While in Indianapolis for the annual CEDIA Expo in early September, we had a company meeting one day that took us deep into the middle of the afternoon before we broke for lunch. We had dinner reservations at 7:30 p.m. at El Sol de Tala, one of my all-time favorite Mexican places, but after having lunch at 3:30, when 7:00 p.m. rolled around none of us were much hungry. But about 8:00 p.m., a few of us began to get a little rumble in the stomach. Suddenly, I had to find a place that could accommodate 10 of us - and quick. I remembered hearing about a new gourmet burger place near the downtown area - BRU Burger Bar. I called over there to see if we could get in right away and the young woman on the other end of the line said, "Sure! We can get you in!" I told her we'd be there in less than 20 minutes.
BRU Burger Bar is the newest restaurant concept for the Cunningham Restaurant Group (CRG), headed by Cincinnati native Mike Cunningham. Since 1997, CRG has developed Indianapolis-area restaurants such as Boulder Creek Dining Company, Charbonos, Mesh, and Stone Creek Dining Company with six locations in the greater Indy area. CRG opened BRU in December of 2011 in the Mass Avenue arts and entertainment area on Massachusetts Avenue just north and east of the downtown Indy area, not far from its sister restaurant, Mesh.
It was a 15 minute walk from our hotel to BRU Burger Bar located at the corner of Mass Avenue and Alabama. (see map) We entered the stylish and contemporary restaurant and were greeted by a hostess. When I told her that we had just called for a table for 10, she pointed to a long table that was along the wall near the stand. Banquette seating was along the wall with chairs on the other side. It was perfect for our group.
BRU has an outdoor seating area, but they couldn't accommodate a larger group outside. There was a nice bar area and a smaller dining room (right) that was off the bar and going out to the patio. The restaurant had a very appealing and festive vibe to the place.
The concept behind BRU Burger Bar is simple - gourmet burgers and craft beers. The menu consists of a number of classic and eclectic burgers made with hormone-free natural beef from Creekstone Farms in Kansas. The beef is a house-made mix of sirloin, chuck and brisket ground fresh by BRU each day. In fact, everything is made in house at BRU, from the ground beef, to the buns, to the ketchup, and even the mayonnaise. They also feature a number of appetizers and salads on the menu. And for those who aren't looking for beef, BRU features Amish-raised chicken sandwiches, pulled pork sandwiches, a mahi mahi sandwich, as well as a veggie burger, a turkey burger and an ahi tuna burger.
Their beer menu is very eclectic featuring a number of Midwestern-based breweries such as Boulevard, Bell's, and Founders. They also featured a handful of local microbrews with a number of Belgian beers on the menu, as well as the usual domestics and imported beer. Beer was welcome at our table, as it normally is when our company gets together.
Our server for the evening, Jackson, was a lively girl who grew up in Oregon, but made her way to Indianapolis to follow a boy. "Surprise, huh," she playfully asked us after we asked her what brought her from the Oregon coast to Indy. She was fun and did a great job with us all night.
Jackson told us the signature burger on the menu was the BRU Burger - a half-pound patty topped with Taleggio cheese, bacon, homemade tomato jam, caramelized onions, lettuce and tomato. But they had some other interesting burgers such as the Garlic Three Cheese burger topped with roasted garlic and truffle aioli, and Swiss, American and mozzarella cheese. The one that caught my eye was the Bourbon Burger that had a peppercorn-bourbon glaze on the burger, then topped with bacon and horseradish/Havarti cheese. Mmmm... Then this one popped out - the Blazing Saddles consisting of toppings such as mozzarella cheese, roasted jalapenos, chipotle remoulade, and lettuce and tomatoes. BRU's Classic Burgers featured a Swiss and mushroom burger; a classic bacon cheeseburger; or just the plain old "Beginning" burger with American cheese, with homemade ketchup, mustard, mayo, pickles, onions, lettuce and tomatoes.
Most of the people at the table ordered the signature BRU burger, while a couple ordered the Blazing Saddles. My colleague, Todd, whose tastes for burgers are usually out of kilter with most of us, had the Mexicali Barbecue burger - a burger topped with white queso cheese, roasted chiles, guacamole, fried onions, lettuce and tomato, and finished with BRU's homemade barbecue sauce. I looked at him when he ordered it and said, "Really? I saw that on the menu, but I just thought there'd be too much on it and it would be too 'busy'."
Todd said, "That's what made it interesting to me!"
I ordered up the Bourbon burger and asked Jackson if I could get green chiles added to it to go along with the bacon and horseradish/Havarti cheese. "Absolutely," she cheerfully replied. For my side, I got an order of their homemade onion rings. Jackson warned us that since the burgers are made from scratch, it takes a little longer than normal burgers. We didn't care, we were having fun.
About 20 minutes or so later, Jackson and a couple other servers brought our burgers out to the table. The presentation was very nice with the burgers and sides on rectangular China plates. Homemade pickles were stuck to the top of the homemade buns with a toothpick. Below left is Todd's Mexicali burger. He said, "Uh, I think I'm gonna need a few more napkins to eat this thing." Toppings were just oozing off the top of the burger onto the plate.
Above right is the signature BRU burger. As I said, most of the guys ordered the BRU Burger and from the grunts of approval, they all seemed to like what they were eating. A couple of my colleagues at the far end of the table got the Blazing Saddles burger with the roasted jalapenos. I asked one of them how it was - since it was a close second in my choice that evening - and he said, "Excellent. Great burger."
This is my Bourbon burger with the horseradish/Havarti cheese, green chiles, and bacon. It was a big burger so I needed to cut it in half just to be able to manage it.
The burger was cooked to a perfect medium for me with a little bit of pink in the middle. The meat was flavorful, juicy and had a great consistency with the combination of brisket, sirloin and chuck beef. I couldn't taste much of the bourbon or peppercorns on the burger, but that was all right. The bun was light, fluffy and full of air holes - it was a great complement to the burger. As were the toppings - the horseradish/Havarti cheese wasn't too forward in taste, but offered a little bit of that "zip" that you get with the taste of horseradish. The bacon was delicious and the green chiles gave the burger a little more overall flavor that I was looking for. It was simply an outstanding burger.
But like most gourmet burgers, the ones at BRU Burger Bar aren't cheap. But compared to other gourmet burgers I've had, the price is actually a pretty good value. Most of the burgers run 8 to 11 bucks and adding a side of fries is $2 extra, while adding onion rings, like I did, was a $3 up charge. (But my onion rings were very good - it was worth the extra 3 bucks.) I believe everyone in our group thought BRU was pretty damn good. The burgers were great, Jackson did a good job of taking care of a big group who were constantly running her toward the bar for more beer, and we really enjoyed the fun and casual atmosphere at BRU Burger Bar. BRU was a hit!