Chopps American Bar and Grill is a steakhouse restaurant serving three meals a day at the Burlington Marriott. The consulting chef was Daniel Bruce, better known as the chef at Meritage and a driving force behind the Boston Wine Expo. The atmosphere at Chopps is quite versatile, with quiet dining rooms, private alcoves, a more boisterous atmosphere near the front, hightop tables and plush couches in the wide open great room and ringside seating overlooking the kitchen.
The Bacon Cheeseburger
Available on the lunch menu and tried on a Saturday lunch only, this what I call the Chopps entry level burger. Rather than review this using my usual categories, I'll cut right to the chase: this was a very good burger, but not the burger you want here if you're serious about burgers and even more serious about the beef. My only try was ordered medium and arrived exactly so, and even at medium the juice flow was impressive.
The beef is full bodied. All of the ratios are good. Bread and butter pickle chips are a nice upgrade over dill. Bacon is solid but not distinctive.
The Dry Aged Burger
This is the one to get. Read on.
A light and collapsible breed of brioche does a nice job of gripping the patty and offering starchy counterbalance in the most restrained way possible. It's buttered, but even that is handled with finesse, so as to merely nudge the flavor along without hijacking it. Good choices.
The signature dry aged burger deploys a blend of brisket and shortrib from River Rock Farm (Brimfield MA), presumably with no chuck in the mix to dilute the flavor. It's cooked over an open flame under the watchful eye of chef David Verdo at the pass.
Some burgers that claim aging in the beef force you to fool yourself into believing you can actually taste it, but that's not the case here. One bite in and the rush of aged beefiness will be fully upon you. Some liken it to sharp cheese; others taste some sourness. Some like the funkiness, steakiness or minerality; others just think of it as hyper-intense beef. I get all of the above and more from the Chopps aged patty, but the flavors don't stop there. Black peppercorns surface every few bites or so. Salt is more of a key player—as key as can be without overdoing it. Similarly, there's no mistaking that this burger was cooked over an open flame: that char surfaces in every bite but never overshadows the nuances of the beef. While I generally prefer a griddled burger over a grilled one, there was no drawback here whatsoever. The surface has just as much crusting and sheen as with a griddled version. These guys know what they're doing.
On the Saturday lunch visit the first stab at this burger arrived noticeably past medium when ordered medium rare, so we sent it back. The replacement was a glorious medium rare, bursting with pink juices that soaked the bottom half of the bun that held it.
Two more burgers on the next visit also nailed the requested doneness. This time a burger cohort and I did a little experimenting, ordering the aged burger exactly as it comes at medium, and a stripped-down one (with only the cheese and aioli) at medium rare. The juice flow was what you would expect, and then a little more. And as I had hoped, the simpler version at medium rare did a better job showcasing both the inherent qualities of the beef and the cooking prowess.
With aioli there's always a risk that it's going to be one big creamy mess, but that never comes close to happening here. The application is understated but still manages to supply just a like tingle of heat. The cheddar is also understated while thoroughly melted. Instead of being a foil for the beef, it becomes one with it. The lettuce and tomato in the full-fledged version stand a little taller and get a little in the way; I'm less of a fan. Onion strings—or any fried food or starch for that matter—aren't my thing as a burger topping, but what are you going to do? Oh, ask for this burger without them, that's what. But I have no problem with and still enjoy the all-inclusive version as originally designed.
The Fries (and Such)
Fries: The presentation is totes dorbs with the mini fry basket. But alas, the fries are frozen and boring even though cooked fine enough.
Potato tots: A big (and free) upgrade from the fries, these fried balls are house made, not frozen. Outside, they supply the requisite golden brown color and crunch; inside, they avoid the mashed typecasting and go for more of a hash browns feel with long and tender shreds.
The Bottom Line
The Chopps dry aged burger has quickly become one of my favorite in greater Boston and the only suburban representative in my Boston burger pantheon. That may get an eyeroll from some, but I'll take the no-hassle free parking—and this burger—anytime.
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