BRGR in the Power and Light District

BRGRBRGR, one of the Bread & Butter Concept restaurants, just opened a second location downtown. Their first, in Corinth, has been successful since the day it opened. The new one, in the Cordish-owned Power and Light District, is one of the few independently owned retail establishments in the mix.BRGR

The new space is gorgeous, and just what you’d envision when creating a burger joint that appeals to sports fans. Flat screen TVs abound, but there are booths and tables in the dining room where those who don’t want to take in a game aren’t forced to. Like the original, this has a warehouse motif, with lots of wood and metal throughout the vast space.

The menu is similar to the BRGR in Corinth and focuses on burgers and sandwiches, with a few tacos, pork shoulder and BBQ shrimp thrown in for good measure. (Bread and Butter also owns Taco Republic, Gram & Dun and Urban Table.)Salmon sandwich--BRGR

I had the salmon “Not-So-Burger”, a blackened filet sandwich with chipotle aioli and onion marmalade. I asked them to top it with some spicy slaw instead of the mixed greens that were listed, and I had a winner. The salmon was cooked to order and I enjoyed every bite. My husband had the veggie burger, which is made with lentils, black beans and beets. I always enjoy it, but I wouldn’t rank it as high as the veggie burgers at Blanc or the Burger Stand in Lawrence, but it’s certainly a nice alternative to their many beef offerings.P1020315P1020318

We shared fries, which come with a multitude of homemade sauces, and Brussel sprouts, both of which we had no trouble polishing off.Brussels Sprouts--BRGR

We sat at the bar and enjoyed talking to the bartender, who provided good service in addition to good conversation. The only disappointment of the evening was that the restaurant was not very busy. There wasn’t a concert or sporting event at the Sprint Center, nor was there a convention in town, all of which usually drive traffic to their door. I’ve heard comments about it being a bit pricey, but remember that they have to pay the rent. I  hope Kansas Citians will appreciate the risk the Gaylins, owners of the Bread & Butter Concepts, made in opening downtown among the big boys in the District. This is just the type of restaurant the P&L District needs, and I hope it gets the support it needs to stick around.BRGR Power and Light

BRGR Kitchen + Bar on Urbanspoon

Gott’s Roadside Stand–Napa Valley

Ever heard of Taylor’s Automatic Refresher? It was the model for Rob Dalzell’s now shuttered Chef Burger, but it has drawn crowds in St. Helena and Napa for years. It recently changed hands and is now called Gott’s Roadside, but nothing else has changed.

This is no ordinary burger drive-in, though that’s exactly what it looks like. There is a long list of hamburgers, ranging from the Wisconsin Bacon Blue to the Texas burger. The ones we sampled were good, not great. But you can also order a cobb or Chinese chicken salad, chicken sandwiches in the style of the burgers, and even fish tacos. I had the ahi tuna burger, a thick tuna steak cooked rare and topped with Asian slaw and ginger wasabi mayo and served on the same egg bun as the other sandwiches. Sauces dripped down my arm as I sunk my teeth into this hefty two-hander–it was fabulous.

We sampled regular French fries, garlic fries, sweet potato fries and onion rings, none of which compared to Blanc Burger in Kansas City, but we managed to devour them anyway. The milkshakes, on the other hand, were winners. It’s probably best to judge a restaurant by how well they do a vanilla or chocolate shake, but we went for the mint chip and espresso bean shakes and they were outrageously delicious…and the perfect thickness. Not so thin that it’s like milk and not so thick that a straw is useless.

A good selection of beer and wine round out the menu, which is something you don’t often see at a roadside stand.

This is not a drive-in in terms of ordering. You walk up to a window, place your order and wait for your name to be called before hauling your tray to whatever free table you can find. There’s no indoor seating, though  covered outdoor seating is an option in inclement weather. On a typical California day, the ideal place to sit is at one of the backyard picnic tables.

I have heard that the food is not as good at Gott’s as it was at Taylor’s Automatic Refresher. Though I never had an opportunity to try the original roadside stand, based on our experience  I would buy that assessment. However it’s a very fun place to go on a pretty afternoon. I would definitely go back for the atmosphere and the ahi tuna sandwich. Probably a salad, too, if my snooping around the tables is any indication.

Gott's Roadside on Urbanspoon

B.R.G.R. Kitchen + Bar

My friends keep asking what I think of  B.R.G.R. Kitchen + Bar. Well, after my visit earlier this week, I can finally tell them.

I enjoyed the experience.  The place has a very cool industrial-chic thing going on, with wood tables and floors that are offset by metal chairs and fixtures. The dining room has high ceilings and can be noisy when full, but there is a separate bar area with TVs and tall tables, as well as an outdoor space. I had heard mixed reviews of the service, but ours was outstanding–attentive, friendly and efficient.

We started with the Blue Cheesy Chips, homemade potato chips with a blue cheese sauce and crumbles. The potato chips were crisp and yummy, as was the sauce, but someone in the kitchen had a heavy hand with the black pepper which detracted somewhat from the dish.

I had one of the “Historical Burgers”, the BRGR, a beef patty with caramelized onions mixed into the meat, and topped with mustard and pickles. I ordered it medium rare, which is how it was served, and it was juicy and flavorful.  However, I would never have known there were onions inside the burger, and would order grilled onions atop the patty next time. (Perhaps that added to the flavor, but it’s not something I picked up on).

We also ordered a combo of sides, and chose BRGR fries, sweet potato fries and onion straws. They were delightfully presented, on a wood plank, with each portion of fries served in a tin camp cup. (Or perhaps an oil can, in keeping with the service station motif.) The regular fries were excellent, thin and fairly crisp, though the sweet potato fries were thick and didn’t have much taste. The onion straws could have been a bit less limp, but we had no trouble finishing them.

The unisex bathrooms take a little getting used to–the stalls themselves are completely private, but all users share the sinks. There were only women in the bathroom when I used it, but I think it would be a bit awkward otherwise.

Comparisons to Blanc Burger are inevitable, and I’d have to say that though the B.R.G.R burgers are tasty and juicy, the toppings and combinations aren’t as sophisticated as Blanc’s.The menu is much larger, and features many entree salads as well as hot dogs and mac n’cheese. There is a vegetarian burger with lentils, carrots, onions and beets, which is on my list to try next time,  a turkey burger, a Portobello mushroom burger, a grilled cheese sandwich and a grilled chicken sandwich, so you don’t have to be a burger lover to enjoy your meal. I hope they add a bison burger at some point, since they are leaner and more healthful than a traditional beef burger.

The latest trend is for restaurants to make their own ketchup, mustard and, in some cases, pickles. While I like Blanc’s homemade offerings, most restaurants’ renditions seem to fall short and B.R.G.R.’s are no exception. Give me Heinz anytime.

With burger places popping up all over the country, Kansas City is certainly getting its fill, but I’m sure residents of Prairie Village are happy to  have a restaurant of this quality in their neck of the woods.

BRGR Kitchen + Bar on Urbanspoon

Smashburger

Smashburger has come to town. The chain started in Denver just three years ago, and there are now close to 60 locations around the country. I went to a sneak peek prior to its opening and sampled a substantial amount of food.

The menu is all about burgers of course, although a chicken breast can be substituted on any sandwich. There are several signature burgers, or you can choose to build your own. I tried the Kansas City Smashburger, made specially for this area, with swiss cheese, mushrooms, grilled onions, haystack onion straws and A-1 sauce. The Baja sandwich has guacamole, jalapeno, pepperjack cheese, tomato, lettuce and chipotle mayo. Other choices include the Classic Smashburger with cheese, lettuce, pickle, onion, tomato and Smash sauce, which had a mild mustard base.

There are fries with rosemary and garlic, sweet potato fries, haystack onions, regular fries, and even veggie fries and fried pickles. Shakes and salads round out the menu.

The concept is great-order at the counter and a server brings your meal, quickly and with a smile. Outdoor dining is a welcome option.

Prices are very reasonable–$4.99 for a 1/3 pounder, $5.99 for a 1/2 pounder. I place it somewhere between Winstead’s and Blanc Burger, both in terms of quality and price. The beef is okay, but doesn’t compare to a Blanc burger (nor is it trying to). Though it’s been a while since I’ve eaten at a Five Guys, it’s probably closest to that ilk. The basic fries reminded me of McDonald’s (not a compliment), but the haystack onions were quite tasty. I didn’t care for the rosemary on the Smash fries, but I can understand the appeal. Shakes are made with Haagen-Daz ice cream, can’t go wrong there.

This new chain has been very successful around the country–I suspect it will be a hit in Kansas City, too.

Smashburger on Urbanspoon

Ray’s Hell Burger

Kansas Citians don’t have to travel to Washington, DC to find a good burger, but  if you find yourself  in our nation’s capital, hop on the metro and take it to the Courthouse stop and walk the few blocks to Ray’s Hell Burger.

Ray’s Hell Burger is an offshoot of the wildly successful Ray’s the Steak. Both concepts feature top quality meat served in a no frills setting. Neither restaurant accepts reservations, but most people don’t mind the long waits because of the payoff once they sit down.

At Ray’s Hell Burger, customers form a line the length of the narrow restaurant. Diners are asked not to take a table until they pay for their order and get a number. There’s ample opportunity to study the menu, which consists of nothing but burgers and fries. But it’s a bit more complicated than that. The humongous 10 oz beef patties (no veggie or turkey burgers here) can be served with a myriad of toppings at no extra charge, including pickles, jalapenos, grilled onions, roasted garlic and a couple of specialty sauces. For a small upcharge, you can add cheese, including brie, Stilton and smoked gouda, as well as guacamole, bacon and even foie gras and bone marrow. To make the process easier, the menu also features a number of signature combinations.

I tried the B.I.G. Poppa,  an Au Poivre Burger, described as a ” Black Peppercorn Crust, Aged Danish Bleu Cheese, Cognac & Sherry Sauteed Mushrooms, Grilled Red Onions”. It’s not for the dainty eater, or someone without an appetite. I managed to plow through almost the entire sandwich–I loved every bite. I’m very picky about my burgers–I don’t eat meat very often and when I do it had better be special, and this was.

The French fries were just okay. The sweet potato fries were better, but they both struck me as an afterthought. I get  that the emphasis is on the burgers, but considering that fries go with hamburgers the way jelly goes with peanut butter, I think Ray’s would be well-served by paying a bit more attention to their preparation, preferably with skins and double-fried.

Adding to Ray’s appeal is that the basic burger costs $6.95. Given that two hands and one very wide mouth are needed to manage it,  that’s a real bargain, especially in one of the country’s most expensive cities.

Rumor has it that a second location will be opening in the coming months in the very trendy Adams-Morgan area.

Ray's Hell-Burger on Urbanspoon

The Burger Stand

Looking for a mouth-watering, juicy burger in downtown Lawrence? This is the spot. The Burger Stand-LawrenceIt is here that  the humble burger rises to new heights, with upscale options like bison, kobe beef and falfel burgers, and duckfat and truffle fries.  The Burger Stand is in the back of Dempsey’s Irish Pub, an unusual arrangement that works well for Dempsey’s,  as well as Burger Stand’s culinary team of  Robert and Molly Krause, and Simon and Codi Bates. The Krauses are the owners of the soon-to-close Krause Dining and a soon-to-open casual Latin American venue on Mass Ave.

No trend has been more predominant in Kansas City than the gourmet burger, and in Lawrence it is pulling in customers to Dempsey’s that would otherwise never know the place existed. It’s a welcoming bar that now has good food to go along with all those beers on tap.

My favorite is the bison burger, unfortunately not a regular menu item. I have also enjoyed the vegetarian burger, an unlikely combination that features green beans and romesco sauce atop a robust lentil patty. Even the classic is prepared as a burger should be, with a top quality blend of meat.  A recent special featured a Mexican pork burger with housemade mole sauce. In fact, all of the sauces, from cherry-pepper ketchup to a guajillo-chile dip are made in house. I enjoyed the fries, though I have yet to find duckfat fries as memorable as those I had at Duckfat in Portland, Maine. So I stick to the traditional or sweet potato fries at the Burger Stand, no hardship to be sure.

The Burger Stand offers  friendly service with those burgers, so for a quick bite before a KU game, put this on your list.

Dempsey's Irish Pub on Urbanspoon

Swagger Fine Spirits and Food

I have been reading about Swagger for several months and was very interested to check it out. The fact that chefs frequent it when away from their own kitchens was intriguing to me, and now I know why. I went for lunch the other day and had a great burger.

It’s most definitely a bar, first and foremost, but the food is definitely NOT an afterthought. The list of beers on tap is lengthy, but the menu is just as long. Burgers are a highlight, with the specialty of the house being tempura battered and topped with sriracha sauce and wasabi coleslaw. But the hamburgers need no embellishment–the meat is hand ground and extremely juicy. Practically every bite sent juice dripping down the plate (or arm). The French fries are hand cut and lightly seasoned. They reminded me of the old Jake Edwards fries–not a bad comparison in my book. Other menu items include dozens of sandwiches, salads, wings and even breakfast.

We were there at lunch and the bartender took our order. Service was efficient and friendly. Though women would definitely feel comfortable here, this would be a perfect venue for a guys’ night out. The fare is hearty, the bar is well stocked and, though the TVs aren’t huge, they are tuned to sports at all hours.

Swagger on Urbanspoon