To whomever designed the slogan for Blue Moon Burgers: I should like to offer you appropriate congratulations. Never has an online hamburger looked so appealing as when accompanied by the words, "Helping people feel good about bad choices." (What? I can eat that, and feel good about it? ...I don't know what that means, or why... but it sounds great!) Blue Moon Burgers has achieved some serious slogan success with that one. And one of the ways they make good use of it is by attaching it to their gluten-free menu.
I've been hearing about Blue Moon Burgers for quite some time now, usually from friends who want to know if I'm aware that the restaurant offers gluten-free hamburgers and fries. Reviews always seem to be favorable, so when one more friends showed up yesterday, fresh from lunch, to ask me if I knew that Blue Moon Burgers had a gluten-free menu, I decided it was time to go.
I selected the Fremont location, and prepared to combat the crowds. Lines at Blue Moon are legendary.... but it turns out that if you visit away from mealtime (say, around 2:30 on a Tuesday afternoon) the place is mostly dead. Therefore, the wait I'd planned for, during which I'd hoped to peruse the menu and make decisions, did not happen. I walked in and straight to the counter, with all six hundred questions still in tow. (How gluten-free is "gluten-free"? Are the fries gluten-free? Do you use peanut oil? Is there sesame on the hamburger buns? Where do you get said hamburger buns? Which burger is your favorite? What are all of the ingredients in all of the sauces? Why am I being one of those people who drives me absolutely insane??)
The girl helping me was more than kind and accommodating. She was also quite knowledgeable. The location has obviously gone out of its way to prepare its staff for people like me. I ordered a gluten-free version of The Blue Bayou burger, sauce on the side (since there was some discrepancy about whether or not the spatula had been double-dipped after being used on a regular wheat bun). She volunteered the availability of a side-skillet in which to cook the burger, so that it if there had been hamburger buns toasted on the main grill that day, I wouldn't need to worry about it. Really, the service was superb.
The burger itself arrived at my table in a gluten-free bun from Portland-based company, Jensen's Bread. Curious to see how it would compare to other similar products, I took one side of the bun off and examined it. It was porous and a little spongy, of reasonable weight, with resilient determination to stay intact. Many gluten-free hamburger buns tend to be dry, very heavy, and to fall to pieces long before the burger is gone. This one possessed none of those flaws, but in exchange, erred on the side of being both soggy and chewy. Checking the ingredient list later on Jensen's website, I discovered that the recipe relies heavily on eggs, soy, and a collection of binding agents to replace the binding powers of the missing gluten protein.
As a whole, I would only say that the burger was fair. Although cooked "just right," and seasoned with admirable (if possibly a little lackluster) balance, it was not something I would make a return trip for. The bun was not something I would order again, particularly if given the possible alternative option of a lettuce wrap. In some ways, I would rather have a burger bun that starts out with good texture and then falls apart instead of one that begins with a texture reminiscent of a Twinkie, however consistently it maintains it.
For those who are exclusively gluten-free (and miss Hostess), Blue Moon Burgers caries a relatively low risk of cross-contamination. Dairy, egg, and peanut allergies be wary, however. Those who cannot tolerate soy should just stay clear of the establishment (the oil for the fries is half soy oil, for example).