Tuesday, March 31, 2009
TBG Eats: Tioli's Crazee Burger
Current Weight: 168.2 lbs.
Jalen's Smokin' Hot Babysitter arrived at 6:30 PM. She and her (sad, exasperated sigh) boyfriend just celebrated six months of childless, nonbinding dating. They went wine tasting and, in her words, "Everybody there was old, like, 40". She then completed her heel turn by gently needling me about my attire for the evening: a well-worn long-sleeve SDSU T-shirt and XXL Jordan shorts.
But, instead of our infrequent n' expensive date nights, I suggested to Mrs. Bootleg that we try something that didn't involve valet parking, making reservations or cumbersome belly restrictions like belts.
M'man Smitty recommended Tioli's. He came down from L.A. and hit up this place. The restaurant is about as big as a shoebox and it's not exactly in the best neighborhood (my old (Black) barbershop is about 100 yards away!), but I was sold on the potential blog fodder of the menu.
Here now is my conversation with Mrs. Bootleg on the drive down:
Mrs. Bootleg: "Did you look at the menu online? Do you know what you're going to get?"
Me: "Yeah. I think I'm getting three different burgers."
Mrs. Bootleg: "What? Wait, are they like mini-burgers?"
Me: "No, they're full size burgers. I wanna try more than one."
Mrs. Bootleg: "How much is this going to cost?"
Me: "It'll still be cheaper than our usual night out."
Mrs. Bootleg: "Wait…is this for your blog?"
For the record, no one – and I mean no one – can nail the subtle disdain and derisiveness required to delicately crap all over this lightly-read blog like Mrs. Bootleg.
We exit the freeway and I casually point out a hooker sashaying gracefully up the street. Mrs. Bootleg cranes her neck as if she were gawking at a three-car pileup. Me thinks she's lived in the good part of town a little too long.
After we park, we walk around the corner and enter the restaurant. The line to the counter is at least eight deep and there's not a free seat in the building.
This is not a good thing. See, I don't mind the wait and I know a seat will open up soon. It's just that the wait will give my wife time to talk herself out of a traditional cheeseburger and opt for something relatively daring.
My wife doesn't DO "daring". Once in awhile she'll deviate from her usual, like a strawberry-banana smoothie, and try the peach-mango or instead of the lasagna, she'll order the seafood linguini. This usually ends with her eating/drinking whatever I ordered, while I'm stuck with her inedible leftovers. Undeterred, she ordered the #29 (Blue Crab & Surimi Burger).
I stuck to my guns, looked the counter monkey square in the eye and ordered three quarter-pound burgers for myself: #24 (Tatonka (Buffalo)), #35 (Kangaroo) and #39 (Antelope). And, a basket of fries. Man, I hate when the french fries are a la carte. At McDonald's, sure…the fries are a well-marketed, individual menu item. But, in a real restaurant? Come on.
I'm about halfway through my pint of Stone Smoked Porter (ON TAP~!) when our food comes. Hilariously, the guy bringing our burgers does three or four laps around the dining area, looking for the party of four who ordered all this grub. Let's do this thang:
#24 – Tatonka (Buffalo): Like all of Tioli's burgers, this is topped with lettuce, tomatoes, red onions and pickles on a Kaiser roll. It comes served with a smear of creamed horseradish, as well. The meat was lean and tender, remaining juicy despite the abject lack of sweet, sweet fat. The smoky aftertaste appealed to my tongue. The only real demerit was the horseradish. It was cut with so much damn cream that it killed its own kick. And, look…it's got theme music! Grade: 4 (out of 5)
#29 – Blue Crab: Mrs. Bootleg loves her some crab cakes. This "burger" was just a pair of densely textured, insanely well-seasoned crab cakes on a bun. By themselves, they would've been on the short list of best crab cakes I've ever eaten. With "all the fixins", too much of their flavor was muddled. The chili-cilantro sauce was the right accompaniment; however I can't go five stars here. Grade: 4.5
#35 – Kangaroo: For those wondering, I only ate half of my three burgers and about a quarter of Mrs. Bootleg's. Before finishing each half, I made a point of popping a piece of the meat (sans condiments) in my mouth. This one was going OK in its loaded burger form. As stated above, I wasn't digging the faux horseradish, but the rest of it was inoffensive. Then, I tried the meat by itself – WAY gamey, with an aftertaste that messed with my mouth for the rest of the night. Don't waste your time, Sylvester. Grade: 2
#35 – Antelope: Ah, the antelope…eternal animal kingdom jobber to lions everywhere. And, now I understand why. The meat was firm, but melted away like cotton candy in every bite. The smoked chili sauce provided the right compliment of spice. Now, after 800-some words, it's late and I'm tired. Jules, take us home. Grade: 4.5