Working in Cambridge, MA can be a bit of a blessing and a curse. Occasionally it’s nice to get out of the office and into the bustle of students and academia and castle-y looking buildings that remind me of my youth. Or I guess more accurately, pretend that they remind me of my youth- my school had “students”, “academia”, and “buildings”. But it can be a real pain when errand xyz lies behind troves of tour groups and long lines. But there’s one place that always catches my eye when I’m in the Harvard neighborhood, just between my bank and local comic shop- a symbiotic relationship between the two, I might add. It’s called Charlie’s Kitchen, the “Double Cheeseburger King”, and it boasts what claims to be a “World Famous Double Cheeseburger”. Today I decided to brave the conditions and give it a go.
I don’t know about you folks, but there’s only one place in the world I know that can boast a world famous double cheeseburger. It’s called McDonalds, and it’s where you go to spend little over a dollar for a double cheeseburger. What could make a double cheeseburger more than really just a double cheeseburger? Is it a special mix of herbs and spices? Size? Free condiments? In McDonald’s case, I’ve already answered the question- it’s really cheap. I get exactly what I expected every time- a cheap, thrown together meat holder with cheese. So with hopes of something that could warp that concept, I set out to Charlie’s on a Sunday morning where I really had nothing better to do then wait for the season premiere of Game of Thrones.
It was a chilly, windy day, but as I entered I knew I wanted to sit in the rows of empty patio tables out front. Charlie’s Beer Garden looked packed, and when I entered the restaurant, I felt the glare of the regulars all wondering why I didn’t go out to the Beer Garden with the rest of the non-regulars. The maître d’ seemed not to mind seating me out front even though I was the only patron there, which I appreciated. It gave me a chance to soak in the atmosphere of little-recognized Brattle Square, a spot so close to Harvard Square it makes one wonder why they bothered naming it.
The maître-d’ ended up being my waiter, and he checked up on me just after I settled on my choice of drink. The drink was bourbon mixed with ginger beer- I believe they called it a Bourbon Mule. Not as strong as I would’ve liked, but they seldom are. It was definitely mixed with real ginger beer though, as I could taste the notes of ginger above the strong taste of bourbon. At $6.00 a pop, though, I should not have cared of whether it was ginger beer or ginger ale. I had barely finished it before my double cheeseburger arrived- maybe about ten minutes after I placed my order.
Really? Really though? It looked like something I could’ve whipped up at home, if I had the patience with a grill and cooking and what-not. There was the burger, open-faced on both sides, two patties and two slabs of cheese. I felt like a putz. The buns were not grilled. There were no fancy spices on the patties or the fries. And the fries looked more dull and bland than khaki pants. Disappointed, I slid the tomato, pickles, and lettuce on to the burger and chewed.
It tasted like a family barbecue. Which, all things considered, isn’t really that bad. A must-eat, definitely not, but it wasn’t necessarily wrong in any way, just kind of plain. I ate it and the fries quickly, and feared I had nothing of substance to put in my review.
I was kind of surprised when I looked up and saw an unexpected fellow patron seated at a table a few rows in front of me. She was young with dark hair and also seated alone. I felt compelled to ask her why she had come to Charlie’s unaccompanied for a quick bite to eat. Was she writing for a food blog too?
Jessie had a lot of good things to say about Charlie’s. She said it had been there for a long time, was a popular spot for the nightlife (they serve their full menu until close), and had killer karaoke on Tuesday’s, where she busted out some Dave Matthew’s Band and Creed. She admitted that their food might not be something big to write about, but it was really the ambiance and familiarity that kept her coming back. Given her willingness to be interviewed, I was inclined to believe her. She also tipped me in that burgers need to be ordered on grilled cheese and the fries simply must be their waffle fries.
So Charlie, you caught a pretty big break this time.
I’m gonna say:
“Charlie’s World Famous Double Cheeseburger” = C+. Not bad, nothing special. Ideal for drunk, home-sick students.
Ambiance = B. The Beer Garden really seemed hoppin (pun=hops), but I was too intrigued by the advertising of this burger to pay it any mind. Considering a random patron wanted to chat with a stranger about how great the place was for over fifteen minutes? That’s solid enough for me.
So if you’re visiting Brattle (Harvard) Square after 8pm during the school year, drop me a line and let me know why it’s awesome spot. Until then, I’ll be in search of other cool places around Cambridge to write about.
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