Nearly every possible food craving can be fulfilled on 30th Street. Paved with a cache of edible delights-sweets from Heaven Sent Desserts, sushi from Zensei, wine at Apertivo, vegetarian and vegan Mexican at Ranchos-this street of eats has something to satisfy one hankering or another.
Despite my best efforts, I haven't managed to taste everything along 30th Street, which begins at Adams Avenue and extends south, linking some of this town's most vibrant and delicious neighborhoods. So, with an appetite for discovery, I set out with a couple of friends to see what the street could offer to placate our yen for the day-the primal urge for a moist and meaty burger.
First stop was Tioli's Crazy Burger (4201 30th St., 619-282-6044), a modest-looking joint with an impressive menu of close to 25 varieties of char-grilled meat on buns, from standard beef to the more exotic venison and ostrich. The 10-plus Angus beef burgers include a blackened Cajun burger with smoked chili sauce and the pineapple-topped, teriyaki-sauced Aloha burger. A posted sign says that burgers are cooked until “Rare, Pink or Done,” but the friendly staff behind the counter seemed happy to accommodate special requests. My Croatia burger, flavored with a roasted red pepper and garlic spread, was cooked a perfect medium, nicely pinkish on the inside. My one complaint is that the meat was a bit grainy in texture-perhaps too fine a grind of beef. Still, the burger was juicy and flavorful enough to warrant a happy devouring of every last bite. Slender and crispy fries, dusted with parmesan, are a must, especially with Tioli's house-mixed chipotle ketchup for dipping.
More daring eaters can tackle the Gator burger with a curry fruit tapenade or the lean Buffalo burger spiced with creamy horseradish sauce. Those who don't eat red meat can find satisfaction in a Chinook salmon burger with tartar sauce or a remarkably tasty patty made with chopped Portobello mushrooms. Since the owners are both European, they also feature three kinds of bratwurst, each succulent and fresh. We took advantage of the happy-hour specials, served daily from 3 to 6 p.m. and again 9 to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and sampled the Gobble-Gobble turkey burger, a deal at $2.99, and sipped drafts of rich Spaten Optimator beer and glasses of German Riesling for just $3.
Crazy Burger, formerly Tioli's Italian restaurant, seems to be catching on in the neighborhood, with folks stopping in all day for a quick bite.
Less than a mile south of Tioli's is where you'll find 'meat' for non-meat-eaters. I'd dragged along a vegetarian friend on this outing, so with his well-being in mind, we headed to Veg-N-Out (3442 30th St., 619-546-8411), a veggie haven that specializes in meat-free burgers and sandwiches.
The rest of us were stuffed from our earlier burger blowout, but our curious palates were interested in tasting these meatless dishes. As a nod to our food expedition, we had to try the 30th Street Classic, a soy burger slathered with homemade Thousand Island dressing and served on a whole-wheat bun. We also tested the BBQ-sauced Ranchero burger. I thought the burgers were both fine-being a devout carnivore doesn't make me the best judge of faux-meat patties. My vegetarian friend was happy he got to try the place out, but said that the burgers weren't anything he couldn't make at home. We all agreed that the side dishes were better. The wide, flat slabs of piping-hot golden-fried sweet potatoes that came with each sandwich were a nice change from french fries, and we were immediate fans of the delectable wedges of tempura avocado. Coated in a light and lacy batter, the pieces of avocado are warmed by the heat of the fryer until crisp on the outside with a rich and melting interior.
Next time I'm in the area and craving a burger, I may return to Crazy Burger or get on over to The Linkery for my favorite 30th Street burger of all, a mammoth mound of beef topped with everything delicious under the sun, including bacon, cheese, pickled beets and a fried egg. Sometimes simplicity in a burger is best, but sometimes a lot more is a lot better.
Tioli's Crazy Burger is open Monday through Thursday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m; Friday and Saturday 11 a.m.to 11 p.m.
Veg-N-Out is open Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
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