First I saw it in the newspaper, then on posters outside; to celebrate Utsunomiya’s 120th birthday, Freshness Burger is having limited special Tochigi-only items (and even with that, only 4 stores in the prefecture), which are the gyoza burger and the gyoza dog. To be honest, the first time (more like first several times) I heard of this special, it wasn’t anything that I felt like I had to try. It couldn’t even grasp the concept of what it was, exactly. (I even ate the gyoza burger, and have seen many pictures of what the gyoza dog is supposed to be, and I still don’t really understand the latter.) However, one day I was feeling it, and seeing that the special is ending soon, decided to try it. I had been to Freshness Burger only one other time 2 years ago and was pretty impressed, so I figured maybe they’d do this oddity right as well.
I walked into the restaurant, impressed by the cafe-like atmosphere, and ordered from the friendly staff at the register. Since this was my dinner, I decided to supplement my burger with some avocado croquettes which had caught my eye. I was handed my number plate and sat down. I felt like I was going to eat something high-class in what I know is a fast food restaurant.
My order came out momentarily, and, being the American that I am, just ditched the fancy burger wrapper cone they slide the burger in (I don’t even understand how to eat with that wrapped around the food) and bit in. It was a bit difficult to eat since the 4 or so deep-fried gyoza kept falling out of the bun, but that’s my only main complaint. That, and the fact that they call the burger officially the 宇都宮野菜餃子バーガー (or the “Utsunomiya Vegetable Gyoza Burger,” whereas the gyoza dog is literally just that–“GYOZA ドッグ”), the addition of “vegetables” in the name should be taken pretty liberally. The burger itself had a pat of lettuce and a few shavings of shiso and leek, but otherwise the vegetables were really a sideshow to the burger. I guess there was a decent amount of greens in the gyoza filling themselves, but still really not worth anything being mentioned in the title.
Ironically enough, the gyoza dog looks like it has quite a bit of vegetables, despite the lack of appearance in the official name.
In any case, the gyoza were actually very good. The sweet-sour-spicy sauce was also flavorful, and the bun was incredibly soft. I would definitely recommend trying it while you can.
Unfortunately, I cannot say the same thing for the avocado croquettes, which were just odd. It was basically like jalapeno poppers but with avocado filling instead of jalapeno and cheese–deep fried, creamy pockets of hot avocado. It just doesn’t match up well. But live and learn.
All in all, while it’s not a life-changing innovation, if you are near one of the 4 branches selling these (the Utsunomiya main branch in Orion Doori, the Bell Mall branch, the Interpark branch, and the Nasu Garden Outlet branch), it’s definitely worth giving a try. I may just return to solve the mystery of what the gyoza dog is before they disappear…