Met Back Bay is the Boston proper location of the mini chain that started with the Metropolitan Club in Chestnut Hill, with additional locations in Natick, Dedham and Nantucket. All of them offer burgers and some have what they call Met Burger Bar, so they're at least somewhat serious about burgers.
At the Back Bay location, the split level entry leads to a dining area and bar upstairs, and a more cramped bar with a couple of TVs downstairs. The vibe is modern and upscale without being too much of either.
Assuming the equipment is the same at all locations, the burgers are cooked on a custom vertical grill that fits the patty between two high heat broiling surfaces.
I'd visited the Natick location four times and came to the following conclusion: this burger has a great supporting cast (bun, toppings, fries, onion rings) but is just too ordinary—and dry—in the beef department. Kinda like the Houton Texans: a good team with an iffy quarterback not getting too far in the playoffs. But I felt that with just a little push, they could go deeper (Met, that is).
I'd read the low scoring review on Boston Burger Blog and wasn't exactly compelled to go and try it.
Then I saw a feature ranking Boston's top 5 burgers on TV Diner, and liked the mention of an aged beef blend (they didn't have that in Natick on any of my tries) and the visual looked very good. I know, I know, the food filmed on these TV shows is best case scenario, not representative. But still.
Having found myself on Newbury Street in Boston's Back Bay when previous Saturday lunch plans got cancelled, I suddenly found a primo parking spot and went for it: optimistic no, hopeful yes.
According to the menu, all burgers are served on an "organic sesame bun." In theory this is a nice upgrade from what they serve at McDonald's, with a more golden color and seemingly artisan baking, but even after a light grilling, this bun was stale, dry and crumbly, falling apart even without—spoiler alert—any help from burger juices. As much as any of these characteristics, the surprising denseness worked against the ensemble. For all the good the bun did, it might as well have been a McDonald's sesame seed bun. I came in expecting this element to be a non-issue, and it wound up being so flawed that it was a prohibitive distraction.
There's a bit of a difference in the offerings here compared to Natick. The aged blend I specifically came in for had been stricken from the menu; now there's just one beef choice: Prime Blend ($12 with fries, before adding $2 to $3 for toppings). Alternate proteins include salmon and turkey. The kobe (also stricken), veggie and chicken options available in Natick and Dedham are not available here.
The beef had an instantly recognizable grilled surface that may or may not have come courtesy of a vertical broiler, but the minimal surface juices and slightly dry interior would suggest that it did. You could also chalk it up to overcooking (ordered medium rare, this was closer to medium) or not enough fat in the blend. To be fair, this was a step up from Natick meatwise and just moist enough. But this burger lacked the free flowing nectar you'd want from a great burger and you'd expect from a place that purports to take its burgers seriously. The flavor didn't suggest any special blend but was moderately beefy, with seasoning about average and the more charry, grilly aspect singing loudest. Someone who's a fan of that charred style would probably like this one.
Though a little dry, the bacon was a highlight, showing reds and pinks and crispies while delivering chewiness and nice flavor. Cheddar melted brilliantly and stretched across the patty. The caramelized onions weren't that noticeable.
The Fries (and Such)
Brown and crunchy for sure, the fries were a bit overcooked as well. Many of them were broken remainders and not the long, thin, perfectly cooked examples I've enjoyed at previous visits in Natick. Salting was understated but adequate.
The Bottom Line
Dry, stale, crumbly bun. Overcooked, ordinary beef patty. Solid toppings. Crisp, slightly overcooked, broken fries. You can do the math.
I was expecting the beef to be a little dry, but the stale bun was a deal-breaker, and after re-reading Boston Burger Blog's review (linked below), I'm guessing this is more than just a random anomaly.
Met Back Bay is doing burgers because they want to, not because they think they have to, but they don't seem to be doing them much better than the generic national chains.
Other Opinion/ Info
Boston Burger Blog review of Met Back Bay
Yelp reviews of Met Back Bay
Urbanspoon reviews of Met Back Bay
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