Your burger, m’ lady,” says the server at Boulevard Burger & Brew when he presents my plate, or rather a small aluminum platter lined with checkered wax paper. I go for traditional on my first outing: American cheese with lettuce, tomato and onion.
The sandwich — a Kelly’s classic ($6.95) — is a nod to the roots of the latest restaurant on the edge of Scott’s Addition. Back in the ’50s, Boulevard Burger was Kelly’s Jet System Hamburgers. After the Kar World lot left, the premises were vacant until Eat Restaurant Partners breathed new life into the space. The revived red-and-white striped exterior and neon marquee, silhouetted against a sunset, has quickly become a beacon in the neighborhood.
Apparently it’s attracting attention. With the exception of a Sunday afternoon, most of the times I visit find the dining room and patio at various stages of packed. There might be a 15- or 20-minute wait, but it’s never more than that. It’s loud here, with people and music, but I like it. It feels like a fun party.
Everyone’s in a good mood because, well, because of burgers, fried food and milkshakes. Also, there are a whopping two dozen craft beers on tap and even more by the bottle, draft wine and a fancy cocktail menu. Of course, there are drawbacks to the party. Despite the Shakespearean politesse of my first server, sometimes the wait staff gets tied up. Or forgetful. Or both. Sometimes it’s frustrating. Sometimes another server takes over. Early-times kinks, perhaps.
But for the most part, the kitchen has its food down pat. The big thing management wants you to know is that it’s serving premium black Angus beef that’s raised humanely with no genetic modifications or hormones. I also appreciate that the patties are a manageable serving size, meaning that you can take a bite with toppings a-plenty and not pop your jaw. For people who like a bigger beef experience, make it a double for an extra $3.95.
The burger itself is juicy and seared, cooked either “pink” or “no pink.” The other crucial part is the bun. There’s nothing spectacular about these, but they hold the sandwich together nicely without getting soggy. There’s also a gluten-free option that’s decent, though you’ll notice it might fall apart a little.
There are 11 sandwich styles that follow familiar formulas: California style with kale and apples ($7.95), blackened with blue cheese ($7.95) and my favorite, aside from the classic, the diablo ($8.95). It has heat on every layer — the jalapeño bun, pepper jack cheese and hot sauce.
The kitchen does the rest of the menu well, too. I usually don’t order chicken sandwiches because they’re often dry and flavorless. But the yard bird ($6.95) breaks that losing streak. The poultry is moist — almost buttery — and it’s topped with avocado, bacon, and grilled onions and peppers.
In less-interesting topping territory is the Frankencheese ($4.95), a hot dog topped with mac ’n’ cheese and sriracha, clearly something a 10-year-old boy would order. It’s incongruous. I end up dumping the noodles to the side and dipping the plain dog in the spicy sauce. Good, though not as good as the minicorn dog appetizer ($4.95) with spicy butter for dipping.
The best of the appetizers is Thai fried green beans ($5.95), which I would take in place of french fries ($2.95). It feels a little blasphemous, but crispy is the criteria here and the beans are more satisfying in that way.
Another surprising find is the salads, which I generally avoid at a burger joint. The healthy heart ($7.95) is a huge kale and quinoa salad with vegetables, pistachios and dried cranberries. It’s a hearty combination, though the dressing has too much curry, and if I order again will ask for plain vinaigrette.
Also curry-heavy is the vegan burger, made with lentils, quinoa and vegetables, and fitted with a greasy onion ring under the bun. It’s a little too soft and a little too much spice for me, though my husband really likes it.
If you still have room after your meal, skip the dessert menu and head straight to the list of milkshakes, because really, after all that greasy food, why stop now? My favorite is chocolate, peanut butter and banana ($4.50). And anyone looking for a boozy kick along with a sugar high should try one of the adult milkshakes ($9) that come in seven decadent combinations with a mighty strong pour.
Walking to my car each time I visit, I have the same thought about every burger I try: “That was a good solid burger.” Insert a fist pump between good and solid. S
Boulevard Burger & Brew
1300 N. Boulevard
Tuesdays-Saturdays 11 a.m.-midnight; Sunday: 3 p.m.-10 p.m.