Just as the lunch hour crests, I’m at TJ’s in Preston Royal waiting for my colossal burger. I’m regretting not wearing a captain’s cap while sitting near the bar, waiting for my boat burger. It arrives in style, supported by chips dusted with Old Bay. A knife is proudly standing through the middle of the burger. There are a few spots of meaty juice surrounding the plate, which is usually a good omen. Also a good sign: the char on the patty.
The patty is grilled Rosewood wagyu, from a local company, and it’s instantly clear that this burger has been carefully thought through. It’s the burger equivalent to the dudes at the gym who do one-handed push-ups and grunt loudly. Actually, to switch metaphors, it looks more like the Home Run Derby of burgers: Each ingredient, on its own, is a pitch right down the center of the plate. Onion jam is spread beneath the patty, a dark purple mix, richly layered on the bottom pretzel bun. There’s thin white cheddar resting on the patty, melted, Bibb lettuce and a last-of-the-summer tomato. The bacon, of course, is glazed with WhistlePig rye whiskey, and it’s crunchy and sweet.
I instantly like the rich, beefy flavor of the waygu, but it’s cooked a few notches past medium for what you’d like in a 17-buck waygu patty. The juices are, however, present on my wrist. Check. The house aioli and white cheddar are overpowered by the arm-wrestling beef flavor, which is a good thing. Beef, especially if it's waygu, should be the star. But there’s another flaw keeping the burger from transcendent greatness: sweetness.
Onion jam is sweet and smoky as you’d expect, and so is the glass-thin bacon. The pretzel roll, which you might think would provide too much salt, was on the fresher side of savory. It’s damn good, but I wouldn’t have minded a saltier cheese or a punchy mustard to cut the sweetness in half.
On their own, the ingredients are stellar. It’d be a special kind of pretentious to say that this burger isn’t good (or to say you’re not getting your money’s worth), but a few flaws keep it from pupil-dilating greatness.
The Yacht Club Burger is available at the Preston Royal TJ's Seafood location, at 6025 Royal Lane, Suite 110.