Pastoral paintings of thoughtful, grass-chomping cows adorn the red walls of Albuquerque’s brand-new designer burger joint, bRgR. One painting of a particularly immense cow nearly takes up the entire west end. It'd be at home among the preposterously large paintings at the Louvre.
bRgR's lineup of burger names could double as the course catalog of a tantric yoga ashram, including (in order of the stages of spiritual growth) the Harmonic, Elation, Euphoria, Jubilation, Ecstasy, Nirvana and, finally, Enlightenment. The beef, which is grass-fed and grain-finished, comes from Heritage Ranch, a national beef company that matches local beef producers with consumers, state by state. Other meats on the menu manage to be both local and exotic at the same time. The kangaroo, which is mixed with beef because it’s so lean, is from Santa Fe. The yak, from Taos, tastes as gamey as a wild animal, but it’s tamed by a smothering of house-made BBQ sauce. There are exotic burger specials as well, such as ostrich or the juicy and robust wild boar burger with citrus sauce I had in my last visit. Burgers are available in a low-carb option with grilled romaine leaves in place of the buns.
The yak, from Taos, tastes as gamey as a wild animal, but it’s tamed by a smothering of house-made BBQ sauce.
While vegetarians are well cared for, omnivores have options that would require many visits in order to sample them all. The fixings manage to be creative, daring and uncomplicated at the same time. The Euphoria is one of four “kobe” beef burgers on the menu, and it combines Korean bulgogi (bLgG, as it were) seasonings with kimchi and a slice of pineapple. Another kobe burger, the Nirvana, features sautéed mushrooms and demi-glace.
The thing about bRgR, however, is that even if a combination doesn’t work out exactly as planned, it’s probably going to be tasty anyway. That’s what happens when you use good ingredients. The buns are sturdy and easily support the burger right up to the last mouthful. The barbecue-like homemade ketchup has a bite. If you ask for aioli, you’ll have to specify truffle, pesto or one of the other flavors.
All of the $2 sides are worth trying, with the sweet potato tots being my favorite and the red chile onion rings, delicate enough to eat by the forkful, a close second. The wasabi coleslaw is noteworthy as well.
And then there are the liquid sides, which include 32 regional and local craft beers, five of which are proprietary. The bRgR IPA is hoppy and lively, with a slice of bitter. A vanilla bean java stout float is a flawless execution of beer as dessert. There’s a selection of N.M. wines as well, including the same Casa Rondeña La Sobrina’s Table they serve at the Corn Maiden, but for a third of the price.
The name bRgR bears an uncanny resemblance to the popular and acclaimed NYC burger joint, brgr, which makes a point of serving only grass-fed beef. “Go against the grain” is the motto at the Empire State’s brgr. The fact is, cows weren’t designed to eat grain, whether they’re in New York or New Mexico. In contrast, I was clearly designed to eat grass-fed hamburgers.