Review: Tasty Burger (Boston Phoenix)
In the 1994 classic Pulp Fiction, Samuel L. Jackson called hamburgers "the cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast." Taking his victim's meal, then life, he remarked, "That is a tasty burger." Boston's newest flat-patty pushers, Tasty Burger, borrowed their name from this scene, making no secret of the reference: against their ketchup-hued wall, Jackson's burger-munching visage is done up in expansive pixilation.
Tasty Burger occupies a former gas station, its floors glossy concrete that in another life deterred oil. No grease shortage now: a 50/50 basket ($4) spares the decision between hand-cut fries and onion strings. At center are beef tenderloin burgers ($7) by the Franklin Café crew, grilled medium-well by default or else to order, served on soft sesame buns. Toppings make all the difference with such lean meat; among common choices are elevated originals. You could order a classic, topped with austere lettuce and tomato, mashed in slick paper. But the Jalepeno [sic] is the conspicuously better-dressed friend, pitting minced kalamatas and jalapeños against chopped scallions in fragrant, curried mayo. The Butta sends a butter pat richly melting into the crannies, a Midwestern tradition.
A double-onion-topped choice pairs candy-sweet caramelized with onion strings. The Blue Collar encases a patty in deep-fried batter, like something to eat on a dare. In that spirit, Tasty Burger invites you to complete five "All the Way" dogs ($12/each) — sheathed in hamburger, bacon, chili, and cheese — for prizes. Veggie burgers are handmade, but the crunchy coating belies a pasty, bland interior. Imposing "Shafts" are distractingly good pork-and-beef dogs, picking up where the patties leave off in size, charred in cider glaze. Tasty's own sauerkraut with grain mustard tops the Zum Zum ($8), delectably sweet and sour. The North Ender ($7), a lovely bundle of tender, sliced house-made sausage, is served with caramelized onions and peppers. The mojito-bright Lime-Mint slushie ($4) delivers fresh fruit bits with muddled mint, and the Green Monster shake ($5) is loose enough to ascend a straw while lifting chocolate bits. The Pulp Fiction paean extends to the menu, too — it was a Big Kahuna burger Jackson bogarted in the iconic death scene. Under less duress, you too can dine on one, topped with pineapple, grilled red onion, and teriyaki sauce. Probably extra for the Ezekiel 25:17 recitation, though service was sparky enough. "I don't judge," the server deadpanned to my friend ordering a double helping.
This review originally appeared in the Boston Phoenix, September 22, 2010.