The Conscientious Burger: Sardine’s house burger

Photo by The Conscientious Omnivore (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

I’ve decided to start a new series of occasional posts that will highlight burgers around town (or encountered in my travels) that are vegetarian or vegan alternatives to the traditional burger or else that feature humanely, sustainably raised and typically local meat.

Unbeknownst to me while I was planning this new endeavor, some friends recently started a Madison Burger Championship that pits area meat-based burgers in head-to-head competition using a bracket system à la NCAA March Madness. Their most recent outing was to Sardine for brunch this past Sunday, and J and I joined them. Before we arrived I thought I’d be skipping the burger, but I soon changed my mind. Here’s the rundown:

  • Menu description: “Organic, grass-fed Angus® house burger grilled, topped with arugula, tomato, choice of gruyère, sharp cheddar or gorgonzola, and aïoli”
  • Included sides: Mixed greens, frites, and a few cornichons and pickled-onion slices
  • Price: $11
  • Website: For more about Sardine, including hours and menus, head here

I asked our server whether he knew where the meat came from; he didn’t but immediately asked a colleague in the know. I was very pleased to learn that the beef comes from Cates Family Farm, who’ve been featured here before. I opted for the blue cheese and medium temperature; J went with cheddar and medium-rare. Altogether, our group of eight ordered every cheese option and temperatures from medium-rare up to medium-well.

As you can see in the photo below, the sides were extremely generous in portion. The burger itself is a deliciously messy affair thanks to a patty bursting with juicy goodness, melting cheese, and slippery aioli between a chewy, toasted ciabatta. (In case you can’t tell, that’s a steak knife skewering the sandwich.) Burger doneness seems to be a tricky proposition for some restaurants, but our group was in agreement that Sardine did quite a good job with all of our requests. The one quibble I had with my burger was that I found the very sizable topping of gorgonzola a bit overpowering—it is possible to have too much of a good thing. In contrast, I snagged a bite of J’s cheddar burger, and it was perfectly balanced, with the taste of the high-quality local meat having a chance to really shine alongside the other flavors. The two members of our group who ordered gruyère said they found it more subtle than I described my gorgonzola experience.

I don’t know how Sardine’s house burger will eventually fare in our friends’ burger bracket, but it was certainly a fantastic way to start this new series of posts. Watch for further entries to pop up now and then in the coming months. To be sure you don’t miss any, use the links on this page (if you haven’t already) to follow the blog via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, or RSS feed.

The delicious house burger at Sardine. Photo by The Conscientious Omnivore (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)


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