After extensive renovations to the restaurant space in downtown Santa Cruz previously home to Eric’s Deli, Alderwood finally tore the butcher paper off the windows in December to reveal an elegantly re-envisioned space. Two months later, the flood of excited customers eager to experience the raw bar of fresh seafood and exquisite cuts of beef at the forefront of Alderwood’s menu has yet to abate.
While I have thoroughly enjoyed their 60-day, dry-aged ribeye on other occasions, such lavish dinners aren’t always my (or my wallet’s) jam. Thankfully, Alderwood has happy hour deals from 4-6 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.-midnight every night, including an absolutely killer burger-and-beer combo for just $10.
In a world of “more is more,” Alderwood’s burger zigs where others have zagged, focusing on high-quality ingredients and thoughtful construction instead of being weighed down by a leaning tower of gimmicky toppings. The sesame bun, which has the springy texture of brioche-meets-Hawaiian sweet roll, is spread with housemade garlic jam, onion marmalade and bread and butter pickles. The burger is actually two thin patties of house-ground, dry-aged beef that have been smashed on the grill in order to achieve crispy edges and a just-done center. Stacked between them are layers of gooey Gruyere cheese.
Flavors of caramelized onion, high-quality beef and gruyere remind me of a bit of French onion soup. It’s decadent, but approachable. The size, which is slightly smaller than other restaurant burgers, means you can enjoy it without falling into a food coma afterword. My fiancé, equally mezmorized, simply says he thinks it’s the best burger he’s ever had.
The burger comes with an icy Miller High Life, served in the bottle. While normally not my first choice, I have to admit that in this case the crisp lager is a refreshing pairing.
There’s something about burgers hard-wired in the American psyche. To experience a truly great one satisfies not just a physical hunger, but an emotional one. Chef Jeffrey Wall kept this in mind when creating the burger at Alderwood. “Our burger is a token of our hospitality. It signals that everyone is welcome to get a satisfying meal,” says Wall. The beer pairing is a nod to workers in the service industry, he says. “The combo of a High Life and a burger is specifically for industry professionals to be encouraged to come in.”