(09/18/13) (10/01/13) (10/12/13)
Located at the west end of Worcester's restaurant row known as Shrewsbury Street, Brew City is half bar, half restaurant with a burger focused menu. The beer list includes over 150 varieties with 40 on tap, plus three beer engines pouring limited edition cask conditioned ales.
It might look like brioche from afar, but this bun is a far cry from the light and flaky go-to of ambitious burger joints coast to coast. Instead, it's a denser unbuttered bulkie that was unyielding to a preliminary poke on my first of three recent visits. This came in handy for juice containment but along with volume impacted the bun-to-burger ratio less favorably. On the two follow-ups, the bun blossomed into fresh and bouncy both times, so I'm guessing the first one was the aberration. Some of the burgers are served on onion rolls.
City Brew offers a number of preconfigured burgers, plus a do-it-yourself option that lets you pick the protein (Kobe or angus beef, buffalo, turkey, veggie) as well as the toppings. I've tried the Angus and the Kobe, and while the Kobe has been slightly more juicy—quite juicy, in fact—it's not worth the $6.00 premium over the standard Angus that's still juicier than 90% of the burgers I've ever had. And while it's nice to not have a dry burger, the flavor does come up a bit dry in both the beef and seasoning departments. I'm not sure if any salt was used. Though more restrained than at some of those places where the flames rise nearly a foot higher than the grates, grilliness is the predominant flavor. Texture is acceptable on both the Kobe and the Angus, possibly a little more tightly packed than what you'd do at home. These patties may have had a few flaws, but I keep coming back to the pinpoint doneness and non-stop juiciness on three straight visits that ultimately earned some respect.
Cheddar ($1.00 upgrade) in the form of a yellow square slice gets a decent melt the first time and a gloriously bubbly melt most recently. Bacon ($1.50 upgrade) on my DIY burger and first stab at the Brew City Beer Burger was thin and only on the brink of crisp, but still had nice chewiness and a really nice pork-and-cure flavor. A previous try years ago had the bacon a little thicker, a lot crisper and almost interwoven so that it formed a unified porky shield. Just as thin but more crisp, the candied bacon ($2.00 upgrade) on my most recent Brew City Beer Burger delivered some light sweetness that worked really well with the tender beer soaked onions that add even more moisture to the equation. I'd recommend the standard bacon—not just over the candied, but as a necessity, period—because while its richness is not necessary, its saltiness compensates handily for what's missing in the patty.
The Fries (and such)
I'll say one thing: you get a lot of them. What I couldn't say—at least until I asked—was whether they're frozen or cut fresh in house; they could have gone either way. They're crisp, bearing skins, on the done side and very lightly salted. It turns out they're frozen, but as the server said, "a high end version of frozen."
The Do It Yourself feature offers nice flexibility, though the prices can approach Boston premium levels. A DIY bacon cheeseburger with sauteed onions will run $11.56 for Angus and $17.56 for Kobe.
I remember visiting Brew City for a weekday lunch a few years ago with fourteen coworkers. The tables were pushed together and so were we, unnecessarily so given the number of empty tables in the dining room. The two half burgers I split with a colleague were overcooked and sloppily assembled, so the overall impression wasn't that favorable. I chalked it up to the size of the party, vowed to return another day and have generally been pleased with the burgers and even more so with the service, which has been exceptional on all three visits this year. The three different servers could not be more knowledgabe, friendly and upbeat. You can tell there's some training going on here.
A big plus for the convenient parking lot, which is not a given in downtown Worcester.
The Bottom Line
A bit of a mixed bag and I wouldn't travel great distances to get here, but for a basic burger that's reliably juicy with numerous toppings options and upbeat service, Brew City hits the spot.
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