There exists a restaurant so excellent that a person might go there three times in a week. Maybe they’ll even go two nights in a row. There, the food speaks to your soul in the type of way that you want it every day for the rest of your life. It’s so Instagrammable, though the dim lighting and too-cool atmosphere would rather you didn’t. And oh, the milkshakes—or frappes, as they’re called in Boston.
Boston Burger Company is that restaurant. I am that person. And you will be too, soon enough.
One of the first things that people might notice about the Cambridge location (there are two others, in Boston and Somerville) is the crowd. On a Friday or Saturday night around 7, groups of people stand under its marquee and in the small space between the front door and the hostess’s podium. The tables are all full, and the bar is packed. The only time a seat is empty is when the next party hasn’t made its way to its table yet.
The decor is an amalgam of the hippest things you have seen on Pinterest—chalkboard walls, rustic light fixtures, and tongue-in-cheek illustrations of famous figures with burgers—Conan O’Brien, John Malkovich, and John Harvard are replicated on the walls. The TVs around the restaurant have a little something for everyone, from sports games to Jeopardy and NCIS. No one pays much attention to them, though, since most people come for one thing: the food.
A burger feels like something very specific: a summer day, maybe Fourth of July, with humidity and grilled hot dogs and the slight smell of chlorine from a nearby pool. A burger from Boston Burger Co. feels like chaos. The meat preserves its integrity—it’s a hearty piece, and it’s not the blackened patty you might get on the Fourth of July. The toppings are where Boston Burger Co. shines. My personal favorite, and the favorite of the Food Network’s resident crazy person/meme, Guy Fieri, is the Mac Attack. Piled high on top of the burger is its own four-cheese mac and cheese—cheddar, American, parmesan, and Romano, for anyone counting at home—and two slices of bacon, equal parts crispy and pliable. You can pull your fork away from the cheese for a good few feet without breaking it, that’s how thick it is. It’s gluttony on a bun.
Other burgers are a little more outside the box. The Sophie has probably the most refined ingredients ever to be put on a burger. Instead of bacon, there’s prosciutto, and your classic American or cheddar is swapped for goat cheese. Candied walnuts are sprinkled across it, and in place of any ketchup or mustard, there’s a good dose of balsamic reduction and arugula in a lemon vinaigrette.
The diversity of textures, combined with the mix of sweet and savory, somehow form a harmonious relationship. It’s a far cry from what most consider to be a burger, but the point of Boston Burger Co. is to use the burger as a canvas for more delicious things.
A look at the menu shows there are few limitations. There is even one called the King, which—as an homage to Elvis, of course—contains fried bananas, peanut butter, and bacon. The bananas are covered in cinnamon to amp up the sweetness, which should not really go with salted meat. But that is the point—it’s weird, to say the least, but somehow they pull it off. All of the burgers come with either baked beans or coleslaw and a side of housemade chips, almost orange in color and smoky in flavor. Why chips? Well, because French fries are on a whole different part of the menu.
There is a lot that goes into making a good fry, and most of it comes down to personal preference. Some people like the thin, shoestring ones from McDonald’s. Others like steak fries: a little chunkier, more potato than crunchy exterior. The fries at Boston Burger Co. are wedges, the skin still on in some places and heavy. Not in a bad way. In a way that feels substantial, like you could make a meal out of just them. As with the burgers, there are add-ons that only enhance the fries.
The bruschetta ones are covered in garlic, raw tomatoes, basil, and pesto mayo. It’s a mess, like most of the foods at Boston Burger Co. The juice from the tomatoes fills the oddly shaped bowl, and it’s hard to keep the tomatoes on the fries. You’d expect the fry to collapse under all of it, but the toppings only make it lighter—it’s better than the crunchy bread of traditional bruschetta.
There are also the pizza fries, which skip the diced tomatoes in favor of sauce. The top is smothered in jack cheese and haphazardly laid pepperoni. There’s a level of strategy in it—because the cheese is so thick at the top, it doesn’t distribute well to the bottom fries, which makes them heavy enough to break apart in your hands. It does little to dissuade people, though. The only fear with eating the fries is that you won’t have enough room for everything else.
And then, if you somehow can take one more thing in your stomach, there are the frappes. Boston Burger Co. appeals to the younger generation, taking photos of its aptly named “freak frappes” for Instagram. Mega shakes have become a trend in the past year, and the restaurant is not one to sit out on the craze. Whenever one enters the dining area, heads turn nearly 360 degrees just to get a glimpse.
There are some obvious favorites—one waitress attests to constructing the bases of several Oreo frappes at a time to accommodate the demand.
“We started ramping up the frappes at the beginning of 2016,” head of marketing Christina Orso said. “They take a few minutes to prep and about five to ten minutes to put together once ordered.”
The cup gets smeared with a thick frosting around the rim (read: nearly half of the glass) so that bits of Oreo will stick. The frappe itself isn’t white with black throughout, as most Oreo milkshakes are. It is instead a rich brown, with chocolate sauce still dripping down the inside. A mountain of whipped cream fills over the top—instead of coming off as sloppy, it only increases the decadence. It’s finished off with a thin skewer of two Oreos and a long red straw. For someone short, you have to sit up a little more in your chair to reach it, making you think of a time when a younger you kneeled in your chair to take long sips of a milkshake.
It’s enough for two or three people—I don’t personally think so, but that’s probably not what your doctor would say—so you can order a few different flavors and try them all. Other favorites include Nutella and a strawberry shortcake frappe, in which a large piece of the cake rests on the top of the glass.
So there you have it. Boston Burger Co. is the kind of place that gives you nothing you expected, but somehow everything you needed, like 70-degree weather in October. When you leave, you feel full—not in a gross, bloated kind of way, but a content way.
Go on a first date there, so you know more about the person just from what he or she orders. Bring all of your friends from home to show that you have great taste and hang out in cool places. Hell, have your wedding there—it’s supposed to be the best day of your life, right? Just go. Maybe even three times in a week.
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor