Burger bars that opened during the second half of 2013 evidence the category’s continuing emphasis on the “bar” half of the name. Just look at the names: Blind Rabbit: A Burger & Whiskey Bar; The Burg-Burger & Bar; BUZZ – Burgers, Barrels & Beer.
That doesn’t mean burgers are neglected, however. A recent Blind Rabbit special was The Situation burger, a hot mess of beef, hand-cut fries, chili, spicy sour cream, Cheddar and green onions. The other trend much apparent here is the move to in-house grinding of ground beef, along with made-on-premise condiments. These currents also were present among the 30 burger joints opened during the first half of 2013 that I profiled here in July.
Burger bars’ continuing melding of beer, win and spirits with moderately priced food means the better-burger segment could replace many of the worn-out casual-dining concepts developed in the 1970s (see Red Lobster’s troubles).
The burger category remains the restaurant industry’s most interesting segment. Here are more reasons, new reasons why.
A just-opened locavore concept that prides itself on sourcing from Northeast family farms. The $5.95 Quinn Burger has pineapple, hot peppers, arugula, American cheese and Niman Ranch applewood-smoked bacon. Go $14.95 for the Winkler with Wagyu beef, burrata cheese, Niman Ranch bacon, caramelized onion and fig jam.
B&B Burger & Beer
Perhaps the year’s most anticipated new burger joint. Celeb chef Mario Batali and business partner Joe Bastianich’s place may be in the toney Venetian Resort but the menu manages a homey charm. Burgers are freshly ground Black Angus beef. Choices includes The Drive-Thru ($9) has two patties, American cheese and B&B pickles on a sesame-seed bun. Top-of the line Really Good ($16) has heritage bacon, Gorgonzola cheese, onion and Chianti mustard on a potato bun.
BBD’s: Beers, Burgers & Desserts
Rocky Point, N.Y.
There’s a 30-foot-long bar with six whiskey and bourbon draft taps plus dozens of bottled craft beers. The burgers are ground in-house and customers can choose to have theirs grilled, griddled or steamed. The grilled Steakhouse Burger gets you a 12-oz. patty. Desserts include a Mini French Toast Apple Pie with sour-cream ice cream and dulce de leche,
The Blind Rabbit: A Burger & Whiskey Bar
Jacksonville Beach, Fla.
Blind Rabbit is another burger bar that doesn’t forget the bar. The burger menu includes a $12 Southern Burger with fried green tomato, Creole pimiento cheese, peach habanero hot sauce, arugula, Georgia Cane Syrup and pickled okra on an artisan bun. But the menu’s big: Other entrée choices include shrimp and grits, smokehouse rib-eye, bourbon pork chop and more. A dozen beers are offered on draft and there are great bourbon-based cocktails.
Bolt opened with a burst of press coverage because of its use of technology: iPads at the tables and digital ordering kiosks. Created by a consortium of eye doctors, Bolt is fast casual paired with high-profile spices and flavors. Customers can build their own burgers for $6.99 or pick a signature Prime Angus beef burger. The $7.99 Bolt Classic has aged Vermont Cheddar and house Killer Ketchup. The Good Earth ($9.99) has toasted peppercorn and herb spices, Gruyère cheese, roasted shallot and sweet garlic relish and grilled field mushrooms. Wine and beer are available.
The Burg: Burger & Bar
The burgers at this bistro are proudly touted as 100% Canadian Certified Angus Chuck, ground in-house; the bar side has signature cocktails, wines and beers (including a weekly “Mystery Beer”). The house-made Two-Day Gravy for poutine and other dishes really does get that much simmering time. The signature The Burg burger is stuffed with cured-and-smoked in-house bacon, “creamy melty cheese & mysteriously not-hot jalapeňos” and it’s topped with house Burg sauce, onion rings, lettuce and tomato with an onion bun.
BUZZ – Burgers, Barrels & Beer
“Made by Burger Experts for Burger Lovers” is the motto and the Certified Angus Beef burgers are creative and moderately priced. The $10 American Burger has aged Cheddar, smoked bacon, charred-balsamic onion and fried egg on an onion bun. For trend-followers there’s a $13 Ramen Kobe Burger on a house-made ramen-noodle bun and a Donut Burger with aged Wisconsin Cheddar, pepper-Jack, house truffle aïoli, house ketchup, bacon and caramelized strawberries on a glazed doughnut bun. Sides include house-made tostones (fried plantain) with garlic dip.
You could choose the $3.69 Daft Burger with lettuce, tomato, Daft Sauce, ketchup and pickles, but there are plenty of great burgers and specials here. How about a Date & Gorgonzola Bacon burger or Jalapeňo Cream Cheese? The $4.49 Bacon Boy has, yes, bacon plus white Cheddar, white American, pepper-Jack, grilled onion and mayo. Still not sure? Make up your own burger.
Dee Lincoln Steak & Burger Bar
A co-founder of the high-end Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House chain, Dee Lincoln is back in the game with a Dallas restaurant that claims “The Best Gourmet Burgers in Texas,” paired with Allen Brother’s prime steaks. Get the $39 rib-eye or the more approachably priced burgers, including The Fried Green Tomato (Creole rémoulade, roasted red bell peppers and mozzarella) or The Benedict (sunny-side-up egg, béarnaise, tomato-bacon jam, frisée).
Drakes introduces itself as the “Home of the Merlot Burger” and, sure enough, the menu offers seven merlot-infused-beef burgers plus a bison and two veggie burgers, all at $4.25 (they’re not big, so the menu advises picking two). The South American tops that merlot patty with grilled Chorizo sausage slices, cherry-fennel goat cheese and arugula. The full bar offers cocktails, wines and a modest (six on tap) selection of beers.
Greasy Bend Burgers
Fort Worth, Texas
Owner George Palmer has shifted from running CiCi’s Pizza franchises to the burger category. Greasy Bend’s name derives from an long-ago nickname for the city’s northeast neighborhood. The limited menu is old-style, too: Choose a burger ($3.95), cheeseburger, bacon cheeseburger, chili cheeseburger and veggie burger. Fries are $1.50. Friendly service is free.
A sibling to Bucktown Burger & Fish Co. (both owned by Andrew Jaeger). Burgers are freshly ground; buns are from Bayona Restaurant owner Susan Spicer’s Wild Flour Breads. The 7-oz. Muscle Burger has grilled baked ham, Nueske’s bacon and an onion and grilled mushroom medley. Horseradish-dill aïoli, lettuce, tomato and pickles are there for the asking.
Ketchup Premium Burger Bar
A brightly lit, slickly retro burger bar inside the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. The breakfast-style Wakey Wakey tops Angus beef with bacon, a fried egg, sweet potato fries and Cheddar. The Western goes with bacon, Cheddar, fried onions and hickory ketchup.
A tiny (1,000 square feet,; 15 counter seats) fast-casual offshoot of popular full-service restaurant Parts & Labour, P&L Burger’s modern malt shop feel and 6.5-oz. burgers already are making fans. The menu is small, too, with a half-dozen burgers. The $9 Castor has Cheddar, Canadian-style peameal bacon, fried onions, lettuce and barbecue sauce.
Stacked STL has it covered: a complete breakfast menu; full bar; signature burgers or build your own; daily specials; live music on Fridays and Saturdays; and a game room. Why would you leave? Burgers are half-pound ground-chuck patties. The $9.49 Big Fat Greek Burger has roasted red pepper hummus, pickled cucumber and red onion, spinach, kalamata-olive relish and feta on a wheat bun.
Originally CK Burger (it’s next door to owner Lance London’s The Country Kitchen restaurant), it’s now TKO Burger. The Original TKO Burger is a 6-oz. Certified Angus Beef patty with lettuce, tomato and choice of toppings. The Jerk Burger is tossed in a special 33-spice jerk rub and served on a bed of cilantro topped with Swiss cheese and grilled pineapple. TKO already has plans for four more D.C./Va. Locations.
Twist & Smash’d
Forest Hills, N.Y.
Just opened a few weeks ago, this spot’s signature items here are smashed-on-the-griddle Angus beef burgers and twisted potatoes (a treat owner Robert Cano encountered in Ecuador). The Italian Smash’d burger has pesto, Portobello mushroom and mozzarella for $6.50 ($9.50 for a double). Twisted potato is $2.50.