Thursday, September 26, 2013

Bacon Cheese Burger With Chips At Union Jacks -- Adam Tastes One For The Team (And Reports)

Union Jacks burger -- before
I made the first winter burger last night with a cast iron pan and meat from Laurel Meat Market.

But Adam has been out sampling the burgers around town.  He hit up Union Jacks near the Columbia mall, and he wrote a guest post about a place where you can get the Monday night special:
Unless you’ve been living outside the solar system, you may have realized that ground beef prices have been soaring over the past few years. I suppose there’s a blessing in disguise for our arteries and maybe the planet when it comes to this unfortunate economic reality, but frankly, I’m a young and hungry person who needs me some cow every now and then. Preferably ground, dripping with fatty, smoky bacon and gooey-melted cheese. But I don’t want to take out a mortgage on my burgers. Enter half-price burger nights, including every Monday night at Union Jack’s in Columbia. 
I nearly fell out of my chair at the bar when the final bill of $5.57 came in last Monday night. To get a half-pound burger with Gruyere and pecan smoked bacon seemed like highway robbery at that price, and to get a hot order or skin-on, thick cut “chips” (French fries for us non-Limeys) puts the plate amongst the best deals in Howard County eating. 
Be warned though; this is definitely a pub-style burger, and it may not be for everyone. I didn’t see a spec of pink despite ordering my burger medium, and while it was still juicy and oozing fatty juices, I thought the meat itself was a bit bland. The burger had a distinct and bold char-grill taste that reminds me of the burgers at Clydes, but lacked the sweet and especially beefy overtones of pan-fried or griddled burgers. Personally, I tend to favor the flavor of the maillard reaction to the flavor of char-grilling, especially because the former produces a delectably crispy crust. Other notable construction issues were the Challah bun, which did a weird gum thing with the melted cheese and Dijon mustard, as well as the cornichon pickles. The pickles added nice crunch, but because the burger is so large and heavy-tasting, a fresher and sweeter take of bread and butter pickles would have been more appropriate. 
While I think the burger could have been seasoned a bit more aggressively and had some fresher flavors to cut through the beef, it’s still a great deal. The special applies only to the standard burger (with choice of cheese and 'spread) but you can add on extra ingredients at a small additional charge of just a quarter because of the half-price deal. Whichever cheese or you choose, do make sure to get the meaty pecan-smoked bacon. Cooked perfectly, with still-chewy edges of fat, it lends complex flavors and crunch to the burger. Finally, no burger is complete without the fries. While I was a little disappointed at first that the server didn’t know all the sides Union Jack’s offers when asked (and according to their website, they have some good looking ones) I didn’t regret getting steered towards the default English ‘chips.’ They’re thick with the skin still on, bursting with potato flavor and oddly addictive with that malt vinegar stuff they give you. Seriously, I hardly even touched the ketchup! 
Is the Union Jacks the home of the best burger in Howard County? I’m not sure. Personally, I rank the burgers at Bobby’s Burger Palace higher, but technically the Maryland Live! location is in Ann Arundel county. On the same account, my heart is always endeared (literally) to the In-N-Out style burgers I late while going to college out West. But flaws aside, it’s hard not to enjoy a 1/2-pound burger with cheese and bacon, especially when you can pick one up every Monday night for as good as a deal as you can get at Union Jacks.
What other burgers do you recommend?  Other burger specials?  I have done burger posts as long ago as 2009, and I still love Victoria Gastro Pub when I order burgers out.  And you could always get the personal grind -- beef and bacon -- at my Laurel Meat Market.


Adam said...

Just an FYI for all those reading, the picture of the burger in the middle of the post is one of my two favorite burgers in Maryland (along with the Crunchified Palace Classic at Bobby's Burger Palace at Maryland Live). It's the Jake Cheeseburger from the chain Jake's Wayback (Annapolis)

Anonymous said...

I maybe in the minority here, but I can't stand their burgers. We've gone twice and both times have had the same problems, overcooked and underseasoned beef.

Honestly, if I wanted that I'd hit up Wendys or McDonalds. And yes I'm comparing Union Jacks to them.

Sure half price burger is nice, but for a couple bucks more I could just go to Five Guys.

kevlar51 said...

It sounds like the only real redeeming quality of the burger is the price on Monday nights.

Agreed on the price of ground beef. The other night I was eating a burger at E.W. Beck's (just over the HoCo/Carroll border in Sykesville) and wondered how I ever got tricked into being OK with spending $10-$15 on a burger. They've got really good burgers.

I'm also a sucker for Red Robin--probably more for the variety and options than anything else, but I rarely leave unhappy.

The best burgers in Howard County though are made on my own grill. And I'm sure that goes for a lot of folks.

J333 said...

T Bonz in Ellicott City actually has very good burgers. Simple, not enormous, taste like they're off my grill at home. Monday night is burger night....can't remember if they're half off or a dollar amount off, but they are worth checking out. Plus they have tater tots!!

Anonymous said...

Union Jacks is my go to place for Fish and Chips. The best I've ever had. With the discount on Wednesday, it's even better.

As for BBP burgers, they're all hype. Just an undervalued celebrity meal. So many places are better.

Anonymous said...

kevlar51: In my house the burgers are done on my cast iron pan(on my grill of course) I like the crust I get via the pan.

And yeah, Red Robin is very consistent for a chain. Not outstanding but good enough.And when you have kids who like to go there, I will rarely argue about them

Protip: As for the steak fries well done, they'll send them out extra crispy. Way better than how they usually are.