Island Burgers & Shakes – not a desert island meal.

You can’t go home again, says Thomas Wolfe. Either home changes, or you change. I returned to Island Burgers & Shakes after seeing The Colbert Report this week, and I’m not sure which of us has changed, but I couldn’t go home again.

They make a decent burger, but it pales in comparison with many in the city, including cheaper fare like the legendary Shake Shack and HB Burger, or the nearby Five Napkin Burger. They still shine in their selection of toppings, excellent pickles, and soothing, decadent shakes, but after sampling more of what the city has to offer in the burger department, they are decidedly middling.

The issue is not the size- they make a hefty patty, and put a good sear on it. But the meat is so bland that it fades into the crowd of toppings. This time I had a Top & Pop’s with Thai peanut sauce, raw jalapenos and roasted peppers on a ciabatta roll. Last time the sourdough bread and sesame seed buns disintegrated around the juicy burger so I opted for a more robust roll; the bottom still got so soaked it was threatening to fall apart, so I ate it upside down.

A burger ought to be juicy, but the meat needs flavor to carry the meal, and this was lacking. I tried Firecracker’s in case mine was a fluke, but no. Drossarian tried the Napalm Burger with habanero sauce, and liked his. Beast had a chicken churasco which she loved, and it did look good. Oddly enough, Island Burgers may be a better destination for a chicken churasco and a milkshake than a burger. If I go again, I’ll have the chicken. As you can see, it was Beast approved:

I compared the flavor with similarly priced burgers like HB Burger– who use Pat LaFrieda beef- and there’s no contest. Island Burger needs a better meat mix to stay in the running. Game over man, game over.

© 2010 Thomas Pluck.