Parked outside a strip mall against an inlet that empties into one of the world's most important harbors, Hard Times Sundaes is a food truck specializing in burgers and Italian ices. It takes its name from a depression era expression describing the frugality of a snowcone. A single picnic table allows sitdown dining, but most customers get their orders to go.
A simple Martin's potato bun with all its inherent qualities—pliable, perpetually fresh, ever so slightly sweet, good absorber of juices, light enough to let the burger do the talking—gets enhanced with the buttered-and-griddled treatment. Just like with the bun's moderate sweetness, the butter is just enough to fully enhance but not enough to overpower.
Thin prime Angus chuck patties from Schweid and Sons with a 77/23 lean-to-fat ratio maintain that simplicity, along with griddle-crisped crusts and steadily flowing beef juices from the 23. Seasoning is light, but everything else is done just right and then some. The gentle feel of the well-lubricated grind is a pleasure. Owner Andrew Zurica doesn't believe blends are necessary, and his spatula craftsmanship makes a pretty compelling case.
Cheese is American all the way, which ensures a good melt. The smooth coating nails the sweet spot between solid and liquid that amplifies the beef lusciousness even more. But the bacon is the true highlight: a premium Leidy's product unveiled in rose-tinted strips with some porkfat bubbles along for the decadent ride. The cure and porky flavors get dialed all the way to the right, and there's another sweet spot: the bacon is simultaneously crisp and bendable, lending a great chew. Grilled onions bring sweetness in tiny minced-and-browned sprinkles. All this, and you can still taste the beef.
The Fries (and Such)
Fries: Thin, hand-cut, crisp, hot and well seasoned with coarse grain salt, served in a brown paper bag.
The potato roll, thin patty and smoothly melted American cheese draw inevitable comparisons to Shake Shack, which uses all three. I say the end result here is similar to Shake Shack's Double Shackburger, only better. The beef might not be as sophisticated, but it's every bit as juicy, while every other element is more personal and ultimately superior.
The Bottom Line
Owner Andrew Zurica claims that he's "in no way a gourmet burger kind of guy," but the selection and execution at every level, from bun to patty to toppings, make this simple burger a huge success that more than stands up to the more cheffy creations across the bridge. Every ratio is perfect, at least on my double. I can't wait to have my next one, and next time I'm not going to repeat my mistake of passing up the deep fried Sabrett hotdog.
Other Opinion/ Info
New York Times review of Hard Times Sundaes
Yelp reviews of Hard Times Sundaes
Urbanspoon reviews of Hard Times Sundaes
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