Eater's Digest: New burger joint brings boardwalk to Main Street
Published: Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 02:05
Too many of my best afternoons revolve around food, and the other day was no exception. Starving and baking in the heat last week, a friend and I decided to check out Boardwalk Fresh Burgers & Fries, the new burger joint on Main Street. Seeking a treat that would accommodate my friend Kelly’s consistently inconvenient vegetarianism, we ordered boardwalk fries, the restaurant’s signature item. We took the fries to go, found a bench near Old College, dumped the contents of the overflowing carton onto its white paper bag, and had about as transcendent an experience as anyone can have while eating an afternoon snack.
The key phrase in my lunchtime order is “to go,” and Boardwalk is filling a major hole in the otherwise option-laden Main Street—that of a burger stand. Of course, Main Street has no shortage of quality burgers in its sit-down restaurants. Among my favorites are the Pepperjack-guac turkey burger at Kildare’s Irish Pub, the southwest burger at Home Grown Café and my guilty pleasure, a Cheeburger Cheeburger “cheeburger” with mushrooms, lettuce, tomato and blue cheese. But what Main Street has needed for so long is a place where a hungry university student can grab a burger, fries and a shake on the go.
Burger stands are now trumping the long wait times or low quality of family restaurants and fast food mega-chains. In Newark, Jake’s Hamburgers on Route 273 is a familiar favorite burger stand. With two Delaware locations, Charcoal Pit offers a burger stand in addition to the sit-down portion of the restaurant. The New York City-based Shake Shack chain, advertising itself as a modern day “roadside burger stand,” sets the standard for an expanding national trend of similar eateries.
The hamburger is returning to its glorious roots, and America is responding with characteristic nostalgia. Shake Shack lines are notoriously unbearable, but customers are too passionate about the product to be deterred. Or maybe New Yorkers are wooed instead by the pure logistics of a stand like Shake Shack. With the popularity of personalized items from coffee to computers, it’s undeniable that we are head-over-heels for the made-to-order, the clean and the bold. In an age of rampant hipster banjo-bands and Walt Whitman poetry remade anew in Levi’s ads, it seems that we are harboring a sizable lust for the roughly American.
This ideal is the core of a burger stand like Boardwalk. Its central message is difficult to ignore. Who needs a smiling waitress and an array of salads, or even tablecloths, when the product is of a high enough quality? At Shake Shack and Jake’s, that level obliterates any need for fine silverware. Boardwalk I’m less sure of, but I’m willing to give it a few chances before I pass my final judgment.
What I do know is the fries are about as perfect as fries can get, whether eaten outside on a sunny May afternoon or inside at one of its booths. Like the original in Ocean City, Md., Newark’s boardwalk fries are perfectly salted, thick and crispy without too much grease. I am convinced that the fries in Newark would replenish the body after a day spent riding waves or basking in the sun just as effectively as those on the actual boardwalk in Ocean City, or my weakness, their Jersey Shore cousins. A food snob might write off the milkshakes as inconsistent—my strawberry shake was much more soupy than my friend’s cookies and cream, which was appropriately thick, chunky and hard to drink with a straw—but I think I have discovered a new milkshake standby. And while I haven’t tried the burgers, I have heard from reliable and admittedly picky sources that they’re “pretty great.” It’s not quite the glowing praise I’ve heard about Shake Shack burgers, but it’s good enough.
As for me, I want to get my cheeseburger to go, wrapped in a crisp white paper bag, and eat it somewhere on this insanely gorgeous campus. If anyone finds burger stands to be irritatingly trendy, and I can’t imagine who would, then so be it. In fact, my only suggestion about ordering at Boardwalk is to follow the chain’s rules. Put vinegar on the fries and top them with Old Bay seasoning like the sign says. Your only regret will be the calorie count.