Saturday, January 19, 2013

Now This Doesn’t Sound Appetizing!

We have arrived in Tucson in time for what we have been told is the third longest cold steak in the city’s history. Overnight temps are in the low 20’s (BRRRR) and daytime temps barely hit the fifties. We used to claim that we come from “hardy Midwestern stock” but, in our fifth year of winter avoidance, we have gotten soft. So our favorite form of recreation is indoors—eating.

I found Arizona Foothills Magazine’s list of the fifteen best restaurants for 2012 and among those listed was a place called Monkey Burger. When you think about it, not a name to get the juices flowing. But, after reading Shannon North’s comments, I reconsidered and added it to our list of places to visit. “Situated in an unassuming spot in Tucson’s Williams Center, it would be easy to miss the popular Monkey Burger, if not for the scent of fresh fries and grilling burgers wafting onto the street.
If that doesn’t grab you, the line reaching out the door most days will. Either way, be glad you found it…what awaits you on their grill is the gourmet burger done right.
(The view from the parking lot.)

Burgers here are true food artistry. Thanks to 100% Angus beef from Harris Ranch and fresh buns from Tucson’s Vero bakery, Monkey Burger boasts the perfect canvas on which to build their divine burgers…” (

And then I read that Metromix, the country's largest online food and entertainment guide, named Tucson's Monkey Burger one of the top 22 hamburger restaurants in the country….

Monkey Burger was the youngest of the top restaurants and was lauded for ‘serving gourmet burgers with a hip flavor flair’" (

I don’t know which came first—the name or the artist. After extensive research (maybe ten minutes), I couldn’t find the reason for the name. Did the owner have a good friend who was really good at painting monkeys and giant winged hamburgers? We’ll never know.

The space could best be described as stylish casual and a step up from your standard “order-at-the-counter” burger joint. You do place your order at the
counter, but the burger varieties never graced a fast food spot. Among the choices are: Chef Mattie's Monkey with roasted poblano peppers, sautéed mushrooms and onions, lettuce, tomato, bacon, and cheddar and Swiss cheeses; the Kitchen Sink with pickle spears, shredded lettuce, American cheese, French fries, bacon and sundried tomatoes; the Madness with jalapeno slices, shredded lettuce, pepper jack cheese, fajita peppers, and Tabasco scallion aioli; the South Shore with a five spice patty, jack cheese, shredded lettuce, ginger bbq glaze, and pineapple relish (Editorial comment – Yuk!); and The Plymouth with a ground turkey patty, smoked mozzarella cheese, shredded lettuce, sun-dried tomato, and avocado pesto.

Chuck chose the day’s burger special, the Great American with American cheese, lettuce, and tomato with bourbon remoulade on the side. But ever the purist—“hold the lettuce and tomato and add raw onion.” The toasted bun on each of our burgers was excellent. Sturdy enough to absorb the burgers’ juices without disintegrating, yet not so heavy as to be overly filling. The burgers had a wonderful grilled char taste and were cooked to medium as ordered.

Knowing my love of spicy food, you might think that I ordered the Madness. You’d be wrong. Instead I selected the True Blue with blue cheese, caramelized onions, romaine lettuce, and tomatoes.
This was a mess. Or maybe I should say that this may have been the messiest burger I have eaten. Even when cut in half, I couldn’t keep the components contained inside the bun and finally cried “Uncle” and resorted to knife and fork. And it may have been too much of a good thing—especially the caramelized onions which obscured all taste of the blue cheese and much of the taste of the hamburger itself.

Both of our burgers came with a side. In Chuck’s case it was wonderful crispy fries that had been seasoned with salt and pepper.

The same salt and pepper were used on my house-made potato chips, which were so thin and crisp that they shattered when bitten. And the bourbon remoulade that came with Chuck’s burger—and which he didn’t use—made the perfect dip for my chips.

I think that I should have followed Chuck’s lead and kept it simple and let the good beef take the lead role. But I didn’t and can only give Monkey Burger 4.0 Addies as a result.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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