Nestled in Portsmouth’s Portwalk Place, BRGR Bar has been serving locals and visitors creative twists on the average American burger since February, 2014. When you enter, your eyes will be drawn to the steel-topped bar that winds through the middle of the open space in a series of right-angle turns. Seats are at the bar and at tables that line the sides of the room. Owner Phelps (Dieck) Craig ran Brazo, a Latin American restaurant in Portsmouth, for seven years before opening BRGR; she sold Brazo a year after opening BRGR, and now plans to open a second location in Portland, Maine.
General Manager Carolyn Gregory explains, “I think that Phelps had been in ﬁne dining and she decided that she wanted to go with an entirely different concept, all the while trying to source as many local items as possible.” For example, buns are baked nearby in Massachusetts.
When it comes to burgers, you can choose Build Your Own BRGR or go for a delectable combo created by Craig and Executive Chef Jonathan Vogt. Patty options include Maine Family Farms beef as well as more unusual protein selections: turkey, veggie, duck, bison, and mahi mahi. Every burger is presented on a silver tray, a tall stack on a bun stabbed by a large steak knife, necessary to both hold the tower together and to be used to cut the double-ﬁsted burger in half for easier consumption. Sliced pickles and a metal pail ﬁlled with lightly salted fries round out the meal. “BRGR Bar is more elevated than your usual diner or burger joint,” Gregory says. “There is a full-service feeling, but we serve burgers.
”Beef patties are served perfectly grilled to medium. Complementing each burger is your choice of toppings (with all produce sourced from the Golden Harvest in Maine) as well as homemade sauces. These include creative offerings such as Cilantro Aioli, Walnut Pesto, and Thai Peanut Sauce. There’s also a Secret Sauce, which comes on house combos like The BRGR, stacked with a thin double patty, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, and bacon. Melted cheese oozes from the sides, the beef is juicy and ﬂavorful, and the sauce complements the whole assortment of toppings. No ketchup needed.
Same goes for the Oo-Mommy burger, a ﬂavorful beef patty dripping with homemade bacon jam, topped with gorgonzola, lettuce, and tomato, plus thick onion rings that add a balancing crunch to the tender beef patty. For something a little different, go for the Perfect Pear if it’s available: a duck burger is layered with Brie, bacon, bourbon pear chutney, and fresh spinach.
Appetizers, sides, and salads are burger friendly, like the "Buffalo” Brussels Sprouts (with gorgonzola dip), Ricotta Sweet Potato Tots, and Poutine. The Cobb Salad is made with grilled romaine, and fried pork belly comes with the Wedge Salad.
What drink naturally goes with burgers? Milkshakes, of course. BRGR Bar offers a variety of velvety concoctions, served regular or as an “adult” version with liquor of your choosing. Either way, these are not your standard fast-food shakes. Chocolate + Peanut Butter is creamy, smooth, and rich, with chocolate sauce dripping down the interior sides of the glass and peanut butter drizzled on top. Other options include Sea Salt + Caramel + Pretzelor the very adult Apple Pie a la Mode, with house-made apple-cinnamon infused bourbon, and Root Beer Float, with spiced rum and root beer liquor.
The staff is friendly and accommodating, and diners are all ages. It’s a relaxed joint for drinks, sophisticated yet casual, and a place for family dinners; BRGR Bar is undoubtedly one of a kind. Do not expect your average burger here, or really, your average anything. Do, however, expect to be delectably satisﬁed.
34 Portwalk Place, Portsmouth, N.H.