The Burger Chronicles #5 – Five Guys

Five Guys 1
Bacon Cheeseburger

It ain’t gonna win any beauty pageants but Five Guys’ Bacon Cheeseburger will kick your taste buds square in the nuts. It almost seems to dissolve in your mouth, as conversations simply end and fries are ignored completely ’til the job’s done. It’s a dirty, gooey (and quick) job but someone’s got to do it.

Founded in Virginia in 1986, Five Guys straddles the line between takeaway sleaze and more upmarket-burger fare. Each burger contains two never-frozen, prime beef patties and potatoes are sourced from local farmers. But the end result’s sloppier and trashier than the kind of gourmet burgers you’d eat with a steak knife, a slice of pickle and some hot mustard.

In true Supersize fashion, Five Guys offers customers a choice of 15 free toppings as – from lettuce to jalapeño peppers. I inadvertently ordered mine “All the Way,” which means mayo, mustard, ketchup, lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, grilled onions and grilled mushrooms.

The resulting burger’s dripping with the kind of tasty, OTT American-style goodness you know’s really bad for you. But for ten minutes or so, you couldn’t give a damn…

Burgershack

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L.O.B. vs N.N.D. – Keep Playin’

Keep Playin'
The latest third-person account of my weekly attempt to play eight-a-side football – we wear grey… Keep playin’

It’s getting to the point where I can almost copy and paste the same review; a losing streak. And frustratingly, it’s more a combination of missed opportunities and bad luck than the result of poor form.

Last Thursday the Greys took on N.N.D., and as usual they started well. Manu held the ball up in midfield, finding space and grey shirts willing to plug it. Playing in eight shades of yellow – from Colombia to Norwich City – N.N.D. pushed backed just as hard and both teams were unlucky not to score.

Ten minutes before half-time, against the run of play, Norwich City cut in from the right wing and smashed a long range shot past L.O.B. keeper Yusuf to put N.N.D. one up. The Greys struck back almost immediately, as Adam turned his marker on the edge of the box and played the ball in to Ahmed, who stuck it past N.N.D.’s keeper before he even had time to react.

The Greys pinned N.N.D. back in the second half, seemingly taking turns to surge forward and flash the ball past the St. George’s Park End goal. But disaster struck when the Greys failed to deal with a corner and Norwich City stole a second to make it 2-1.

The Grey’s threw everything they had at an equalising goal, huffing and puffing but hitting a brick wall. And defiantly, that brick wall justified his flash leopard-print goalie kit with a series of impressive saves; first snuffing out a good Thomas chance in the box and then reacting well to power-save a cracking Adam shot that seemed destined to ripple the back of the net.

To add insult to injury, an N.N.D. clearance found the Greys outnumbered at the back and Colombia chipped the ball over Yusuf as he charged out to close down the angle, sealing a flattering 3-1 win for the Yellows…

The Burger Chronicles #4 – Stokey Bears

Grizzly Bear burger
The Grizzly Bear – I chickened out of taking a photo

Bacon jam; probably thee two tastiest words you could ever possibly stick next to each other. And the cornerstone of Stokey Bears‘ mouth-watering Grizzly Bear burger.

Located deep in SodoSopa, a short walk from Church Street along Stoke Newington High Street, Stokey Bears serves tasty “grass-fed Sussex beef” burgers that don’t hold back on flavour. The choices are simple. Temptation is high. And the Greedy Bear, “everything twice,” and Triple Threat – exactly as it sounds – burgers are as much challenges as they are menu selections.

Instantly, my eyes are drawn to the Grizzly Bear: a cheeseburger topped with double oak-soaked bacon and the aforementioned burger jam. And as soon as I bite into it I know I’d made the right choice. The burger’s cooked to perfection; tender, juicy and full of flavour – it reminds me of Patty & Bun‘s Ari Gold – and the sticky bacon-flavoured goo is every bit as ungodly and decadent as it sounds. Knock out.

Menu

The wings are worth a mention, too. New York style and tasty, smothered in mouth tinglingly hot Orange Buffalo sauce. They’re more classic buffalo wings than the melt-off-the-bone, smoked confit wings my current touchstone Patty & Bun does.

The Bearhug Spirit Pale Ale on tap is an added bonus and the Miami Vice-esque pink-and-blue ’80s lighting, cool artwork and excellent service all add to the overall vibe. The only problem is there are so many fries and onion rings the burger’s a distant memory by the time I waddle out the door. I’m tempted to order another one as a takeaway… Greedy bear indeed.

Stokey Bears 2

Ham, Egg & Chips – Max’s Sandwich Shop

Max's Sandwich Shop, ham, egg and chips
The Ham, Egg ‘N’ Chips

When I explain Max’s Sandwich Shop to people they often miss the gravity of the situation. “Hot sandwiches and booze,” that’s the basic idea. But in the real-world, that’s like describing the Sistine Chapel as “high ceiling and paint.”

Admittedly, I’m an addict, knocking back one a week (minimum) for about a year now. And the crazy thing is, they keep getting better. Owner Max Halley is the Willy Wonka of sandwiches, constantly experimenting and tweaking his creations in pursuit of gastronomic excellence. And in October, 11 months after opening, Max’s Sandwich Shop won the Guardian‘s prestigious OFM Best Cheap Eats Award.

Max's Sandwich Shop, spuds, sour cream and seaweed
Spuds with slutty gravy mayo, sour cream and seaweed

Perhaps spurred on by their award, Max and his crew have hit a rich new vein of form; the Deep Fried Jalapeño Mac ‘n’ Cheese Balls are saucier, the spuds are crispier and the slutty gravy mayo is even richer and dirtier than before.

Tonight’s choice was the one that started it all, the Ham, Egg ‘N’ Chips; tender, slow-cooked ham hock, a perfectly fried egg, crispy shoestring fries, Piccalilli and malt vinegar mayo absolutely stuffed between two slices of fresh, homemade bread (which takes three hours to bake). Unlike its counterparts, the Ham, Egg ‘N’ Chips hasn’t been modified and re-invented. And tonight’s presentation was a perfect reminder why: if it ain’t broke, leave it the fuck alone.

The problem with Max’s Sandwich Shop is every sandwich is the furthest you’re ever going to be away from having your next one. And soon after I’m done eating, that’s all I can think about.

RIP Brandon Carlisle – Skate AND Die! WTF?

RIP Brandon Carlisle
A photo I took of Brandon Carlisle at the New Cross Inn in 2011

Skate or die. Those were the options, right? So news that Teenage Bottlerocket drummer Brandon Carlisle was taken off life support last weekend was a huge shock to the system. The dude seemed larger than life. Too tough to die.

My band Paperjets opened for Teenage Bottlerocket in August 2011 at The Fighting Cocks in Kingston, south west London. We’ve opened for bands like Off With Their Heads (didn’t watch us play) and The Flatliners (didn’t watch us play, wouldn’t share their drum kit), so I wasn’t expecting much. But to my surprise, Brandon hung out before the show and all four members of the band watched our set. Guitarist Ray, who is Brandon’s identical twin brother, even said, “cool show.”

I must have seen Teenage Bottlerocket about six or seven times in total. The first time was at a tiny little pub in south London called the New Cross Inn in April 2011. It was a crazy, sweaty last-minute gig to make up for the cancelled Descendents show they were meant to have supported at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire. I went full-fanboy and got them all to sign my copy of Warning Device.

Signed copy of Warning Device

I hung out with Brandon and Ray once more, briefly, in 2013, when Teenage Bottlerocket opened for Dropkick Murphys at the Kentish Town Forum. He seemed like a cool guy.

It’s strange, really; following your heroes on social media. Through Instagram, for example, I know that Brandon was a keen fisherman who loved his dogs Boomer and Shorts. I also know that he was a small town kid whose punk rock dreams took him all over the world. And now I know that his funeral is this Saturday in Fort Collins, Colorado. I hope his beautiful SJC drum kit finds a good home. Those photos of it without him are heartbreaking. RIP…

Brandon Carlisle's drum kit, SJC, Teenage Bottlerocket
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L.O.B. vs Haggerston – Keep Playin’

Keep Playin'
The latest third-person account of my weekly attempt to play eight-a-side football – we wear grey… Keep playin’

I think I was the saddest-looking person on the Tube last night, even though I was sitting next to a drunk, recently dumped Chelsea fan who was inhaling a Big Mac garnished with his own tears. The truth is, the Greys’ recent string of draws and defeats has been tough to swallow, and last night only added to the misery.

Two players cancelled on the day and one had to be talked down from the ledge. But in the end, a strong-looking Greys team lined up to face Haggerston.

Early on the action was fast-paced and evenly balanced, and both teams came close to scoring. Haggerston, however, had a secret weapon up their horrible, fluorescent green sleeves: a shameless striker who played, as new Greys recruit Ahmed said after the game, “with a sleeping bag.”

Some Greys players were more charitable, describing the cheeky striker’s decision to capitalise on the league’s no-offside rule and spend the entire match in their penalty box as “smart,” and “clever.” But in this bitter blogger’s opinion it goes against protocol, breaking the unwritten rule all other teams seem to adhere to; namely, that it’s simply not the decent way to behave.

At one point, before the Greys had even kicked off, the offending striker was already halfway into opposition territory when bewildered looking referee Ash Pedantic called him back.

Haggerston went one up when the star of this week’s post hit the upright and headed the rebound in himself. The Greys pulled one back when stand-in defender Duncan careened down the right wing and found Adam, who made the most of the chance and tucked the ball away.

Then, of course, a long ball found Haggerston’s controversial star in space, and he finished neatly to make it 2-1 to the Greens at half-time.

As usual, the Greys kept fighting, even when Haggerston’s camped-out striker scored his first “legitimate” goal of the game to make it 3-1. But without a dedicated finisher, the Greys couldn’t make the most of their possession and that’s how it ended. Another gutsy performance that deserved better. Keep playin’…

L.O.B. vs Jacklington – Keep Playin’

Keep Playin'
The latest third-person account of my weekly attempt to play eight-a-side football – we wear grey… Keep playin’

At the risk of sounding like Jose Mourinho – and you all picturing me frothing at the mouth and laughing like a maniac as I type; Friday night’s game against Jacklington was another result unfairly snatched from the clutches of the Greys, who were the better team… again.

Wearing mixed shades of yellow, Jacklington started a man down. And things looked even better for the Greys early on, as midfielder Big Chris thumped a long range shot in from the far left side of the pitch.

Making the most of their one man advantage the Greys continued to push Jacklington. And defender Paul, who was playing more of an attacking role than usual, hit the post after a good driving run down the middle.

The Greys squandered a few more chances until new recruit Ollie smashed one in from pretty much the same spot as Chris’ strike to make it 2-0 at half-time.

Back up to full strength Jacklington put in more of a shift in the second half, and a searching run and cross found an unmarked Yellow head on the edge of the box; 2-1, and to be fair, it was some header.

Despite the setback the Greys were still the better team and kept driving forward, desperate to kill the game off. At this point, however, Jacklington’s keeper suddenly turned into Gordon Banks, making a series of party-pooping, beer-souring saves that filled the Greys with an ominous sense of déjà vu and dread.

Sure enough, things fell apart just before the final whistle, when defender Mark, who’d had a great game, stuck out a leg at an otherwise tame-looking Jacklington effort. The ball flashed off Mark’s shin and left Greys keeper Yusuf dumbstruck – he might as well have not had hands. And that’s how it finished: 2-2.

Conspiracy theory, you say…