Recently, brgr expanded its Manhattan empire, adding a restaurant on Third Avenue, near Bloomingdale’s, Home Depot, and a whole lot of other shopping destinations, and invited me (and a slew of other bloggers, press, and so forth) to meet the CEO, hear their story, and eat a metric ton of special burgers and fries and try out the rest of the menu.
brgr is all about the grass-fed beef, and this evening, it was nearly impossible not to be reminded of this, starting with walking the grass carpet at the entrance.
A full staff was on hand to prepare most of the burgers and other menu items. They also did a wonderful job wandering through, serving burger samples, filling glasses, and delivering orders (we were encouraged to place a “real” order).
Note the floor tiles in that photo. They are pictures of grass. Did I mention the burgers are made with grass-fed beef?
In a step up from your usual fast fare, brgr sells reasonably inexpensive bottles of beer and glasses of wine. Barefoot is… on the low end of the wine spectrum, but at $4.50 for a glass of Merlot or Chardonnay (or $4 for a Corona or Heineken), it’s perfectly fine. I could even see people coming here instead of a bar for a cheap night out drinking.
They also set up mini-shots of the milkshakes in “flights” representing each of the four flavors, using Ronnybrook Farms’ dairy products. Normally they’re served as a 5-ounce “shot” or a full-size cup, little thimbles of the vanilla, chocolate, black and white, and blueberry pomegranate. The blueberry pomegranate was the clear winner, though really, the pomegranate disappeared and left me with a sweet, blueberry-laden treat.
First up for me: a quarter of the Rainforest brgr: avocado, lettuce, tomato, topped with gruyere and herb mayo. I’m not a huge fan of avocado, but I can appreciate it — but I’m less a fan of warm avocado. At any rate, this was perfectly good and very tasty. The nuances of grass-fed versus grain-fed is lost, however, underneath the avocado, cheese, and mayo, but it was genuinely a good cheeseburger on a spongy, warm, basic burger bun.
I naturally pulled off a piece of naked burger on this and other samples, to taste it by itself. That is a juicy, flavorful patty. I’ve generally only had steaks advertised as grass-fed, but as the beef is sourced from one farm, a representative of which was on-hand to answer questions, there’s no question about how many cows go into each patty, from how many farms in how many states.
The Beautiful Day brgr: this one seemed to be trying to emulate to the In-N-Out classic Animal Style, with thousand island dressing and grilled onions. And emulate it well, I might add — but again, I tasted thousand island and onions, and not really the beef. I suppose it would be closer to the In-N-Out if a full-size Beautiful Day, at about the same size, didn’t run $7.55. At least that’s the cheapest brgr (besides the a la carte one) on the board.
And then we arrived at the Blue Sky brgr. Roquefort. Bacon, Onion marmalade. Oh, and a (grass-fed) patty. As you might have already guessed, this was all cheese and smoky, tasty bacon, and not beef whatsoever.
We also ordered our full-size brgrs. This is the Fresh Morning brgr, which featured a fried egg on top of the Beautiful Day. This was an unbelievable mess — who’da thunk? — but that is a juicy burger under there, lost amid the egg and other delicious toppings.
It takes a few minutes to put together the orders, so a number is assigned, seemingly randomly, to you via a tabletop stand, so the folks behind the counter can find you when it’s ready. It only took a few minutes, even though the place was packed with people placing orders, so that aspect seems to be down pat — so long as they keep a sizable staff for any dinner rush.
The education portion of the evening involved props, including, yes, grass, and the talk consisted of hyping the health benefits of grass-fed beef — higher Omega-3 fatty acids, leaner, better for you in so many ways, and of course tastier beef. It was not mentioned why they chose the name “brgr” or what they have against those perfectly good vowels, or why if the beef is so good for you they offer turkey “brgrs” (and, at a higher price, vegetarian versions) as well, but then I’m not the one who is building a successful business here.
So, understanding my order would likely suffer the same fate as the previous samples, I ordered the Down on the Farm brgr, featuring horseradish sauce, bacon, and cheddar cheese, on a whole-wheat bun. So much for the health benefits of the beef, but it’s in the name of eating things I like, and I do like horseradish sauce and bacon. It looks awfully small, though.
Maybe it is in the normal course of burgers in New York, but it was gone in a few bites. I like that it came out the medium-rare I requested, and that bacon is addictive, especially coupled with the crack sauce masquerading as horseradish. Having the option of a whole wheat bun (or for an extra 50 cents an English muffin) is a nice touch, also, and if your burger features something saucy, it might be in your best interests to opt for the English muffin as the bun bottoms barely hang on against the juicy patty alone.
I also got the sweet potato fries, which boasted a ton of flavor, and came crisp on the outside, chewy and beautiful on the inside. They were shaped like the ones I make at home using a mandoline, kind of flat in shape, more 2×4 than 4×4. Adding a 5-ounce vanilla “shot” to my order, and had I been paying this evening, I would have coughed up around $16. Sure, it’s better beef and dairy and whatnot, but I’ll have to treat this place as a special treat and not a normal lunch option.
In between eating and being educated, I also was pleased to speak with the owner-bakers of You & Me Cookie, who sell their cookie, the Jumble, at brgr. It’s a “healthy” cookie, with Grape Nuts and oatmeal and no preservatives, and I kinda wanted to end up with one for dessert.
Instead I ended up with three, along with a tee shirt and gift card, sent home with me in a burlap sack! Who doesn’t love swag?
The people of brgr couldn’t have been nicer or more accommodating. I like that they created their restaurants around a concept and went full-throttle with it, and I do mean full-throttle. The toppings they chose aren’t exactly unique, but they’re uniformly great-tasting, fresh, and sourced as carbon-neutrally as possible. Yes, cattle farming is a carbon nightmare, but grass-fed reduces that footprint dramatically from grain-fed. And come on, cheap alcohol with your burger?
If there’s a ding against the place, it’s that you’ll go broke coming here too often for lunch. In Midtown Lunch terms, there’s really no way for me to get a filling lunch under $10 here. But as a special occasion, it works perfectly well.
Please note that this meal was courtesy of brgr. I received no monetary compensation for this review, nor was I obliged in any way to post about this meal, positively or otherwise. This is my own opinion and I feel it was unbiased; you are free to take from this what you will.