This week, Burger Quest went to Dino's Lounge in Ferndale for lunch. We'd heard the burger there was worth a try, and it has its own special name, which implies a certain formidability. It's called the B.F.J., which our server explained was the "Big, Fat, and Juicy" burger. Sounds good to us. We tried it at the encouragement of our co-diner, who told us, "They are legitimately the best burgers I know of. Plus it's big enough that for me it's two meals." True to her word, she took half the burger home for later.
The menu at Dino's offers all sorts of add-ons. We ordered hand-cut fries and a medium B.F.J. with lettuce, tomato, and onion. (Pickles come with the burger.) Our co-diner ordered something much grander: sautéed spinach, fried egg, and blue cheese. Other toppings available include grilled onion, onion rings, grilled or sautéed mushrooms, roasted red pepper, pepperoni, bacon, and such cheeses as American, Swiss, mozzarella, cheddar pepperjack, provolone and Boursin. It's a heady mix of elective toppings, an approach taken by some restaurants famous for their burgers, such as Red Coat Tavern.
Frankly, however, we get a little nervous when we see all those optional toppings. If there's a reason we at Burger Quest prefer limited toppings, it's to test the quality of the patty, the bun, and the way the limited condiments work together. When we see an intimidating list of add-ons, it gives us the sneaking feeling that the patty must be merely provisional.
We harbored our suspicions in silence, quieted by a cup of Dino's Manhattan seafood chowder ($4.25) we ordered as a starter. It arrived a little cool for our taste, not hot enough for the broth to penetrate our oyster crackers, but the rich chunks of salmon in that chowder warmed us from within.
Then the burgers arrived. Our co-diner's creation looked marvelous, the decadent fried egg and tender greens appearing to be a marvelous pairing. Our specimen came with iceberg lettuce, sliced rounds of pickle, two rings of onion, and a few outer leaves from a head of iceberg lettuce. The pickles are unusual, not so much tangy as salty and bitter, almost more like a Japanese oshinko-style of pickle, fine to our taste but not for those wedded to convention.
We decided to just top the burger with a little mustard and ketchup and the pickles and go for it. Despite our fears, this burger needs no toppings. It's a half-pound of char-grilled ground beef (Angus brand) on a fresh butter-grilled bun, a trick they use over at Detroit's Bronx Bar. This is a juicy two-hander, perhaps enriched by the buttered bun, but decadent without all the toppings.
The leftover toppings we ate almost like a little salad. The tomato was incredible, thick slices of what seemed to be an heirloom tomato, not the waxy slice one usually sees.
The hand-cut fries, alas, were also a little too cool, especially at these prices. But perhaps that's an unfair criticism. Dino's doesn't seem to attract a huge lunch crowd, and their kitchen may not have been cranked up all the way yet. Certainly, people are more likely to order a burger that starts at $8 after work, when it will get lost in the shuffle of a larger bar tab; also, everything comes piping hot when the cooks are really in the weeds back there. In short, the B.F.J. is more than worth a try, even if you toss all the toppings to the wind.— mt