One-Third Pounder with Potato Wedges
My usual order here is the One Third Pounder, no cheese -- gotta watch the calories, and also because I usually want to enjoy the beef without diluting its flavor. Normally this burger's enough to fill me up, so I don't even have to order sides unless I'm really starving. BBB's burgers are thick, juicy, have the crumbly texture of an all-beef patty, and because they're grilled, have a lightly smoky flavor. You may have to wait a bit for your burger on a busy day, because they grill each order fresh; me, I consider the wait worth it!
Taking Cat here for the first time -- she was in Davao when BBB opened -- we got the One Third Pounder, a side of Potato Wedges, and the Chicken Parmigiana rice meal. We loved the potato wedges, nice thick slices of potato, skin on, crisp outside and perfectly cooked through inside. Cat says if she can't have mashed potato, her fave potato dish, she'll gladly settle for this any time. Me, I think my next order of burger will have to include this. There goes the calorie count! We also liked the Chicken Parmigiana, the sauce was nice and savory, and there's a generous topping of melted cheese on top. I'm a sucker for melted cheese on rice, so again this dish is a winner for me.
Is a bigger burger really better? For me it depends on what you made it bigger with. Now, if you're making that burger bigger with more real, high quality beef, then yes, a bigger burger definitely makes me happier! If Pergola Mall were on my way home from work I'd probably be eating here more often.
Big Better Burger is an up-and-coming chain with 10 branches already throughout Metro Manila, the Pergola Mall branch being their 8th. The chain is owned and operated by the Teotico family, and interestingly enough is totally home-grown--it's not a US franchise at all. Eric Teotico, who loves to cook, came up with the idea of opening a burger chain based on his own recipes. Learning this story, I'm motivated to patronize BBB even more -- I like it when my peso goes to a local entrepreneur instead of a foreign corporation, and my palate tells me I'm getting value for my money.
Still, if you're coming to Big Better Burger for the first time, you should be here for the burgers. Yes, they're that good. BBB's patties compare very well with the product of a classic Filipino chain we who're old enough to like retro stuff know well, but because it's grilled I'll have to consider BBB's even better.
While admitting it inevitably betrays my true age, I just have to say that if there's one burger I think of when I'm nostalgic, it's Tropical Hut's Classic burger. We rarely feature chains here in Good Living BF, since our focus is on 'homegrown' restaurants and enterprises, but we decided to do this as a fitting tribute to our favorite burger since the 1970s.
Tropical Hut was a burger chain way before McDonalds came in, or Jollibee morphed from ice cream parlor to fastfood giant. The BF Homes branch is up to now one of the longest-running Tropical Hut outlets in the country -- if I remember correctly it's their second or third branch. When I was a kid studying at La Salle Zobel, I'd often badger my dad into taking me there after school before we made the long drive back home. But Cat and I don't go to Tropical Hut to eat history. We go because, very simply, Tropical Hut still serves the juiciest, most meatily fragrant burger we know.
The Tropical Hut Classic stands out because it's cooked quite differently from other fastfood chain burgers. I often find the meat patties from other chains rubbery in texture, probably from a combination of extenders and the dry cooking method they use. In contrast, Tropical Hut's burgers tend to fall apart on you while you eat, while the buttery, utterly beefy juices run down your chin. The secret is in the thickness of the patty and the pouring of a special sauce over the burger as it cooks. As the outsides of the burger seal from the heat, the sauce gets trapped inside, keeping it tender and packed with flavor. I'm drooling as I write this!
Unfortunately, Tropical Hut was never managed with the same level of marketing savvy as its newer rivals, and the quality of its products can be uneven. I've been to Tropical Hut branches that were badly maintained, that stank (I didn't eat at those!), and been disappointed with various menu entries. The fries can be bland and soggy at times; at best, they're crisp but still rather plain, when compared to say McDonalds' fries. Sometimes the staff are not as well-trained as they could've been.
I hope one day to see Tropical Hut undergo a management renaissance. Better training, better marketing, investment in more effective advertising. But please, please, if ever this happens, do not change the Classic burger. It's the reason why, despite all the warts, I still keep coming back to Tropical Hut.
As I am a few years older than Dariel, my memories of Tropical Hut burger go even more way back, back to where I think it started in Ortigas in the 70s. But here I plead a senior moment because I cannot exactly recall the name of the place or the building. But what has stayed indelibly in my mind was the experience of my first taste of the burger that was then making waves all over town.
Simply put, it tasted like no other -- not that I could compare it with a MacDonald's or a Jollibee's because as Dariel said, they still had to hit town or hit it big at that time -- but that it had its own very distinct taste. A taste that, thankfully, to this day has remained in the Classic Burger.
Part of its appeal was its bigger-than-normal serving size -- rivaled only by the equally famous Dayrit's hamburger -- which the Classic has kept; and part of it was the de luxe way it was served, with chips and potato salad if memory serves me right. .
Over the years, as its rivals overtook it in popularity, availability, and visibility, it has tried to hang on stubbornly, sometimes perhaps too stubbornly for its own good as when it seemed to resist upgrading its branches, making them look like holdovers from the past century. But at the same time, that stubbornness is what may have kept its loyal followers like me coming back for the Tropical Hut burger taste--it had kept the flavor that had made it an institution, a go-to for a burger fix, and a must-have for those midnight cravings.
The relatively few places it had branches in became my landmarks -- in Greenbelt and Crispa in Gil Puyat opposite the Makati Post Office; the Greenhills branch was another favorite stopover. The first two are now gone; I haven't been to the latter in ages. So I am happy that although as whimsical as the food industry can be, Tropical Hut has endured. And that the Classic Burger is still a classic.
Now, my only quibble is why don't they have a branch in Davao?
I'm looking forward to Armageddon. No, I'm not wishing for the world to end; I'm hankering for Buffalo's Wings N' Things' newest offering, the Armageddon sauce for their famous Buffalo Wings.
As a spice addict, I'm always looking for that next delightful blast of heat on the palate. I got it at Buffalo's Wings N' Things, a new restaurant along Aguirre that specializes in -- what else, spicy buffalo wings. Said to have been developed at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York -- hence the name -- buffalo wings have become an icon of American casual dining. Buffalo's Wings N' Things has gotten its spicy wings recipe down to a T, so it was a surprise to me that this is a homegrown concept, not a franchise of an American chain.
Half-pound Buffalo wings with New York's finest sauce
Cat and I shared a Half Pound of Buffalo Wings tossed in their New York's Finest Sauce, a fiery orange Cajun-style sauce made with cayenne and butter. One sniff, and I almost forgot to photograph it! The chicken tasted exactly as good as it looked and smelled; I suspect even without the sauce it would've been good, but with the sauce I think I finished my share in less than two minutes. And, oh yeah, this is one place where you won't get far with knife and fork; if you want to eat spicy wings properly, you really should use fingers.
Buffalo's Mini Cheeseburnger
We also tried the Buffalo Cheeseburger Minis, a set of three small cheeseburgers meant for kiddie appetites. One bite and I knew the patties had been made with American beef -- there's a subtle but still definitely detectable difference in taste. Definitely something for the avowed carnivore. The minis were nice to photograph, but my stomach was growling, 'Why didn't you order the big one?'
So what's Armageddon got to do with all this? In addition to their already hot New York's Finest sauce, Buffalo's Wings N' Things has introduced two even hotter sauces; with some customers demanding even more heat, owner Sonny Ong concocted the Armageddon, supposedly the ultimate in Cajun witchcraft. Just thinking about it has got me bewitched already. I wants some!