Here’s the thing. Seasoning makes or breaks a burger. Toppings can come and go, the bun is best squishy and relatively flavorless, but I’m not too picky on that. I’m not even all that particular about cheese…ok, fine, I fucking love American Cheese so much, that I would marry it in some anti-gay propagandist’s slippery slope. But it isn’t essential. The real key to a good burger–hell, most food–is salt.
I’m not entirely sure what I think about Libertine. It’s part of the Parasole group who seems to have honed in on the niche market of people who like spending too much money, but their food quality has never really been the talk of the town. They brought in local James Beard-winning chef Tim McKee to consult on culinary development at all of their restaurants, and let him create his own concept at Libertine, with executive chef Steve Hesse at the helm. It’s extremely meat-centric, wherein menu sections include “Beef,” “Lamb,” “Chicken,” “Pig,” and a paltry “Not Animal”.
I heard they had the best burger in Uptown, so when Madeleine asked me if I wanted to have one, I didn’t waste a second to think about it.
According to their menu, the thick patties are ground in house from the loin (sirloin, tenderloin, and short loin), which resulted in a decent amount of chew and a good quantity of fat. I ordered mine medium rare, and it was cooked perfectly, a glorious pink inside and a fantastic sear, but dreadfully underseasoned; I expect more of a mastery of beef from such a meat-forward kitchen. White cheddar worked well with the sweet caramelized onions and smoky bacon — cooked exactly how I love bacon: tender but crispy, lightly browned but still pink. The bun was fantastically squishy and carried the ingredients well, but the butter lettuce under the patty–that’s where lettuce goes, by the way–was wilted to shit by the time it arrived at my table, and I took it off halfway through. It could have used a sauce, which seemed to have arrived in the form of ketchup in a ramekin, and I found myself dipping to excellent result toward the end, which balanced the seasoning as well, but I always focus on a burger as it is, and initially forgot that such ad-hoc modifications exist.
But oh, but those JoJos. It’s an entire potato, wedged into six pieces, a flaky crisp outside with an amazingly tender flesh. It’s a best-of-both-worlds cross between a baked potato and a french fry. They’re textural perfection, seasoned quite well, and were the definite highlight of the plate.
Unfortunately, this might still be the best burger in Uptown, but that isn’t saying much. I could easily be pushed in the loved-it direction with a three-finger pinch of salt. They have two other burgers under two different animal headings, and if they also come with those goddamn JoJo potatoes, I’ll happily return.