The gussied-up patties at Bru Burger Bar (410 Massachusetts Ave., 317-635-4278) are bound to upset purists. One is dressed in onion gravy and Swiss cheese while another, called Mount Olympus, scales great heights with enough pepperoni, feta, fried garbanzo, red onion, marinated mushrooms, kalamata olives, lettuce, and roasted tomato dressing to anger the gods. These are hamburgers, mind you. Not subs. But in keeping with the theme of all of the projects by parent company Cunningham Restaurant Group (Boulder Creek Dining Company, Stone Creek Dining Company, Mesh on Mass, and Charbonos), Bru knew exactly what it was doing from Day One.
Less than a month since it opened, this casual kitchen is packing the house. On two visits, we sat next to tables of seasoned Bru diners, people who had clearly already eaten their way through big swaths of the menu and had come back for more. “I’ve had the Black and Blue … and the Mexicali,” one recounted, before deciding on the Provencal, a high-rise combination of marinated red onion and Portobello swiped with basil aioli and house-herbed goat cheese. As convoluted as they sound, the flavors play off of each other perfectly—the sweetness of the onions against the tartness of the cheese, in particular. The Bru Burger, another favorite, brings smoky Taleggio cheese and bacon together with a chutney-like tomato jam. It does not hurt that the burgers themselves succulently combine three meats: sirloin, chuck, and brisket. Or that the buns are butter-grilled and softly yielding. They come out pierced with an artful twist of green bamboo to contain the strata.
The menu offers a few non-burger diversions as well. Entree salads include a hearty buttermilk Cobb as well as an exotic Sriracha Caesar. The Memphis in May sandwich is a tumble of pulled pork topped with onion rings and slaw. And diners can easily piece together sharable meals for the table out of appetizers such as mac ’n’ cheese studded with sausage, beer-battered onion rings dipped in house ketchup, and decadent chili cheese fries.
In addition to beers ranging from PBR to Three Floyds Alpha King and Flat 12 Pogue’s Run Porter, Bru has made an attempt (though sometimes awkward) at an old-school cocktail menu, listing a Dark & Stormy and French Gimlet along with a cherry-garnished Pear Cosmo, a Bionic Tonic of Svedka clementine vodka and pomegranate liqueur, and The Scottish Rite, which merges Compass Box Orangerie whisky, allspice liqueur, grenadine, lemon juice, and apple cider. Among desserts, there is no comma missing in the Peach Cobbler White Chocolate Bread Pudding. It arrives huge and warm, the variety of flavors melded as one, with a generous scoop of vanilla bean Blue Bell ice cream that is dense as custard melting on top. (Because nothing is “plain vanilla” here.)