There are three adjectives next to the smiling anthropomorphic cheeseburger on the sign for Sylvester’s Burgers: big, hot, and juicy. All are accurate. You will feel them on your hands as you eat. However, it is the less obvious things that make Sylvester’s such a worthy burger place.
The patties carry a delicate whiff of smoke — neither too subtle nor distracting — and they are brilliantly seasoned. A 1/3-pound patty, two fingers thick, is the smallest available. It releases serious juice when pressed; and the sandwich itself will drip Sylvester Sauce (modified thousand-island dressing) when compacted. The mixture of burger juices and Sylvester Sauce becomes a luscious gravy when it pools together. Half-pound and full pound burgers are even messier.
We are partisans of griddled burgers with thin patties, but even so, we appreciate the quality of Sylvester’s thick charbroiled patties. The burgers are, in fact, good enough to get us to question our notions of what makes a perfect cheeseburger. Maybe the charbroiled people were right all along.
As good as the burgers are, the most remarkable thing about Sylvester’s is sweet potato fries. They are genre defying. Shaped like thick, ridged potato peelings, they they are well coated with visible specs of black pepper. They aren’t too oily, and retain the flavor of the tuber inside, with texture that is more silky than starchy. An optional dusting of powdered sugar is more for looks than flavor. These are more savory than sweet.
Daily specials bring the locals back for different nights of the week. The bravest of them tackle the Big One Challenge, which goads eaters into consuming a five-pound cheeseburger in thirty minutes.
Everything at Sylvester’s is done better at every turn. The dive decor is a little more charming. The beer is a little fresher. The fries are a little crisper. The tomatoes are a little redder and riper. The booths are a little more comfortable, and, most importantly, the burgers are superb.