Friday, December 12, 2008

"Burgers are our Religion"

by Xani

That is the slogan of a fabulous new burger joint in federal hill, The Abbey Burger Bistro. It's not often that a new place in my neighborhood opens, and even more rare that I would visit a new place FOUR TIMES since they opened their doors (less than a month). And knowing what we know about me and my love of burgers... well, you know they've got to be good.

Abbey Burger Bistro opened late last month where the Sky Lounge used to be-- I had been there once or twice to drink a Key Lime Pie Martini (love that graham cracker crust!) or dance on their translucent upstairs dance floor. But, the new incarnation has something way better-- amazing burgers! Like, really, really great. Ten times better than any of the other pub burgers in any of the other federal hill joints. It's a miracle! My four visits (to date) include: lunch with EP during the "soft opening," dinner with EP, Matt, and Smulson last Friday to show them our new discovery, lunch with Matt and his buddies the very next day (he likes the burgers as much as I do! My excuse was getting out of my freezing cold house for a couple hours), and finally EP and I went back again just a couple nights ago before seeing Eric Hutchinson at the 8x10, just a few steps away.

Abbey Burger features locally-sourced Black Angus beef and bison, as well as turkey, lamb, and chicken burgers. They've got a few appetizers (including some awesome waffle-fry nachos), tons of bottled beers and about a dozen on tap, and, for your sweet tooth, a variety of SPIKED milkshakes.

But the real story is, of course, the burgers. How good does a burger have to be to warrant eating 4 of them in less than a months time? Damn good. Like over 9 out of 10 burgers on the burger scale. And let me tell you why:

The burger patty: whether beef, bison, or lamb, is delicious. I always go medium-rare and they always come out perfectly cooked, with plenty of great flavor, and just the right seasoning. Really thick and juicy, too (as in hot burger juices running down your hands-- you're going to need the extra napkins they give you).

The toppings: plenty of options here. The chef has a few of his own creations for you to try, or there's a make-your-own checklist you can fill out to do it your way. The chef knows what he's doing though-- the Bistro burger (cheddar, bacon, and a fried egg on an English muffin) is a hit and the peanut butter burger (with bacon and, yes, real creamy peanut butter, on a classic bun) sounds too weird to be good but in reality it has become one of my favorites. The PB is subtle but somehow works with the beef and bacon. And their classic buns are sturdy and hold up to the juicy burgers til the last bite. The English muffin and thick toast are good bread choices, too.

Beer: Like I said, a decent selection on tap and lots and lots in bottles. I recommend the "Fin du Monde" Belgian Ale or a classic Guinness with any of their burger selections.

Spiked Shakes: How do you make a great milkshake even better? Add booze (and bits of Berger Cookies in their killer Berger Shake).

Atmosphere: Dark wood, exposed brick and beams, flat-screen tvs, and good tunes. They may have lost the translucent dance floor but they amped up the coziness factor, and Abbery Burger Bistro always feels warm and inviting-- the kind of place where it's easy to have a good time.

These burgers get two thumbs up!

It's always a good time at A.B.B!

A few elements need work... the service has been slow (due in part to the fact that the place is always packed-- and they haven't done any advertising or even put up a website yet. Clearly the word is out about these burgers), and on one of my many visits they seemed to have mixed up a couple of the patties-- giving medium-well to a friend who had ordered medium-rare, and vice versa. But the staff are always friendly as they race around the dining room and behind the bar. The sides need some work-- I like the sweet potato fries, but EP has a point when she says they don't hold a candle to those at Annabelle Lee Tavern. The regular fries, homemade chips, and onion rings are just ok-- they definitely don't steal any attention from the star of the show. And when we tried the grilled cheese we regretted it and wished we had ordered yet another Peanut Butter Burger... but the facts remains, even with these small issues, I've been there four times in a month... and that's sayin' something.

So there you have it-- my new favorite burger in Baltimore! Abbey Burger Bistro has shown us the light!


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