Blueberry Hill – St. Louis, MO

February 10, 2016

The Vitals:
the burger: 7oz ground chuck, soft spread cheddar , green leaf lettuce, thick cut tomato, onion and pickle
the bucks: $7.45
the coordinates: St. Louis, MO

Like great barbecue, great burgers stir our emotions. Unlike exquisite nigiri sushi or a three hour tasting menu that moves at the elegant pace of a ballet, many great burgers do not receive Michelin stars. Rather they are satisfied with lifelong customers, some who may even consider taking their progeny to these hallowed establishments as a rite of passage. Blueberry Hill in St. Louis is very much that type of burger establishment, though for me it might just fall short of the whole “rite of passage” part. Still, when it comes to Bang for your Burger Buck and being a local burger treasure, I feel compelled to include their 7oz of ground chuck into this collection. And frankly after almost 15 years of overcooked burgers in Los Angeles(Umami Burger really changed the game), I will always tip my cap to a Midwest joint that has been nailing medium rare the whole damn time.IMG_4579IMG_4571Being a St Louis expat of 20 plus years, Blueberry Hill serves not only as a burger dining experience but a watering hole to get together with old friends. In my 20s it was almost a lock to make at least one late night run to Blueberry Hill during the Holidays, where one would brave crowds, second hand smoke and pre mixology cocktails in order to “relive old glories on the football field” or, if you were like me, looking to catch a glimpse of your high school hallway just one more time. Nowadays it seems more likely that I’ll make my visit to Blueberry Hill on a random weekday, during the late afternoon – long before the crowds being to gather, and catch up with a pal or two, over a craft beer and a long cherished burger. You can probably determine at this point that I have a personal bias in favor of Blueberry Hill and I make no bones about it. So if you catch me being semi critical of this burger overall – know that I am trying to measure your expectations, and as always I will let the pictures do the best talking anyways.IMG_4586When it comes to food, St. Louis has unique traditions. Provel cheese, a processed version of provolone, could be the most pervasive example. One thing about unique traditions is that they tend to have a somewhat limited sphere of influence. In the case of Provel, the fascination seems to end right around the St. Louis County limits. Regardless of whether a given local food tradition falls well short in taking second place next to sliced bread, I always feel compelled to go with whatever traditions I happen to be surrounded by – “when in Rome” and all that. In the case of the burger at Blueberry Hill, I went with a scoop of the soft spread cheddar. Unlike Pimento or beer cheese, cheddar spread seems to be a cheese tradition that may have disappeared along with the 20th century. Save for a Holiday gift basket or a nostalgic throwback recipe, you just don’t see the stuff anymore. When it comes to cheeseburgers we all know that cheddar is a more pronounced flavor than American, but it just doesn’t melt nearly as well. Enter the spreadable cheddar, which is designed to give into a cracker, and you just might have yourself a fine cheese to burger compromise. While the flavor is evident as the texture is yielding, the cheese also isn’t warm – it’s a cool room temp. The result is a cheese to burger choice that would be repeated only for sake of variety and frankly one could save the dollar upgrade all together because the real star of the show is a top to bottom fine pub style burger.IMG_4589IMG_4591Prior to the Burger Renaissance of the 2000s, before gastro pubs brought chef driven burger concepts to the masses, burgers could have been divided into two camps – thick and flat. The latter being mostly taken over by fast food chains and the former being the type of burger one would seek out at a sit down restaurant. Chef driven burgers, mostly for the better I might add, have changed, well, raised our expectations of a sit down restaurant burger. Still, I along with New York City, have a deep fondness for a “Pub Style burger” which is exactly what is served at Blueberry Hill. A bun whose only prerequisite is to ensure an even meat to bread ratio, classic toppings that compliment, produce that is just fresh enough, and perhaps most important – actually this is the most important – cooked to order. To take it back to the days of my youth, this is the type of burger you tell your ding a ling companion on the playground is way way way better than McDonalds. This is real food. It may cost twice as much as a Big Mac but it is four times as satisfying. And that’s not just about quality either, size counts as well. The 7oz burger at Blueberry Hill is certainly thick, and the weight indicates it should be big enough to satisfy most appetites. I have always been fond of the use of green leaf lettuce over Iceberg because there is less of that fibrous stem and thick slices of tomato and onion always work in book, and apparently In-N-Out’s as well. And yes, even the cheddar spread I could easily do without only adds fuel to this glorious fire.IMG_4594I suppose now I could tell you that the 80/20 chuck has a beautiful grind and the requested medium rare came out of the kitchen like I ordered a steak at Ruth’s Chris, but that much you can gather from the above. While it’s worth noting that Blueberry Hill has built a reputation on cooking burgers to temp consistently for decades, I think it’s better to take a step back and take in what it means to have a perfect medium rare burger. The way I see it, burgers can deliver two distinct flavor profiles. One is the overall concept or how the burger should taste as a sandwich. The other is whether the burger will taste like beef. Blueberry Hill aims for the latter. In our contemporary world of burgers, it is a simple one but that also makes it timeless, something you crave, something you can count on. IMG_4572Today’s hipster foodie may find Blueberry Hill to be a silly place, filled with antique decor and a burger that holds no footing in a world soon to be taken over by Shake Shack. And while new burger joints with impressive chef driven concepts continue to pop up with stainless steel accents, polished concrete floors and a curated craft beer selection, not all can promise Bang for your Burger Buck. At $7.45, the famous 70z burger strikes me as a deal that is fair enough. As an establishment, Blueberry Hill carries with it the weight of being a local treasure and wherever you are in life and wherever you are from, if you feel the urge to meet up with an old friend, have a beer or two and reminisce, why not go to a loved local institution that nails a medium rare burger this well.IMG_4593

Blueberry Hill
6504 Delmar Blvd
St. Louis, MO 63130

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