I don’t really eat red meat anymore. Not as a rule, necessarily, but I just began to realize how little I a) desired it, b) needed it, and c) missed it when I didn’t have it. While I sometimes find myself craving crunchy, slightly spicy fried chicken or a big greasy strip of bacon (especially if that strip of bacon is on a BLT), I never crave beef. I never think of all-beef hot dogs longingly. I never see a big juicy steak and think, “Mmm, I could go for that right now.” I don’t even crave burgers.
It wasn’t always that way, at least not with burgers. I used to love burgers. For a long time, my favorite thing to eat was a burger. A cheeseburger with pickles, lettuce, mustard, and ketchup. Maybe barbecue sauce if I was feeling adventurous. Later I embraced the tomato and onion, and my burger world blew wide open. I wanted the most lavish of burgers and the most minimalist. I made my own and experimented with what I could put on top and within the patty. When someone suggested fried egg, I said why not with hot sauce?
But oh, times change. Tastes develop, evolve, and alter. I enjoyed meat less and less and took to more veggies. I found myself desiring veggie burgers over the regular beef burgers, and then I started to stop craving burgers altogether. Grilled cheese sandwiches, every which way and variation, began to supplant the mighty burger.
What really finished off my burger cravings was a rare break in my red meat abstinence, brought on by the necessity of a long road trip. Stopping at a roadside rest stop, the options for food were meat, salt, meat, salt, salty meats, salted stuff cooked in animal-originated source, etc. Fast food. What’s a girl to do when road-weary, hungry, and faced with limited options?
NOT order a Mushroom Swiss Burger from a fast food stand, that’s for sure. I ordered somewhat foolishly, but only realized my mistake upon sinking my teeth into a soggy, horrible bun. I tasted…. gravy. Canned gravy. Everything was damp. Everything was flavorless, yet greasy. I ate half then tossed the rest in the closest garbage can I could find. To this day, I can’t believe I made it that far in. I must have been really, really tired.
Anyway, that was kind of the gross nail in the burger coffin. But I haven’t turned my back on burgers completely. I just… moved on. But when my friend, Kait, suggested Brgr in East Liberty, my curiosity at the hype surrounding the place was too great to resist. Reassured by a positive review from the veggie-friendly Foodburgh, I was ready to eat.
Upon entrance, we were immediately sat between a family with children (including a crying baby) and a foursome of elderly gentlemen. Fine fellow diners, to be sure, but… well, perhaps it was for fear that we would speak crassly around the children and older people, or maybe someone assumed (rightly) that we would prefer a little distance from the shrill shrieking of infants, but no more than a minute passed before a floor manager came over and swiftly moved us to a more secluded table along the wall. It was the kind of thoughtful gesture that we never would have expected but immediately colored the experience for us. As far as we were concerned, this basically guaranteed a nice experience.
The goodwill continued with our server, the friendly and helpful Jonas (a popular mention in the Urbanspoon reviews), who offered assessments on the alcoholic shake and burger options, gave us plenty of time to make our selections, and was generally a pleasant and reliable presence at our table. When he wasn’t making a frequent stop by our table, we were attended to by at least two other staff members. I’ve read a fair amount of complaints about the service at Brgr, but I’m going to assume that these were early, immediately-post-opening staffing problems that have now been resolved. As far as our experience with the staff went, we were nothing but impressed.
Brgr is definitely a bar and restaurant, so alcoholic beverages to go with those sandwiches was a given. But the inclusion of an inventive list of alcoholic milkshakes was the smart way to go. A burger and a shake is a great combo, especially when that shake features Dave and Andy’s ice cream and a fair amount of bourbon, the primary ingredients of my Salty Caramel shake. The vanilla bean and bourbon worked surprisingly well together, and the sea salt caramel sauce was delicious, although the shake could have used a bit more. Still, the shake held true to its name: Sweet, sticky, and a little salty.
Kait went with the Cupajoe, a milkshake of Jameson’s, espresso, and dark chocolate. As much as I liked mine, I had to admit that the Cupajoe was close to perfect. The chocolate balanced out the slight bitterness of the espresso, but the smartest idea was going with Jameson’s as the liquor. It kept the drink from being too sweet (unlike the effect of a liqueur like Ka, but Jameson’s is so smooth it offered only nuance to the flavors, no rude disruption.
For her Brgr burger selection, Kait went for the Gobble-Gobble: A turkey burger with stuffing, pickled green beans, and a cranberry aioli, plus a side of gravy for extra Thanksgiving-ness. Kait was overwhelmed by this wondrous concoction, the inventiveness, the taste, the surprising cohesiveness. The turkey burger itself was tender and juicy, a mild flavor to compliment the richness of the cranberry oil, and Kait especially liked the picked green beans, which added an extra crunch to the already crunchy stuffing. Despite a little spillage here and there, the burger held together remarkably well.
I debated back and forth between the Salmon burger, the “Tree Hugger” (a lentil-falafel veggie-friendly burger that seemed more than your average restaurant’s half-assed veggie sandwich offering), but thanks to a suggestion from Jonas, I went for the Fire in the Hole: Guacamole, jalapenos, pepper jack cheese, and chipotle mayo on a beef burger. If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll know that I’m a heat fiend. The spicier the better, especially on sandwiches where it can work so well with ingredients that might not otherwise pop. And so it was with this burger. The amount of heat was just right and it was carried through the layers perfectly, with the slightly spice of the mayo, the increased heat with the melted pepper jack, and of course the outright spicy jalapenos. But there was the guacamole to cool it all down, and of course, the burger, which was beef, very tasty, but not overly big, which was a pleasant change from the normal burger joint “more is more” mindset.
The burgers are served sans side and are of such sizable portions that they don’t really require one, but me and Kait opted to share a side of fried pickles. The pickles came heavily breaded and fried to a good crunch, but the pickle was still firm and crispy underneath. Anyone who has had a limp veggie buried within a saggy deep-fried breading will admit disappointment in an idea that is promisingly gluttonous, but fails to live up to said promise because of poor execution. The problem did not exist at Brgr. I would gladly helped myself to another fried pickle, but I was very quickly full.
I was really pleased with our visit. Whether the buzz is positive or negative, a new hot restaurant can very quickly become hyped to the point of over saturation. In my experience most of the negative things I had heard about the restaurant were quickly proven incorrect and the positives were more than backed up by the strong service, well thought out and prepared food, and decent atmosphere. If in just a few months of operation the restaurant seems to have fixed most of its problems, there’s no telling how good they can be in just a few months more. Here’s to a tasty and promising future for Brgr.