Saturday, August 20, 2011

Burger Is The New Black

According to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, the local restaurant scene is "sizzling with grilled goodness." Incidentally, I happen to agree. It's abuzz. It's aflutter. It's about time.

The aforementioned article references several local restaurants which are specializing in gourmet burgers. But truth be told, I've only made it to one of these privately owned joints. I've never made it dahntahn to Winghart's Burger & Whiskey Bar in Market Square, across the Mon to Pittsburgh Burger Co. at The Waterfront, or over the Allegheny to Aspinwall to check ahhhht Burgatory. Location is crucial to my dining destination selection, and those three neighborhoods are not always convenient. For instance, you might meet Elvis before I'll ever drive dahntahn for dinner on the same evening as a Pens game or a Pirate game, let alone a Britney Spears concert (OMG-EE). As for The Waterfront, it feels like a tourist trap. I'd rather drive to OBX than go there. Lastly, A-wall just isn't on my radar. And, I've heard from reliable sources that they've had to wait hours to get a table at Burgatory. Hours? For burgers? That smell oh so tasty? In a shopping plaza? No thanks.

All of which brings me to Brgr bar. You see, East Liberty is the center is my universe. That being said, I've now been to Brgr bar three times*, and have been quite satisfied each time. The first visit was to satisfy curiosity, the second visit was because Shadyside Mad Mex had a 2 hour wait, and the third visit was to share it with family (JTP rode the bus there from dahntahn, and we drove in from Edgewood. In a word: ideal).

So here's my holistic review...
Brgr bar has great bartenders and a helpful, efficient waitstaff... I am partial to Bridgett. She is a sweetheart. For instance, she let my Aunt WFG sample three craft beers before actually choosing her libation. As a former cocktail waitress, I can appreciate this gesture. It's time consuming for the waitress, but quite helpful for the customer. On a sidenote, while I never write anything negative in my reviews, I feel as something must be mentioned. We did have to send my Uncle ESG's "Average Joe" burger back twice last night because the kitchen was having trouble with "well done." Bridgett handled it like a trooper... remember, it's not the waitstaff's fault if the kitchen can't get the food cooked to order.
It's like the Kansas prairie is involved in a functional love triangle with a steel town and a cattle farm. When you combine wheat, iron, aged wood, and leather with a breeze wafting in through the open wall... well, let's just say it's a pleasant blend of sensory details. If you need to see the game, there are a few flat screens in strategic corners; but because of the atmosphere, it's easy to forget that it's a bar. This of course, makes it a great backdrop for a date or friends/family dinner.
Here's what I know is fantastic:

  • Spiked Shakes: If it's your first time at Brgr bar, I recommend trying the "Salty Caramel" (bourbon, vanilla bean, caramel, sea salt). Quite frankly, with Dave and Andy's ice cream as the basis for these adult shakes, you will be undoubtedly satisfied. In college, I would eat Saltine's and yogurt for a week so that I could afford Dave and Andy's. You might say I learned to set priorities in college...  Anyway, if shakes aren't your thing, there are 14 beers on draft... like I said, priorities. 
  • Burgers: "Fire In The Hole" (guacamole, jalapenos, pepper jack, chipotle mayo); "Kobe Beef Burger" (picked onions, creamy blue cheese, oven-roasted tomatoes, fois gras); and my personal favorite, "Love You Long Time" (Ahi tuna patty, wasabi puree, pickled cucumbers, daikon radish, chili aioli, sweet soy sauce), which is one item I will reorder. 
  • Snacks: "Brgr Fries" (topped with thinly shredded parmesan and herbs); "Fried Onion Rings"  which should be dipped in "truffle cheese wiz" for a flavorul explosion; "House Made Chili" (cheddar cheese, sour cream, onions), which is spicy and hearty. I am a chili expert, and this version gets my approval; "House Made Chips" (I don't know what's in the accompanying "crack dip," but it's really delicious), which passed the Ruse's Roost test. If a joint's house made chips taste closely to this former Hopwood drive-in's chips, I will give them my endorsement.
House Made Chili

House Made Chips
  • Salads: "Greek Salad" (chopped romaine, diced tomatoes, black olives, diced cucumbers, banana peppers, feta, red onions, white balsamic vinaigrette and chicken). WFG used the word "amazing," like twenty times in the course of eating it. Personally, it had me at "banana peppers." Also, I loved the "Iceburg Wedge," but sadly, it's no longer on the menu. Its replacement, the "BLT Salad," doesn't compare. 
  • Desserts: "Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich" (Dave and Andy's vanilla ice cream between two chocolate chip cookies and dipped in chocolate cookie crumbs). By now, you know that I need my "change of taste," and sharing this with my date did the trick! 

Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich
On a side note, Brgr bar is quite child friendly, in an understated way. I appreciate how it gears itself to adults, while making room for kids. Last night in particular, there were multiple children in the place. Brgr bar has kid's menu items (a burger, a hot dog, or a grilled cheese) and they have kids' cups with lids and straws. This is reassuring in a world where kids are being banned from restaurants. At Brgr, parents can have a nice night ahhht in a privately owned place, while still feeling like they are up on the local restaurant trends. Of course, it's up to the parents whether or not they teach their children to behave in public, but that's a whole other issue.

BRGR on Urbanspoon

(3 stars, 3/4)

*Three times might not seem that significant. But each time you go the same place in the Burgh, you are missing ahhhht on trying one of the other interestingly innovative places in which to dine. Therefore, if I end up somewhere multiple times, it's better than good.