Tucson certainly has its share of spots to get a burger, be it meaty or vegan-y. From upscale takes starting at $20 because of the truffle shavings and the chef's pedigree to low-down dive bar options and everything in-between, Tucson has a wide variety of the all-American staple. So when a new endeavor pops up claiming to be the next big bun in town, the good Tucson food folk go in with a certain 'we'll see about that' attitude.
Entering Divine Bovine, I thought it was a small chain or local franchise. It was too clean, too efficient, with a sharp logo and employees wearing sharp-logo apparel. But Divine Bovine is a local joint launched by chef and owner Benjamin Rine, who launched Brushfire BBQ in 2007 and ran it for a decade before selling it.
"I was really looking for a break," Rine says. "Luckily, I was able to sell it almost two years ago, by choice and not by force. I took some time off for me and my family, but I always knew I wanted to open my own burger place."
Although he had fun during his sabbatical, he decided that running a restaurant is in his blood. As he experimented with various recipes and combinations, Rine was also on the hunt for a prime location.
"When I walked in here, I knew that I had found a home," says Rine. "I always have to have that 'ahh' feeling in a space for my business. It has to speak to my soul. This place definitely has that."
Located just off Speedway on Wilmot, the spot has plenty of foot and car traffic thanks to nearby anchors like Bookmans.
Having a background in all things meat, Rine came up with a fusion for his signature patties: brisket, short rib and lean—but not too lean—chuck. The order in which they go into the grinder is just as important as the quality of the beef, but he is keeping that bit of secretive delicious data to himself.
The signature Divine Bovine burger ($10.50) features thick bacon, sherry-buttered onions, sharp cheddar, house-made pickles, tomato jam and a spicy "divine" sauce. All the toppings are great, but the burger really shines. These aren't burgers to pick at or nibble on. Divine Bovine burgers are created to exercise our prehistoric, meat-eating past. You're going to get messy. Your friends and family are going to get messy. Your pets are going to get messy. You just have to accept that and gleefully adapt.
And then there are the fries. While the website boasts that Divine Bovine uses Kennebec potatoes, Rine ended up going with Pure Gold potatoes, which are a cross between Yukon Gold and Russet. The taters are hand cut and Rined overnight, then twice in low-heated peanut oil before hitting the freezer for another 12 hours. The next day, these little square, straw-shaped beauties get dunked in hot oil fresh with each order. Divine Bovine fries are immensely fluffy on the interior with a fantastic exterior bite.
But the decadence does not stop there. Rine, who is a huge fan of craft beer, has a collection of quality ales and lagers, ranging from local hitmakers to national micro and macro brews. You can mix and match three for around $10 and five for $15, because Rine wants you to discover good beer to go with his great food.
Beyond the beef, Divine Bovine delivers an awesome buttermilk fried chicken along with a vegetarian patty so close to its beef brethren that some customers have "complained" that it was too similar to the real thing. When I sampled the plant-based goods, I sure wasn't complaining.
Word of advice: Do not be afraid of peanut butter and jam on your burger. It is so a thing here. And, believe me, it is divine. ■