Tuesday, March 09, 2010

TrueBurger in Oakland’s Uptown

Upscale Burgers Arrive to the East Bay
146 Grand Ave., Oakland
Uptown neighborhood close to Lake Merritt
PH: 510.208.5678
Open for lunch, from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Monday to Saturday, and dinner Thursday to Saturday till 8:30 p.m. (closed Sunday)
No reservations, major credit cards accepted

Some longtime readers of this blog know how I’ve bemoaned about the fact that I have very little options for lunch around my Oakland offices. If I started a blog focused on my weekday lunches, I would have covered everything in a month.

But thankfully in the last few months, several new places have opened up, increasing my choices and making me really happy in the noon hour. Makes the rest of the day more bearable.

One of these new places – Trueburger – taps into the trend of gourmet burgers like San Francisco’s Burger Bar or more likely New York’s Shake Shack. At Trueburger, there are no fancy burgers with caviar or goat cheese, just straight up ground beef (made fresh every morning) and served with cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, onions and pickles.

The burger shack is in a former sandwich spot that was OK but never really made me want to leave my office for their generic turkey sandwiches. The space has been cleaned up, retrofitted and made fun with an interesting mural of Oakland’s landmark buildings along one wall.

The hamburger choices are pretty simple: a regular hamburger called the Trueburger ($4.95), a cheeseburger ($5.45), a bacon cheeseburger ($6.45), and a double patty burger called the Double-Up ($7.95). For vegetarians, instead of a boring vegetable patty, the chefs behind Trueburger created a ‘Shroom Burger ($6.45), which is a crispy Portobello mushroom stuffed with smoked mozzarella cheese.

Trueburger works like a family affair, opened by Greg Eng and Jason Low, two longtime sous chefs who have worked at such restaurants as Bay Wolf in Oakland, and San Francisco’s Jardiniere, Delfina, and Absinthe. The two wanted to emphasize quality ingredients at an affordable and casual space.

When eating the burgers, which are cooked only after you order so it does take awhile to get your lunch, you can tell the ingredients are fresh and that the beef was ground on the spot. Sometimes the burgers can seem on the charred side and other times they’re juicy, getting the bottom of the fresh egg buns soft. But you can always count on the burgers to have that perfect pink center, not at all raw but not overcooked.

You can dress up the hamburgers with chili or griddled onions, which also works with the hot dogs on the menu. One day instead of the chili dog, I thought I’d try the Spicy Coleslaw Dog ($5.45). The hot dog was covered with cole slaw and lightly dressed with a chipotle sauce and smoke bacon bits.

Obviously, it wasn’t easy eating this hot dog, but it felt healthy eating this with all the vegetables despite the bacon. The chipotle sauce was pretty light, and I didn’t get a strong spicy bite.

I also tried the Spicy Chili ($4.50 for a bowl) that wasn’t very thick, but had a nice hearty taste. The spicy flavor was mild, almost like an aftertaste as opposed to spicy hot. A lot of people get the chili as chili-cheese fries ($4.50), but you know I’m not into deep-fried foods so I skipped that.

I know you’d want to see photos of fries, but all I have for you is one of the chopped salad selections. There are three choices of salads (BLT, Caesar and Chopped Green, $6.75 each) and they’re pretty large servings. The Chopped BLT Salad pictured above had chunks of eggs, tomatoes and bacon chunks, all dressed with an avocado dressing, which again was lightly clinging to the iceberg lettuce.

Milk shakes are also sold at $4.75 for the base flavors of vanilla or chocolate but you can add nine other ingredients for 50 cents each. I had the orange cream shake and it was nice and thick, but not super thick. I think I might get the caramel next.

Trueburger runs like a professional restaurant, but has the cozy feel of a family-owned business. While the burgers aren’t exactly eye-opening, they’re quality stuff and hits the spot for a weekday lunch. And since it’s in Oakland near my office, I no longer have to be jealous of my friends who work and eat in San Francisco.

Single guy rating: 3 stars (Quality basics)

Explanation of the single guy's rating system:

1 star = perfect for college students
2 stars = perfect for new diners
3 stars = perfect for foodies
4 stars = perfect for expense accounts
5 stars = perfect for any guy's dream dinner

True Burger on Urbanspoon

More burger bites:
Burger Joint
Amanda’s Feel Good Fresh Foods
Good Stuff Eatery


Carolyn Jung said...

Love that mural there. And I must say the burgers look incredibly good, as do those chopped salads. I love how such old staples as these are getting new life with better ingredients and chefs who really care about what they're putting on the plate.

ruby said...

stumbled on your blog looking for recipes using cai chua, when all the references to the bay area caught my eye! i love all the reviews of bay area restaurants & i love that i can actually visit them too if i wanted! definitely adding your blog to my google reader.

beth said...

mmm True Burger. I was there last night and the chef was using a torch to toast a sheet of marshmallows, strictly for use in the milkshakes! That is a great attention to detail (and the aroma of toasted marshmallow was responsible for my friend getting a shake!). I haven't had one of their shakes yet - I'm too hooked on the fries with home made cheese sauce. WOW.