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ēT Premium Grill in the Tunnels

ēT Premium Grill, located underneath the JPMorgan Chase building, is just under a mile away from my office by surface routes, which means it's just over a mile away when winding through the tunnels. It's a small shop, dominated by the open "kitchen" and its glass enclosed grill in the back of the space, with a few tables up front. Make no mistake, the place has chain written all over it, but with a pleasantly modern sensibility. Sleek and clean is the order of the day.

As far as my order of the day, I stepped up to the counter, overlooking a vista of burger topping options, and was walked through the process. At ēT, your meal is assembled in front of you, at a fixed price of $4.09 for all burgers (double meat affairs, to the one), with a dozen or so adornments available.

Bacon is more or less assumed, which won the burger instant props in my book. From there, you are free to have the burger architect slather on one of half a dozen spreads (house made ancho mayo being my pick), cheese if you want it (of the handful of pretty standard options, pepper jack seemed best suited to follow the ancho spread), and a spread of vegetative offerings ranging from the standard salad stuff to slightly more exotic options like caramelized onion, portobello mushrooms, and avocados.

The cool, creamy richness of avocado sang to me, promising to balance out the bolder flavors of ancho and pepperjack. I tend not to attempt to assuage my burger guilt by turning it into a salad, preferring to wallow in the delightfully hot, slick feel of beef, cheese, and condiments, uninterrupted by anything crisp (unless its bacon or fried) or cold.

As directed, the burger lady layered bun, ancho mayo, beef, jack cheese, more beef, bacon, more cheese, avocado slices, and the top bun, also spread with mayo. Not only do you get to determine the contents of your burger, but the construction process as well.

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The burger was good, but not great. I tend to be of the opinion that most burgers, particularly those of the thin patty persuasion, do better on a griddle than a grill. On a flat top, the beef is free to wallow in its own juices, basting in beef fat. The grill allows all of that goodness to drain off, leaving the dry heat to similarly dry the meat.

Where ēT really shines is the potato department. The day I visited, the fries were hand-cut, pre-blanched for service, and fried to order. Thin, crispy, hot, and near perfect. Sided with a Sriracha-based dipping sauce which may have contained mayonnaise, and which definitely contained whole grain mustard, the fries were a rare treat from the tunnel gods. I used the extra tub of sauce they gave me in the subsequent construction of an egg salad sandwich the following day. Maybe they should add that to their menu.

If they keep up that fry game, I'll be back. I just wish someone would convince them to put in a griddle, or at least use thicker patties that can stand up to the grill a bit better. Then again, watching the flames leap as my burger was grilled in front of my eyes was kind of cool.

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