Nov 21, 2009

Blanc Addiction

Sometimes I go on a kick of eating at the same restaurant many times over the course of a few months. As someone who enjoys reviewing area restaurant both new and old, this can be a guilty pleasure... I always feel a responsibility to try restaurants I haven't visited yet. But I just can't get Blanc Burgers + Bottles off my brain!  This is how I know it's a truly outstanding restaurant.

On a recent Saturday night, finally coming down from a period of busy weekends out with friends and family for our birthdays among other things, we had nothing planned come 7 o'clock. The night, and our dinner plans, were a destiny of our own choice and it took no debate, no consternation, no time... to decide on Blanc.

Blanc is a small burger joint in the heart of Westport - 419 Westport Road, to be exact. The decor upholds the name; a white bar top with white bar chairs and white liquor cabinets greets patrons upon entering, as does a fantastic beer selection. Nicely organized by beer type, there are lots of beers from which to choose, including Boulevard's smokestack series, which is tremendous fun for pairing with food like gourmet hamburgers.

On our trip, the polite hostess unfortunately forgot about us until about the time we were down to the last sip of our beers (Left Hand Milk Stout for me - creamy and soothing) but more than compensated for the slip by generously offering to purchase an appetizer for us! We morphed that into two more free beers (strong ones - Unibroue's La Fin du Monde, 9% ABV) to pair with our dinner.

The last thing I need in my diet is more red meat - I try to limit my intake to once a week but go over that allotment often - but it's hard to resist when you're at a hamburger joint. If one does venture out of the cow zone, there are several options available. The pork burger is very tasty and I do recommend it. But I think that was a one-and-done thing for me. It's the red meat that's so exceptional here.

Beef burgers are made with a combination of premium, yet fatty, meats including Tenderloin, Ribeye and NY Strip (the best parts of any cow!). They're thick yet tender. One can tell the meat is not only top quality, but handled properly and by that I mean not handled too much at all.

On this trip, however, we went back to the fabulous Bison burger. Generally speaking, bison is a lean red meat. Somehow I think they choose very rich pieces of bison to grind into this burger, though, because it's just as juicy and tender as the cow-beef burgers. Not a hint of gaminess to it, either, just succulent and delicious. Topped with pepperjack cheese, deliciously sweet peppadew pepper jam, butter lettuce, onion and mayo, it's amazing. But with the perfectly over-medium fried egg built into the equation that our waiter so skillfully recommended, it's an absolute killer.

Burgers come with a sweet, homemade pickle on the side. I never used to be a fan of sweet pickles, but have completely changed my tune after a few of these. It's a great contrast of texture and flavor with the rich burger, with its crunch and zing.

The other available sides, the ones you pay for, add to the phenomenon that brings this place back to mind so frequently. The beer batter on the Boulevard Pale Ale onion rings is that smoother, crunchier batter... a casing completely encompassing the sweet, thick-cut onions rather than a bread crumb dusting that flakes off and coats your fingers when you pick one up. Perfect. For those looking for the utmost in high fashion grub, there are the superb truffle fries. The earthy, unctuous potato sticks can be smelled throughout the restaurant, giving the whole place an air of mystery and richness that lets you know it's more than just a greasy spoon.

True gourmands downplay the use of condiments, especially ketchup. I happen to love Heinz 57 and French's yellow mustard on burgers, fries and rings, but they're unnecessary at Blanc. Diners receive small portions of ketchup and aioli with their orders, but don't go asking for the server to bring you a bottle of ketchup. If you do, you're not paying attention to the quality of the food you're consuming. Burgers all come topped with thoughtful house-made condiments and the sides are so impeccably made, they just shouldn't be soaked in anything before they reach your mouth.

I struggled mightily with what rating to give Blanc. For what it is - the coolest burger spot in town - the menu and quality of food is nothing short of perfect. The vibe is great. The service is good enough not to stand in its way. But my mental tussle revolved around my feeling that there are so few comfortable places to sit in this little place. Overall, Blanc's square-footage is very limited and the wall separating the kitchen from the dining room makes it so that the majority of the seats in the house seem to have just barely been squeezed in. This layout does something to me psychologically... it makes me think of Blanc as a first stop on a weekend night out. It could never be the crown jewel my evening. But while that criticism may have deducted a napkin from many restaurants, I cannot fault Blanc for it.

Blanc's a burger joint. Burger joints, by nature, are meant to be in-and-out (or literally "In-N-Out"). But Blanc has a great combination of excitement within a reasonably comfortable setting. It's the perfect jumping-off spot for a great night out on the town. It was created with a singular vision in mind and delivers 100% on that vision. I love it, and for these reasons, Blanc is a four napkin restaurant.

Rating: four napkins

Blanc Burgers + Bottles (Westport) on Urbanspoon


Foodie32 said...

PS - There is a second Blanc location down at Mission Farms. This review does not necessarily hold true for that location. I have not been there and probably never will since the Westport location is so much closer to where I live. But sometimes, the restaurants that start downtown or in midtown and expand to southern locations in the city don't carry over their charm, so while I'd say it' safe to assume Blanc at Mission Farms' food is equally terrific, my four napkin rating does not necessarily apply.

abruce said...

Hmmmm. Never been to Blanc, but now it's definitely on the list to try!

Jmeg said...

I LOVE the truffle fries. simply divine. also love their blue cheese burger. yum! I will add to the location comments and mention that they are putting in another location on the plaza where UNO's used to be. Last I knew it was scheduled to open in December. With all that space it might help with the atmosphere!

Foodie32 said...

Oh man. That is within walking distance of my house. Danger. Danger. Danger.

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