Tuesday, January 22, 2013

More honest food blogging*: Cheap eats downtown

Your basic U-Cheeseburger.
Whenever I write about a restaurant, someone always emails to say (with an unseen eye-roll), "Yes, Thomas Garvey, we know you can get great food in town for $75 a head. But how about writing about grazing somewhere a little cheaper??"

Well, once again I have heard your cries. And here are a few tips for where to eat when your entertainment budget has all but gobbled up your food budget.

You know, or should know, of course, that Panera Bread is always a worthwhile option before the theatah.  Oddly, the bread and baked goods are the worst thing about the place (go figure); but the soups, salads and (most of) the sandwiches are fine, and reasonably priced - you can easily get out of the place for $10.  And there are Paneras very conveniently located just across from the Huntington, next door to the New Rep, and a block down from ArtsEmerson.  So there, your budget dinner plans on theatre night are done.

On those days when I'm seeing a show downtown and I don't feel like the crunchy fare of Panera, however (and I don't have the cash for Market or some other upscale bistro either) - I have been known to duck into UBurger on Park Street.

Don't laugh.  It's not bad.  I can pound back a cheeseburger with the best of them, and UBurger (above left) is, in a word, just about the best new burger joint in town.  Remember what Mr. Bartley's was like in its glory days?  If anything, UBurger is slightly better, and I'd say it easily snatches the laurels from Four Burgers in Central Square (although their sites and graphics are oddly similar - hmmmm).  

As in all burgery, the salient question is: how much, and how fresh, do you get?  At UBurger, you get a thick, though not over-abundant, patty; the kicker is that it is noticeably fresh - it tastes un-frozen - and the crispy fries, (standard-issue) buns and (generous) condiments are if anything fresher - tasty, even!  The profiles of these various savories are slightly more delineated than usual because it seems UBurger distributes the condiments on either side of the burger.  (Rare and medium-rare aficionados should note, however, that UBurgers tend toward the medium and medium-well; if this is a deal-breaker, you have been warned.)  I have yet to try the hot dogs or the chicken, but my gut is the same high sourcing standards hold throughout the menu, which offers a dude's paradise of toppings, cheeses, and the like.  (There are even some that's-so-gay salads with pears, cranberries, and balsamic vinaigrette!)  Low grease, high flavor - what more could you ask? 

Well, you could ask for a bit more decor than you get here, I think.  UBurger is one big bright-red, sponge-down surface, accessorized with those metallic-looking chairs that are actually plastic. It's basically designed for people who should be wearing bibs when they eat.  Nor can I pretend that it's a find - the Emerson kids found it long ago, and for most of the dinner hour it's jammed, so try to get there before 6 or after 8.  But do tell them I sent you.

*All items bought and paid for.

1 comment:

  1. This vegetarian notes that the veggie-burgers are quite good too.