Scotty’s Brewhouse: Beam me up

Scotty’s Brewhouse is the first chain restaurant that we have reviewed.  There are either five or nine restaurants of some sort related to Scotty’s.  The map shows 9, while the list of locations includes 5 places.  That is confusing.  Scotty’s menu can also be confusing.  We’ve read books that are shorter than their menu.  Thankfully, we only had to find the burger page.

Chris:

Scotty’s is undoubtedly a corporate chain restaurant. Though it may be named for a person, there are signs everywhere displaying the influence of its corporately-minded overlords: the faux brick painted walls (cheaper than real brick), the prefab bar (cheaper than a custom oak/mahogany/cherry bar), and the bland employee dress code (just cheap, but at least there is no mandated “flair”).

I mention the sterile corporate vibe, however, to explain why I was so surprised by the inventive burgers offered at this otherwise soulless sports bar. With 12 custom burger options (many of which are burger joint standards with a twist), there is something for everyone.

Find yourself being too picky for the standard menu? No problem, you can build your own burger from scratch from the options available.

My burger is a true iconoclast — breaking all sorts of burger dogma with one simple ingredient: peanut butter. “The shewman special” was named a Scotty’s signature burger, and it was different enough that I had to try it. It was marketed as “award winning” on the menu, but was not specific as to which award it won, making me a little skeptical. Was the award similar to a Pabst Blue Ribbon, awarded by drunks posing as judges more than a century ago? Maybe, but I took the plunge anyway.

The burger arrived looking normal enough. On a beautiful golden brown brioche bun, a patty was topped with cheddar cheese, jalapeños, and bacon. Yet lurking under the patty was a generous spread of rich, creamy peanut butter.

Peanut butter on a burger!?! Why not?

I decided to forgo ketchup, a wise choice for anyone opting to eat this burger. Surprisingly, the burger arrived with lettuce, tomato, and pickles. I should have left at least the pickles off. Neil and I agreed that the standard inclusion of basic toppings on specialty burgers was a strange choice. I viewed it as another sign of a corporate restaurant, with standardization, metrics, and a little bit of thoughtlessness.

The burger itself was very good. The peanut butter added a richness to the meat, and increased the salt content of the burger to enhance a savory finish. This was fortunate, as the patty was a bit overcooked and not especially flavorful on its own. The bacon, which was well cooked, also helped add flavor and worked well with the overall concept.

The jalapeños added a spicy bite which was mellowed by the peanut butter, and reminded me of many peanut sauces prevalent in Southeast Asian cuisine. I had two complaints about the jalapeños: first, they were piled in the center (another sign of thoughtlessness) so that some bites were very spicy and some not at all, and second, they were pickled. I do not mind pickled jalapeños, but for this burger I think fresh jalapeños would have added a satisfying crunch and more of the bright peppery taste. Neil pointed out that pickled jalapeños are often used to control the spice level [Neil’s note: I don’t want it to sound like I condone the use of pickled jalapeños.  I do not.], and I agree that was likely the goal (in addition to being cheaper and lasting longer, two important concerns for the bottom line for a corporation). Yet de-seeding fresh jalapeños[1] would have also had the same spice-limiting effect, and would have yielded the flavor benefits.

In the end, I thought this was overall a solid burger. Interestingly, the cheddar cheese was almost a flavor afterthought; it helped hold the jalapeño pile to the burger, but that was about it. To the ultimate test though of whether I would eat this burger again? The answer is: I would. That itself is a major accomplishment.

Neil:

Chris, I think you’re being way too hard on Scotty’s.  This isn’t some dimly lit Portland restaurant with hipster servers and some hand hewn redwood bar.  This is a sports bar, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  It doesn’t need fancy uniforms or a custom bar.  Maybe I’m just biased, because this wasn’t my first time at Scotty’s.  It’s not unusual to find me at the bar on a Sunday afternoon, watching my beloved San Diego Chargers.  In fact, I don’t think the Chargers have ever lost when I have watched from Scotty’s.  That’s one of a few reasons why I keep coming back.  The staff at Scotty’s is great.  Very friendly and attentive.  I couldn’t ask for more.  And the food is consistently good. [Chris’ Note: I take your point Neil, and the food is far better than the average sports bar. My point above is the contrast between the cheap cookie cutter corporate restaurant, and its surprisingly non-cookie cutter food.]

I usually order the Southwestern, so I thought I would stick with what I know and review it.  The burger looks good enough upon its arrival, though it probably won’t win a ton of pageants.[2]

“Half pound, hand-pattied, grilled to temp, on a toasted golden sweet buttery bun” is printed at the top of the menu’s burger page.  It was helpful that they set their own standards and made this review a little easier (but strangely not shorter).  Half pound?  Yes, I think so.  Hand-pattied?  Sure.  Grilled to temp?  More medium-well than the medium I asked for, but definitely grilled.  Toasted golden sweet buttery bun?  Yes indeed.

On top of the half pound patty, the Southwestern comes with pepper jack cheese, onion strings, and “mo’fo” mustard.  I need to go on a tangent before getting to the burger.  Is it just me or do most Southwestern and BBQ burgers come topped with an onion ring or onion strings?  The Sweet Lou burger at BuffaLouie’s is topped with an onion ring.  Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s is really pushing their new Memphis BBQ Thickburger.  I remember once having a BBQ style burger at Burger King that had an onion ring on it.  I love fried onions, so I’m not complaining.  I just don’t see the automatic connection between fried onions and BBQ or Southwestern burgers.

Back to the burger.  This is a pretty hefty, satisfying burger.  The patty had the pretty grill marks and grill taste that is characteristic of a good grilled burger.  I think the patty was a little underseasoned, but the flavor was still pretty good.  As I mentioned above, it was more medium-well than medium, but it was still pretty juicy, so I didn’t mind too much.

The pepper jack was nicely melted and added a little extra zip to go along with the spicy mo’fo mustard.  The mo’fo mustard is a sauce unique to Scotty’s.  It’s spicy, but not to the point that it overwhelmed the other flavors of the burger.  I also like spicy mustard type sauce like this much more than a spicy mayo.  The mo’fo sauce is more complex and really goes well with the beef and the delicious fried onions.  I had a little problem with the rest of the toppings, though.  So far the burger has hit all of the right Southwestern notes, but it is unnecessary to also include lettuce, tomato, pickles, and red onion.  They add nothing to the Southwestern theme.  I know, I know…I didn’t have to eat them, but if they aren’t meant to be added to the burger then they shouldn’t be served with it.  Why do I need both red onion and fried onion?  Restaurants that serve very specific burger creations should really put thought into everything.  For example, why not ditch the lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles and include a nice salsa fresca instead?  It would inject a bit of freshness into the burger, while still sticking with the Southwest idea.

I still don’t know why it has two kinds of onions.

The burgers come with a choice of side.  I usually order tater tots when I’m at Scotty’s so I decided to mix it up.  Our server suggested the mac and cheese, and she didn’t let me down.[3]  I had previously ordered mac and cheese during our trip to Uptown, and the Scotty’s mac and cheese stood head and shoulders above Uptown’s.  The portion size was significantly larger, and, most importantly, it was much more cheesy and flavorful.  It was a very classic mac and cheese, the kind you would expect to get at a soul food restaurant.  I thought long and hard about licking the dish.

Overall, this is a tasty burger and one that I will definitely order again.  It’s full of flavor and well executed.  The slight overcooking lost it a couple points, but the toughest thing for me to get past was the haphazard concept of the burger.  I want all the toppings to add to the burger’s theme, and the standard inclusion of lettuce, onion, tomato and pickles kind of took away from the Southwestern-ness of my meal.

Conclusion:

Both of us were happy with our burgers and would order them again, though I think, based on Chris’ review of the décor and staff uniforms, that you’re more likely to find Neil there than Chris.  However, we were also given Red Hots with our check, which Chris seemed to especially enjoy.  Maybe his sweet tooth will bring him back to Scotty’s after all.

how nice of them!

Raw Score:                           4 / 5 burgers
Price-adjusted:                     4 / 5 burgers

Price:                                   Both were $10.50
Gained points:                      Tasty, good size, creativity
Lost points:                          A tad overcooked, apparently we’re OCD about certain toppings
Drinks:                                 Neil: Bell’s Two Hearted, Chris: Iced Tea
Date of visit:                        11/7/12 (October Revolution Day)


[1] If you are wondering, this brings the use of the word “jalapeño” count to eight, which is far and away the most times I have ever written the word in a single document. Yet I keep using the word, to the total count of 10. Life is crazy, eh?

[2] I don’t like when burgers are served open like this.  Close it up.  Make it look like a finished product.

[3] Other options are wedge fries, waffle fries, onion strings, tater tots, fresh fruit salad, steamed broccoli, special K cracker chips (whatever those are).

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