Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Bar Burger at Bourbon Steak

Mmmmm-mmmm. That is a tasty burger.

The new Bar Burger at Michael Mina's Bourbon Steak was introduced about two and a half months ago as a way of attracting more customers into this pricey place during these times when people are less apt to drop a couple hundy on a meal (ignore the irony that the customers they are trying to attract are inside the MGM Grand Casino gambling their money away), and so far it has seen great success. According to our server, since introducing this new casual menu--available only in the bar and lounge areas--the restaurant has been progressively busier every single week. On this Tuesday night around 7:00PM, the dining room and bar were full and there was a wait at the front.

My friend and I decided to go here after previous dinner plans fell through. I said, "I just want a freakin' cheeseburger," and he said, "Oooh! We could go check out the Bar Burger at Bourbon Steak!" And so it was decided.

We sat down at the bar and were greeted warmly by the doorman and the bartender. I perused the wine list but, after spending several wonderful days in Michigan wine country, California reds at a 300% markup just weren't cutting it for me. I inquired about one of the beers on tap, from a brewery named "Avery" I had never heard of before. It was a Russian Imperial Stout called "The Czar" and I eagerly said yes (chuckling a little at the server's warning about the 10% alcohol content).

The beer was superb--creamy with heavy notes of espresso, chocolate, malted hops, and dark berries. I loved it. I loved all $11.00 of it.

Yep...this was just the beginning. To adequately tell this tale I need to start at the end: our total bill, for what was essentially two burgers, a shared order of fries, a beer and a well vodka drink was $56.18. If the idea was to attract more customers with the more casual fare, the target demographic is still those with deep pockets. (By comparison, for $5.50 at Lefty's Lounge I could have had a burger and a 22-oz draught beer and would probably have been equally as satisfied, not as far as quality per se, but at least as far as saving 30 bucks.)

We both ordered the all-beef burger, a blend of USDA Prime and American Kobe beef. Other choices include lamb, turkey, salmon, and falafel. Of the meats, none are less than $14.00. You can pick from a variety of accoutrements for your burger--the whole concept is a build-your-own burger bar with up to six add-ons. I chose farmhouse cheddar and Emmental Swiss, and also added on a side of Duck Fat Fries (a trio of differently-seasoned fries paired with three different sauces) for an extra $5.00.

The food came...after 30 minutes or so, anyway (our server admitted that they need more staff, and it was certainly no fault of his)...and yes, it WAS a tasty burger. Thick, tender, juicy, flavorful, perfectly cooked to my requested medium-well temperature and not at all charred. Despite the fact that I was getting full about halfway through, I forced myself to eat the whole thing because (a) I don't like leftovers and I would be damned if a single ounce of a 14-dollar burger wiould go to waste, and (b) if it's true what they say about red meat sitting in your colon for some seven or so years because of the body's difficulty in digesting it, then I wanted to make sure that thing would be keeping me company well into my thirties.

The fries were okay. Just okay. Being cooked in duck fat I was expecting something more, but no--they were just fries. Regular old uninteresting fries. The two seasoned samples I didn't care much for, nor did I care for the "Secret Sauce" or "Michael's BBQ" (or was it steak sauce? couldn't really tell). The unseasoned fries with the Onion Ketchup were tasty enough. But for 5 dollars I could buy enough fries from McDonald's to fill the trunk of my car, so I wasn't at all impressed.
We were fortunate enough to receive an accidental order of creamed spinach, which I admit was my first time ever trying spinach of the creamed variety, and it was surprisingly good. There were some bits of meaty bacon on top for added pizazz, but the bacon flavor permeates the dish and makes quite a compliment to the slightly bitter, creamy spinach. See, I can eat healthy--you just need to throw some bacon and dairy in there for me.

I nursed my 11-dollar beer and forcefed myself the 14-dollar burger and still felt a pang in my chest (though it could have been the burger) as I signed away $36.00 on a burger, beer, and fries, but was a tasty burger.
Was it worth $14.00? Possibly, but that still doesn't mean I wanted to spend that much. Besides, this isn't some high-falutin' Manhattan hotel, this is Detroit, where no one has jobs. Economically this "bar burger" doesn't seem to make much sense...but then again, the restaurant was packed, so what do I know?
Though on a different note I will say: love the decor.