At the Table with Ellie: The Perfect Burger
Issue   |   Wed, 11/28/2012 - 00:03
Photo courtesy of Ellie Anderson ‘15
A hamburger with bacon, an egg, guacamole and caramelized onions.

Throughout this fall, I found myself craving a hamburger. However, it couldn’t be just any burger. I needed one bursting with flavor in each bite of tender, juicy beef, and with each weekend, my hunger nagged at me and reminded me that I had not fulfilled my dream. Soon the desire morphed into a necessity, and I could hold off no longer.

After a rapid consideration of the restaurants in Amherst, I chose the High Horse. I will admit that the choice was not random because I did have a burger there this past spring, but I couldn’t be sure that the restaurant would satisfy my craving. Luckily, the High Horse — which, by the way, is a pub and includes a full bar for those of age — succeeded with flying colors. The restaurant has been open for about a year and serves lunch and dinner. It opens at 11:00 a.m. and closing at 10:30 p.m., while both bars (there is one upstairs and one downstairs) close at 1:00 a.m.

As I sat at the table, stripping off my winter gear in the warm restaurant, I quickly scanned the menu and found exactly what I needed. I noted the French onion soup, the nachos, the salads, the flat bread pizza and the mushroom risotto as I searched the page. Finally, at the very bottom of the entrée menu, enclosed within its own four lines, lay the burger menu. Here was a separate world in which I could create or choose the exact food item I desired! That little box contained options for each variant of diners, from the vegetarian to the red-meat-adoring visitor for whom a single patty is never enough.

I slowly scanned the options, carefully planning the perfect hamburger. As the waitress approached, I hurriedly reviewed and finalized my decisions, which seems silly unless you know that I am notoriously incapable of choosing my own meal. There were so many options! I could play it safe and take the simple and classic hamburger or I could test my culinary sense and build my own cheeseburger. Or, I pondered, I could live on the edge and pick an adventurous choice like the Animal Burger, a double patty, taste-loaded creation that includes rich, creamy gravy, an egg and much more. However, after observing the possible toppings, from the sweet caramelized onions to the crunchy, salty bacon, I had to take the middle road and build my own. My dining partner chose to do the same, and we could not have been happier.

As we waited for our food, I contemplated the restaurant itself. The soft lighting and quiet indie music allowed for easy conversation, and the petite tables and booths created both a sense of intimacy and privacy. While glancing about the room, I noticed the chalkboards with the brews on tap written in various colors and enjoyed reading the different names, like Beastie and Yellow.

When the waitress arrived with our burgers, we quickly surveyed our dishes. I had the medium rare cheeseburger with Gruyere and caramelized onions, while my partner had the medium rare hamburger with bacon, an egg, guacamole and caramelized onions. Both burgers were nestled snuggly in their toasted brioche buns with the token lettuce, tomato and fresh sliced onion on the side. We quickly took our first bites and paused, looking at each other with astonishment. This was the burger I had craved all semester.

The inside of the patty had the warm, pink tinge of medium rare meat, while its outer edge was cooked only to the point of finishing the inside and had no charred meat. The proportion of cheese and onion to patty was balanced, allowing me to enjoy both toppings with each bite. Finally, although the brioche buns were fluffy and light, they held together throughout the entire meal and never fell apart, even during the crucial final nibbles. As I considered the burger’s flavor, my tongue tingled with the spice of the black pepper that had been mixed into the patty itself. The onions and cheese melded perfectly and never overpowered the meat itself. I didn’t even add ketchup. It was best without.

Between these mouthfuls, we enjoyed the “bottomless” fries, a side salad and a pickle, all of which augmented the experience as they allowed us a rest from the main course and a chance to marvel at our satisfaction with the burgers. The salad, one of mixed greens, was gently dressed with a sweet and light balsamic dressing. The fries efficiently balanced a crunchy outside and soft inside and were lightly salted. The pickle had that satisfying crunch and avoided that face-crinkling sourness.

In addition, the service was more than adequate; as we ate our way through the meal, our waitress stopped by to inquire about our meal and check that we had water and anything else we needed.

Overall, I delighted in my visit to the High Horse. I appreciated the fact that I could savor a delicious and comforting burger for $13 (The cheeseburger alone is $11, and each topping is $1.). The service was good, the ambience was comfortable, and, after further investigation of the menu, I can say that there is something for everyone. They even have gluten-free buns. So, if you are seeking a fabulous burger, the High Horse is a great bet — and you might even find some other food you like there as well.

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