Burger Shootout #1: Gourmet Food Trucks

>> Tuesday, July 26, 2011

This week, I'm going to try something different. If there was one food that epitomizes the hunger that San Diegans have, it's the burger. While outsiders might think that San Diegans go crazy over the fish taco, the true food that all San Diegans love is the burger. It's so in demand that every restaurant has to have a burger on their menu.

Naturally, it only makes sense for an intrepid blogger as myself to embark on a journey of adventure and discovery to find San Diego's best burger. However, with the format of this blog, it wouldn't be fair to pick one best burger. Therefore I have decided to pick the best burger in each of the following "tiers": food trucks, fast food, casual dining, restaurants. In the coming months, I will have a series of "burger shootouts" where I compare the burgers from all of these levels on some set of criteria, which will vary by each tier.

This week, I'll start with the gourmet food trucks:

The Criteria:
To judge the food truck burgers, I will rate the burgers based on a scale of 1 to 100 (higher is better) in different categories. Each category will be assigned a weight, and the final winner of the shooutout will be based on the normalized weighted average of the scores. The categories for the foot truck shootout are:

  • Overall Taste - weight: 3 - This score is assigned based on the overall tasted an enjoyment from eating the burger
  • Temperature - weight: 1 - Because I love a juicy burger, when I ordered each of these burgers I ordered it "as rare as you're willing to go"
  • Ease of Consumption - weight: 1 - Because these burgers are from food trucks, people are likely eating on the go. This category is based on whether the burger's bun fell apart or if stuff dripped all over and got messy
  • Value - weight: 2 - Eating from a gourmet food truck, one expects at least some value whether it's in the form of sides or something else. This category judges the price of the burger against what is obtained with the burger
  • Sides - weight: 1 - Even if sides were not provided for free, I ordered a side with each burger, so here is the score of the sides that came with the burger.
Additionally to qualify for this shootout, the truck needed to serve an actual burger of some form. I also decided that instead of trying to order the same burger at each food truck, I would allow each truck to serve me what they considered to be their signature dish.

The Contenders:
In the following section, I will give a brief overview of each of the contenders (in alphabetical order) in the shootout.

Bitchin' Burgers: website
Bitchin' Burgers is one of the newer food trucks in San Diego. As the name of the truck suggests, they specialize in burgers. What is not said is that they specialize in burgers made of grass fed beef. I did some searches to find out more about who owns and runs Bitchin Burgers, but the information does not seem to be readily available on the web at this time.

Devilicious: website
I've previously covered Devilicious in this blog, but since I last covered them, demand has them creating a new burger of the week every week for the menu. Additionally, since the last time I covered them, there has been some staffing changes. Chef Dyann Huffman Manning now fully owns and operates Devilicious while her husband Mark operates little brother truck Kalbiq.

The Gooch: website
The Gooch is possibly San Diego's newest gourmet food truck. Like Bitchin Burgers, not much comes up in a search about the owners of The Gooch. The Gooch seems to be focused on bar food, which fits their modus operandi as they frequently can be found serving food to bars. What attracted me to The Gooch was their naming convention on their two signature dishes; The Goochie Pop and the Goochie Mama.

Green Truck: website
While many food trucks try to portray an environmentally friendly image by using local and organic ingredients, the Green Truck is truly environmentally friendly. The truck runs on recycled oil and their kitchen is solar powered. The Green Truck isn't actually a single truck, but a collection of three trucks that run in LA, OC, and SD. Their signature dish is an all made from scratch veggie burger called The Mother Trucker.

MIHO Gastrotruck: website
While many of the trucks in this shootout are newer trucks, MIHO is one of the first gourmet food trucks on the San Diego scene. MIHO is run by Kevin Ho and Juan Miron (hence MiHo from the first two letters of each of their lats names) and focuses on organic and local produce. Miron and Ho both worked in the kitchen of the popular North Park restaurant, The Linkery before deciding to partner up to purchase the food truck. MIHO's menu changes weekly but has always included some form of grass fed burger.

The Shootout:
Bitchin' Burgers: (I apologize for the poor image quality as I had to use my camera phone for this)
Chipotle Gouda Burger
I was extremely surprised from this burger when it was served. I thought that they had given me a regular bacon cheeseburger instead of the chipotle burger. Upon asking for details about the burger, I was told that the gouda cheese is mixed into the hamburger meat before it is formed into a patty. This didn't really work with my idea of a great burger because the juiciness of the burger was reduced by the cheese that was already integrated with the meat. Additionally, they burger was cooked medium as they had to cook the burger long enough to melt the cheese. Finally (as can be seen from the photo), the 1/3 lb meat+cheese patty was out of proportion with the thick brioche bread. The chipotle flavor from the aioli was also lacking to some degree and needed to be stronger. This burger was pretty much like a bad Blood Brothers song

Taste - 30
Temperature - 50 - medium
Ease of Consumption - 90
Value - 20 - $8.50 for a 1/3 lb grass fed beef burger (probably more like 1/4lb of meat), no sides
Sides - 40 - Sweet potato fries were standard frozen ones

Normalized score: 38.75

Pasilla Pepper, grilled onions, sweet corn topping with fried egg on a burger
This burger from Devilicious was the best burger I had eaten this year when I tasted it. The pasilla chili added a nice depth of flavor and was only mildly spicy. The sweetness of the corn juxtaposed with the spiciness of the pepper was very welcome flavor combination, especially when paired with the grilled onions for additional depth of flavor and the earthiness of the oozing egg yolk to marinate all the flavors together. Additionally, Chef Manning prepared my burger to a perfect medium rare maximizing the juiciness of the meat. Eating this burger was like listing to a Linkin Park hit.

Taste - 95
Temperature - 100
Ease of Consumption - 10 - It got all over the place
Value - 70 - $7 commodity beef burger + $1 for egg + free side salad
Sides - 80 - I enjoyed this burger with some mushroom risotto fried yummies
Mushroom Risotto Fried Yummies
Normalized Score: 76.88

The Gooch:
The Goochie Pop
Disclaimer: I was suffering from some palette fatigue when I tried this burger as I had already had another burger and alcoholic beverages, so I've gone ahead and bumped the taste portion up a little to compensate for that.

I was excited for The Goochie Pop because people seemed to like the reviews for it. I was also intrigued by the "bacon jam." Ultimately, I was disappointed. They took my "as rare as you're willing to go" statement a little too far and served a rare burger. This wouldn't have been a problem except they didn't seem to get a good sear on the outside of the burger, so the burger was completely lacking the charred goodness that is expected from a burger. I also felt that for a rare burger the meat to fat ratio was probably more of a 90-10 than the expected 80-20 as even the rare burger wasn't very juicy. Finally, there either wasn't enough bacon jam or the flavor of it just wasn't intense enough to not be drowned out by the thickness of the bread.  The burger from The Gooch was similar to the famous Dramarama song as the lyrics (or the bread in this case) was so thick that it distracted from the other elements of the song.

Taste - 60
Temperature - 60 - Rare
Ease of Consumption - 90
Value - 50 - $8 for a grass fed beef burger and no sides
Sides - N/A

Normalized Score: 61.43

Green Truck:
Mother Trucker
The mother trucker sauce seemed to be a combination of beets and something else. The beets gave it the red color as well as the sweetness. Overall, the burger was pretty enjoyable for a veggie burger. However, it distinctly lacked the juiciness and the savoriness in a regular burger, which totally removed a lot of the enjoyment for me. The trucker sauce, although it tasted good, was a little too thick and dripped around while eating. The burger from the Green Truck was like listening to a classic rock song where the lead vocalist is female instead of male.

Taste - 70
Temperature - N/A
Ease of Consumption - 85
Value - 90 - $6 for a burger made from fresh and local produce
Sides - 60 - hand cut sweet potato fries with chipotle ketchup - unfortunately the fries were soggy, but the ketchup was awesome

Normalized Score: 76.42

MIHO Gastrotruck:
MIHO Grass Fed Beef Burger
It's been awhile since I had this burger, so I don't remember exactly what the topping was. From the photo it looks like a brie burger with mixed greens and bacon. When I ordered this burger, I was extremely happy with the result. I had previous meals from MIHO where the burger was mediocre at best and I felt swindled for paying as much as I did. Of all the burgers I tried, this was probably the closest to a standard american cheeseburger, and sometimes all you want is the standard burger executed to perfection. This burger reminded me an all time rock and roll classic.

Taste - 90
Temperature - 100
Ease of Consumption - 85
Value - 35 - $8 for a grass fed burger with no sides +$0.75 for bacon
Sides - 80 - hand cut kennebec fries with house made ketchup, these fries were double fried also, so they had a nice crunch (unlike previous miho visits with the soggy fries)

Normalized Score: 75.63

From these results, Devilicious took a narrow victory over the surprisingly showing of the Green Truck. Devilicious scored high in the taste, but nearly lost the shootout due to the mess that was created from eating the burger. The Green Truck scored high in the value segment where other trucks struggling, making up for the above average taste, possible suggesting that the weighting of the scoring system may have been inaccurate. Following in a close third was MIHO, which had a great burger, but was undone due to the pricing of their burger.

In the lower tier, we had The Gooch and Bitchin Burgers. Originally The Gooch offered tater tots with the burgers, which would have increased the value score, but since there were no tots, they fell out of competition. I also didn't order any sides from The Gooch, who perhaps needs to add some more compelling sides than just onion rings. The truck that needs the most work in my opinion is Bitchin Burgers. I feel like that truck is still trying to find its way as it originally started with burgers on ciabatta bread (luckily for me they moved beyond that), and now is mixing the cheese with the patty. Not only does this seem to lessen the serving size of the meat to the customer since it is measured to 1/3 lb, it also seemed to remove some of the juiciness of the burger.

Ultimately the best food truck burger is the best burger on the truck you can find (or visits your area). Next time, I will examine the best burgers from fast food restaurants since those are fairly ubiquitous.


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About This Blog

gastro bits is a blog that juxtaposes the geeky with the foodie; it is an attempt to be educational about food, yet entertaining at the same time.
None of the reviews are meant to dissuade you from trying anything by yourself, but simply to provide information for you to make a more informed choice.
If any special treatment is provided to the blogger, full disclosure is presented at the beginning of the post.

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