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Burgers and Sandwiches Reviews

Cook Out

cook out logo

Cook Out is a small fast food chain of about 200 stores in the Southeastern US that specializes in burgers, BBQ, and hot dogs. The first location opened in Greensboro, NC in 1989 and they currently have locations in about seven states from Georgia to Delaware and into Western Kentucky and Tennessee.

cook out restaurant

The stores are set up with a BBQ/western theme and guests in the dining room sit at large picnic tables. Paper towel rolls are available but also regular napkins, and a handy sink is located by the front door to wash away any stickiness.

cook out dining room

cook out sink

The menu is full of all the stuff you’d expect to see at a restaurant like this: burgers, BBQ chopped pork (Carolina-style, of course), hot dogs, and the usual sides like fries, onion rings, slaw, and even hushpuppies. But then Cook Out also offers some unexpected alternatives such as a BLT and quesadilla.

Cook Out seems to be big on giving you a lot for your money. Their popular “tray” is a combo with one menu item, two sides (or smaller items) and a drink. At the Alpharetta, GA location where I tried them, all that could be had for $4.99.

I tried their burger and their BBQ, both of which will be reviewed in separate articles. All in all, though, I liked the straightforward manner in which Cook Out operates. Lots of choices without the menu seeming uncluttered; quick, friendly service; and a very informal fast food dining atmosphere.

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Burgers and Sandwiches Reviews

Burgerfi

burgerfi logo

burgerfi

BurgerFi is a relatively new chain of premium burger restaurants in the southern and northeastern U.S.  The chain launched in Delray Beach, FL and is rapidly spreading across the country with stores marked as “coming soon” as far west as Arizona and California.  We’ll be adding BurgerFi to the official roster of restaurants we track on Fast Food Source in the coming weeks, but first let’s talk about the food.

burgerfi

BurgerFi’s claim to fame is all natural burgers.  The name comes from their slogan “Burgerfication of the Nation®” but, deep down, I suspect they went to GoDaddy and searched for a domain name starting with the word “burger” that was available.  BurgerFi is a strange name for a restaurant.

The burger, however, is very good.  Constructed from the top-down with condiments riding above the meat and cheese, you truly taste the salty, cheesy double patties of the default Burgerfi Cheeseburger in your first bite.  Lettuce, tomato and BurgerFi sauce (a standard 1000 Island spread) mate well.  The meat-on-the-bottom construction with no spread on the heel bumps the meat:condiment ratio to about 1.25:1 in my estimation.  Great if you have a craving for meat first in a burger but don’t want an overwhelming gi-hug-o monster burger.  This one is just right.  And that unique branding of the crown adds a really classy literal signature to their sandwich.  Nice.

burgerfi sides

The BurgerFi side items are generously-sliced fries and mega-sized onion rings.  The fries were crispy on the outside and warm and soft on the inside and reminded me of Five Guys.  The onion rings are big but thin, meaning a lot of batter to every bite.  BurgerFi offers a not-so-secret menu (it’s in their printed menu so how secret can it be?) that includes variations on the burger and fries akin to the In-N-Out secret menu.

Overall, I found my visit to BurgerFi (I went to the Lake Mary FL store) pleasant and enjoyable.  I think there’s room for more gourmet premium burger chains and BurgerFi is a welcome addition.  It will be interesting to watch them grow and see how far they can get in size and scope in the coming years.

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Burgers and Sandwiches Reviews

Which Wich

which wich logo

Which Wich is a nationwide build-to-order sandwich chain with a customer experience one can only describe as “participatory.”  Patrons enter the restaurant and first look at the overhead menu to determine which one of ten base sandwiches they want.  More on this in a minute.  Next, they pull the bag with the corresponding number out of the rack and mark on the bag the bread, toppings, and other attributes they want.

which wich

The ten bag categories (base sandwich types) are:

  1. Turkey
  2. Ham & Pork
  3. Beef
  4. Chicken
  5. Seafood
  6. Vegetarian
  7. Italian
  8. R&D (Special creations available for a limited time)
  9. Classics (e.g. BLT, Gyro)
  10. Breakfast

which wich

which wich

When you have finished, you write your name on the bottom of the bag and then go to the register to order.  The whole process is crazy for a first-timer, although I do see some advantages to the frequent diners who lose patience trying to explain special orders.

The sandwich I ordered was the Turkey, Ham and Bacon Club.  That’s bag number 1, check the “Club” bubble.  It was accompanied by a standard bag of Doritos and a Coke product.

which wich turkey club

I found the sandwich to be tasty and satisfying.  Served in a long roll, the ingredients were all tucked snugly inside the soft bread and was exactly what you’d expect.  Sliced deli meats, mayo, etc. all in the proper proportions.

The restaurant I visited in Lake Mary,  FL was uncrowded, even though it was lunch hour.  The manager was proactive in helping newbies like me navigate the ordering process and the staff, overall, was friendly.

It’s interesting to see how sandwich shops like this are springing up to counter the Subway juggernaut.  It helps that a sandwich franchise is probably one of the least expensive choices for a would-be restauranteur.  The low start-up costs in equipment and the strip-mall rent make this formula, perfected by the big “S”, a winning one.  The first location opened in Dallas in 2003, and they began franchising in 2005.  In fact, “Franchise” is the first link you encounter on the Which Wich website.  With that in mind, watch for Which Wich’s to appear near you and give them a try.

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Burgers and Sandwiches Reviews

The Habit Burger Grill

the habit burger grill logo

The Habit is a small burger chain with about 100 locations, mostly in California but also spilling over into Arizona and Utah.  Founded in Santa Barbara, CA in 1969, The Habit offers a decent selection of burgers, sandwiches and salads.  The burgers range from the core “original” Charburger to fancy deluxe versions with mushrooms or Teriyaki sauce.

the habit phoenix az

My friend Tom and I tried it out recently.  We both opted for the original cheeseburger, his with the default Swiss cheese and mine with American.

the habit burger grill

the habit burger grill

The burger tasted fresh and hearty and arrived loaded with condiments including optional grilled onions.  As you can see from the pics, they don’t skimp when building these sandwiches.  And these are just the singles.

Give it a try next time you find yourself near one.  It’s a nice alternative to the mainstream burger choices.

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Burgers and Sandwiches Reviews

Clarke’s Standard

clarkes standard

A small burger and hot dog chain in New York City, Clarke’s Standard offers fresh food in an old-fashioned, farm-meets-diner atmosphere.  The menu is pretty simple:  a burger in a handful of configurations as well as a chicken sandwich and a NY Standard hot dog.  You can accompany your meal with regular or sweet potato fries. 

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Burgers and Sandwiches Reviews

Dickey’s BBQ Pit

While not really fast, it is about as fast as Subway, Chipotle, or other assemble-while-you-wait establishments.  And man, is it worth the wait.

Juicy BBQ beef, chicken, ribs, etc.  Sandwiches or just slabs of meat on a plate.  It’s all good.  Here’s one of their daily specials – this one is the BBQ ribs plate with two sides and a drink for something like $7.99. 

dickeys bbq ribs

They have a different special each day, so it’s worth repeated visits.  Plus they have those cool yellow plastic cups.  Expensive.  But just another nice-to-have like their fake silver plastic dinnerware.  Fun.

Dickey’s has a different special six days a week.  They are all quite a bargain because, in addition to a discount off the regular price, they each come with a beverage:

dickeys daily deal

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Burgers and Sandwiches Reviews

Kneaders Bakery & Cafe

kneaders logo

Kneaders is a newer sandwich and bakery-style restaurant in the same vein as Paradise Cafe or Panera bread.  They have been operating since 1997, but only have stores in five western states: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon and Utah.

The gimmick of Kneaders is that they push you toward the hand-made and bakery items.  How else to explain these combo menu choices?

So, want a “standard” combo of a half sandwich, chips and a drink?  Too bad, the closest you will get is Combo #3, which requires you to get a pastry too.  I asked if they would sub chips for the soup or salad in Combo #1 – no.  And Combo #2, a half sandwich and a smoothie seems kind of random.

Observations?  One that seems to hold out, at least here in Arizona.  Kneaders is popular with moms.  I’ve eaten at our new Gilbert location twice in the last month, both for lunch, and both times male guests were outnumbered five-to-one, at best.  And those ladies seemed to be having a blast.  Chatting, eating, standing outside and chatting some more.

The food is tasty and fresh.  The bread choices are good, but the sandwich quality seems hit-or-miss.  On our first visit, my wife and I had a turkey sandwich and pastrami sandwich, respectively.  They both seemed decently-sized with generous amounts of ingredients.  Last week, we both had “Dave’s BLT” and were shocked to find two wafer-thin strips of bacon on an otherwise large-sized sandwich.  This, mind you, was the full sandwich, not a half.  Disappointing, especially when I could walk across the parking lot and get more bacon on a sandwich at McDonald’s or around the corner at Subway.

Price is another concern.  If you do the math on just the menu sample above, you will see that any combination of a sandwich and sides will easily set you back between $7 and $10.  In my book, $20+ for two is dinner territory.

It’s nice to see a drive-thru at a restaurant of this sort.  Aside from Panera, I rarely see a drive-thru at a restaurant where all of the menu items are so custom build-to-order.  Drive-thru service was fast, but this was where I got the thin BLT’s.  The thicker sandwiches were counter-ordered.  I’m not suggesting they cut corners on drive-thru orders, but maybe they build the sandwiches faster during rush and there is just plain less care.  I’d have to try some more.

My overall opinion is this is a good alternative to fried or traditional “fast food” fare, but you have to be seeking one of their more unique menu items (or craving a pastry) to beat a more affordable sandwich found elsewhere.

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Burgers and Sandwiches Menu Reviews

Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers

freddys

I finally got around to trying out Freddy’s, a frozen custard and burger chain similar to Culver’s. I ordered the #1 “California Style” which adds 1000 island and lettuce to the standard double cheeseburger.

The burger was full of flavor. The hand-smashed patties are very then, which makes a double burger no big deal. Flattening out the patty also helps the burger to cook all the way through. If you like your beef well done, you will love Freddy’s. I found a bit too much singed meat around the edges of my burger, hanging off the sides like blackened condiments. It was so dry and gristled I did not even feed it to my dog, who likes accompanying me on these taste adventures.

Here’s the meat:

The combo comes with shoestring fries which were very tasty. They give you a generous portion that fills up the rest of the basket. But they have to – these fries are so skinny you need to eat three or four to equal one standard fry. But I love the format. Also, it didn’t hurt that they sell Pepsi with my favorite type of ice – crushed. Woo! All in all, aside from the dryness of the meat, this meal was a winner.

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Burgers and Sandwiches Menu Reviews

Culver’s

I knew about this small chain as being mostly concentrated in the midwest.  Imagine my surprise then when I happened to drive by one right here in Arizona!  While Culver’s is known for their Frozen Custard and ButterBurgers, I skipped dessert and just gave the Original ButterBurger with Cheese a try.

The burger was flavorful, with a flame-grilled patty that tasted like something you’d grill yourself during the Fourth of July.  Fresh toppings, a decent bun.  I liked it.

I decided to bypass the fries, even though they were crinkle, and give the onion rings a try.  These were crisp and delicious.  They are thin “beer batter” style and there were plenty in the bag to share.

Mrs. Fast Food Source tried the tuna sandwich.  I am not a fish lover, but she said it was good.  She liked the Texas Toast style bread and shredded lettuce.

Warning: Culver’s menu is not that complicated, but the ways in which you can place an order are.  You can order individual sandwiches, make your own value basket, or order a smaller SnackPak meal.  This makes for more menu-staring for the uninitiated.  Come prepared by viewing the menu here first.

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Burgers and Sandwiches Menu Reviews

Cheeburger Cheeburger

cheeburger cheeburger

About: Small burger chain based in Ft. Myers, FL

Known for their “invent your own taste” menu with over 30 free toppings including cheese.  I tried Cheeburger Cheeburger a couple of times before their Tempe, AZ store closed down.  Tasty and fun, I always say when you get to decide on the toppings you cannot complain about the taste.  But I am not about to drive down to Tucson to visit the only remaining Arizona store.  Gonna have to hit them when traveling, as they are now rolling out locations in airports too.