Page 2 of 3
The menu isn't elaborate: four salads, 10 burgers, and three sides that are creative variations on the fried fare that's been served with burgers since a Connecticut luncheonette owner named Louis Lassen reportedly invented the grilled beef sandwich in 1900. The skinny-cut french fries and sweet-potato fries are quite good, but the labor-intensive onion rings, coated in a crunchy, tempura-like batter made with Boulevard Pale Ale, are extraordinary.
Chef Eans, who did such a great job glamorizing standard old bruschetta at The Drop (he created an imaginative array of toasted bread and toppings), has done for hamburgers what Jimmy Choo did for women's shoes. Most of the fashionable sandwiches are served on buttery brioche buns, and even the most traditional of the lot, the "Classic," is topped with a hunk of aged New York white cheddar, homemade pickles and from-scratch ketchup. Sharon ordered it and loved every bite. Bob and Bernita went for snazzier choices. Bob, naturally, wanted the most expensive burger, a $12 American Kobe beef number topped with port wine onions, mustard aïoli and truffle butter. "It's fantastic," he said. Bernita loves blue cheese but was hesitant to sample the Inside Out burger until she was informed that it was the most popular choice at the restaurant — it boasts a decadent molten center of hot blue cheese. I had a buffalo burger, made with lean North Dakota bison and topped with pepper jack cheese and a sweet-hot pepper jam. It was wonderful, and the low-fat quality made me feel less guilty about eating a few extra fries.
Like any first-rate hamburger stand, Blanc offers malts and milkshakes — made with frozen custard (Foo's Fabulous Frozen Custard, no less) — but, alas, no diner-style pies. If you want dessert, it's a shake or nothing.
I couldn't have eaten dessert on either of my two visits to Blanc, probably because I overindulged on onion rings and frosty soda pop. One Saturday night, I took along my friend Jeanne and her teenage daughters. The joint was jumping, and our quartet waited 20 minutes or so for a table, long enough for 16-year-old Alexandra to turn up her nose at the taste of cranberry soda and her mother to slurp a tall glass of Lost Trail Sarsaparilla. For diners who prefer something more hardcore, Blanc offers no fewer than 112 bottled beers and a limited wine list full of decent choices.
Alexandra had become a vegetarian in recent months, but the kitchen accommodated her request for a BLT salad without the B (Berkshire bacon), and it was terrific. The meat-free spiced lentil burger is also good, but the crumbly, fragile patty of curried lentils and vegetables is difficult to eat. It is, however, an exciting alternative to the bland, doughy veggie burgers typically served in other restaurants. Alexandra's sister, the picky Roxanne, ordered something — I lost track of what the burger was after she intently cross-examined the waiter about the lettuce ("Is it leaf lettuce or chopped? Iceberg or romaine?") and every other possible topping and condiment. Paul, our server, was much more patient with her than I would have been in my waiter days. Jeanne, meanwhile, loved the meatloaf "burger" on onion brioche.
I went for the pork burger, made from slow-cooked pulled pork that Eans braises and prepares in the form of a patty, topped with a fat mound of chipotle cole slaw. It was tasty, but it also reminded me that just because something looks like a burger doesn't mean it is a burger, no matter what it's called.