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Flippin’ Awesome

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What’s up, everybody?  Welcome to another edition of Mastication Monologues!  Today I’m going to be talking about a well known player on the Seoul food circuit that I finally managed to hunt down and sink my choppers into:  Butterfinger Pancakes.   I went to the one close to Gangnam station.  Leave the station through exit #6. Walk straight ahead to the first street corner and turn left. It’s about 2 blocks down on the left next to Burger King.  As for the hours, they’re open until 3 a.m. if you’re craving some American breakfast items.IMG_1170

I had always heard that it pretty much was the place to go to get a taste of back home, but that it was always super busy.  The night Steph and I went there was no different.  We went on a Saturday night for dinner, and there still was a 15 minute wait which wasn’t too terrible.IMG_1169  We went up to the top floor, and surprisingly it was filled with mostly Koreans.  Walking past the packed tables, I could see huge plates overflowing with food that the patrons were quickly inhaling like they never saw food before.  Perhaps I would have a similar experience.  I knew Butterfingers meant business when I was face to face with its menu.

I think they're trying to compensate for something.

I think they’re trying to compensate for something.

It literally was larger than life just like their prices which ranged from 10,000 to 30,000 Won.  They had everything from pancakes to make your own omelet options.  I wanted to try a little bit of everything, but I eventually went for the breakfast special (17,000 W) which contained eggs (scrambled/sunny side up/hard boiled), white sausage, ham, sausage links, hash browns, and pancakes with your choice of regular butter or vanilla butter.  Steph got the French toast version of the platter.  When they came out, I was taken aback at how much food there was on our plates.

Steph's French toast plate

Steph’s French toast plate

After living in a country where they eat kimchi and rice or maybe nothing for breakfast, this was a shock to the system.  I quickly dove gob first into my meal starting with the eggs.IMG_1173  I thought I would need some salt to make them more palatable, but I was pleased with their buttery goodness.  Plus, they didn’t have that gross gelatinous texture that scrambled eggs can take on when made in restaurants like McDonalds.  Next, there were the hashbrowns.  Normally, I’m all about the crispy, triangular hashbrowns and don’t care much for the shaved-taters version.

A thing of beauty

A thing of beauty

However, I liked these better than how they’re normally prepared because they were squished into a thick potato-pancake of sorts that made them a lot easier to eat especially with a dollop of ketchup.  The white sausage was just ok.  It kind of had a hot dog flavor profile which didn’t really jive with the rest of the classic breakfast items.  It was like that guy who brings Zima to a house party.  True, it’s alcohol, but it should be at another party or perhaps another decade.  However, the breakfast sausage links and ham were delicious and were only further enhanced through the addition of maple syrup.  Nothing like a little liquid Canadian gold to make any breakfast better.  Finally, there were the pancakes.  I do have to say that Butterfinger Pancakes definitely lives up to their name with their mean flapjacks.  They were perfectly cooked to a golden brown hue and had fluffy white insides.  Taste-wise, they probably were some of the best pancakes I’ve ever had.  I think what separated them from other pancakes that I’ve downed before was that they possessed a unique buttery/vanilla aftertaste that took my palate off to Paul Bunyan’s lumberjack heaven.  Even though they were on the smaller side, they had enormous flavors.  When I finished, I was satisfied, but in retrospect, it wasn’t the best breakfast overall that I’ve had.  I think it was simply the fact that I haven’t had a normal American breakfast in so long that I really appreciated one when it came along.  The plate I ordered you could find anywhere in America, but this was a case of distance causing the stomach to grow fonder.

I'm so aegyo

I’m so aegyo

So if you are really hankering for some big breakfasts the way only the Stars and Stripes can do it, head on over the Butterfinger Pancakes in Gangnam.

Smash and Grab Burg(er)lary

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The Incredible Hulk has always been part of American culture (however geeky some might deem it) for many reasons.  Whether it was his oh so natural green hue or his very chic tatters that have that pre-worn appeal that many hobos and drifters could identify with, but his severe anger problems were probably what catapulted him to the front of the superhero pantheon.  With a Neanderthalic  grammatical utterance of, “HULK SMASH!” we could all identify with him when we just wanted to rip our clothes off and go crazy when the life is getting us down (maybe less of the former than the latter, actually).  What I’m trying to get is that, I definitely went crazy for Smashburger’s food sans the searing rage of my aforementioned friend.  This small and smart establishment has locations all over the United States, but the one I visited is located at 2425 W 75th St Darien, IL 60561.

A Pretty Hip Burger Joint

Even though their sign outside looked oddly like Gamestop’s, I walked into a nicely decorated restaurant that had a very casual vibe going for it.  The staff was very attentive and even offered to explain any questions we had with the menu or the company in general.  I ended up ordering the build your own burger with the Big Smash option which is a full 1/2 pounds of black Angus beef that is freshly prepared in the kitchen.

As for the ingredients, I definitely went all out as always with my options as I managed to create a souped up burger with the following ingredients:  a spicy chipotle bun, lettuce, tomato, red onion, grilled onion, kosher pickles (Shalom, y’all!), jalapeños, ketchup, mustard, spicy chipotle mayo, bbq sauce, buffalo sauce, and blue cheese.

A Veritable Laundry List of Toppings

All of which ended up looking like a monster of a burger that the Hulk would identify with, slightly odd-looking but a good one at heart.  Upon sinking my teeth into this beefy leviathan, I knew that I had made the right choice with going with the large burger and not the other options on the menu like the various salads, chicken sandwiches, or specialty burgers.

The beef was tender, juicy, cooked to perfection, but did not overpower the rest of the ingredients.  The spicy chipotle bun was something that I had never seen before, but it certainly made an impact on the overall flavor of the burger because with every enjoyable chomp, there were subtle smoky/spicy whisps of flavor caressing my tongue.

Cheesewise, the blue cheese was surprisingly measured out to support the other players in the sandwich; all of which surprised me because most restaurants slather their blue cheese on burgers like it’s going out of style (not always a bad idea), but one can have too much of a good thing sometimes.  The one other element of the burger that definitely made me stand up and give a rousing ovation was the jalapenos.  Now, I love those “Southwest/New Mexico/Insert general burger name invoking a capsaicin nightmare” burgers, but I’ve found that the jalapeños on these burgers are soggy and just mush into the general melange of ingredients.

This Looks Good Enough to be Mayor McCheese’s Wife

This was not the case with Smashburger.  The jalapeños on my burger were a lush, verdant green like Señor Hulk, looked to be freshly hand chopped, and provided a satisfying crunch and a spicy peck on the cheek with every bite.

Tackling the Beast

As always, my appetite had not been satiated, so I decided to get a side that I’ve never tried before.  The fried pickles were beckoning me, but I decided not to go the Snooki route this time (though you must try them if you ever have the chance).  Instead, I chose the Smashfries which were french fries  tossed with garlic, rosemary, and olive oil.  These golden, finely julienned potatoes had me at garlic.  They did not disappoint because they were not too overpowering with the garlic, and thankfully the fries were fried to perfection with a light semi-crunch as I plowed my way through the mini-basket (way better than the over-salted/over-seasoned Five Guys fries, I think).  For all those who enjoy a bit of spice in their food, I’d recommend trying their Cholula hot sauce on these fries to make a new American favorite that is mixed with Mediterranean ingredients and a little Latin panache.

Les Pommes Frites Avec Un Twist

Smashburger was a worthwhile experience for those who are looking for a good burger beyond Five Guys, Meatheads, the King, the Golden Arches, or any other place for that matter.  As I left the restaurant feeling thoroughly satisfied, I wish I could have tried more items, but unfortunately like my gargantuan pal, I’ll have to wait for next time whilst I drove into the sunset.  *Cue sad Hulk theme song*

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