Review Date: 07/09/15
Visit Date: 07/06/15
As a fan of chef Matt Jennings (former champion at at Cochon 555; burger creativity at his now closed Farmstead in Providence), I was eagerly awaiting the burger at Townsman. His newest venture on the Rose Kennedy Greenway is within striking distance of the financial district, downtown crossing and Chinatown. The entrance on Kingston Street takes you down a narrow hallway past a galley bar with hightop stools on the right and lounge chairs on the left. Then you pass an open kitchen with soda fountain stools on the right and more lounge chairs on the left. The dining room at the back is spacious, with most seats offering at least a partial angle of the kitchen, where the chef was present on my visit. There's an outdoor dining area further back.
Much of the lunch crowd consisted of businessmen, but overall a diverse group of men and women, old and young.
Billed as a potato roll, it's far more ambitious than the Martin's standard, and larger to accommodate a full size patty. There are seeds aplenty—two kinds, even—and a freshness that suits the burger well.
Ordered medium rare, it comes out exactly that, with pinkness across the entire cross section without sacrificing a blackened exterior (more on the top and bottom surfaces; less on the sides). Juiciness is there in spurts. Flavor brings a hint of gaminess, but for the most part it's tame for an $18 burger that claims no "money" toppings.
There's cheese on top and lettuce on the bottom; that's it. Brought to the brink of liquidity by the heat of the patty, the pepper jack is far creamier than any example I've tried. Rather than a slice, it's more of a schmear, and a very thick one at that. The flavor (mostly mild, with moderate sharpness), texture (melty good) and quantity make this cheese a highlight and beyond. It doesn't drown out the beef, but there's no question that the cheese is the star of this burger.
Pickles on the side are superb, striking the right balance between sweet and spicy.
The Black Bean Burger
Young Bride had the vegetarian alternative, served on the same soft, seeded bun. Her report: good flavor, not too spicy, doesn't hold together well.
The Fries and Such
Fries: Served with the burger are crisp wedges with soft interiors and a surface dusting from some very different seasoning: salt, paprika and star anise. With tradition out the window, it's only fitting that ketchup is neither served nor mentioned. A ramekin of creamy, spicy aioli works much better anyway.
Chips: The black bean burger gets paired with housemade chips. Think about it: how often do you get such a thing only to have them too dry, too greasy, too bland? Not here. They're thin, very crisp (especially the rolled over ones), neither greasy nor dry, and salted just right. I liked them better than the fries.
Pickles and dip: A pair of hummus concoctions—one green pea, one peanut—accompany pickled, almond dusted crudites for dipping, along with small, thin slices of bread. Somewhat disappointing is that there's enough dip for about twice as much of the items to be dipped.
Ginger Lemonade: Quite enjoyable and quite gingery.
With music, kitchen activity and echoing voices all bouncing off the hard ceiling materials, it's extremely noisy here, making it difficult to conduct a conversation with someone two feet away, even over lunch.
Normally I'd wait until a second visit before compiling a review, but this is a matter of logistics. The Townsman Burger is only available at lunchtime and I'm very unlikely to take a day off and not be somewhere well outside of Boston. So it's one and done for the burger, but I'm looking forward to returning to try some of the piggier dinner entrées soon.
The Bottom Line
There's no question I enjoyed the Townsman Burger, and I'd get it again if I worked in the area and had it as a regular weekday lunch option. But for $18 I should love the burger, and I can't say that was the case here.
Yelp reviews of Townsman
Zomato reviews of Townsman
Tabelog reviews of Townsman
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