that they are a chain. I don't like chains. I like locally or family owned places with history and style. For this burger, I'll make an exception and condone a chain restaurant.

EMILY
Five Guys has the perfect fries! I loved my fixings, lots of bacon on the bottom, two perfect tomato slices. Definitely a solid burger and they should sell their soundtrack... they were killin it!

LIZ
Five Guys is definitely a "guys'" place. The portions are huge. A large serving of fries actually comes in a huge paper bag! But, the food does not disappoint. They do one thing - burgers - and they do it very well. It was delicious and I really enjoyed eating peanuts while I waited! (It didn't hurt that Steve and I were enjoying these tasty burgers while vacationing in the Outer Banks.)

JASON
Somebody wrote on the comment board in the back of the Clifton Five Guys, “These burgers are aggressive!” I couldn’t agree more. I felt like, at any second, the grease dripping out of the back of my burger was going to turn in to a little fist and upper cut me in the neck. The burger was great, but the double was a little much. I’ll do the “little” next time (it’s a single compared to the standard double). The fries were my favorite of the tour. What does Five Guys and Joe Biden have in common? If they're good enough for Barack, they're good enough for me.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Cirque Special: The Singing Dog Cafe



CIRQUE TEAM
This week, the Cirque team took a break from our normal routine to visit the home of Michael Pickett, a renowned Cincinnati chef. Michael was kind enough to invite us into his backyard to sample one of the best burgers Cincinnati has to offer. Unfortunately for all of you, it's not on any menu. Fortunately for us, the meal didn't stop with the burgers. Adult beverages, amazing side dishes, and chocolate-covered strawberries for dessert—we were in Heaven. And just when we thought things couldn't get any better, Michael's dog, Nora, sang for us. Not kidding. Watch the video. We decided not to score Michael's burger since our readers can't partake, but we are officially giving The Singing Dog Cafe an Honorary Olivia for their outstanding burger! (Yes, that is the trophy we gave Michael.) Thanks, Michael and Nora, for a wonderful Sunday afternoon!



BRAD
I have a new master plan/dream. Chef Michael Pickett combines powers with Sous Chef/marketing genius Leah Wise and together they open up a new lil' spot in Reading, Ohio. Spending a sunny afternoon in Michael's oasis-like backyard is a magical experience not unlike stepping thru the wardrobe and into Narnia. Throw in amazing side dishes sprinkled with pounds of the thickest bacon ever, sweet and savory cocktails, good friends, and Nora the singing dog.... I could've died a happy, lucky man that day. And that was before he pulled out the crab cake burgers and chocolate-covered strawberries.



LIZ
Michael has perfected the backyard burger. Only Michael's adorable, singing dog outshined his delicious, juicy, and flavorful burger. The side dishes, including potato salad and warm cole slaw, added to the casual, relaxing ambiance. But, the champagne cocktail and chocolate-covered strawberry dessert added a touch of sophistication that surely makes his cozy backyard the envy of his neighbors.



JANA
I love Michael. I love anything he cooks. It was one of the most incredible eating experiences I have ever had. Ever.

JUSTIN
If you told me I would have one of the best eating experiences of my life in Reading, Ohio, I probably would have called you a moron. My apologies. Holy smokes...what an experience. We started the adventure with DIY Bloodys and some fruity concoction that basically floored two of our members. Meanwhile Michael was popping in and out, spinning some great beats in the clubhouse while orchestrating what can only be described as baconlightenment. Hot slaw, a Bacon cheeseburger, and a Crab cake burger topped with moonbeam-nectar sauce (I made that name up) were on the plate. Thank you Michael. If you need anything done around the compound, let me know. I accept payment of slab bacon and moonbeam-nectar.



CHRIS
This week's stop was my new friend Michael's house. I will never be the same. He proceeded to get me tipsy right out of the gate with some berry Champagne goodness. From there he took my taste buds where they've never gone before. His burgers and sides were unbeatable. If this was a regular burger stop, we would officially be done. There isn't a better burger out there. I'm convinced. Thank you, Michael. Thank you for changing my burger view.



STEVE
You had me at Peach Schnapps Champagne with floating berries (which I now call Cirquepagne). Follow that up with a delicious burger, amazing sides, and chocolate-covered strawberries, and yippee ki-yi-yay, mofo, it was a helluva day!



LEAH
I'm sad for all citizens of Cincinnati that don't know Michael Pickett. That means that you probably haven't been invited to his house for the most amazing food the city has to offer. Michael, a classically trained chef, has figured out how to make regular everyday dishes the most delectable treats to hit your mouth. I think he has the best burger in the city, and maybe... just maybe... if we beg him, he'll think about opening a restaurant so that everyone can experience them.


ALLIE
The food was fantastic. The company was even better. Michael's backyard is a virtual Eden with everything you want at your beck and call, including Grand Marnier. Loved the herb test. Can't wait to be invited back again!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Ms. Helen's Grille @ Findlay Market

CIRQUE SAYS...

The Vanessa!


the patty 3.9
the bun 5.4
the fixin's 5.7
the sides 6.8
total package 5.0

accessibility 5.7
the service 8.9
cleanliness 7.4
the price 8.1
"it" factor 7.0

TOTAL 72



CIRQUE TEAM
Findlay Market (Map It!) is one of the coolest attractions Cincinnati has to offer. If you have never been, go immediately. Ms. Helen's Grille has been a fixture of Findlay Market for years, and she supplies the Queen City with amazing soul food—ribs, collard greens, cornbread, etc. The Cirque team thought it would be fun to spend an afternoon at Findlay Market, and we were right. As far as burgers go, Ms. Helen's Grille is a nice place to stop if you are buying meats and produce and need a quick snack. The fries were pretty good, and it was a very inexpensive meal (six bucks for a double cheeseburger, fries, and a drink!), but she would never claim to serve the best burger in Cincinnati. It definitely wasn't, but we knew that going in. Findlay Market has something for everyone, so don't let the Vanessa score scare you away.

CHAD
Findlay Market is a pretty cool place and we took a chance on the burger hoping to be rewarded for our open mindedness. We were not. I'm not going to go into the many reasons that the burger was less than ok, but I will say that it was still a fun experience. Honestly the place was just a booth in the market, and based on the crowd and wait time I really thought it was going to be good. Looking for the best burger in town? Keep on moving.

BRAD
I give this burger the honorary title of "The Dolorean." Biting into that grey patty instantly took me back in time to the front porch of my college house sophomore year. We used sit out there with our cheap beer and tiny Coleman Grill cooking equally grey, beef-like burgers. For three bucks I got a huge bite of nostalgia on Sunday. If Cirque goes on a rib tour we're heading back to Ms. Helen's. They looked money.

JANA
Love sitting in the Beer Garden...Love hanging out with friends....Love Ms. Helen. Do not love the burgers that Ms. Helen produces. This burger may obtain the most feared Cousin Pam rating.

LEAH
Findlay Market is one of my favorite places in the city. There are incredible vendors (the cheese man is a must!), and there are some really great places to eat. Ms. Helen's was not one of them. I found the burger inedible - after three bites it was in the trash. However, Liz and I stopped down at Angelina Fine Italian Foods for perhaps the best Italian hot panini of my life. That is the beauty of Findlay Market - there is something for everyone.

LIZ
The only good thing about Ms. Helen's is that it was cheap so I didn't feel so bad replacing it with a delicious Italian panini from Angelina's Fine Italian Foods. Now THAT sandwich was something to write about.

NICOLE
If we ever do a soul food tour then this is the only time that I might stop back at Ms. Helen's. Besides that I'll check out some of the other awesome places Findley Market has to offer.

STEVE
If someone would have served this meal during a picnic, people would have raved. I think our expectations are so high that we are distorting the scores when they don't live up to the hype. Findlay Market is great. Ms. Helen is a Cincinnati tradition. It is a sad day when Cirque gives her a Vanessa.