Set back from the street on the quieter end of Park Avenue, past Worcester mainstays of Blue Jeans Pizza, Loft 266, Leitrim’s and Shiraz (wonderful middle eastern fare) is the Park Grill & Spirits restaurant. A modest curb appeal with premium parking in front of the restaurant makes the space seem smaller than it really is. The front of the restaurant is the bar, adorned with a generous bar, table top seating and a section for live music. A small hallway leads back to a dining room with seating for upwards of 30-50 patrons during their busy hours. As we made our way back to the dining room, we noticed that we were the only ones there for dinner…a sad state of affairs for any restaurant on a mid-week night. Although, we were enjoying the peace and quiet, although we were still able to hear 90’s tunes being sung from the bar area, which unfortunately sounded more like karaoke than composed musicians.

Anyways, I digress…when it came to picking a burger, I needed to try something different. I had done the bacon route, and the mushroom route, with various cheeses and different toppings. But for those of you who may or may not know, I love a spicy burger. Every time I see a burger that might awaken my taste buds, I have to order it. However, I am usually searching for more heat and am disappointed at the end of the meal. So when I come across the XXR Burger on the menu, I am intrigued. The burger is topped with hot capicola, lettuce, tomato, onion, provolone cheese and XXR sauce. The XXR sauce was described by the waitress as extremely hot and spicy…sold! I got my burger with no tomato and cooked medium. When the burger came out, the XXR sauce was dripping from all sides of the burger, bright red in color, speckled with seeds from whichever pepper it was derived from and resembling liquid hot magma; a visual reminder of my impending doom. However, with taste buds intact, I dive in. The first bite was juicy and gooey with cheese. The burger, seemed to be cooked a nice medium, however appeared as though it was a frozen patty minutes before presentation. Then the heat from the sauce kicks in. Slowly at first and then quick and abrupt…like slamming on the brakes in your car or getting slapped across the face. My mouth was alive. For the first couple of bites, the sauce had great flavor. Very smoky and almost fruity in a sense, but the heat turned out to be cumulative. I found myself reaching for my soda and fries to help quench the unquenchable burn that was happening in my mouth and on my lips.

At this point, the onion, cheese and lettuce were rendered indistinguishable in texture and flavor as they were all consumed by the heat from the XXR sauce. The fries provided a crispy relief doused in ketchup, but this was one of those burns that only time and dairy could calm. After suffering through the end of my burger, I was overcome with joy knowing that I no longer had to consume anymore of this burger. I had apparently met my match when it comes to spicy burgers. You can’t say that I wasn’t warned, as the waitress gave an accurate description of the sauce and I still willingly jumped at the opportunity to try it. As the old saying goes, hindsight is 20/20…as was the case with my burger choice; decent sized patty, buttery bun, great toppings, yet overpowered by one ingredient. But as the burn slowly fades away, my vision is looking forward; forward to my next burger destination. Where will my burger quest take me next? I guess you will have to wait to find out. Until next time…

Have suggestions for burgers in the Central MA area? Tweet me at @edioufuc5.

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