Burger Bar (Las Vegas) Review

I went to Las Vegas last week.  For the most part, I don’t really eat much when I’m there — it’s generally incompatible with the large volume of free adult beverages that I’m consuming.  (It’s not uncommon for me to have a single meal — the $5.99 steak-and-eggs special at the Victorian Room inside Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon — per day).  But with many talented chefs (Joël Robuchon, Hubert Keller, Tom Colicchio, and Todd English to name just a few) establishing high-end restaurants in Las Vegas, I was determined this time to try to partake of at least one meal at one of these places.

Unfortunately, I’d be going alone — my buddies who go to Las Vegas with me tend not to want to spend $100+ on a meal, regardless of how awesome it is.  Hell, they (like me, most of the time) prefer to stick with the $5.99 fare, or to just substitute a bloody mary for a meal (hey, it’s got vitamins — and you can even get it with celery!)  And these places tend to have a dress code that is incompatible with the one-carry-on-and-no-checked-bag, rushed itinerary of my trip, so I looked elsewhere.  The perfect place?  Hubert Keller’s casual-burgers-meet-high-end-food Burger Bar between Mandalay Bay and Luxor.

First, this place is always busy.  Despite Las Vegas being far slower than I’ve ever seen it before, this place was full every time I walked by.  I wound up eating there at 2pm on a Friday.  I decided to eat at the bar so that I could chat up neighbors and generally avoid the loserdom associated with solo dining.  They have an impressive selection of draft and bottled beers.  I decided to go with the Hubert Keller burger (hey, it’s his joint, how could I go wrong?) and a Duvel (bottled) beer.  The burger features buffalo meat, sautéed onions, and bleu cheese on a ciabatta bun.  Normally I order my burgers medium or medium well, because incompetent cooks seem to know how to make that and I don’t risk getting a burger that’s raw in the middle (which is quite unappetizing to me).  However, I ordered mine medium-rare here, confident that if anybody was going to get this right, it’d be this place.  I was quite pleased with the results — my burger was pink, but never bloody, throughout, except for the gray exterior.  The onions were soft and flavorful, but not greasy or slimy.  The cheese was melted evenly and did not overpower the burger, as might be possible with some choices for bleu cheese.  (That said, if you don’t like bleu cheese, do not order this burger — though the cheese doesn’t overpower the burger in the least, the flavor is still there, which is what I wanted).

It comes with a side of vegetables (lettuce, tomato, raw onions), which I appreciated — this place, despite charging $20 for a (unmatchably delicious) burger and fries, is not pretentious enough to force you to eat your burger “their way”.  However, I tried the burger as-is without the additional vegetables to taste it as intended by the chef, and I quickly decided to stick with having it that way rather than supplementing it with the additional vegetables.  The service was what you’d expect at a bar or diner, which was fine with me.

My neighbors at the bar shared a traditional burger with cheddar, sautéed onions, and a red-wine sauce that they said was delicious.  It certainly looked good.  This was a decent place to strike up a conversation, as it was not overly loud, but it was not so quiet that one would feel uncomfortable.  Hey, it’s Las Vegas — everyone’s a tourist, so it’s no big deal to talk to chat people up.  It was a pleasant meal, and I would definitely go back there again.  Burger Bar delivers on the concept of a high-end burger in a relatively casual dining experience, which is perfect for Las Vegas.  Now, if I can only convince my gambling buddies to go there next time…

Joël

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