Review Date: 02/28/16
Visit Dates: (11/28/14) (05/xx/15) (07/22/15) (11/23/15) (11/30/15) (02/23/16)
Right on the main drag in a commercial stretch of Medford is Snappy Pattys, a small joint with a few hightop tables near the window, a few regular tables just inside the door and a bar that seats about a dozen. The artwork is a modern take on paint-by-numbers, with portraits of pop culture figures from the 1940s to the 1970s.
The menu goes a little deeper than just burgers, but that's the main attraction, all offered on house baked brioche.
The patty sizes vary. The namesake Snappy Pattys ($2.50 each) are 2-ounce mini burgers served at lunch and dinner (but not weekend brunch, which lasts until 3:00PM). The Lunch Burger ($10 with fries), jumping up to 6 ounces, is available seven days a week at lunchtime and brunchtime. The Dinner Burger climbs to 10 ounces, and as you might guess, it's served seven days a week at dinnertime and beyond.
The Bun / Bread
For the Snappy Pattys, they bake a mini loaf of olive oil brioche that has the same (lack of) density of whitebread, but with much more structural integrity and flavor. The loaf is divided into six slices of about pinky finger thickness. They're griddled in butter to crisp them up and add some welcome richness while remaining appealingly delicate.
These griddled slices of brioche are among the best housings I've ever had, especially now that the patties have increased from 1.6 ounces to 2.0 ounces. In the early days, the bread-to-beef ratio was off, dwarfing the beef. Nowadays, it's just right.
For the lunch and dinner burgers, the olive oil brioche takes on a bun form. I still like the flavor and density, but both on early and recent visits, it was simply too much; the beef gets a little lost in there. Those visits tried the lunch burger but not its more sizable sibling, so I'm guessing the heftier patty on the dinner burger stands up much better.
All of the patties use grass fed, hormone-free beef with a chuck-sirloin blend to achieve leanness. There's nothing exotic in the blend, but it's just beefy enough to get your attention. They're griddled to get a nice crust, and the leanness doesn't stop them from being juicy inside, especially on the larger format.
The mini patties have shown dramatic improvement in this regard. They not only got lost within the bread in the early going, but were dry in the center as well. Today, they're plump and reliably juicy, thanks to both the size change (2.0 ounces now, a 25% increase starting in late summer or early fall of 2015) and that they're now being hand-formed in house to leave them a little looser. They can even be ordered medium rare now.
Lettuce, tomato and a thin slice of raw onion come standard on the larger burgers and get the job done without any fanfare. Ditto the bacon and cheese; they're handled competently without any points added or deducted.
Again, it's the smaller Snappy Pattys where the flourishes come in and the execution is at a higher level. There are five configurations, plus an option to get it plain. If you choose three of the same kind, it's $6.95 for the trio instead of $2.50 each, but live a little and experiment.
Original - American, Ketchup, Dill Relish
BBQ - Colby, Bourbon Bbq, Pickled Onion
Californian – Havarti, Avocado Mayo & Tomato
Texan - Young Cheddar, Bacon Secret Sauce
Mexican - Ancho Cheese, Pico De Gallo
Plain – On House Baked Olive Oil Brioche
The flavors of the Original will take you back to your first try at McDonald's, with much higher quality in every component. I'm a fan of the Texan and the Mexican, so I stick with those for the best flavor punch The spread is applied liberally enough to taste it, but conservatively enough to let the beef shine. Note that on the Texan, the bacon is subtle and weaved into the sauce; you're not going to taste or feel large strips of bacon, but you'll taste some intriguing flavor. Also note that you can request any of these on the larger format burgers as well, as I did with the Texan sauce on my most recent Lunch Burger.
The generous serving of "buttermilk fries" (especially on the plate with the larger burgers) have also improved. Limp in the early going, they now usually come in crisp and hot, with above-average potatoey flavor. I have not tried the fontina and pancetta tater tots, but it's pencilled in for next time and may be the wiser choice.
Buttermilk Fried Chicken: This is a hidden gem. The $9 appetizer gets you a good sized bowl of chicken both on the bone and off, all of it with an extra crunchy coating and a light application of sauce that brings honey sweetness, some added heat and hints of Caribbean spices. The pieces are small enough for easy sharing but large enough to ensure interiors that are moist and tender. They serve molassesy barbecue sauce on the side for dipping, but it's not needed—this chicken is just right as is.
It may be a little tight, but there's free parking in back. Meters out front are attainable but confusing, so bring quarters and allow extra time to figure out the system.
The Bottom Line
Now that the bread-to-beef ratio is perfected on the Snappy Pattys, go for the masterpieces in small packages that are among my favorite burger bites ever. The texture, flavor and balance are all fine-tuned to yield the perfect burger snack that will lead to cravings. The larger burgers are okay, but a little bread-heavy and not at the same level. Don't sleep on the fried chicken; it should be a must on your first visit. And if your last visit was before late summer of 2015, visit again to see the improvement.
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