B-Man’s Teriyaki and Burgers

IMG_3178B-Man’s is one of those chains that most people in Los Angeles have never heard of. This is probably due to the fact that it’s market presence is concentrated farther east than most tragically hip Angelenos ever dare to venture (“Ewww, you mean it’s in the part of Pasadena that’s closer to, like, Alhambra?”). But it’s been around for longer than most people realize, serving up a singular hybrid of American, Japanese, and Hawaiian fast food for over a decade now.

B-Man’s has locations in Pasadena, Azusa, and Duarte and a super-cheesy website. So maybe their PR department could use a personnel shuffle. But none of that is particularly relevant to the quality of their burger. I decided to eat B-Man’s for dinner tonight. I called in around 8 pm to place my order, and they were just wrapping it up when I arrived around 8:12.

The Place
B-Man’s Teriyaki and Burgers
3007 Huntington Drive, #102
Pasadena, CA 91107

The Order: Double ABC Burger, no tomato, Swiss Cheese.

The Price: $5.05 (excluding tax).

The Burger
The Double ABC burger is kind of a monster. It features two patties of about four ounces, lettuce, pickles, avocado, and a healthy drizzle (okay, a veritable deluge) of honey-based teriyaki. The buns are flimsy, bulk-bought affairs. The patties are coated with bubbly melted Swiss cheese (American is an option too, but make like you’re opening a bank account to cover up financial malfeasance, and go Swiss).

This burger is not carefully prepared, or thoughtfully arranged. It does not feature locally sourced, house-ground meat. There is nothing organic in or around it. It wasn’t made by a celebrity chef (it was made by, just, like, some dudes). It’s not a gourmet burger – nor is it priced as such. This is a fast-food burger. And it’s a pretty damn good fast food burger, if not a heart-stoppingly phenomenal one.

It’s a crowd pleaser. There are all kinds of goodies on offer: Freshly grilled beef with slices of melted cheese oozing all over the patty. A foundation of creamy avocado. Crisp lettuce and pickles providing a kick of crunchy personality. And the central feature: a liberal portion of sweet, sunny teriyaki sauce drenching everything, and lighting up the flavor profile of the burger like a honeyed Roman candle.

The teriyaki is a delightful, decadent touch. It contrasts beautifully with the charred beef (and indeed, it elevates it). But that’s just one of many contrasts present in this cheeseburger. Another one, subtle but lovely, is how the sweet-sour snap of the pickles flirts with the velvety avocados, imparting depth of texture and of flavor.

In spite of all the contrasts that are present in this burger, in spite of its busy (occasionally overwhelming) flavor profile, the burger makes sense. It’s pretty well-composed, and the toppings complement each other nicely. It’s far from an intuitive collection of ingredients, but it works. The whole is much greater than the sum of its parts.

The problem, then, is that the burger doesn’t employ the best tools (the parts – that is, the ingredients – aren’t worth all that much). Nothing here, save for the sauce, is of impressively high quality. The bun is uninspired wholesale fare. The meat of the patty tastes like standard unseasoned chuck, and the hope seems to have been to char-grill away any deficiencies in quality or dearth of flavor. And while the teriyaki does a decent job of masking the fact that the patties aren’t really a worthy centerpiece to this burger, it can’t compensate for the lack of flavor that attends using meat that just isn’t that fantastic. Similarly, the avocados, lettuce, and pickles are serviceable, but not stellar.

Inescapably, by the time I’d scarfed down this burger (maybe tellingly, this isn’t one you savor), I couldn’t help wondering what might have happened had it been made with higher quality ingredients and more careful preparation. That may not be entirely fair, since this is a five-dollar burger we’re talking about. On the other hand, in a world where In-N-Out exists, I expect more from fast food restaurants. This burger may only cost five bucks, but that’s appreciably more than a double-double, which never leaves any doubts as to quality (at any level).

B-Man’s offers a burger based on a good concept, and which has some very real strengths. At bottom though, it feels like they cut corners with ingredient quality and preparation. This is a burger you could probably duplicate – maybe even best – in your kitchen. There’s something to be said for having a good idea, but without execution to match it, you’re left with a product that will always satisfy, but never inspire.

The Ratings
Flavor: 8.50 / 10.00
Freshness/Quality: 6.60 / 10.00
Value: 8.60 / 10.00
Efficiency: 9.60 / 10.00
Creativity/Style: 8.90 / 10.00
Bun: 6.10 / 10.00
Patty: 7.70 / 10.00
Toppings: 7.90 / 10.00
Sauce: 9.10 / 10.00
Balance: 8.90 / 10.00

Total: 73.00 / 100.00

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