While Local 188 has a well-established reputation for delicious dinner offerings and Spanish-style tapas, its the establishment’s weekend brunch menu that has me coming back every few weeks. And the highlight of that menu, as far as I’m concerned, is their hamburger.
The burger, listed inconspicuously as a “local 1/2lb. burger” with no other details is easily lost amongst other appealing offerings, like the smoked salmon bagel and the Caribbean spiced corned beef hash. So if you’ve been in a few times and haven’t noticed the burger, don’t blame yourself… too much.
I discovered Local 188’s burger on a Saturday morning, several months ago, when I trudged in after a night of a little too much drinking, and too little sleep. It was 10am, and quickly becoming apparent that it was going to be a “toss-up” day. In other words, do I try to fight through this hangover and try to do something productive with the day? Or do I wolf down some grub, go home and crash on the couch while an Alfred Hitchcock marathon plays on the television? I decided to table my decision, and sat down to one of the lunch counters (not the bar, but the counter… I’ve been sternly reminded that they are not one-and-the-same) in hopes that my meal might make up my mind.
As I scanned the menu, I glanced at my watch. It was just after 10am. “Too early for a burger?” I asked the hipster behind the counter. He assured me that if it wasn’t too early for me, it wasn’t too early for them, and like that, my order (one burger with cheddar cheese and bacon added) was on its way to the grill. And so, a legend was born.
While I was waiting for my burger to be prepared, I had a chance to take stock of my surroundings. I’ve eaten in different areas of the Local 188 Dining Room but, for my little solo brunch jaunts, I much prefer to sit at the counter with its mis-matched coffee mugs and cutlery. Its also a great vantage point for observing the laid-back open kitchen, and eavesdropping on the wait staff as they talk about how the morning is going.
Beverages were also offered at this time (though a glass of water was provided when I first sat down). Unable to decide between a relatively safe cup of coffee or the fate-tempting “hair of the dog,” I went with one of each. I seem to recall that a few different types of Bloody Marys were offered but, in hindsight, I cannot tell you which one I opted for. I do remember that, of the food and beverages served to me that morning, it was the one thing I did not finish. The pepper/spice in it was just a little overwhelming for me. But it was far from the worst drink I’ve ever had.
It wasn’t long before I saw my burger come off the griddle and head over to the staging area. I had to stifle a laugh as one of the chefs delicately constructed my burger in a persistent fashion that called back an out-of-nowhere memory of the Doozers from “Fraggle Rock” constructing their various buildings and roads (I can only surmise that I was still drunk).
As the burger was placed in front of me by a member of the wait staff, my first impression was that “looks wise, this burger is everything I wanted it to be.” In other words, thick, juicy-looking, great color and aroma. Accompanying the burger (which was topped with a generous slice of tomato, onions and lettuce, in addition to the bacon and cheddar) was a pickle, a pepperoncini and a small portion of home fries.
If I had any lingering doubts about the burger, they evaporated when I took my first bite. The meat was divine… perfectly cooked and masterfully seasoned (possibly the most well-seasoned burger I’ve ever had). While the meat is clearly the star of the sandwich, it is made all that much better by the terrific brioche bun that it rests on. The buns (which I’m told are baked on site) are just the right density to support the juicy burger without being too firm or chewy. (The house-made brioche buns are also used by sister-restaurant Sonny’s for their Manchego burger, most recently written up by Kate of the Blueberry Files.)
The lettuce, tomato and onion complement the burger perfectly. While the bacon and cheddar were both nice additions, the burger is strong enough on its own, without these additions. I did put mustard on the first half of the burger, but found that the second half was equally as enjoyable without any condiment whatsoever.
As for concerns or suggestions, I honestly can’t think of much that I would change. The burger is pretty close to perfect. The only thing that comes to mind—and this is the smallest of gripes—is that the tiny smattering of home fries really doesn’t lend much to the plate. While I’m certainly not suggesting that Local 188 become on one those greasy spoon type places that loads pounds of potatoes on to diners’ plates, I do think that an extra spoonfull of these very flavorful spuds couldn’t hurt.
In forthcoming entries to BurgerWatch (I’ve written about a dozen so far and will be publishing at a rate of one or two per week), you’ll see that I’m actually disappointed with what Maine (and most of New England, for that matter) has to offer on the burger front. That said, the burger at Local 188 is an exceptional standout that deserves to be on more diners’ plates. For burger lovers like me, its easily one of the best options in Maine.
Chubby’s Rating: 4.5 MOONS (out of 5)