Man Food: Drink’s Off-Menu, Big-Mac-Style Burger
If you’re looking for fast-food-style greatness, this is the place to be.
Welcome to Man Food, where burger pro Richard Chudy steps away from his usual burger beat* to explore food challenges, street eats, and other gut-busting delights. Ladies are welcome, of course.
I’m a sucker for the off-menu item, whether this entails an amuse from the chef, a surprise course, or the elusive secret menu item with true underground status. Oftentimes, the cat’s out of the bag before long; the once-prevalent burger at Craigie on Main has been reduced to a select number of portions each night, further enhancing its mystique but not affecting its perfection. Russell House Tavern has a frequently changing “secret burger” that is also a fan favorite, yet seemingly few know about it. Lucky for us, Menton’s Colin Lynch has joined the ranks of Tony Maws and Michael Scelfo in the world of off-menu burgers—but you can only find his at Menton’s subterranean cocktail counterpart known as Drink.
The vibe at Drink is not the most pleasant; bartenders (“mixologists” in every sense of the word, more accurately) have a swagger, and the hostess is busily buried in her cell phone and less interested in paying any sort of attention to a long line of thirsty patrons. To wait in a line this long, especially for a cocktail and a burger, is a bit absurd. But, the stomach and liver want what the stomach and liver want. Once inside, it’s not so much the music but the voices around you that echo throughout the basement-level bar. Bartenders scurry back and forth between the elongated bar and smaller common tables, with many of the patrons standing and a few lucky ones able to cozy up to the limited amount of bar seats that are available. There is, of course, no real menu on the cocktail front, with the idea that you tell the bartender what kind of spirits you like and they offer a concoction based on that. But depending on who approaches you, it may be something original or it could be an uninspired beverage that every spirit-slinger in town could provide.
The bite-sized menu is heavy in the pickling and cured department, which is exactly what you’d want to be snacking on at a place like this. Despite being off-menu and in limited quantity (15 per night), the burger is about as mainstream as it gets, doing its best Big Mac impression along the way. Arriving on a small, metal plate as if a butler carefully arranged it somewhere around the corner, it’s almost comical. Not taking a cheffy approach, especially with the off-menu niche, I find interesting—it’s nothing more than a grown-up version of something we’ve all experienced a million times over. Everyone has put their stamp on the burger, and nine times out of ten, it’s more or less an upscale interpretation of our most vivid of fast-food memories. But the burger at Drink is better than that. It’s the best version of a mimicked fast-food burger I’ve ever had, and nails exactly what it needs and tries to be. From the impeccably fresh sesame seed bun (no middle bun here) and house-made pickles to the Thousand Island-inspired dressing, it’s a winner, even if you are forced to eat it standing up surrounded by a sea of people. Heavy on the salt in the optimal way, the two thin patties have the necessary moxie and stand out above all.
Priced at $13 but not served with fries (you could order fries a la carte for $7 extra) it’s not exactly the cheapest burger option out there, or especially unique. But we don’t want anything too exotic when it comes to our burgers, nope, we want a close acquaintance that makes us think about the most recognizable of comfort foods in a new way. The burger at Drink achieves exactly that.
Drink, 348 Congress St, Boston, 617-695-1806, drinkfortpoint.com
*Ed’s note: While we usually keep Richard away from burgers for Man Food, we just couldn’t resist when it came to scoping out the Drink double. Please forgive us.