Favorite Restaurant: Trueburger
Reviewed Trueburger: Thursday, June 2, 2011
When you see the Trueburger sign outside this urban gem, you’re already getting a glimpse of what you are about to experience. This is a place that offers a straightforward, fresh, and focused approach to the burger. They grind their own Angus beef daily, cook the patties on a griddle, and present it on custom-made egg buns with lettuce, tomato, and a garlicky aioli sauce. Onions and pickle are included on request, and for an extra charge, you can add bacon, cheese, griddled onions, or double your cholesterol intake with an additional burger patty, or get the Double-Up, double beef AND double cheese. The unexpected bonus is that Trueburger is also an amazing value. Their original burger sans the add-ons is only $4.95.
I love the menu at Trueburger. It’s refreshingly simple and unburdened by those overreaching burger combinations and toppings that only mask the flavor of a good burger, but there’s also enough variety to have something for everyone. The vegetarian-inclined can enjoy a portobello mushroom burger, fried crisp and oozing with smoked mozzarella. They also offer hot dogs with various accoutrements, homemade chili, and three types of chopped salads. But I can’t bring myself to order anything but a burger here.
On my most recent visit to Trueburger, I ordered the cheesy Trueburger with bacon. The meat was crispy on the outside and still a little bit pink inside, and full of good meaty flavor, mingling nicely with the crisp lettuce, tangy sliced tomato, smoky and pleasantly chewy bacon, and perfectly squishy bun. And the fries are no mere side order. I try to share them with my husband to save calories, but it’s not easy. They’re consistently good – fresh, hot, and the right amount of crispy, never pallid and bland or over browned and tough. You can get cheesy sauce with them, but I prefer an extra side of the garlic aioli or the chipotle sauce that comes with their spicy coleslaw dog to use as a dip.
Trueburger has the usual fountain drinks available, plus a variety of bottled specialty soft drinks, but a fairly recent addition to the menu is bottled beer, a delight for those of us who like to indulge while indulging. We happily guzzled the locally made Drake's Amber Ale from San Leandro with our burgers and fries. And for folks with a sweet tooth, the hand-spun shakes made with premium ice cream and optional mix-ins are a must-have. On recent visits I’ve enjoyed the Oreo shake and vanilla shake with orange cream (a refreshing and much improved version of the 50/50 bar), but my favorite to date is the special vanilla Twinkie shake I had on my last visit. While slurping up this thick and luscious shake blended with real Twinkie bits through a straw, one need only savor the moment.
Just one block away from Lake Merritt, you can get your food to go or enjoy it on the premises in a friendly, casual, and comfortably communal atmosphere, rubbing shoulders with the mixed crowd of Oakland locals looking for a burger fix. True Burger is a great place to go when you have that burger craving. You will leave feeling gratified, satisfied, and even with a little cash to spare.
Occupation: VP/Sales Channel Manager
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Patxi's Pizza
Reviewed Trueburger: Friday, June 3, 2011
Trueburger is a tiny little joint in downtown Oakland that serves up some truly fantastic burgers. Owned and operated by two former sous chefs of a much more upscale restaurant, Trueburger has a very relaxed, comfortable atmosphere and seating for maybe 30 people. Customers queue up to place their orders at the counter, and then grab a seat -- if there are any.
Located on Grand Avenue and a block west of Harrison Street, Trueburger will be conveniently located if you live or work near downtown Oakland. My wife and I live and work in San Francisco, so she took BART, while I chose to drive. Trueburger is about a 10-minute walk from BART (19th St. Oakland), and parking in the area is near-impossible. Seek out the little parking lot on Valdez Street, just north of 23rd that is free after 6:00 PM.
The place was a zoo. After waiting in a long line to order our food, we got lucky and snagged a table big enough for our group of five adults and a toddler. Many others weren’t so lucky, and ended up eating their burgers while standing on the sidewalk. It’s that kind of place. Think Ike’s in the Castro.
But I have to admit, that was one darn fine burger. Cooked perfectly medium-rare, with some pinkness in the middle, the burger was juicy and flavorful. The gooey cheese was succulent, and the soft bun and fresh lettuce and tomato were perfect. I ordered the Bacon Cheesy Trueburger, and the bacon was thick-cut and extremely flavorful. This was no skimpy, limp, flavorless bacon like you get at most fast-food places. This was serious bacon.
The absolute star of the show was undoubtedly the True Deluxe, a cheeseburger plus a whole portabella mushroom that has been stuffed with smoked mozzarella, breaded, and deep-fried. Oh, dear God. It was good. It was really, really good. The fresh mushroom flavor powers through all the rest, and the crisp coating is heavenly. If you can fit the whole thing in your mouth, it’s one of the best burgers you’ll ever eat.
My group powered through a whole host of calorie bombs at Trueburger, including the Spicy Coleslaw Dog, a fresh sausage that packs some surprising heat, buried beneath a thick coating of fresh coleslaw. The slaw received mixed reviews from my group, but the spicy dog was tasty, and the whole thing worked well. The Whole Spiced Dill Pickle was fat, juicy, and fantastic, and the shakes made for a tasty dessert, although one was about twice as thick as the other. The four beers on the menu were sufficient.
The only disappointment was the fries. Usually a favorite of mine, these were a bit blah, and the cheese sauce option was disgusting: it had a nasty, unnatural color and was completely devoid of flavor. There’s nothing worse than empty calories that lack flavor. I want my empty calories to taste good!
Overall, Trueburger reminds me quite a bit of In-N-Out, but with a juicer burger that gets cooked a perfectly pinky medium-rare. The True Deluxe will make portabella mushroom fans weep with joy as they shove the massive, paper-wrapped burger into their face. If you live or work in downtown Oakland and don’t mind potentially waiting in a long line and having to fight for a table, you won’t find a better burger than at Trueburger.
Occupation: Marketing Manager
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Mercury Lounge
Reviewed Trueburger: Saturday, June 4, 2011
Trueburger is a very small restaurant in Oakland that takes gourmet burgers to new level. I arrived at around 6pm for dinner on a Saturday night and a small crowd had already begun to form. I realized quickly that this was a popular place in the neighborhood and with good reason. By 6:30, the place was packed. The menu was small. I stood in line and placed my order with the cashier and decided on a getting a True Deluxe burger (a combination of their only vegetarian option, the mushroom burger and their signature Trueburger), a side of order of french fries, and bottled root beer. I picked up my order at the counter once my name was called after a brief wait. The over-the-counter service was quick and cordial.
The True Deluxe was a medium sized (but VERY filling) burger on a fresh toasted egg bun that was absolutely delicious. The Angus beef patty was tender and juicy and medium-cooked, which happens to be just the way I like it. But for me, the standout for this burger and what made it unique was definitely the inclusion of the fried portobello mushroom on top of the beef. Crispy and filled with mozzarella cheesy goodness, this mushroom ingredient added an unexpected combination of a chewy AND crunch factor to the burger and struck a perfect balance with the rest of the ingredients, which included garlic mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles upon request. They provide an option of also ordering additional ingredients, such as bacon and grilled onions. To my delight, the fries were cooked perfectly -- crispy and not too salty and the traditional thin kind, which I prefer over wedge fries. I would recommend sharing one order of fries, which was large enough for two people.
As far as décor, the restaurant is very small, simple, and clean with a few small tables. Artwork was sparse, but fit the simplistic, cozy vibe of the place. Upon entering there is an interesting black and white mural of the Oakland cityscape that occupied most of one wall, showcasing city pride and adding an interesting artistic dimension. Since the small tables were completely full, most of the customers, after looking around and weighing their options, seemed resigned to do just do takeout, instead of waiting. Therefore, one of the only drawbacks of this place, I think, for some customers, would be the lack of seating. For peak dinner hours, this is not the place to bring a group of over 4 people, in my opinion to dine, and they do not accept reservations. Luckily I arrived right in time to find street parking right next to the restaurant and get a small table for two after ordering. Also, I would have liked to have the condiments, napkins, and utensils on the dining tables or on my ordering tray instead of on a small side table to get myself. But considering the size of the tables, this is understandable.
I would recommend Trueburger for a casual dining experience, and if you are craving a juicy, yet unique burger from what you are normally used to. It was a good bang for my buck considering the quality, flavor, and balance of the ingredients. If I was with a large group I would most likely just order takeout from here instead of dining in, considering the size of the tables. In summary, I would definitely come back if I was in the neighborhood and get the True Deluxe again. I can see that burger becoming my fast favorite; I would also try their milkshakes and root beer float for desserts.