Is This Newport’s Best Burger?

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CrowBurger Kitchen raises the stakes in O.C.’s burger battle.– By Kedric Francis | Photos By Edward Duarte

I remember the exact day I tried one of John Cuevas’ new burger creations destined for the new CrowBurger Kitchen. It was Cinqo de Mayo, and we were at the original CrowBar in CdM for lunch. All it took was one bite of the Double J burger, and I knew I’d found my new favorite burger.

Some servers look at me like I’m crazy when I ask for fresh jalapeños to put on my burger, but the “J” in the Double J stands for jalapeño, and you get them two ways: roasted and in a jalapeño cheese sauce. Add in a thin schmear of refried beans and some house hot sauce, and it’s a spicy burger worthy of the green chile burgers I grew up on in Denver. It’s almost good enough to challenge the Owl Bar’s green chile cheeseburger served in San Antonio, New Mexico. Almost.

The burgers at CrowBurger Kitchen are made from beef that’s never been frozen. A secret blend of prime chuck, short rib, brisket and hanger steak, are all ground daily. The green label burger is the exception: the premium patty is 100 percent prime chuck, similar to the black label burger at the original Crow Bar and Kitchen in CdM that’s made with 21-day dry-aged prime rib eye and served with bone marrow butter, though the green label is about $6 cheaper.

Speaking of cheap, one of the biggest complaints about gourmet burgers is how expensive they are, but the BYOB burger at CrowBar starts at about $5.

So who has the best burger in Orange County? In-N-Out has long ruled the O.C. burger world, with TK Burgers also ahead of the pack due to its surf culture cult following.

But there are contenders to the throne. When Five Guys first burst across the SoCal border, comparisons between the D.C. upstart and our legendary locals were legion. But, like Krispy Kreme’s La Habra location back in ’99 before it, the first O.C. Five Guys location (off the 55 and Katella in Orange) in 2010 was a bit far afield for those of us sitting comfortably coastside.

Now, with a Five Guys in Fashion Island, we’ve tasted enough of their burgers to say it: we like Five Guys better than In-N-Out. It’s the meat, mainly. It tastes more like a freshly grilled burger. Less processed and compacted, somehow. And the fact that there are plenty of spicy condiments available to heat your hamburger up really works for me.

But if Five Guys ever had a chance of claiming the “best burger” crown in these parts, it lost it when CrowBurger opened this summer. It’s the best burger for the price by far, and the design of the cool little restaurant has a modern vibe, with an indoor-outdoor feel that’s refreshing. Speaking of same, we almost forgot the beer. There’s something like 50 choices, either on tap or by the bottle. So go big, go CrowBurger. ,

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