As the days last longer and the sun gets warmer, my stomach forces my brain to envision wonderful afternoons spent in backyards whilst the wafting aroma of seared meats fills the air. The days of summer will soon be upon us, which means, hamburgers, hotdogs, and chicken that have been flame kissed to perfection will be as easy to procure as a joint at Snoop Dogg’s house. The problem is I suffer from a little known ailment referred to as Impatient Seasonal Cravitis, so I tend to get a hankering for certain seasonal food well before they are readily available. Okay so I made that word up, but it’s true I crave certain time sensitive cuisine worse than Paris Hilton pines for attention. Sometimes, unfortunately, due to time restraints or New Jersey’s finicky weather, I can’t as Paul Hogan would say, “light up the barbie.”
One of these climate related cravings that always seems to inflict me around this time of year is the good old fashioned American hamburger. But, since I am an intelligent Gastro scientist I keep an up to date foodie approved list of acceptable places to score a plump juicy summer puck inside my coconut at all times. At the very top of this directory of meaty goodness, lies an eatery that serves a hamburger so tantalizing that if the Hamburglar himself ate just one of them he would kick himself in the nards repeatedly for wasting the prime of his criminal career trying to steal the sorry excuse for a burger that the golden arches is peddling. This amazing restaurant is none other than The Iron Horse, located at 20 Washington Avenue, in Westwood, New Jersey.
First and foremost, I want to explain to everyone that The Iron Horse has a rather extensive menu that is sure to please any and all guests. In fact, I have never been disappointed with anything I have ever ordered and subsequently eaten there over the almost decade that I have been a customer. With that said, if you are an Iron Horse Virgin, you must order a Cheeseburger with Rail Road Fries, Cole Slaw, and Pickles on your first visit. If you don’t plan on doing this, you might as well stop reading this article now and go back to updating your Facebook status with meaningless memes that no one cares about.
Now that we understand each other, let me explain why the Iron Horse’s Hamburger is something special. The Iron Horse not only serves burgers that are fantastically fresh and constructed out of 100% pure ground beef, they stuff these delicious meat muffins with scrumptious gooey cheeses of all types. I know what you’re thinking Mr. Jaded Pretentious Foodie man, everyone does that, why do I have to go to the Iron Horse when I can go to, fill-in-the blank, restaurant for a cheese stuffed burger. To that sir, I say, you can get a steak at some gas stations but wouldn’t you want to go to a steakhouse instead. The Iron Horse has been stuffing burgers since most hipsters where stuffing their pampers, so they have mastered the art of creating these orbs of yummy on a bun. If you are looking for the best stuffed cheese burger you have had in your life, you need not go to some far off land, you only need to drive to The Iron Horse, and let them blow your mind.
The restaurant itself has an amazing hometown appeal that very few places are able to create. This ora of local pride that every chain restaurant that requires their employees to wear pieces of flare is yearning for, naturally flows from The Iron Horse without any effort at all. The reason that The Iron Horse exudes this rare vibe and the T.G.I.Fridays’ of the world simply cannot is that The Iron Horse follows Yoda’s wise rule, “Do, or do not, there is no try.” The Iron Horse seems like they have hometown pride because they do, and that is something you just can’t fake.
For over 30 years they have been serving the community of Westwood and now serve over 150,000 customers a year. This charmingly rustic eatery has ample seating and damn near spans an entire block of the downtown district. Their walls are adorned with pictures that create a visual timeline of not only their history, but the history of the neighborhood as well. Furthermore, every time I visit The Iron Horse the staff is always very welcoming and extremely courteous.
Last week my wife, Kat, and I decided to have dinner at The Iron Horse before attending a friend’s birthday party. Normally it takes me forever to choose something to eat but at The Iron Horse, it is usually pretty simple. You see, they offer a Burger of the Month special, and I am a sucker for specials. I feel that a special is always better than a regular menu item because every Tom, Dick, and Harry can order a normal dish, but I, Michael, The Blue Collar Foodie, get to have something that no one else in the world might ever taste again. I know, I know, the special is usually just the stuff they could not sell yesterday in most places, but like I said I am a sucker for specials. What do you want from me? At least I can admit it.
On this joyous occasion, the Burger of the Month was particularly enticing because just reading the description made me want to jump into bed with it. I ordered the Old Number 7, which was described as, a burger stuffed with Boar’s Head horseradish white cheddar cheese, topped with Jack Daniels BBQ short ribs on a toasted Ciabatta roll served with their famous Railroad Tie fries, all for only $12.99. Kat decided to remain somewhat healthy and went with the Turkey Burger, which was described as a ground turkey patty served on a giant toasted English Muffin with cranberry mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, red onion, and of course Railroad Tie Fries for the low, low price of $11.99.
In addition to the plethora of menu options the Iron Horse offers, they also provide a large selection of libations to pair with their appetizing entrée. Their beer selection includes all the usual suspects you would expect an old school eatery to have, such as Budweiser, Coors, and Miller, but The Iron Horse also provides a small but impressive list of craft beer for the beer snobs of the world. If craft beer is not your cup of tea, and you prefer a nice Chianti with your Fava Beans or a Martini shaken not stirred, have no fear, The Iron Horse has you covered as well with a full service bar.
Before our meals came to the table we were given our complimentary Cole Slaw and pickle plates which are a tradition at The Iron Horse. If you ask any of the regular customers, and there are quite a few, they will attest that this is one of the best parts of venturing to The Iron Horse. The Cole Slaw has no chemical taste to it, like so many other Cole Slaws that are an after thought at restaurants all over this country. The pickles are top notch and taste as if they came right out of a Jewish Deli located somewhere in Brooklyn. These small but satisfying appetizer is the perfect companion to any of the meals that The Iron Horse will serve you and I highly recommend getting it every time you eat there.
When my Old Number 7 came to the table, I could have sworn I heard the angelic singing of a cherub. The utter appearance of this gluttonous, cheese filled, hamburger made me happier than TMZ gets when Lil Wayne does something ridiculously stupid. The first bite of any of The Iron Horse’s burgers causes every taste bud that exists in your mouth to stand at attention like a police recruit saluting the flag. With every subsequent bite, you mourn the loss of a little more of this gift from the heavens. If you have ever tried to make a stuffed burger, or ordered one from most of the places that attempt to serve them, you know that after the first bite the structural integrity of the burger is usually compromised. This unfortunate breach of the burger’s hull sadly will allow all the cheesy goodness that was once trapped inside its meaty shell, to flow freely onto your shirt and pants before emptying the rest of this delectable treat onto your plate, as you curse Newton and his stupid gravity. I believe the Iron Horse may have made a deal with the devil because their burger does not follow the conventional rules of physics and somehow through the use of this dark magic retains all of its cheesy goodness throughout the entire meal. Just in case you were wondering, I am still having dreams, mostly dry now, of this burger, due to the addition of the short ribs that sat on top of this epicurean masterpiece.
Kat was nice enough to allow me to try her Turkey Burger, and I have to say, even though it was not stuffed with anything, the cranberry mayonnaise was a phenomenal addition to, in my opinion, what is generally a mundane meal option anywhere you go. I also enjoyed the giant English Muffin that this juicy and flavorful Turkey burger called its home.
Both of our meals included the Iron Horse’s famous Railroad Tie Fries, which, in my opinion, are the perfect hamburger cohort. These fries are somewhere between steak fries and shoestring fries with just the right amount of potato covered in a crispy skin that adds just the right amount of texture. I always opt to dip them into a side of BBQ sauce to add a small amount of kick that brings these already outstanding fries to another level all together.
As stated before, The Iron Horse offers a wide variety of extremely tasty food, which I implore you to try… AFTER and only after you have a chance to chew on what I consider the best Hamburger in Bergen County, if not the State of New Jersey. Not only does the Iron Horse serve up remarkable food at reasonable prices, I for one, love supporting local businesses that have deep roots in the community that they serve, and that describes this establishment flawlessly.