Boston Burger Week: Meet Richard Chudy, Boston's Ace Burger Blogger

Richard Chudy is the man to know when talking about grilled beef patties, topped with lettuce, tomato and possibly some form of cheese or condiment, then wedged between a particular type of bread in Boston. As the chief editorial force behind the Boston Burger Blog, the professionally trained chef does not hold back his opinions. First, he "hates" the word foodie, but embraces the fact that he is a food snob. And when it comes to burgers, he considers himself a purist — embracing the motto "keep it simple, season it properly and be happy." That is not always easy, as we find out about his greatly underrated burger city.

Describe the burger scene in Boston. Do you feel it's underrated? Overshadowed by other foodstuffs like, say, the lobster roll?

Underrated nationally, I'd say. I'm sure every so-called burger expert in their respective city is loyal, probably to a fault, to their hometown. Boston hasn't always been a national hotspot for burgers. Some of the more popular spots (namely Mr. Bartley's) are famous for being famous, not so much for having relevant burgers anymore, unfortunatelyBut that's changed, like most places, pretty much every restaurant everywhere has a burger on their menu. Our big trend seems to be the meaty $12-$15 range, some fancy, some wannabe fancy. Boston is funny because we're easily intrigued by the pseudo gourmet, yet at the end of the day I think most of us — myself included — want and crave the cheaper-priced, no frills burger that we seem to recall as one of our earliest food memories.

The problem is that many of the "cheap" burgers aren't that great in quality (with exceptions, of course), so you have to really search to find that sweet spot. A good deal of the better burgers locally, in my opinion, are at non-traditional burger spots: the fancy French bistro, the cocktail bar, often at a place you wouldn't typically call a burger joint. But, there are options aplenty in every neighborhood and there truly is something for everyone. There will always be those who come to Boston expecting the typical lobster roll, and for good reason, but despite an onslaught of the $15 burger, which can be overload at times, this truly is a great burger destination city.  

What is the burger history like in Boston? Can you determine where the earliest burger was served?

Again, Mr. Bartley's was probably one of the first, if not the first relevant burger in the area (Cambridge). It was likely the first burger place I was familiar with having grown up in Boston all my life, and the one people always talked about when I started my blog, and the one people always ask about when they visit Boston for the first time. In researching the history of burgers there isn't a ton out there, which is interesting for such a history-driven town.

What do you look for in a burger? 

I have been, and will always continue to be, all about the meat. The first thing I look for is the taste, seasoning and quality of the beef. Cooking it to temperature is like a badge of honor for me. Those that consistently nail it are the ones I keep going back to. After that, everything else just has to make sense together: the bun needs to fit the patty like a glove and not be too overwhelming (brioche often is too overwhelming), and any condiments and sauces need to compliment, not cover up the beef. Melted cheese is also a must, I can't understand how or why places can't melt the cheese. Usually it happens when restaurants try to use too fancy a cheese that doesn't melt well — a critical mistake. Simply put, it needs to be properly seasoned with salt and pepper, juicy as can be and be the perfect little package that is meaty and succulent bite after bite. 

Are there any Boston-only condiments out there? Would you mess with Old Bay in the burger equation?

Hmm, I think I saw baked beans on a burger once, which was clearly a mistake. A couple of places have burgers with fried oysters on top of the patty, which I'd say is pretty unique, but other than that I think we sometimes suffer from burger fatigue. It's a fine line between trying to satisfy the food nerds who want something unique (myself) and the purists who just want a burger with minimal fuss and toppings. The majority of the time, however, I'd say we're way too tame with toppings and the burger is often the forgotten menu item that is only supposed to appeal to the diner who isn't interested in much else. I'd happily welcome something to put a twist on things and shake it up a bit. I don't see why a dash of Old Bay into an aioli or mustard or paired with caramelized onions wouldn't be a success. 

Earlier in Boston Burger Week: Jamie Bissonnette Talks Boston's Burger Scene | Lobster Burgers With Tarragon-Lemon Mayo Recipe

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