Oct 27, 2010

BRGR Battle

Restaurant: BRGR Kitchen + Bar
Location: 4038 W. 83rd St, Prairie Village, KS
Food: Burgers and a good bar
Service: Traditional waitstaff
Atmosphere: Loud and lively
Price: Burgers $8-$10, Sides $2.5-$7, Salads $8-$10
Rating: One napkin

What bar-b-cue is to Kansas City, the burger is to the United States as a whole.

In KC, bar-b-cue is obsessed-over. Done with infinite variations on the same classic idea and set of techniques by several restaurants, each claiming to have the very best.  And today, across the nation, burgers are very much in the limelight garnering the same type of obsession with chef-driven, gourmet ingredients and chic dining rooms popping up all over.

It would be unwise for me to say this burger trend could ever manifest itself here in Kansas City to an extent rivaling King Barbecue, but it is clearly seeping in.

Swept up in the burger craze, I ventured to the heart of PV recently to try BRGR Kitchen + Bar and, specifically, to compare it to the impressive Blanc Burgers + Bottles. Blanc, having received 4 Napkins in the past, is clearly a favorite. Would BRGR be on the same playing field?

Of foremost interest to me was the atmosphere at BRGR. Prairie Village is a hotbed of young families and, as such, many of its restaurants feel more like a McDonald’s play place, teeming with grubby faced toddlers, than I like. Listen, I’m a 20 something.  I want everything to be “cool,” “modern,” and “innovative.” Terms like “family-friendly” send shivers up my spine (I’ll grow out of this soon enough, I’m sure). So I was afraid BRGR would feel too juvenile.

It did not. The restaurant has a sort of warm industrial feel. A wooden sign and front door, wooden bar, wood-plank room dividers and wood ceiling lend a sort of contemporary cowboy toughness to the place. The walls were exposed brick and the floor a simple concrete. The materials and appearance were delightfully adult-appropriate, I decided. A great relief.

We bellied up to the bar during the short wait for our table, where we encountered a fantastic surprise – Free State Brewery beers on tap! Being Jayhawk alum, this is a sentimental favorite. Our Oktoberfests were deliciously malty with a crisp hoppy finish.  Across from the bar are a few indoor tables and then the outdoor patio, at which I can easily picture myself relaxing and enjoying a beer sometime in the future.

Next thing we knew, we were being seated at our table smack-dab in the middle of the main dining area, perusing the list of 23 entrĂ©e selections – 12 with beef, 2 slider selections and nine non-beef choices. Choosing among so many different burgers was difficult but I landed on the Big Hoss. All BRGRs are a half pound of certified angus beef (75/25). Massive and juicy. The Big Hoss also came with a fried egg, maple bacon, Wisconsin cheddar, steak sauce and onion straws on a corn bun, with a little bottle of Tabasco on the side ($9).

The quality I found most remarkable about this burger was its size, rather than any of its flavor components. I immediately cut it in half after deciding there was no way I could pick up the whole thing without dropping half its contents. It was huge. Too big, really.

I’m a big fan of burgers with a fried egg on them. At BRGR you can add one to any burger for a buck (same for Blanc). The one on my Big Hoss was nicely done, with a still-runny yolk. The bacon was thick cut which would have been great, except it wasn’t quite crispy enough. Each time I bit into it, the whole piece of bacon got yanked out of the burger; I couldn’t get just a single bite to come off. The other slight disappointment was the corn bun, which seemed bulky, a little dry and stale. When eating a burger, especially one with a half pound of meat, plus two other proteins on it, I don’t want to be overwhelmed with a thick, spongy bun, too. So a less-cumbersome choice would have been preferable. Still, these nits aside, it was a pleasurable burger.

For sides, we chose “THE COMBO,” which allows you to select ay three for $7. We chose the BRGR fries, sweet potato fries and onion rings (other choices were onion straws, truffle fries and truffle tator tots). Here, again, we were shocked at the portions, as we were delivered two metal coffee carafes filled to the brim with the fries and three giant onion rings. The BRGR fries were good, seemingly hand cut and with a nice texture. The sweet potato fries were pleasantly crispy, too. Not mushy the way they can be when done poorly. The onion rings could have been great – large and firm with a heavy, crumbly crust – but the breading had a cheap-tasting Italian herb flavor that we didn’t completely appreciate. It seemed unfitting in the context of the rest of the all-American menu.

Half of our burgers and two thirds of the sides did us in, despite starting out with huge appetites. We liked BRGR a great deal for its laid back, fun atmosphere, good selection and decent prices. Truth be told, though, I went back to Blanc last weekend with friends, had an Au Poivre burger on their Farm to Market salt and pepper brioche bun and confirmed that its smaller portion and superior taste/textures gave it a clear edge over what I had at BRGR. I’ll go back to BRGR, but it will likely be upon someone else’s request rather than my own.

Rating: one napkin
BRGR Kitchen + Bar on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

I live 2 minutes away from BRGR and after 3 visits won't return or suggest it to anyone. They flat out can't cook a burger to temp. They tend to be a bit full of themselves and can't take criticism well. They acted like it was our tables fault that they undercook all of our burgers then even after trying to cook the SAME burgers to temp (another pet peeve... fire another one don't cut ours in half and put it on the grill) they still undercooked it! They are too stuck on being an "in" place with dreams of getting bigger.
Their onion rings do have some nasty parmesan infused toe jam on them that makes you gag for ours. I really wanted this to be a solid neighborhood joint but now were stuck with two awful houses of grease... BRGR and Johnny's. Yuck.

KCNapkins Guy said...

Yowsa! Scathing criticism from Anonymous, but I get it. If you want your burger well done, they better do it that way. There are plenty of people out there who don't like pink ground beef, and I get that.
Thanks for the insight!

gretchen said...

BRGR -- Love the atmosphere, hate the food. Couldn't agree with you more.

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