There are hundreds of ways to prepare a burger. Some places will use a grill; others will place the meat in an oven. The Grind, now located in Grayhawk as well as Arcadia, does the latter, but its oven is no ordinary oven.
At The Grind, burgers are cooked to perfection in a 1,000-degree coal-fired oven. Most ovens are gas or wood, and either can't come close to radiating the same amount of heat as coal.
And once the burger comes out of the coal-fired oven, you eat in the presence of such Arizona legends as former ASU Sun Devil football coach Frank Kush or Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio -- who lord over the booths in the narrow restaurant in the form of poster-size black-and-white photographs.
And so amid some arguably unappetizing company, I ate the sweet and spicy burger, topped with candied jalapeños, fried ratatouille, and arugula.
The Patty: 8.5 Usually, I prefer my patties to be wide and long rather than tall, but The Grind is a different case. The ground beef is packed in and seared perfectly to create a soft, yet crunchy exterior, which held in all of the juicy tenderness the burger had to offer. And with a 1,000-degree oven, the burger had better be cooked to perfection, which it was: a dark pink all the way through and a warm red center.
The Toppings: 8 The sweet and spicy burger has just one reason for its name: candied jalapeños. Obviously, the spicy in the name comes from the jalapeños, but it's the sugary coating that makes this burger special. It's not often you find such a sweet topping on a burger, but when mixed with spicy chile peppers and savory ground chuck, a sweet taste can be the highlight of the meal. To counteract the kick of the jalapeños, fried ratatouille, and peppery wild arugula were scattered over the burger. Though deep-frying anything will almost always make it taste good, it seemed rather pointless with the ratatouille. Besides a little crunch, the ratatouille added very little to taste to the sweet and spicy. The Bun: 7.5 To me, a burger piled with jalapeños would be hell to eat without a soft, dense bun smothering the burger. The sweet and spicy had just that, with a feathery brioche bun. Though it was rich and flavorful, it was way to big for the burger. It's understandable that with height of the burger and a load of toppings that the bun might need to be a little bigger than average, but there is no need for there to be a half-inch of space between the burger and bun.
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The Side: 7 I went with a mix of fries with half French fries and the other half sweet potato fries. The French fries were crispy with slices of potato skin at the ends and nicely salted. As were the sweet potato fries, which were fried to an orangish-brown color and a sweet crunchy crust.
The Price: 2 The Grind really milks your wallet dry. The burger was $12 on its own and the fries, which were a la carte, were another $5. Personally, when I order a burger at somewhere besides a fast food joint, I feel entitled to some fries. And if you want to get cheese on any burger at The Grind, that's an extra buck -- which is just ridiculous for an already expensive burger.
Overall: 6.6 The coal-fired oven makes a big difference in the savory, juicy flavor in the patty and the candied jalapeños is a stroke of culinary genius, mixing the always-valued sweet spicy combination on a burger. My only huge problem with the burger is the price. It just seems unreasonable to pay nearly $20 for a burger, when there are burgers that are just as good, but cost half as much.