Haven Gastropub's Lamb Burger, with onion sprouts
Haven Gastropub's Lamb Burger, with onion sprouts

Game of Burgers: Gastropub Gentry, Third Round

Haven Gastropub vs. The Crosby

The gastropub bracket held some heavyweight contenders that withered when the heat was on. Anne Marie narrowed it down to Haven Gastropub and The Crosby in Round Two, and I agree these were the two strongest burgers in the bracket.

Haven and The Crosby are so evenly matched with exemplary burgers that I'm faced with a Sophie's choice: only one can live to play on. Which favorite do I choose?

Each is an awesome superburger of Olympian proportions, large in size and flavor. The Crosby's Smoked Wagyu Beef Burger goes for broke in the flavor-overload department. The fat-rich wagyu patty is smoked first then griddled. The patty by itself makes a better meal than the barbecue at most local BBQ restaurants (I'm looking at you, Lucille's). When you pile the smoked beef patty atop a tall brioche bun along with brandy apple cider mayonnaise, muenster cheese, caramelized onion, sauteed mushrooms, the spicy ketchup, and a fried egg, it's a heptathlon of flavors, one bolder than the next

If The Crosby's Smoked Wagyu Beef Burger were a car, it'd be a classic American muscle car sporting a supercharged 454 big block and all-oversized parts downstream to match the high-output engine. You can practically hear this burger pulling a smoking burnout as it leaves the kitchen toward your table.

The Crosby's Smoked Wagyu Beef Burger
The Crosby's Smoked Wagyu Beef Burger

In contrast, the Haven Burger is an exercise in tractable horsepower -- a reliable supercar you can drive daily. Sure, it's got flavorful ingredients - melty St. Agur cheese, pickled red onion, bitter arugula, and sweet roasted pepper. Compared to The Crosby, they treat their ground beef with more restraint, choosing to boost its flavor subtly with their secret ingredient - pork fat.

Stylistically, the two are as different as Jenna Jameson and Gwyneth Paltrow. Both burgers appeal to me equally but in different ways. So I had to go to a tiebreaker. Crosby goes all-in with only one burger choice on their menu, where Haven gives you a second: their Lamb Burger. Again an exercise in restraint, a plump, ground lamb patty is perfectly cooked to medium-rare, topped with feta cheese, tzaziki, onion sprouts and served on an herbed burger bun.

When I visited last weekend, my lamb burger took a long time to come out. The place was packed, and the kitchen busy. The manager stopped by to apologize that neither he nor the chef was pleased with the first burger they cooked for me, and asked if I'd mind waiting a few minutes while they cooked another.

It wasn't the second flavor of burger that broke the tie, but Haven's refusal to send out a burger they're not proud of. I've eaten countless Haven Burgers over the years, and the meat's been griddled to a perfectly caramelized medium-rare every single time.

At The Crosby, my burgers came out fine, but the one they served Anne Marie was in her words, "the fugliest thing we've been forced to eat all week." When a burger costs $15 or more at a gastropub where I'm likely to drop $50 per person after drinks, I shouldn't have to roll the dice on what my burger's going to look like when it drops in front of me, nor is it my problem who's working the flat top that night.

This was a hard choice, but in the end, I chose the reliable supercar.
WINNER: Haven Gastropub advances to the Final Four!

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