The Burger is Back

It might have started long ago elsewhere, but in Raleigh and the rest of the Triangle, the burger is back. Fast-growing national chains like Five Guys and BurgerFi have made their way into the market and now local hot spots are sprouting up – each with their own spin: Tribeca Tavern, a moderately up-scale establishment that grinds their own beef and features their own brews (along with others, including a decent selection of NC brews); Bull City Burger – a walk-up and order establishment serving locally sourced, grass-fed beef, sporting an in-house brewery and unique wine bar situated in a revitalized downtown Durham; Chuck’s – part of Ashley Christensen’s three-headed restaurant experiment in downtown Raleigh; Only Burger, a burger stand that started (and still exists) as a food truck; and the subject of this review, Charlotte-based Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar (nee Big Daddy’s) – a specialty burger shop with full bar, end-capping a new structure in the Seaboard Station area of downtown Raleigh.

At first glance, Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar (111 Seaboard Ave, Raleigh; $10-$13) seems like a retread of a familiar concept – a bar that serves burgers. Novel idea, right? But the name and ambiance imply something different – almost as if the founders wanted to flip that concept on its head. Start with a great burger, add myriad options and serve some drinks along with it. The menu, as one member of my dinner party commented, seems to require the time to consume at least one beer to sort out. We witnessed this first hand when another fellow diner ordered a side salad – the options seemingly sprouting at every turn from his lettuce base (two choices), two “toppings”, a fruit, a meat, and a dressing! The burger options were similarly mesmerizing, offering near endless combinations of toppings and even patty meat mixtures.

Beef lovers eagerly anticipating the ruling on the quality of the hamburgers will be disappointed – I opted for a black bean burger, my current obsession when visiting spots that offer one. Though it is also possible to create your own, the menu standard Cantina (with the addition of jalapeños) was enough to satisfy my black bean hankering. As I alluded to earlier, I’ve tried a fair number of black bean burgers in the area and this one certainly found a place near the top. I rarely take an opportunity to jump on the growing sweet potato fries bandwagon, but I strayed from the norm here again. I certainly wasn’t disappointed with my choice, though I will admit that the Bad Daddy’s version of sweet potatoes served french style didn’t stray too far from what I’ve had elsewhere.

And that’s ultimately where I ended up in my overall impression of Bad Daddy’s. The burger’s are great1 – maybe not any better than the best burgers we’ve had in the area, but certainly not discernibly worse. However, the options that Bad Daddy’s provide are so impressive, it’s hard to imagine any burger lover wouldn’t be able to build the burger of their dreams.

Rating: Notable.

  1. According to my cohorts. Among my meat eating dinner party, the average score for the burgers was 7/10

Madness is in the Air

From: J.B. Sawyer
To: D.B. Riego
Date: Monday, March 11, 2013

Dear Sir,

In the spirit of March Madness I thought it might be fun to spur a little debate. I have a challenge for you if you are game?

You must select a player from your most hated school (I am of course using the term loosely) that fits each category.

Best Player
Most Hated Player
Player You Would Have Like On Your Team

The player must have played at the University (and possibly attended classes) from 1998 through 2013. You do not need any facts or statistics to back up your case, just a pure unadulterated hatred of the institution, which I know for you will not be a problem. I will kick off the fun…

Best Player – I am not sure this is even a discussion at State. If it is, it begins and ends with one Julius Hodge. Hodge led some of the best Pack teams of the last 20 years and was a quote machine, once telling teammate Cam Bennerman, “When you’re hungry, you eat; when you’re a frog, you leap; if you’re scared, get a dog.” He famously commented on the possible shower scene at the Roy Williams’ prison camp. He was also one hell of a player. He led the Pack to an ACC tournament final in 2002 and 2003 and the Sweet 16 in 2005. He was the 2004 ACC Player of the year and was robbed of the 2002 ACC Rookie of the Year by this guy. Hodge led a team that beat UNC and Duke in the same week, which doesn’t happen often at State, and for that he is the Best of the Best at State.

Also Considered: Illian Evtimov, Marcus Melvin, Scooter Sherrel, Engin Atsur, Javi Gonzalez, Ryan Harrow, Lorenzo Brown, Richard Howell – I am just kidding about all of these …

From: D.B. Riego
To: J.B. Sawyer
Date: Monday, March 11, 2013

Best Player – The interesting thing about this question is that it seems heavily skewed in your favor at first glance. And, certainly, relative to the players that have walked through the doors of the ESRBCPNC Arena, there is a strong bias toward UNC. BUT … but … I just took a walk down memory lane and looked over the rosters from the last fifteen years and … let’s just say the last question (Player I would have wanted on my team) is going to be very hard for me to answer, and only partly because it’s hard for me to give any player that donned baby blue a clean slate. Seriously … there haven’t really been as many players as you’d think that would be worth getting past their terrible taste in blue – especially given the question doesn’t give me any wiggle room on coaching (i.e. am I only getting the one player and his heralded skill set but he still has to play in Herb’s offense, or with Sid’s band of Got ‘Em, Now What misfits?). Anyway, I’ve rambled on long enough about Question #3, time to get down to brass tacks and answer the first question.

There are really three players that answer these three questions – one player answers exactly one of the questions, the other two could probably be used interchangeably for all three for various reasons. The best player in the last fifteen years to don the baby blue is, without a doubt, Tyler Hansbrough. Sometimes it doesn’t matter if a player can jump out of the gym, shoot lights out, and run like Darrell Green down the floor – or even if he can’t do any of these things! Basketball IQ is a powerful thing and when you match that with Tyler’s hustle – when his contact lenses were in – there was no one better. The guy dominated the intangibles column throughout his career, scored enough to carry you guys when he needed to, and by golly that kid could hit some free throws. It’s one thing to find yourself saying “ah he was in the right place at the right time” a couple of times a game or maybe even if a guy has a whole game like that, you just chalk it up as the basketball Gods shining their light on the guy for the game. But Tyler was in the right place at the right time on seemingly every single freakin’ play. The guy was incredible and you know that he worked hard to put himself there so with Tyler you had that perfect combination of a player with natural ability, incredible work ethic off the court, tenacious but controlled aggression on the court and, when he wasn’t going all Psycho T on somebody, he looked like he was having fun, too. It wouldn’t surprise me if there was a clip of Roy somewhere singing Best I Ever Had to Tyler after that 2009 national title game.

Also Considered (But not necessarily in this order): PJ Hairston, One of the Falcons1, Ty Lawson, Sean May, Raymond Felton, Kris “Mouth” Lang, Jason Capel, Ed Cota, Brendan Haywood. How many of these do you think I’m serious about?

From: J.B. Sawyer
To: D.B. Riego
Date: Monday, March 12, 2013


I appreciate your candid response and I know how very hard it was to write that about the legend that is Tyler Hansbrough. As you state, our list of players during that era is probably not as great as we Tar Heels like to think, and Handbrough is really the only transcendent player of the last 20 years at UNC. His jersey hangs out front at the Dean Dome and I own two of his jerseys that my son and I occasionally don for big games.

While picking State’s best player was easy, this is much harder. It is so hard in fact that I am going to cheat. While a couple State players come to mind, Evtimov, Damon Thornton, CJ Leslie, TJ Warren and Rodney Purvis I don’t really hate them (there is no way not to piss you off with this comment) because they never consistently beat UNC. I think Purvis and Warren could get there, but they just aren’t there yet. So, I am going outside the boundary of our game and select your current AD, Debbie Yow.

Debbie Yow is by all accounts an accomplished woman, and if I had a daughter she would be a remarkable role model. Yow began her career as a women’s basketball coach at the University of Kentucky and then entered athletics administration at Saint Louis. She guided the Maryland athletic department from 1994 to 2010 and oversaw the golden years of Maryland Athletics (its sounds funny saying that). However, you will not find a Maryland fan alive that likes her based on their belief that she bankrupted their athletic program (this may actually be an endorsement as they are the worst fans in the ACC and will soon be the worst in the B1G). She left in 2010 to take the job at NC State and has since hired 8 new coaches and implemented this as an official web page. My disdain for her stems from the constant pandering to an already irrational fan base with letters to the ACC and phony awards. Talk of refusing the status quo and Alabama recruits is annoying for a program that probably has some steps in between and for that she gets my vote for Most Hated Player/Person affiliated with the basketball program.

Your move sir…

From: D.B. Riego
To: J.B. Sawyer
Date: Monday, March 13, 2013

I’m not even sure how to respond to whatever that non-sense is that you just sent me so I’ll take this opportunity to comment on your Hodge pick for Best Player. Undoubtedly, Jules is the pick for us and while guys like Hickson and Powell might have technically had better NBA careers, Hodge gave the most – not only in production but also in heart. I love that he’s still so devoted to our program and is such a hardcore fan. I also love that he has such a great relationship (on Twitter, at least) with some of the guys from Chapel Hill that he played against. Just a great personality for us, something that doesn’t really come along too often.

Speaking of great personalities, I have to admit that this question of Most Hated player isn’t exactly as easy for me to answer as it might seem. Honestly, my disdain for the Tarheels has always had more to do with the fans, many of which fly too closely in my circle of influence for comfort, present company (more often than he realizes) INCLUDED. Just kidding, you’re pretty reasonable. Anyway, all of that said, there is one guy that always comes to mind and he’s a guy I never could quite get even an inkling of compassion for and that guy is Rashad McCants. What is that guy’s deal? Besides the obvious (prison? really?), I’m not even sure I have anything rational to base this on, the guy just rubs me the wrong way. He could shoot, I guess he could score, which certainly doesn’t help when all you want to do is watch the guy build a house of bricks when he’s playing your team (or any other for that matter), but I’m not sure the scoring is even what gets to me. He just seemed like he felt entitled, like the world owed him something – and not knowing much about his background, maybe it did/does – but sheesh. Like I said, no real evidence for my argument, but at least I didn’t call out your water boy or something ridiculous like you.

Dishonorable mentions: Joseph Forte, Kris Lang

Now, who’s the guy you wish you could have had on your team – let me guess … TJ?

From: J.B. Sawyer
To: D.B. Riego
Date: Monday, March 19, 2013

I apologize for the delay in responding, but I spent the weekend thinking about the Player I Would Must Like on my Team, and I as you can imagine, its not easy. We didn’t really discuss the matter of timing or fit, for instance would you pick a player you liked, but who would not have started for your team. Do you pick a player that you didn’t like, but who fit well into your team? These are all important questions.

I am first going to talk about the contenders and then make my selection which will almost assuredly piss you off. As you guessed correctly, I have had a long running (well, like 6 months) love affair with one TJ Warren. He is the classic “one that got away,” at least that is what UNC fans will have you believe, the point is he wanted to go to State, told Roy and Roy took Brice Johnson. Having seen both play this year (I think Brice has promise, but he is currently a black hole) , any fan that says Roy picked Brice over TJ is an idiot. TJ is perfect for Roy’s offense, he is tall, can run, rebound, and he is a natural born SCORER first and foremost. This guy will be the focal point of the State offense next year (if he doesn’t go pro) and he will average 20-10. This guy will is a beast.

The next candidate was Scott Wood who lit up Greensboro this weekend. UNC rarely has a shooter of Wood’s quality and he would have helped stretch the defense to open the paint for Zeller, Henson, and McAdoo. The only issue of course…he doesn’t play much, if any defense, and as any good UNC fan knows that is a recipe for a lot of time next to Roy.

Finally, I chose Lorenzo Brown. He was built to run Roy’s offense with his quickness, strength, and vision. Also, and most importantly, he could have filled in for Kendall last year after he was assaulted in the Round of 32. This would have of course meant Banner #6 as we stuck it to Kensucky!

I look forward to revisiting this in the Fall for football.

Go Heels!

From: D.B. Riego
To: J.B. Sawyer
Date: Monday, March 21, 2013

I should have known that this was all one elaborate trap you set so you could troll me with your Zo pick and Banner #6 proclamation. Remind me not to participate in the fall when we do this for football.

In all seriousness, the point you raised about context is dead on – I was going to say the same thing but my sticking points were coaching, the relative culture of success of the program, and the level of reverence a particular player attains on campus. First, let’s tackle coaching. Let’s say I make things boring and take Tyler as both my “Best Player” and “Player I Would Most LIke On My Team” (not an unreasonable choice or approach, and I almost did but let’s be honest – it’s a cop out). Do I get Psycho T running around the perimeter making swing passes for one to two years in Herb’s offense (or is he part of the Triple Towers Triumvirate with Brackman and Costner)? Better yet, is Psycho T the focal point of whatever we’re calling the Sidney Lowe tax-free, dearth of a point guard offensive era? Of the three coaches in the era we’re focusing on, Herb has arguably the best resume and yet Tyler would have been useless in Herb’s offense. And heaven only knows what Gott would do with him. I shudder even thinking about it. But he (Hansbrough) would certainly feel good about himself, that’s for sure.

The other two contextual considerations I mentioned kind of go hand in hand. Individually, we may have had some players over the years that could have played for you but where would they fall in the list of all-time players coming out of Chapel Hill? In some ways, doesn’t that actually change the mentality of the player by humbling them a bit as they take their first step on to the Dean Dome floor (hopefully this happens in enough time to keep them from going all “moneyball” on you)? For example, let’s say Kendall Marshall decides to follow in Javy Gonzalez’s footsteps in leading the Pack Attack. To put it mildly, N.C. State doesn’t have a long history of highly touted point guards (as a side note, isn’t this one of the truly puzzling aspects of the Sid Lowe era? That he, a former point guard himself, wasn’t able to coach up a great point guard?). So Kendall comes in and immediately averages a few dimes a game, maybe gives us some right time and place scoring bursts and starts a pace to do to Fire’s assist records what Scott Wood did to Ice’s trifecta record. He’s an instant celebrity on our campus. But on yours, where he’s following not just a long line of great Carolina point guards, but so many All-Americans in general, he’s just the next in a long line of loved and adored Tarheels. But relative to all of those former greats is he truly revered? (In this parallel universe, “The Wrist” never happens and thus the admittedly clever “Pass Fir5t” social media explosion is DOA). Just look at the pedestal we put CJ, Zo & company on at the beginning of this season (err, make that the end of the last season) and all they did was make it to the Sweet 16! The culture of winning is non-existent at N.C. State (face it, Pack fans, it’s true!) and I think that has an effect on the players that play there, regardless of how much natural talent they possess.

But. There is one. There is one who’s talent, position, and natural athleticism could have transcended all of this (ironically a point guard – it HAS to be a point guard given our particular set of contextual challenges) and that ONE player I would most liked to have had play for the Pack is Ty Lawson. I remember watching him go coast to coast several times and just thinking that speed like that with a basketball was obscene. More than that – his quickness paired with his body control is other-worldly. I remember we talked about the differences between Kendall and Ty one time and I think you said it best – Kendall moves the ball quickly up court with perfect passes, Ty did it with his feet and handles. I think that’s the one guy whose talent and natural athletic gifts would have been enough for Herb to just roll the ball out onto the court and said, “Screw the Princeton offense, just go play, boys” and that Sid couldn’t ruin with his NBA “what can I do, I’m just the coach?” mentality. And oh my, what a Gottfried team could accomplish with a guy that has talent AND is interested in running a team? Unreal. So as much as I hated the fact that he donned the Tarheel baby blue, there’s no doubt I would have loved to have had Ty running with the Pack. (Not to mention it has the unintended, yet much appreciated benefit of erasing a National Championship for the Heels! How’s that for trolling!?!)

Honorable Mentions: Tyler Hansbrough, Kendall Marshall, Jason Capel.

I can’t wait for football when I get to pick Brandon Spoon for all three categories! SPOOOOOON!

Go pack!

  1. During the Harrison Barnes years, D.B. thought it was funny to come up with “falcon” nicknames for the other players on the squad. Kendall was the Maltese Falcon, Zeller was the White Falcon, Leslie McDonald was the Flat-top Falcon, and John Henson was the Muppet Falcon.

Essentially Men: Bourbon

At some point a couple years ago, most likely during a marathon Mad Men session, I decided I needed to start drinking scotch. I was an adult…kind of, and I should start acting like one. I needed a drink when I went out for work that didn’t need a bottle or draft clarification. In order to prepare, I asked for some recommendations and headed out to the ABC store. I got a couple different kinds and went to it. While it wasn’t terrible, I very quickly realized I was not a scotch guy, especially the brands that taste like burnt leaves. Continue reading

A Tar Heel Bred

Saturday was a big day. It is a day I will always remember, and I will tell my son about it so much, he will think he remembers. It was his first UNC basketball game and his first trip to the Dean Dome. He has been to see the Heels play football many times and even made trips to Carter-Finley and Dowdy-Fickly, but the first basketball game was always going to be more of an event. As a Tar Heel, basketball is extremely important, it is part of how we describe ourselves. When people think of UNC they think of basketball and Chapel Hill. For better or worse it is part of who we are. We love our football, baseball, and soccer, but basketball defines us.

My only experience as a father is with little boys, so I can’t vouch for the fairer sex, but it is extremely easy to brainwash your kids. You can tell them to eat dirt and as long you keep up the act, they will eat dirt and think it’s fantastic. What I don’t know is how long said brainwashing will last, though I assume a while since I have no other way to explain anyone under 40 who voted for Romney. Anyway, I have been constantly talking up the Tar Heels to my oldest son. He has been wearing gear since he was born and he even knows the fight song. I am in a bit of pickle as my lovely wife went to the vocational school in Raleigh and I am the only one in my family who attended UNC so I tread carefully. I never tell him not to root for someone or that one team is bad, but I focus solely on the good that is UNC; the well, the girls, not having to go to class. Its been easy and a whole lot of fun. Taking him to his first basketball game is a very important part of this process…

Some may ask how a kid growing up just outside of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida with parents who went to ECU and worshiped at the altar of the great Jimmy V ends up a Tar Heel. I owe my inner Tar Heel to my Grandparents and Aunt. My grandfather fought in WWII and when he returned to Lumberton he had to find something to do. Taking advantage of the GI Bill, he decided to head North to Chapel Hill. He spent two years in Chapel Hill before returning home to take over the family business, but the impact was profound. He spent the next 60 years watching the Tar Heels play basketball and saw the Heels win five national championships (though its unclear how much he saw of the 05 and 09 finals as he was prone to fall asleep in his chair after partaking in a martini or two.) He also spent that time making converts of my Grandmother who went to a small school in New York and my aunt who went on to earn two degrees from UNC. Somehow my dad slipped through the cracks choosing to attend school in Florida, which was home for him. By the time the family’s first grandkid arrived they were itching to pass on their Tar Heel traditions. My parents resisted as any ABC’er would, but after moving to Florida where we lived for 11 years, the pull of a home I barely knew was too much.

Passing on your love of an institution is delicate game. Push too hard and he may come to resent your passions, if you don’t emphasize it enough, he may gravitate somewhere else. My dad is convinced my boys will grow up to hate UNC since he automatically rooted against any team my grandfather cheered for. Once famously cheering against the Dolphins in the Super Bowl, which drew the great ire of his father1. I have decided to approach it with constant positive reinforcement. At the game I pumped him full of sweet and salty snacks hoping the brain will associate the Heels with that instant sense of joy. I also don’t make him watch the games, but always let him know what’s going on. This is a process and I am in it for the long haul.

My grandparents flew me up to North Carolina when I was a Freshmen in high school. My aunt took me to Chapel Hill and toured me around campus, including the Old Well, the Rathskeller, and of course the Shrunken Head. We watched the Heels lose to Clemson in football and also went to the Blue-White game. You can imagine which had the greater impact. It was Fall of 1994 and the Heels were breaking in two all-world Freshmen onto a National Championship winning team. Watching Jerry Stackhouse dunk in the warm ups insured I would be a Tar Heel for life, and explains why I still wear a nasty #42 jersey when a little good karma is needed. From that point on I was a Tar Heel, and I haven’t missed many games or Inside Carolina threads since.

We got to the game on Saturday a little late since my wife wanted to go to Spanky’s, a Chapel Hill staple and one of the few remaining restaurants from my college days. I told him how special the Dean Dome was and he commented that everything was Carolina Blue. While, he does love the Heels I must admit his immediate worry was when we were going to get some “snacks,” not the Heels 8-0 deficit to the Hokies. We got some popcorn and settled into our seats. We cheered when the Heels scored and joined in on TAR – HEEL chants. The game went into overtime and he sat patiently as I tried to explain the concept of “free basketball.” It was easy to tell he enjoyed the game, though not as much as I enjoyed being there with him.

I can’t guarantee he will be a Tar Heel, and I will be proud of him wherever he ends up. But, I have done my part and he will be a Tar Heel Bred.

  1. He later learned it was because his father had a LARGE sum of money on the game.

What This Is Is This

I have stupid conversations with my friends – don’t we all? At some point a couple of years ago I decided I wanted to try to find the intersection between those stupid conversations and the Internet. Podcasting is a logical choice, but I don’t think we’re quite ready for that. The next step down is blogging.

If I tried to pin this down to a particular format, it would only ensure two things: we’d become paralyzed by the constraints, not having enough natural talent to write our way out of idea block; and we’d most assuredly fail. Most likely, both will happen anyway, but we may be able to delay the inevitable artificially by not defining any parameters or goals.

We just want to write. And yes, it will be bad at times. Perhaps even all the time. But you never know until you try and so here we are.

This is is an experiment, really. It’s a prelude to the reification of taking daily one-to-one conversations between two long time friends (and possibly more later. If I’m persuasive enough) and reformulating them as a two-to-many conversation with a theoretically limitless, but realistically minuscule audience. That he is a useless knowledge sponge and lock-box of information who is moderately well-travelled and equally well-read; and that I am a web-addicted, tech-enthused recovering compete-aholic that masquerades as an outwardly disinterested blogger provide the conflict around which we pivot our conversations. Blogging – this site – is our beaker. Our ideas are our reagents – the product from which we wish to formulate a result, a reaction from you, the audience. In this experiment, we have no control.

Defining a singular purpose, or even a multi-purpose for that matter, proves difficult in our frequent conversations on the subject. We want to write about home, this place that surrounds us, that serves as the context for our lives past and present and will serve as the context for our children’s futures. We want to write about the things that have or do or may influence us – our favorite sports teams, a quote, a story, a drink, a burger. We want to watch stupid movies and then write about them. We want to make stupid jokes and hope that you get them. We just want an outlet.

The great power of the Internet is empowerment. Empowerment as a platform (EaaP if you’re looking for a buzz word). Anyone can be a writer, even if you aren’t very good. We don’t have to accept mediocrity from ourselves, but we darn-sure better brace ourselves for it. And even if mediocrity is all we get out of this, well, at least we gave it the old college try. At least we got some practice.