Saturday, November 28, 2009
Burger & Beer Joint - South Beach
When I first heard that a new burger and beer joint in South Beach was being touted as a "concept" - nay, three "concepts": burger joint, sports bar, and lounge - I was a bit dubious. And that it was going to be called "Burger & Beer Joint"? Well, nice to keep it simple and direct anyway. Shows what I know: after hearing multiple reports of hour-long waits for tables, clearly they were on to something, and I put Burger & Beer Joint onto the back burner as a place to go to after the fuss had died down. But this weekend I found myself on South Beach in the middle of the afternoon with nothing better to do and an empty feeling in my belly, and the stars aligned themselves for a visit.
The transformation of this little pocket of turf on the periphery of South Beach is really quite remarkable. For years nothing more than a warren of auto repair and body shops, there are now a number of places worth visiting here, between Joe Allen, Sardinia, its sister restaurant Casale, and now B&B. Both Casale and B&B, right across the street from each other, actually have some nice outdoor seating, even if you do sometimes hear the not-so-mellifluous sound of a fender being set back into place from one of the neighborhood's more longstanding residents.
Inside, Burger & Beer Joint is simple, casual and rugged, with a brick wall on one side being the primary form of "decoration." But if "burger" and "beer" are in the name, it's pretty easy to figure out what to evaluate a place by, and it's not the decor. I went in, found myself a seat at the bar, and scoped out a menu and the beer selection.
While the dinner menu offers either "composed" burgers or a lengthy list of DIY options for assembly, the lunch menu sticks only with the pre-ordained burgers, as well as a selection of snacks and sides. Perhaps against my better judgment, I opted for the "Hotel California": 10 oz. burger, salsa, guacamole, grilled onion, cilantro sour cream, cheddar, fried egg. Lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle. It was clear just from reading the menu description that this burger suffered from an Amadeus complex ("too many notes"), but I just wasn't hankering for the bacon & bbq sauce combo offered by the "Thunder Road."
I nursed a Brooklyn Lager on tap while contemplating whether I'd regret my decision. Before I could work up too much remorse, the burger arrived. Fortunately, at least a few of those items (salsa, sour cream, lettuce, tomato, onion & pickle) were served on the side. I probably could have skipped at least half of the rest of them, too, because the burger itself was damn good. Cooked to a perfect medium rare (the menu says they'll do medium rare unless otherwise requested, but they asked the degree of doneness I wanted when they took the order), it was well seasoned, juicy, and flavorful, tender but not entirely falling apart. The egg was also cooked perfectly, the white just a little bit crispy and the yolk still oozy and rich. The cheese could have been just a tad more melted, but that is a minor quibble. The guac and the rest of the stuff I could have just as soon done without; lesson learned for next time. The brioche bun was lightly toasted (a little "B&B" brand on the top was a nice touch) but still fluffy and soft, yet had enough structural integrity to hold up long enough to finish off the burger.
The skinny fries that came with the burger were also good, crispy and well-salted. I also tried the beer-battered onion rings with jalapeño-cheddar dipping sauce, which were not nearly as good. The rings were flabby and lacking crispness, and the sauce tasted pasty, as if it had been thickened with flour that hadn't been cooked out. Next time I'll try the wings, about which I've heard good things, or maybe the crispy tempura-fried dill pickles, served with a buttermilk ranch dip.
Aside from the "Thunder Road" and "Hotel California", the list of "composed" burgers, all following the 80's rock motif, features some more luxe offerings, including the "Rock Lobster" which does a surf-n-turf thing, topped with half a lobster tail, or the "Stairway to Heaven" with American kobe beef, a slab of seared foie gras, and a black truffle demiglace (for $39!). Or there's also other protein options, including a tuna burger, turkey burger, or a vegetarian option with portabello mushroom as the centerpiece. There's also the obligatory "kobe sliders," as well as chile & cheese fries, mini corn dogs and a few other snacks, plus various other fried goodies to have as sides. The dinner menu also lets you customize your choice of either 1/2 lb. or 1 lb. burger (Angus beef, (American?) Kobe, or turkey) with a lengthy selection of buns, cheeses, sauces and other accoutrements. If you're feeling particularly hungry or have friends who are into sharing, you can get the 10 lb. "Mother Burger".
The number of beers on tap is rather brief for a place with "Beer" in its name (about 6, the most exotic being the Brooklyn Lager or a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale), but there was a more than respectable selection of bottles in the refrigerators behind the bar (somewhere in the neighborhood of 50-100), with most of the imports and microbrews priced at $6.
Though I tend to defer to those more knowledgeable and prolific in the ways of the burger, for my own personal burger heirarchy, I will say that Burger & Beer Joint's burger beat the pants off the one I had at 8 Oz. Burger Bar, certainly its closest competition both geographically and conceptually. As for what's at the top of that list? I may need to get back to Kingdom on Biscayne Boulevard to decide, plus have heard good things of late about the new burger menu at Bourbon Steak. In the meantime, Burger & Beer Joint makes a very fine burger; next time I'll know to keep it simple.
Burger & Beer Joint
1766 Bay Road
Miami Beach FL 33139