Review #21: Bull City Burger and Brewery (Durham, NC)
Scott’s Review: Pittsburgh Style (Look At Me!)
On the surface, Bull City Burger and Brewery held so much promise: a great beer list, self-serve wine dispensers, Boylan fountain sodas (including Creme), that down-home, college-y atmosphere, and menu items with pleasingly weird names like “duck frites” and “bull nuts.”
How can a burger joint that offers bull nuts not be fantastic?
To my dismay, Bull City’s promise was not kept. The service was too spotty, the communal-style picnic tables too communal, the outdoor seating too overwhelmed by the WHIRR! of the A/C unit, and the food-ordering system—which featured having to stand in line yet again to add even the smallest item—just too annoying. But it’s what really mattered, burgiatrically speaking, that left me feeling betrayed: The patty wasn’t cooked correctly—and was just good, not great. Not much else to say about it because not much else stuck with me.
On the one hand, I might have been so annoyed by the aforementioned negative qualities to fully enjoy the burger, which really isn’t fair. On the other hand, I might have been so annoyed by the aforementioned factors to fully enjoy the burger, which…well…is perfectly fair.
Scott’s review: 2.75 out of 5.
Michael’s Review: Pittsburgh Style (Look At Me!)
Bull City Burger and Brewery’s way of doing business is an admirable one. It uses North Carolina pasture-raised beef, supporting local farmers. The leftover grain feeds the pigs it gets its bacon from, and it recycles the fry oil into bio-diesel. Moreover, BCBB bakes its own buns and makes its own condiments. As a fervent supporter of the local food movement, I applaud BCBB’s efforts. It serves as a model of what a restaurant should be.
The burger was terrible. I had the BCBB burger of the day, which was served “Pittsburgh style,” with “dirty fries,” pickles, gruyere, and sweet slaw. The bun was chewy, actually requiring some forceful chewing to get through it at times. The patty was juicy and had good texture, but tasted as if it were marinated in Worcestershire sauce and coated in garlic salt. I ended up abandoning the bun and patty with about 20% left and just finished the toppings.
It pains me to give BCBB a bad review because I really like what it’s trying to do. Now, if it put the same effort into its burgers as it does into its business practices, BCBB might have something. My rating is a 2.5.
John’s Review: Build Your Own Burger (Classic Rocks)
Like Dr. Blumenthal, I disliked the layout and logistics of Bull City Burger and Brewery (BCBB). Like Dr. Marino, I applaud the focus on local support and the green approach, but I’m downright resentful of the burger.
Here’s the thing…Anytime something is done differently, it’ll strike a chord with some segment of the population and find followers. To those of you who love the ways in which BCBB and its burgers are different, please forgive me, for I am about to lay down some canonical burgiatric facts that are certain to offend your dilettante sensibilities.
If you have the word “burger” in the name of your establishment, you set high expectations for the burger-lovin’ masses. You suggest that you know something about burger magic and that you can be counted on to deliver. Now, you won’t get instant credit, and burger lovers will assume that you may not deliver true burger bliss, but they expect that you’ll at least be in the ballpark. They expect that your burgers will taste something like burgers.
I ordered a standard Classic Rocks burger: cheese, pickles, lettuce, tomato, mayo. My expectations were soaring, based on the big B-word in the name and some of the buzz prior to the opening of the place. After waiting in line to order, then waiting in a separate line for a gin and tonic that I couldn’t order at the main register 10 yards away from the bar, I jingled my change-laden pockets up a flight of stairs and joined my TSB brothers at an outdoor picnic table beneath the heavy drone of an HVAC unit, or similar industrial fan system. About 10 minutes later, an unpleasant “waiter” (grumpy food delivery person who can’t take orders for a second drink, even if it’s a soda) plunked an insult on a plate beneath my nose. It was served open-faced, with lettuce slip-slidin’ against the top half of a dark bun, tomato adhered to the lettuce. On the bottom half of the bun was the patty, with cheese melted so thinly over it as to be difficult to discern, and (blink blink) a blob of mayo on the center of the patty. What the hell? “Pickles”—more like cucumber shavings in vinegar—were on the side.
I shook my head and reassembled. Scraped as much mayo onto the top bun as I could, placed a couple of “pickles” on the cheese, then lettuce, then tomato to meet and mingle with the mayo, as the canon dictates. I took a bite, with a last-minute flicker of optimism at the sight of the very fresh local ground beef. Alas, even that remaining hope was dashed—by heavy garlic, perhaps among other seasonings, worked into the patty. The bun was dense and chewy, with a wheaty flavor that combined with the funky “pickles” and over-seasoned patty to make this thing taste absolutely nothing like a cheeseburger.
It gives me no pleasure to write this review, and I was rooting for BCBB with high expectations and an appreciation for their business ethos. But BCBB made a promise by identifying itself as a burger place, then offended the burgiatric gods above with a blasphemy that shouldn’t be called a cheeseburger at all. May those gods have mercy on BCBB. If you’re a true and knowledgeable burger lover, go only out of morbid curiosity. If you could care less whether your cheeseburger tastes like a cheeseburger at all, go right ahead…you may very well like it.
Update 03/15/2012: Scott and I revisited BCBB to do a review for WRAL Out & About and had a much better experience. Click here to check out our review.