Phantom Gourmet: R.F. O’Sullivan’s In Somerville

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SOMERVILLE – People often ask who makes the best burger in Boston. It’s a tough question to answer, but any search should start at R.F. O’Sullivan’s in Somerville. Their story is perhaps best told by owner Richard Sullivan himself.

“R.F. O’Sullivan’s is a place you come to have a burger. Either rare, well done, medium. We do it your way.

“O’Sullivan’s is like a homey type of place. We have students. We have business people. We have lawyers. We have doctors. We get people from all over the world to come here. We’re in a great location, near Harvard University. And people hear about us, people talk about us, and people come to see us.

“Twenty-five years ago I decided in this area people either liked roast beef or a burger. I went the burger route because there’s so many different options you can do with a burger. But the whole thing is the quality of the meat, the way it’s cooked, and that’s what I do.

“This meat is fresh butchered. It’s not delivered by a truck. I pick this meat up just enough to get us through a couple of days. Nothing is frozen. Everything is hand-made here. There’s no freezer involved here whatsoever.

“The first rule I tell is ‘Don’t squish my burgers! Please, please.

“Don’t fork the burger. If you fork the burger you’re taking the juice out for the burger. Someone wants a rare burger – they want to taste the juice. Somebody wants a medium rare burger -they want to taste the juice. If you want it well done, go ahead and eat it well done. We will fork it; we will squish it, but you’ll enjoy it!

“These burgers are made half-pound. It’s about 2 inches thick, takes a while to cook. It does take 20 minutes because of the size of it. And like I said we don’t squish the burger. So we don’t push it down. You see of lot of places squish things down. We don’t do that. I have rules here and that’s the way it’s done.

“Right now we have over 30 different types of burgers.

“The House Burger is one of our favorite burgers. It’s stuffed with ham, bacon, cheese, tomato, lettuce. And then it’s the half pound burger. Your experience of eating the house burger is like you get all the juices of the burger with the taste of ham and the bacon. And the nice fresh lettuce and tomato and the fresh roll that goes with it.

“The Cock in the Cradle is a very unique burger. It has onion strings, topped with a fried egg. Fried eggs right now are very popular with burgers. I never thought it would work. The egg, I think, maybe people think protein. Maybe that’s the way it is nowadays. I don’t know what they think anymore.

“Black and Blue has been around for a while. It’s crushed black pepper with blue cheese topped on top. It’s like spicy taste with the blue cheese; it has a nice tang. The blue cheese covers the buger. It’s creamy, it’s not dry. It adds a lot of flavor. And richness to the burger.

“Blackjack Burger is a spicy mayonnaise put with different Cajun spices. This Blackjack has a history somewhere at MIT which I haven’t figured out yet. We get a million students from MIT, I’m talking 20, 30 come in at a time, all order Blackjack Burger. For some reason they say it does something to you. I’ve tried it; it hasn’t done anything to me.

“Our fries are cut with 40 count potatoes they’re called. They’re fresh Idaho potatoes We cut these fresh every day. They’re just a tasty, juicy fry.

“We are famous for the burgers but I’d also like you to know we do have fresh fish. It’s a London beer-battered fish, half pound piece of haddock. It’s huge, it’s too much for me to eat.

“The root beer float people said would never work, like other things people say never work. It’s just like a nice root beer, fresh root beer, which I love root beer myself, topped with ice cream, whipped cream. We can add a little Jack Daniels if you like, we can make options. I’m willing to do things.

“For the value for the money, for what you get on the plate, for what I put into this,I love to see people come into my door. But more often I love to see you come back and say ‘I told friends.’ And I see people come in and say my friend told me to come. That’s what makes this worthwhile.

“I’m far from fast food. I’ve been known not to have fast food. I’m here to make you relax and just calm down and have a nice burger. And when you eat the burger, it’s going to take 20 minutes. But fine, when you eat it you’re going to say ‘Wow. It was worth the ride and worth the 20 minutes and I’m coming back!’

You can find R.F. O’Sullivan’s at 282 Beacon Street in Somerville, or online at rf-osullivan.com.

Watch Phantom Gourmet on Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 and 11 a.m. on myTV38.

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