No. 9 β€” Bru Burger Bar

410 Massachusetts Ave., 317-635-4278,

There is only one proper way to eat a hamburger at Bru Burger Bar, Mass Ave’s crowd-pleasing paean to ground beef in all its embellished glory. And that way is not proper at all. Shredded lettuce tumbles out before the thing is even lifted off its plate. Cheeks become smeared with house-made sauces and gobs of aioli, and streaks of meat juices run down the arms. Things get very messy, very quickly.

Conservatively decorated in American-brewpub dark woods and russet tones, Cunningham Restaurant Group’s latest creation has picked up the scent of the gourmet burger trend that caught fire when Southern California’s Umami Burger started exploring the Japanese “fifth taste”—savory—using hamburger as its vehicle, three years ago. Bru Burger, like its Cunningham forebears Mesh on Mass, Stone Creek Dining Company, and Boulder Creek Dining Company, took off at full speed. Make no mistake; Cunningham runs its restaurants with a corporate snap-to-it. Dishes tend to be the kind that appeal to wide swathes of diners—tamed and safe.

But hats off to whatever focus group came up with Bru’s signature three-meat grind of sirloin, chuck, and brisket, and genius topping combinations like Porter-onion gravy with Swiss cheese. Or, in the case of the signature Bru Burger, taleggio cheese with bacon, tomato jam, and caramelized onions. Factor in a handful of entree salads, a respectable lineup of craft beers, and a stellar ice cream–topped Peach Cobbler White Chocolate Bread Pudding (yes, that’s all one dessert), and it’s no wonder the tables fill up fast. Apparently, the people behind Bru Burger knew that good burgers never go out of style. And, thankfully, neither do sweatpants.


Burger connoisseurs rally behind their favorite patties, perhaps none more beloved than the crispy-edged standards at Workingman’s Friend (234 N. Belmont Ave., 636-2067) > At MacNiven’s Restaurant & Bar (339 Massachusetts Ave., 632-7268,, the Angus Burger spans the entire plate, wide and flat like a Frisbee. Fold it twice, like hamburger origami, to make it fit the bun > Those who like their burgers thick and artfully garnished will find bliss in the dozen-plus one-third–pound varieties at Boogie Burger (1904 Broad Ripple Ave., 255-2450, and in the hand-pattied creations at Bub’s Burgers & Ice Cream (210 W. Main St., Carmel, 706-2827,

>> BONUS: See our mini review of Bru from The Dish blog in January 2012.


Photo by Tony Valainis.

This article originally appeared in the May 2012 issue.