Off the beaten path and tucked away in a new commercial center along Hillside Drive on the south side of Bloomington, is a small restaurant known for its creative cuisine, commitment to quality local ingredients, and funky name worthy of a Brooklyn supper club. Feast is in every way an unexpected culinary surprise in a town already brimming with good food. When it comes to their burgers, a feast is exactly what you get.
On this special edition of Bloomington Burger Boys we brought along a good friend, Jamie, as a guest critic. With a fiery passion for food that matches her red flowing locks, and hailing from the Chicago area (a city known for its haute cuisine as well as its unique take on everyday American fare), Jamie brings a cosmopolitan pedigree and palate to Burger Boys.
On the way to lunch, Neil told me I could write about anything I want, and I shouldn’t feel obligated to write about food even. Well, I pondered the idea of using this as a forum to lay out my political opinions, but I decided against it. [Neil’s note: I would have made the unilateral decision to cut any and all political diatribes. Burgers are non-partisan]. So, Neil, thank you for the freedom, but I’ll constrain this to food.
I have always wanted to be a food critic. I love food; I eat it every day. I love finding the best item on a menu. So, thanks to Neil and Chris, my lifelong dream was fulfilled. I’ve lived in Bloomington for almost seven years, and have never been to Feast. I have always meant to venture there, but never quite made it. This was a mistake. I want to eat at Feast every day. Okay, not every day. That would be excessive. But a lot.
I decided to play the hipster role, and ordered the only non-meat burger on the menu that day, the Tempeh Burger. I added goat cheese and avocado. The burger came with a few sweet potato wedges, and as I had hoped, a nice little side dipping sauce.
I’ll start with the burger. It comes with grilled onions, lettuce, tomato, a thick mustard, and aioli. The bun was flakey and had sesame seeds on it. The bun was big, but I like big buns, especially flakey, sesame seed adorned ones. I was most anxious about the tempeh. I’ve had traditional veggie burgers before, but I don’t recall ever experiencing all that tempeh burgers have to offer. The burger had a great consistency to it; it was soft, but didn’t fall apart like some veggie burgers I’ve had. It had a nutty flavor, in the way that brown rice has. I have to say, the goat cheese was the right choice. It complimented the nuttiness of the tempeh. As for the avocado, I am usually disappointed by avocado additions…mostly because I love avocado, and want lots of it always. I was pleasantly surprised. There were big slices of avocado. Enough that I could take some off and eat them separately, while still having enough for the burger. My kind of avocado portions. Overall, the burger was DELISH, and I would order it again.
As for the sweet potato fries, they were large wedges. A little too large. I am a bigger fan of crispier french fries, but for wedges, these were amazing. First, sweet potato fries are always the better way to go. Second, they came with a yogurty sauce on the side. As I mentioned, I love sauces. At hibachi restaurants, I ask for all the sauces. When I go through drive thrus, I’m the annoying customer that asks for all the sauces. I use ginger salad dressing as dipping sauce for sushi. Okay, so maybe I’m the weird one. Regardless, I approved of the dipping sauce.
All in all, Feast makes a beast of a burger. I thoroughly enjoyed the lunch outing. The company wasn’t so bad either. [Chris’ Note: thanks Jamie, I guess.] We had a heated debate about whether Chicago or New York have the best hotdogs, [Neil’s Note: The debate was about whether or not New York is a hot dog city. It is. Just go to Gray’s Papaya and report back] and I attempted to convince the Burger Boys that the original Blackberry Bold is the sexiest phone. Feast—I’ll be back for brunch.
I know how James Marshall must have felt on that fateful January 24th in 1848. Marshall did not go to Sutter’s Mill that day expecting to discover gold in the American River. But he did, and the ensuing rush shaped our country forever and helped build California into the place it is today. I have no way of knowing if this review will transform Feast and Bloomington. All I know is that we struck gold with “The Classic Burger” at Feast.
Chris and I both ordered “The Classic Burger” with bacon. It has everything you want from a burger: Fiedler Farms grass-fed beef, lettuce, tomato, zucchini pickles, cheddar and aioli, all on a great brioche bun with sesame seeds. I think my jaw dropped just a little (but only a little) when the burger was placed in front of me. It looked that good. Don’t worry, because every bite lived up to the expectations created by the presentation.
Chris and I have talked about our love of local products, and the Fiedler Farms beef didn’t disappoint. Fiedler Farms (since 1922) is a family run farm from Rome, Indiana. I appreciate the commitment to Indiana products, and I like that I can go online and find the address of the farm (98.1 miles from Feast), just in case I want to visit the farm and befriend my next meal. [Chris’ Note: Road Trip!] The patty was both flavorful and juicy. The difference in flavor between good, grass-fed beef like this and the average supermarket beef is really night and day. If you have the opportunity to pick up or try grass-fed beef, then I recommend at least trying it. It’s worth the extra cost. The patty was the right thickness, maybe about an inch or a little more, and a good overall size (probably about 1/3 lb). The white cheddar on top of the patty was perfectly melted and added the flavor complement I look for with cheddar cheese. I found only one flaw with the patty and that was only when I chose to do a little nitpicking. I asked for my burger to be cooked medium, but it came medium-well. However, the patty did not suffer and was still as juicy as I imagine a medium patty would have been.
The toppings were the best of any that we have had so far. The bacon slices were wide, crispy and placed on the burger in a nice crisscross fashion. The nice, green leaf of Bibb lettuce was a nice change from the browning lettuce we’ve had at most other restaurants. Bibb lettuce has superior texture and flavor over the limp leaves of lettuce often haphazardly thrown on burgers. The tomato slice was nice and thick, and I think we finally found tomatoes that Chris, our resident tomato critic, can be happy (or at least satisfied) with.
Zucchini pickles and aioli were two unique toppings on Feast’s Classic Burger (and also my two favorite toppings). I honestly don’t even know how to describe the zucchini pickles. They aren’t like the usual pickles that everyone knows so well. Their flavor is much more subtle, but I think I would have to try the pickles again in order to really be able to describe them. Or maybe I just want another excuse to go to Feast.
The burger was served on a beautiful brioche bun. Though thick, the sesame seed-topped bun was light enough so that it did not overwhelm the rest of the burger. The bun was toasted just the right amount, so that it did not get soggy from the aioli and the juice from the patty. One of my favorite things about creating this blog is that it has forced me to make a habit of reflecting on my meals and really think about what I just ate and how it was prepared. I have always thought while eating, but I rarely put in too much thought after I was done eating (beyond “wow that’s good”). For example, I would have always known that the burger at Feast was outstanding, but I might not have stopped to think about how perfect of a match the toasted and seeded brioche bun was with that burger.
The burgers come standard with sweet potato wedges. You can get chips and salsa if you don’t like sweet potato, even though I don’t think it’s listed on the menu. Just ask. These wedges are great, and I’m not someone who always loves sweet potato. They are very thick, maybe too thick for some (Jamie), but they are slightly blackened on the outside, so it’s not just a wedge of soft, sweet potato. There was a slight crunch on the outside, which added a much needed contrast of textures. The wedges are tossed in a spice mix (perhaps Indian spices), which was a nice change from the ordinary, and were complimented nicely by a yogurt condiment (similar to a raita) that was served on the side.
Prior to this meal, I had thought I had become jaded when it came to a “Gourmet Burger.” Growing up in Portland, OR, a foodie mecca having a long love affair with “artisanal hamburgers” I was ready for a potential let down. Too many times had I been promised the moon, only to be given a hunk of cheese — bland cheese sitting on a ill-seasoned, overcooked patty, piled on top of a disgusting whole grain bun.
When the “Classic” Cheeseburger arrived in front of me at Feast, however, I knew I was in for a treat. The burger sat high on its sesame seed brioche bun, and was popping with color, from the beautiful carmel colored bun, to the deep green bib lettuce, to the vibrant red tomato, to the neon green zucchini pickles, to the bacon colored bacon, to the, to the, to the…
If “you feast first with your eyes,” then I may have been satiated. But then I took a bite.
I cannot remember the last time I had a burger with so much flavor. You get an initial hint of sweet from the bun, followed quickly by the rich flavor of beef accented by the house made aioli. The crunch of bacon signals the savory bacon flavor to come, along with the sweetness of the zucchini pickles and tomato.
One bite and I was in burger bliss. I looked to my right at Neil and Jamie, eyes wide with wonder, as if to ask “is this real life?” Then I kept eating.
The patty was over one inch thick on my burger, and was cooked slightly over medium. The beef itself was so flavorful as to almost pass for a prime ribeye steak, having a rich full-marbled flavor and a slight game finish common of grass fed beef. The grill marks were beautiful, and the chefs were wise to not over-season what was already exceptional local beef.
Initially the brioche bun seemed too large for this burger, but as I ate the burger two things happened. First, the brioche bun compressed slightly as the airy bread settled under the weight of the interior, and the bun also started to absorb all of the wonderful juices from the burger despite the good toast given to the bun prior to burger construction. Yet due to the size of the bun, it was able to absorb those juices and flavor without becoming soggy. In the end, I found the bun to be a surprisingly perfect size.
If the bun was a treat, so were the toppings. The tomato was by far the best we have had, and the bib lettuce was fresh and crunchy. The bacon added its own flavor, being slightly smoky, slightly sweet, crunchy, and delicious.
As a side, the sweet potato wedges provided something different despite being familiar. The seasoning was almost Middle Eastern, to lack a better term. I detected hints of clove and possibly cinnamon. The wedges were delicious.
This was, by a couple dollars, the most expensive burger that we have reviewed. However, it was worth every penny. After we finished eating, Chris made the good observation that this is the first burger we have reviewed that truly aspired to be a gourmet burger. It did not disappoint. This was, by far, the best burger we have reviewed thus far. Even Jamie’s tempeh burger was full of flavor and well executed. We all plan to go back to Feast very soon.
Raw Score: 5 / 5 burgers
Price-adjusted: 4.5 / 5 burgers
Price: $11 + $2 for bacon
Gained points: Everything
Lost points: Why did they only give us one?
Drinks: Jasmine green tea for Neil; Ice Tea for Jamie and Chris
Date of visit: 10/31/12 (Chiang Kai-shek’s birthday)
 Translation: she has red hair and is “totes ginger.”
 Pizza and hot dogs, not much is more American than that.
 Luckily, the Burger Boys weren’t offended by my meatless choice.
 Cost me a couple extra dollars, but as you’ll see, it was worth it.
 Sauce makes everything better.
 I like flakey buns. I don’t like flakey people. For the record.
 And I cannot lie.
 Love. Love. Love. Love. Love.
 Chicago obviously does. Obviously.
 Trackball and all.
 I actually got to pan for gold in the same river during a class trip in fifth grade. I found some flakes of gold and still have them somewhere.
 Although there are several wonderful gourmet burgers in the Rose City, there are also so many disappointments.