★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 4505 Burgers & BBQ makes a damn good cheeseburger. Some even call it the Best Damn Cheeseburger. Specifically, that’s what 4505 Meats calls it. Chef Ryan Farr selects his dry-aged, grass-fed beef from Magruder Ranch , butchers it on-site, and grinds it no more than 12 hours before cooking. Each 1/4" thick patty weighs in at four ounces before hitting the grill, where it sizzles for 90 seconds per side before being dusted with 1/4 teaspoon of finely-ground salt. 4505’s deliciously savory buns are made in-house. Aside from the requisite flour, yeast, egg and milk, Farr adds sliced scallions and pecorino to the mix. The scallions add a mild pungency, while the cheese lends the bun its creamy texture. The fresh-baked buns are brushed with butter and grilled (also for 90 seconds) until they develop a crust firm enough to withstand the juice that oozes from the tender patty. Topping-wise, 4505 keeps things fairly traditional. Mayonnaise, sweet relish, ketchup and mustard are combined into a single sauce in a sequentially diminishing ratio of 2:1 (half as much relish as mayonnaise, half as much ketchup as relish, etc.). A slice of iceberg lettuce mediates the transition from burger to bun, aided by thinly sliced red onions and a 1/16" thick slice of gruyere. The cheese is actually added to the patty after the first flip, allowing it to melt perfectly over the meat. Finally, a 1/4" slice of tomato is added, but only if they’re in season. In a later review I may address the thinness of onions, but the standout ingredient here is the missing tomato. As noted in our review of Mission Beach Café, even a tiny tomato can play a vital role. Indeed, 13 of the 20 burgers we’ve reviewed to date have included some variety of solanum lycopersicum. For some it is integral to the burger concept. For most it feels more like an obligatory add-on. After taking so much care to personally select their beef, bake their own bread, and cook and dress their burger to such exacting standards, 4505 Burgers & BBQ’s conditional commitment to the tomato is as understandable as it is laudable. I’m not going to get into just how awful off-season tomatoes are, but Barry Estabrook’s book, Tomatoland, will turn you off of them forever. Imagine tomatoes grown in sterilized, plastic-covered sand, sprayed weekly with any number of 110 different pesticides, herbicides and fungicides, picked while they are hard and green, then inundated with ethylene gas (to turn them red) and you begin to understand why chef Farr refuses to desecrate his burgers with them. It’s part of his unwavering dedication to quality and control, and one more reason that the Best Damn Cheeseburger just may just be the best damn cheeseburger. The Creative Lesson Beware the weakest link. I once worked on an annual report for an oncology-focused biotech company. The content was based around heroic profiles of the scientists, researchers and caregivers involved with their clinical trials. Early concept layouts included dramatic full-page portraits with each profile. I spent a week obsessively kerning the text (yes, every word), hanging punctuation (in Quark 4.5 mind you!), and meticulously eliminating every word break. We worked closely with the printer to test quad-tone effects for the portraits, find the right combination of paper weights, and experiment with metallic inks on uncoated stock. The piece earned me my first Type Directors Club award, and to this day I’m deeply embarrassed by it. At the eleventh hour, the client decided that the people they’d tapped for the profiles were too important to be troubled for a photo shoot. Instead they had them send us snapshots of themselves which we then blew up to the full-page format they’d fallen in love with. The results were hideous. Back then I didn’t have the courage (or the authority) to insist on a change of direction—nor the insight to realize that everyone would be better off if we just eliminated the photos altogether. For those interested in excellence, only excellence can survive; design, after all, is only as strong as its weakest element. From now on I’m calling these destructive elements killer tomatoes.