There’s nothing sadder than when a burger comes ridiculously close to greatness — so close that it can almost touch it — but something holds it back; the elements are pretty much all there, but there’s one stupid little thing that ruins it. I’m thinking, for example, of the burgers at the County General (felled by overly strong mustard) or Broncos (bun overload).
The burger at Provo FoodBar might just be the most blatant example of this phenomenon.
The menu describes the burger as coming with “tomato jam + aged cheddar + pain au lait bun.”
There’s some other stuff that the menu doesn’t mention (arugula, crispy onion strings), but let’s talk about that tomato jam, a.k.a. the ruiner of hamburgers, a.k.a. the worst thing that’s ever been put between two buns.
Okay, maybe it’s not that bad — it’s actually kinda tasty on its own. But it’s so wrong for this burger that it’s almost absurd. It’s overwhelmingly, disastrously sweet. It’s dessert sweet. Like, you could put it on ice cream and it wouldn’t be out of place. At all. And they slather it on both the top and the bottom half of the bun, so it’s everywhere. I attempted to remove it in the second half of my burger, but it was so thoroughly suffused into the bun and the other condiments that getting rid of it was completely impossible.
I guess it’s supposed to be like a playfully gourmet take on ketchup, but even ketchup (which is far from my favourite burger topping) has a vinegary kick to balance out the sweetness. No such balance here; just cloying aggression. This is a tomato jam sandwich that happens to have a hamburger patty in it. The jam is clearly the dominant flavour.
It makes me incredibly sad, because the patty is good. Really good. It’s all there: it’s cooked perfectly to medium (and I mean perfectly, edge-to-edge) with a good amount of crust, it’s got a great texture with a nice coarse grind that hasn’t been over-handled or too tightly packed, it’s nice and juicy, and though it’s difficult to tell thanks to that stupid jam, it has a decent amount of beefy flavour.
It’s a great patty that really, really deserves to be part of a better hamburger.
As for the other toppings, they may as well have not even be there, because this is the tomato jam show through and through.
The bun was mostly okay, though it was a bit too big for the patty. It was also somewhat ruined by the bizarre way it was toasted — it tasted like they put it in the oven at a really low temperature for a really long time until it formed a hardened, crouton-like shell. It wasn’t a deal-breaker, but it was unfortunate.
That patty, though. It was so good.
I came at brunch, so the burger came with home fries instead of the traditional French fries. They were fine, though they were a little bland, and served at a temperature somewhere between lukewarm and cold.