Thursday, March 8, 2012

Brick Wall Burger (Greenfield, MA)

Brick Wall Burger is in an awful location; not physically so, because 286 Main St. in Greenfield is actually a great theoretical location for a restaurant, in the middle of downtown, but because this must be a cursed spot.  Not less than five different restaurants have been in this location in the last decade or so, some of which were actually very good, and all have failed somehow.  I'm praying that Brick Wall won't follow this trend, because not only is it something that Greenfield badly needed (a good burger joint), but it's actually up there with the best burger options in the area.  The key to this place is that they get fresh meat, locally as much as possible, and grind it themselves.  This means they don't feel the need to conform to this idiotic concept that ground meat must be cooked until there's no juice left in the poor patty; after all, the cow got killed already, no need to kill it again, and if you know that the grinder is clean, you don't need to cook the meat to death just to "be sure" that it won't have any health issues.  As a person who likes his burgers rare, this was a pleasant surprise the first time I went, as was the fact that the servers I've had have never once attempted to argue this order with me, and in fact one agreed it was the best way to eat a burger.  Along those same lines, the servers have been almost universally good, though one was cloyingly sweet; that annoys me, but I know a lot of people wouldn't mind it.

The meat is not only cooked to order, but is legitimately flavorful; this is the result, I'd guess, from buying from local farmers as much as possible, thus staying away from the mass produced beef that populates most burger joints.  I saw a review online that accused them of over-salting both the burgers and fries, but that hasn't been my experience at all; it could be an isolated incident, or it could be that this reviewer is sensitive to salt.  Either way, you can be the judge, but I wouldn't let that kind of criticism frighten you off.  The toppings they offer range from the standard (lettuce, tomato, grilled onions and peppers) to the less mundane (avocado, roasted habanero pepper, and wasabi, for example) and have been very good each time I've been, though there was a huge variation in the spice of the habanero from the first time I had the "Firebrick Burger" to the second.  You can build your own burger, picking from ground beef, ground chicken, ground pork, ground corned beef (a cool concept, but not one that interests me, to be honest), vegetarian/gluten free black bean, or portobello mushroom.  I don't see it on their website now, but they used to offer a Kobe burger and a lamb burger as well, though both were pretty expensive.  Additionally, you can pick from their "Custom Burger Works," which include some very original concepts, such as the aforementioned "Firebrick Burger," which includes habanero, avocado slices, pepperjack cheese and a chili garlic sauce that is mild but delicious.  I haven't tried them yet, but the "Bull in the Bramble" (raspberry dipping sauce and romaine lettuce) and "Burger Mosto Cotto" (grape wine reduction, tomato, fresh mozzarella, and arugula) are really interesting concepts, and I look forward to trying them soon.

A good french fry can make or break a burger joint, and Brick Wall's do not disappoint.  They are double fried, which is, in my opinion, the only proper way to cook a french fry, and while I'm not sure what kind of oil they're using, it does impart a nice flavor to the potatoes, which are nice and crispy on the outside and light inside.  The sweet potato fries are good, though as with all sweet potato fries, they suffer in the crispness category; if you're looking for crisp, though, why are you getting sweet potato fries?  Be aware, however, the homemade ketchup served with the fries is a little odd; my friends are pretty sure the reason is cloves, and I'll trust them on that, because it's a flavor I'm not very familiar with and just plain don't really like.  It doesn't ruin the fries by any means, but it doesn't enhance them either, which a good ketchup should.

Also served with your burger is a side of cole slaw, either regular or spicy.  Both are serviceable, but nothing to write home about, though I should give them credit for not using a bunch of mayonnaise to flavor the slaw; rather, it is vinegar heavy, which I like but which bothers others.  I like the spicy when I'm not getting the "Firebrick Burger," but if I am going spicy on the burger I have to get the regular, or it's a little overkill.

Beer (including the local favorite Berkshire Brewing Company) and Greenfield's own Bart's Homemade Ice Cream are offered, and both are perfect accompaniments to a good burger.  Try the Steel Rail E.P.A. for a solid, refreshing option to go with your burger, followed by Maple Walnut Ice Cream.

Update 5/9/12


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