Photo: Elizabeth Hait, AOL
In our search for the best of the best of fast-casual restaurant menus, we've sampled Applebee's Appetizers and Outback Steakhouse Favorites. We've given you our picks for TGI Friday's Sizzling Skillets, and Red Lobster Shrimp. Now we figured it was time to put some all-American burgers to the test, courtesy of Ruby Tuesday.
We dug into all six of Ruby Tuesday's handcrafted premium beef burgers (we're saving the Veggie, Turkey, and Crab premium burgers for another taste test). Triple Prime burgers are a blend of ground tenderloin, sirloin, and ribeye, and are offered plain, with Cheddar cheese, and with Cheddar and applewood-smoked bacon. We also test-drove the Boston Blue (with blue cheese, onion rings, and barbecue sauce), the Smokehouse Burger (Cheddar, bacon, onion rings, and barbecue sauce), and the Alpine Swiss (with Swiss cheese and baby portabello mushrooms). All burgers come with lettuce, tomato, and garlic-mayo toppings, are served on a potato bun, and with a side of pleasantly crisp and well-salted "endless fries." Yes, spud lovers, it's fries till you pull the trigger. (We ordered all burgers cooked to medium doneness.)
See our winner, runner-up, and loser after the jump.
Elizabeth Hait, AOL
The Winner: Smokehouse Burger
Truly a "steaky" tasting burger, this beauty was juicy and full of flavor and texture. With a toppings combo of bacon, "aged New York Cheddar," onion rings cooked crisp, applewood-smoked bacon, and barbecue sauce, the Smokehouse could have been overkill, but it came together in a tangy, just-right bite, with, said one of the group, "a barbecue sauce that's actually subtle." The burger arrived more on the medium-rare side (which we all actually prefer), and the meatiness of the beef was enhanced by the toppings, not overwhelmed by them. One of the crew even wished there were more garlic in the garlic-mayonnaise.
Elizabeth Hait, AOL
The Runner-up: The Boston Blue Burger
Our fabulous waiter, Sean, at our local Ruby Tuesday (in Manhattan's Times Square) gave us all the details on Ruby's Sam Adams-spiked barbecue sauce, which is used on the Boston Blue. We loved Sean's enthusiasm (and all the info he had at his fingertips) but we couldn't help thinking that the combo of blue cheese and beery BBQ sauce was going to be a clash of the topping titans. Sean was right; we were wrong. "Love the unorthodox combo," said one of the group. Those little onion rings appeared again, as in the Smokehouse, and rounded out the flavor, as did the barbecue sauce with the undercurrent of Boston's hometown beer (which we all preferred to the sauce on the Smokehouse).
Elizabeth Hait, AOL
The Loser: Triple Prime Burger
"It's been called the world's best burger," or so says Ruby's menu. And it's not that this is a bad burger at all. It's perfectly good beef, but there was just no oomph to it without the additional toppings. "Unremarkable, and the bun was a bit soggy," said one of our testers. "Overcooked," said another. (There was some inconsistency across the board with the doneness of the meat; some burgers were much more rare than others.) That said, waiter Sean offered to have another burger cooked up for us; the amiable staff aims to please. For Ruby Tuesday burgers, more is more. Layer up those toppings and they bring out the best in that triple-prime beef.
Gluten-free Notes: The member of our crew who is allergic to gluten adds:
"I could have eaten any of these burgers if ordered without buns, fries, onion rings, and bbq sauce. Which would still leave me with options – but not a real burger experience. Unless I brought my own bun? But I still give this experience a thumb's up, I was able to eat!"
Calories and Sodium? Don't Ask!: We live in New York, where it's the law that calorie counts be stated on the menu. Were we thrilled that our Smokehouse Burger has 1,219 calories and 2,539 milligrams of sodium? Let's just say there was a stunned moment of silence, followed by a round of "pass the fries." This is definitely a once-in-a-while treat.
- How many calories are in Ruby Tuesday turkey burger? Take this quiz from Thatsfit.com to find out.