The Skeptical Diner: Bulldog NE vs. Fuddruckers

I’m not a burger guy, probably because almost every time I’ve gone into a semi-upscale place and shelled out $7.50 for their house burger, I’ve felt robbed. There’s a depressing sameness about most burgers, and a tendency to opt for giant wet hunks of meat over higher quality stuff.

But I’ve recently had a change of heart, thanks to two places, one local, and one a chain.

Fuddruckers claims to have the “World’s Greatest Hamburger.” Bulldog NE is locally notorious for their highly seasoned Kobe-style chuck — the Star Tribune wrote: “It’s difficult to imagine a better burger.”

So. How do they stack up?

Cooking the Burger to Order

It is a major goddamn accomplishment these days to cook a burger to order. I like my burgers medium rare. That means some visibly pink meat. Two times out of three, the burger I order comes out medium well. At Bulldog NE, the burger came out medium well. At Fuddruckers, the burger was done to perfection.

Advantage: Fuddruckers

Atmosphere

Fuddruckers has an amazing — probably even overstated — sense of populism that leads to things like a maze-esque wall of cardboard cases of bad domestic beer, $1 bottles of bad domestic beer (we’ll get back to this later), and a country-spun casual atmosphere that is one part Arby’s, one part hoedown. Bulldog NE has an almost stark industrial minimalism, and is crawling with the same kind of youngish professionals who inhabit most of the more entertaining joints in Uptown.

Advantage: Tie

Beer

I have a weakness for Belgian beer, particularly Delerium Tremens. So sue me.

Advantage: Bulldog NE

Dessert

Bulldog NE is too cool for dessert. Fuddruckers offers all manner of shakes and malts, plus the humble but always pleasing Rice Krispie treat.

Advantage: Fuddruckers

Potato sides

I can’t… for the life of me… remember the fries at Fuddruckers. They were fine. The tater tots at Bulldog weren’t just faithful recreations of the childhood classics — they were far crispier, with a much higher proportion of delicious exterior to creamy interior.

Advantage: Bulldog NE

Toppings

Fuddruckers has a full-on conventional topping bar, with various sauces (hot or otherwise) onions, lettuce, etc. etc. etc. Bulldog goes high end, with stuff like stilton cheese, roasted garlic oil, wasabi mayo and the like. I ordered the locally notorious truffle burger with truffle oil and brie cheese. The cheese wasn’t slathered on; it was almost organically fused with the English muffin that stands in for the bun. And the truffle oil was present, slightly pungent, deliciously earthy — but not overwhelming. Forgetting for a second that this is a hamburger that would get you beaten with a wrench if you ordered it in the rural South, I’d have to say it’s one of the best topping combinations I’ve ever had.

Advantage: Bulldog NE

The Burger

Both burgers have a fresh taste of high quality beef; Fuddruckers grinds theirs daily, and the result is something out of the norm for a casual dining place. It would be easy to be swayed by the toppings (see above), but the truth is, I dug both burgers very much.

Advantage: Tied

Overall

I’d have to go with the conventional answer, Bulldog NE. The tater tots and Belgian beer count for a lot. But will I stop at a Fuddruckers next time I spot one on the highway? Most definitely.

7 Comments so far

  1. Erica M (unregistered) on August 14th, 2007 @ 12:21 pm

    I’m inclined to say that there’s really no comparison between the two. Given equal meat quality, it comes down to what kind of stuff you want on it. Traditional: Go with Fuddrucker’s. Different: Go with Bulldog.


  2. Jason D. (unregistered) on August 14th, 2007 @ 3:47 pm

    I do think Fuddrucker’s is underrated, so thanks for shining a light on its quality. And thanks to fuddruckers.. for having a name that is borderline profane.


  3. Matt (unregistered) on August 14th, 2007 @ 6:21 pm

    Yes, you will.


  4. Hannah Valentine (unregistered) on August 14th, 2007 @ 11:13 pm

    Wow, I have to say this is surprising.

    My only experience with a Fuddrucker’s was over around Portland Oregon when I was in middle school. I gotta say it was basically a build-your-own McDonald’s cheeseburger, not so much with the tasty. This gives me hope, so I’ll check them out.

    Also, I’m definitely ordering that brie/truffle oil burger next time I’m at Bulldog. Mmmmm…


  5. James Norton (unregistered) on August 14th, 2007 @ 11:38 pm

    Yeah, I’m not sure if it’s this particular location (France Ave. and 494) or the franchise improving, but I really thought they did a surprisingly good — if totally conventional — burger. Also, it’s good to get out of my Uptown circuit once in a while.

    You won’t regret the truffle burger. There’s every reason to be suspicious of the concept, but the execution is TIGHT.


  6. Erica M (unregistered) on August 15th, 2007 @ 8:03 am

    Also, it’s good to get out of my Uptown circuit once in a while.

    But… but… !!!

    I’m still experiencing some cognitive dissonance over this.


  7. Lee (unregistered) on August 15th, 2007 @ 1:50 pm

    You didn’t rate the Hot Dogs .. the don’t call it the Bull DOG for nothing :)



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