Correction Appended: @burger is owned by current Big Boy administration. The restaurant does not use any of the same materials in its preparation of vegetarian and meat patties.

@burger

505 E. Liberty St., Suite 100A & 100B
Entrées ranging from $5 to $10

Veggies … beware.

East Liberty Street’s latest lovechild, @burger, is kind of like the Noodles & Co. of burgers — order at the counter, deliver to the table, no tipping, etc. — but the comparison stops there. With a menu extremely inaccessible to the iron-deprived, you wouldn’t even know that any of its beef-on-bacon burgers could be made vegetarian.

They can, though — but in truth, that’s nothing to write home about. Unless, of course, you’re writing home to tell your loved ones goodbye, because there’s no way you’ll live through the incessant stomach pain induced by @burger’s poor excuse for a veggie burger. (But, then again, willingly eating at a restaurant opened by owners of Big Boy is probably asking for it.)

Aside from the actual eating part, though, @burger isn’t so bad. Despite a serious identity crisis in the vibe of the restaurant — it’s struggling between being a pseudo-sports bar with a 4:1 ratio of plasma TVs to walls and another hipster hangout with minimalist design and modern, angular furniture — the overall @burger dining experience is rather pleasant. The waitstaff is extremely attentive and friendly and the men in charge are accessible and eager for feedback. The place is Stepford-wife clean, and they cook their fresh potato chips in non-hydrogenated oil.

If @burger is doing anything, it’s standing up against traditional A2 burger culture: You don’t leave feeling like you need to take a shower and don’t need to undergo harassment for your meat-free treat.

Unfortunately, though, these minor details don’t have a prayer of winning over your average veg-head. With places like Seva (portabella and tempeh options) and Sava’s (black bean and lentil options) just a spit away, an over-processed Morningstar patty on a fancy bun isn’t enough to cajole the veggie masses to dine with @burger.

Needless to say, @burger is going to have to make some adjustments if it is aiming to please the soy-hugging hippie crowd of the Arbs.

GETTING TO THE MEAT OF THE MATTER …

@burger is somewhat more acceptable for non-vegetarians. Each of the aspiring franchise’s eight “soon to be famous” burger basics can be made with patties of beef, chicken or vegetables (although the veggie option is hard to locate on the menu).

The beef-pattied Southwest Jack burger oozed with enough homemade guacamole to satisfy the entire Arizona border patrol, and the jack cheese was satisfyingly melted into the meat. The beef itself was tolerable if somewhat dry — the ample do-it-yourself sauce bottles on the tables sort of made up for that.

Other burger options include the classy basil-mozzarella-pesto-tomato Caprese, the intriguing Savory Garlic Mushroom and Swiss and the Trash Can — a veritable festival of ingredients including fried egg and banana peppers.

@burger’s meat is nothing special — what gives the joint hope is the creative eclecticism of its menu and its cook staff’s willingness to change. With a bit more direction, @burger has the potential to fill Ann Arbor’s burger niche — though granted, it’s not the emptiest of niches at the moment.

— SHARON JACOBS

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