There's a reason why Food Network's Man vs. Food and our own Zack Fowle's Feasts of Fury are so popular. People love BIG food. We're amazed by dishes so large that one order could feed Bill Paxton's Big Love family or provide a starving college student with leftovers for two weeks.
For this week's Battle of the Dishes, we dared to down two of Phoenix's most talked about burger beasts: The Sasquatch Burger at The Lodge and Roaring Fork's Big-Ass Burger. What better time to stretch our stomachs than the week before Thanksgiving?
In One Corner: The Lodge
4422 N. 75th St. in Scottsdale
Chef Aaron May's The Lodge in Old Town Scottsdale is described as "a welcome respite from its posh desert surroundings." In other words, it's not the cookie-cutter modern restaurants popping up every five seconds in Scottsdale. There's no blue neon, chrome or other industrial loft-style trappings. This Lodge actually looks like -- go figure! -- a lodge.
Yep, there's plenty of stuffed dead animals and other backwoods finery here. They've got timber paneled walls, wood beam ceilings, a stone fireplace and chainsaw-carved statues of Mr. and Ms. Bigfoot out front. Yee-haw! All this makes for a cozy cabin feel that's especially nice on brisk winter nights.
Anyone with an ass small enough to fit on one of the Lodge's miniscule log barstools probably has never touched the infamous Sasquatch Burger, a 2,000 calorie gut bomb with a half-pound of ground beef, bacon, cheese and fried onions nestled between two grilled cheese sandwiches on thick Texas toast.
My adventurous dining partner and I ordered up the Sasquatch to split between the two of us (hey, look, my stomach just can't handle that kind of pain alone!). The dining room literally hushed for a few seconds as the Sasquatch was brought to our table; then erupted in a series of giggles, whispers and questions thrown in our direction. "Oh my God, what is that?" I heard the woman seated to our left ask her husband. At least he'd read the menu description, so we didn't have to explain for the umpteenth time.
The Sasquatch really is huge. Skewered with a large steak knife to hold the thing together, it towered over our water goblets and everything else on the table. There's no good way The burger itself was solid, if not spectacular. The thick disc of Angus beef was firm and lean enough that most of the yummy juices and fats cooked out of it. Perhaps next time I'd order it rarer, though my companion (who prefers his steak like shoe leather) thought it was perfect. The bacon was crisp without being burnt and had a light smoky flavor that danced on the tongue. Onion straws were crisp and flavorful, adding a nice crunch to the parade of textures.
But what really stood out was the grilled cheese, made with two varieties of gooey melted cheese and grilled to perfection. It's the kind of sandwich that reminds me of childhood, when grilled cheese and french toast were made with tons of real butter instead of today's lo-cal substitutes. The addition of the meat patty and bacon was great, of course, but I'd eat this grilled cheese "bun" alone any day.
"The grilled cheese is soft and buttery, much better than any bun I can imagine," added my partner. "The whole burger is great. The only thing that would make this sandwich better is if it were made into sliders so I could eat the whole thing at once."
Brilliant idea. Chef Aaron??
In the Other Corner: Roaring Fork
4800 N. Scottsdale Rd. in Scottsdale
Billed as a "Western American Bistro," Roaring Fork (part of the Eddie V empire) sports antler chandeliers, weathered wood walls and stone accents similar to those at The Lodge. The main difference here is the service level. The Lodge is more of a casual tavern/bar, while Roaring Fork is an upscale dinner restaurant popular for birthdays and anniversary celebrations. A Sunday brunch menu was also recently added.
This is a white linen tablecloth kind of place. The Western theme is subtle in comparison to some of the kitschy Old Town Scottsdale haunts, but cowboy boots and Stetsons are popular with the clientele. I think I even spotted a pair of spurs on one white-haired gentleman sporting a bolo tie. After taking in the decor and the interesting patrons gathered around the bar, my partner and I ordered the Big-Ass Burger, a 12 oz. hunka hunka beef served with a cast iron kettle of fries. It used to be available at the bar only, but is now included on the regular menu.
It's a HUGE burger, but it was dwarfed by The Sasquatch. My Big-Ass was barely as tall as the iron kettle beside it. Along with the usual lettuce/tomato/pickle, Roaring Fork's burger includes melted cheese, bacon and a roasted poblano pepper. I bit in and was assaulted by the poblano. After removing half or it, the strong smoky green pepper flavor balanced better with the rest of the ingredients and the heat level created just the barest buzz on my lips.
The burger patty was lean but still pink and moist inside. Though we'd ordered both burgers done to the same temperature, the Big-Ass was far more succulent and flavorful. My mouth reveled in its juices. The bacon was slightly crisp and saline, which was complimented by the mild cheese and sweet, buttery bun. "This burger is great too, though I preferred the crispier, smoky bacon on the Sasquatch and I miss the grilled cheese bun," my partner said wistfully. I suppose another visit to The Lodge is in order for him.
As for me, this one's a toss-up. I'd hate to see the big ass I'd end up with if I ate either of these burgers regularly. If that wasn't a concern, I'd love to do a Frankenstein with both burgers and put a Big-Ass beef patty on The Lodge's grilled cheese sandwich -- with bacon and maybe a touch of poblano aioli.
The Winner: The grilled cheese on The Lodge's Sasquatch is amazing, but for texture and flavor of the beef (and the fact you can bite all of it at once) I'll have to side with Roaring Fork's Big-Ass.