Gut Check has introduced a new feature, "Fight Club Sandwich": one-on-one battles between popular local dishes, drinks or anything else that strikes my fancy — or yours. I pick a topic and then ask readers to suggest contestants. Once I have a slate of potential combatants, I let you choose the battle. I pick the winner.
For the inaugural battle, readers elected to pit burgers from O'Connell's Pub and Seamus McDaniel's against each other. I ordered both medium-rare with cheese but without "special" toppings.
O'Connell's Pub: This burger demands a certain aesthetic: It comes with only a thick slice of raw onion, though you are free to add ketchup, mustard, etc. I skipped the condiments. I didn't use the onion, either, since it would negate a fair comparison with Seamus McDaniel's effort.
The burger weighs nine ounces, but thanks to its shape — thicker in the middle than at the edges — it looks a lot heavier. Its slice of cheese coats the patty as smoothly and as tightly as a shower cap. The charbroiling gives it a very strong "grilled" flavor and adds a lovely textural contrast to the juicy interior, though this particular burger ended up a tad closer to medium than I like. Even so, the flavor was simple and pure and, at $5.75, a good value.
Seamus McDaniel's: The Seamus McDaniel's burger weighs ten ounces and has a uniform thickness. Generally, this is a drawback, but the kitchen definitely understood what medium-rare entails: The interior of this burger was so red, I could still hear the echo of its final moo. That said, the burger was heavy on the salt.
The cheese had melted to a softer consistency than O'Connell's, giving the overall burger a better mouth feel. The Seamus McDaniel's cheeseburger was $7.50, which is more than O'Connell's, but it also includes fries.
The Verdict: This was a tougher call than I expected: O'Connell's might have won in a rout had its final temperature been a little lower...while the Seamus McDaniel's burger blew its chance with a heavy-handed approach to the salt. In the end I'm going with O'Connell's for the basic reason that a great burger is, first and foremost, about the flavor of the meat, and O'Connell's showed that more clearly.
Opening a new restaurant? Know of a place that has closed? Got a "Fight Club Sandwich" suggestion for Ian to chew on? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. And check out this column's virtual doppelganger here.