Burger Review

The Fix

 

category: Worcester burgers, Massachusetts burgers

166 Shrewsbury Street

Worcester, MA 01604
(774) 823-3327
www.thefixburgerbar.com

 

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Review Date: June 2015

 

Visit Dates:

 

(05/01/14) (05/03/14) (06/04/14) (06/18/14) (09/18/14) (10/21/14) (04/05/15) (04/14/15) (05/01/15) (05/27/15) (06/04/15)

 

 

 

 

 

The Place

 

Now occupying the former Mezcal space (they moved to larger digs across from the DCU Center) is The Fix, a burger joint by the Niche Hospitality Group. It strikes an old time look and feel with vintage typography and terms like "elixir" to describe the spiked shakes. Before they even opened, The Fix grabbed instant cred by going with meat rockstars Pat LaFrieda Meats for one of their burger blends (they've since switched purveyors).

 

 

There's a bar to the left of the entrance, a few banquette style booths straight ahead and about a dozen tables in the modest dining room. A half flight up toward the back, another smaller dining area is a natural for private dining for small groups.

 

A blackboard to the right is the forum for old time artwork, descriptions of the beef options and a short list of ever-changing specials.

 

The menu has seen many changes. In the early going, numerous preconfigured options (such as "The Pork Stack" that appeared on billboards) jumped off the page, making ordering easier, faster and more reasonably priced. Some are still available, but they've since migrated to more of a do-it-yourself approach, where you choose a bun (brioche, pretzel, sesame), a beef blend (regular, grass fed), a cheese and various toppings and sauces.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bun

 

Tried thrice, the pretzel bun was closer to the dense, bland "bicycle helmet" style popularized at national chains than the better examples of the genre served in Pennsylvania and the more burger-sophisticated greater Hartford area. On its most recent try, it came up a little on the stiff side.

The brioche is a step up in both freshness and softness, and closer to the airy ideal than the bready impostors. But its larger-than-patty diameter, combined with a thinner-than-average patty height, tends to work against a corresponding ideal for the all-important meat-to-bun ratio. But the brioche is probably your best bet.

The seeded bun has had at least two different renditions. One was was a Martin's product ("Big Marty" to be exact) with an extremely dense arrangement of seeds; another was closer to brioche-meets-whitebread with a sparser seed representation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Beef

 

Keep in mind that just as Chevrolet offered both Corvettes and Chevettes in its product line, so too does Pat La Frieda have different octane levels in their burger blends. The Pat LaFrieda blend offered at the Fix on day one was one of their less beefy. A half year or so later, the Fix changed suppliers, so LaFrieda is out. The blend is still a mix of shortrib and brisket, but the beef quotient is fairly low, yielding a mild bite.

The third visit's grass fed blend (a $1 premium) took a step down in beefiness but showed noticeable improvement in the cooking. The temperature came out the requested medium rare (they prefer that you specify "pink" or "no pink"). Equally important for me, the contrast was heightened—this time—between the crusty exterior and the tender interior. Sometimes the little things are nice; here, the patty formation showed bumps and irregularities that appealed to me. Salting didn't cut any corners either. It felt bouncy in a good way, with a little too much resistance to be a great way.

 

Subsequent visits have been just as steady in the pinpoint cooking to desired doneness, but very much up and down in the seasoning department. Sometimes you can't even notice it; other times it's done with such gusto that it makes the burger sing.

 

Despite my preferred griddling method, most of the patties I've received here have received only token crusting; you don't get that wide spectrum of doneness from outside in that exemplifies my desired burger.

After bisection, the juices typically remain obediently within their patties, then trickle just as obediently with a gentle squeeze of the bun. Gushing might do more to get me gushing, but I'll take what I can get.

Beefiness is the name of the game, and while they get the buzzwords right here (LaFrieda, brisket, grass fed) it's the beef itself that isn't as right as it could be. Not that there's anything wrong with it—other than an odd gray coloring—but it's not exactly screaming flavor the way some of the premium blends elsewhere do. Whether grass fed or not, it's a fairly mild form of beef.

 

There's talk that this may change, but the patty size is smaller at lunch than at dinner, so it's best to ask and specify.

 

A lamb burger is a nice change of pace with decent lambiness and suitable choices for accompaniments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Toppings

 

These are a roller coaster ride, with the cheese melt varying greatly from visit to visit and the bacon varying in style, thickness andflavor. On one visit, the overly brittle bacon reminded me of Bac-Os in strip form (Bac-Os have more flavor). On the next visit, the bacon had better thickness, some pleasant chew and deeper flavor. Grilled onions are plentiful and sweet. The condiments have mostly been good to very good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Fries (and Such)


Fries: The standard fries are a frozen product, but complete lack of potatoey flavor aside, they're as nicely done as you could expect: thin, crisp, hot, well salted. The addition of some excellent sauces—listed on the menu as burger condiments, but even better allocated toward the fries as a dip—goes a long way to improving the fry experience.



Steak fries: Introduced a few weeks after they opened, these are a thicker version of the fries that taste about the same, with a fluffier interior and a slightly-less-crisp exterior.  Generic and not in the same league as the shoestrings though.



Onion rings: On opening night and for a few weeks later, the rings were a very respectable version of the flaky kind I prefer. Adhesion of batter to onion wasn't always so dependable, but everything else was executed perfectly. Evidently it was too much work, because they shifted to a frozen puffy version shortly thereafter. They're crisp and crunchy with a thick onion slice that'll stay with you throughout the day, the way Burger King rings of the 90s did, so keep that in mind.

 

 

Chips: They're homemade, they're crisp and they're another worthy vessel for the sauces (I like the Mac sauce), but they lack seasoning.

 

 

 

 

 

Shakes

 

Oh, the humanity. I tried a chocolate shake on the second visit and on one of the most recent visits. That first time, I figured it was just opening week jitters that made them accidentally make the whole thing whipped cream instead of a whipped cream garnish over an actual shake. The recent shake was identically airy, feeling again like all whipped cream and no shake, with a generic sweetness that with eyes closed I'd never guess was chocolate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miscellany

 

With many visits and many burgers under my belt in more ways than one, I've had a chance to interact with many of the staff, and I have been impressed by the friendliness across the board.

 

Wings aren't bad. They go with a dry rub approach that lets you taste the meat, with sauces available for dipping.

 

There was a Groupon deal offered in early 2015 that offered a year's worth of burgers ($15 maximum per day) for a mere $159. For a few seconds I contemplated the deal, figuring I only had to go once every few weeks to be ahead of the game. I declined, figuring I didn't want to make that much of a commitment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bottom Line

 

There are highlights every now and then, but prevailing theme is beef getting a little lost in the bun. As a sandwich, it usually still works. As a burger, it's okay, but I often walk away feeling something's lacking. At a burger-focused restaurant, I expect more.

 

I'm going through a love-hate relationship with the Fix. It's not that I love them or hate them; it's that I don't hate them enough to stop going and I don't love them enough to keep going with any regularity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other Opinion/Info

 

WorcesterScene review of The Fix

Yelp reviews of The Fix

Zomato reviews of The Fix

Tabelog reviews of The Fix

 

Click to add a blog post for The Fix on Zomato

 

 

 

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On the restaurant row that is Shrewsbury Street.

 

Artwork and grind talk. The Pat LaFrieda is no longer sold.

 

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First burger served on day 1 was mine: build-your-own with Pat LaFrieda beef, onions and cheddar on a pretzel roll, 2014.

 

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Build-your-own with onions and cheddar on a pretzel roll, 2014.

 

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Build-your-own burger with grass beef, onions and cheddar on a pretzel roll, 2014.

 

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BBQ burger? I don't remember this one.

 

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BBQ burger cross section.

 

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Different visit, almost the same configuration, 2014: Build-your-own burger with grass fed beef, bacon, onions and cheddar on brioche.

 

click to view larger imageCross section: Grass fed beef, bacon, onions, cheddar, brioche.

 

click to view larger imageBuild-your-own burger with grass fed beef, bacon, onions, cheddar . tomato and lettuce on pretzel, 2014.

 

click to view larger imageLamb on brioche, 2014.

 

click to view larger imageCross section: Lamb on brioche, 2014.

 

click to view larger imageBuild-your-own burger with grass beef, bacon, onions and cheddar on a brioche roll, 2015.

 

click to view larger imageBuild-your-own burger with grass beef, bacon, onions and cheddar on a brioche roll, 2015. Outstanding bacon on this visit.

 

click to view larger imageBuild-your-own burger with grass beef, bacon, onions and cheddar on a brioche roll, 2015.

 

click to view larger image"Bigger Mac" with two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun, 2015. Probably the best burger I've had there, with beef more prominent than bun.

 

click to view larger imageCross section: "Bigger Mac," 2015.

 

click to view larger imageCustom burger with the usual on pretzel, 2015.

 

click to view larger imageCustom burger cross section, 2015.

 

click to view larger imageSmokestack burger, a 2015 special.

 

click to view larger imageSmokestack burger, a 2015 special.

 

click to view larger imageCustom burger with the usual on brioche, 2015.

 

click to view larger imageColleague's custom burger with fried egg on brioche, 2015.

 

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The now-retired "Pork Stack" with pork belly and applesauce mustard.

 

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The now-retired "Big Beef" with shortrib.

 

Fries.

 

Steak fries.

 

Homemade onion rings from day 1.

 

Not-so-homemade onion rings and fries a few months later.

 

Shakes.

 

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