BRGR – East Liberty
My wife and I plan the week’s nightly dinner menu every Sunday morning and typically do a really good job sticking to the script. That is at least up to Wednesday evening. Come Thursday, if the scheduled meal isn’t particularly enticing it becomes extremely difficult for us not to give into our more gluttonous desires and head out on the town for something else. On this particular Thursday evening a frozen bag of PF Chang’s stir-fry lost the battle to the idea of gourmet hamburgers. The list of toothsome hamburger bistros continues to grow in the Pittsburgh region and we decided to partake in the charming hipster atmosphere of BRGR in East Liberty.
We approached and found street parking at capacity and had to circle around the block three times until a nearby metered spot on Centre Avenue finally opened up. BRGR offers valet parking but the thought of the additional cost on top of the pricey hamburger I was about to eat was just too much for the parsimonious part of me to bear. Being a weekday evening the restaurant was busy but not overcrowded and we were immediately seated near the front windows along the east wall. Though not known as a sports bar, BRGR has a multitude of televisions hanging on the walls throughout the downstairs bar and restaurant areas that broadcast a mix of local and national games. All these flat screens help diffuse the hipster affectation that is required by law in all East Liberty restaurants. The rest of the décor was pleasantly modern but mostly nondescript with the greatest flourish being some distressed leather couches near the front entrance.
BRGR has an extensive seasonal draft beer list and I decided to try the Michigan Brewing Screamin’ Pumpkin Spiced Ale (6% ABV – Pumpkin Ale). It was the most inspired version of a pumpkin libation I’ve ever had and tasted like a perfect combination between Magic Hat #9 and a Yankee Candle. I hope Michigan Brewing takes that as a complement because it really was quite good. As a starter we ordered the housemade chips with crack dip. The well-seasoned chips were suitably crisp and thick enough to stand scooping big hunks of dip. Unfortunately this valuable feature was wasted due to my not liking the dip all that much. It tasted like someone got stoned and decided to melt nacho cheese and black bean salsa together in the microwave. This dip did have the surname of a lowly street drug so I probably shouldn’t have expected much elegance. My wife really loved it so maybe I just don’t have that high of a predilection for crack.
My burger of choice this evening was the Kobe beef cooked to a medium rare. It came delivered in-between a big bready brioche bun and was topped with blue cheese, roasted tomatoes, pickled red onion, and arugula (lettuces much fancier cousin). The burger was perfectly cooked and so juicy that eating it turned into a messy affair. It was too big to fit into my mouth* so I cut it in half for dipping into the side of spicy aioli. My wife and I also split an order of fries with the truffle cheese whiz to go with our burgers. I was happy with the herb-dusted spuds but underwhelmed with the accompanying dipping sauce. I’m not a big cheese whiz guy so this could just be my personal preference because once again my wife enjoyed it.
BRGR also specializes in alcoholic milkshakes but on this particular evening I decided against adding another eight hundred calories to my already unhealthy meal. This is just one example of the many sacrifices I make to maintain my boyish figure and status as a trophy husband.
Final Call: The ambience of BRGR was a little pretentious but fortunately the unassuming décor and televisions kept the place from becoming too uppity. The burger was deliciously juicy and the accompanying buns were Kim Kardashian-esque in their size and butteriness. The crack and truffle dips were unfortunately Khloé Kardashian-esque due to their comparative lack of refinement and general tediousness. Regardless of these small missteps, BRGR is a vibrant trendy locale for a succulent gourmet burger served with hipster flare.
* That’s what she said. Or that’s what he said. I don’t discriminate.