BGR Burger is a new addition to the West Hartford burger scene by way of Virginia. Yes, it's a chain, but it's a small one (this is their 13th store) and doesn't have the feel of a chain. Booths, tables and wood benches are a slight upgrade from typical fast food seating but not really comfortable enough that you'd want to stay a while. Service is much like Five Guys, where you order at the counter, fill your own drinks (from a cool high tech Coke machine with more than a dozen options) and pick up your burgers when ready. The walls are lined with enlarged copies of 1970s and 1980s rock and roll album covers by iconic stars. You can watch the burgers being cooked over an open flame that sometimes rises more than a foot off the grill.
Burgers are pretty basic, with a more ambitious approach to the beef but the usual toppings. You can also get burgers made from turkey, lamb and tuna. There's no bar, but a small selection of beers are on tap. As with many of the new breed of burger joint, shakes are myriad.
A brioche-looking bun is shiny and golden on the surface but much lighter and airier underneath. It's supposedly supplied locally but didn't strike me as especially fresh. There are a few sesame seeds here and there.
The beef here is fresh, dry aged, all-natural, made from corn- and oat-fed cattle that roam happily in grass fields, and cooked to order with no heat lamps. All big selling points, but it was the dry aging that had me most intrigued, especially for a no-frills burger joint. I went with with my usual bacon, cheddar and grilled onions and liked the initial presentation of the glistening patty that bore quite a bit of surface char, especially for a medium rare burger. The slicing unveiled a cross section that confirmed attainment of the requested medium rare, with juices trickling down into the lower bun. Sometimes meat with a fancy pedigree comes in too lean, but thankfully that wasn't the case here. So with a beautifully contrasted thick crust and juicy pink meat before me, I readied myself for the bite and dug in. Moisture was beyond reproach, but flavor let me down. I kept searching for that dry aged funkiness, finding it here and there, but the dominating characteristic of this burger was the flame infused char. Seasoning was light: I watched the burgers being cooked and saw them being seasoned, but with only the tightest pinch of salt.
I also tasted a bite of a more well done burger and got basically the same flavor profile with (no fault to BGR) less juiciness.
The two tone cheese treatment—one white slice, one orange slice—impressed mightily visually but minimally meltily. Flavor was probably mild, but how would I know? The char would have obscured even the sharpest of cheddars. Thick cut bacon had some nice pink tinges and a good crispy/chewy texture. It also supplied some needed saltiness. Onions were humdrum: no problems, no accolades.
The Fries (and such)
Fries verging on steak fry thickness were an obvious frozen product (I saw them come out of the fridge), and a bland one at that. Puffy beer battered onion rings were also frozen but a plus thanks to their thickness (probably 1/4"), diameter (uniformly about 4") and slice width (3/4") that showed off the natural sweetness and moistness of the vidalia onions themselves. A faint crunch and some good sweet/savory complexity helped these succeed even though they weren't my preferred type.
I'd probably rank BGR Burger behind Max Burger and Plan B, also in West Hartford.
The Bottom Line
For someone who likes a flame broiled burger, this is a definite winner that provides higher-than-typical juiciness and a better-than-typical fast food or chain food experience. For everybody else, it's still an okay burger, but one you have to be in the mood for.
Other Opinion/ Info
Yelp reviews of BGR Burger
Urbanspoon reviews of BGR Burger
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