Louisville’s burger scene is, shall we say, diverse. Mussel & Burger Bar gets a lot of love for its unique spin on the American classic, while places like Bambi Bar and Kern’s Korner have their cult followings.
Bluegrass Burgers originally was sort of W.W. Cousins light, with a toppings bar that let you build your own hamburger based on whim. But late last year, the restaurant was purchased by Falls City Hospitality, which owns Doc Crow’s Southern Smokehouse & Raw Bar, bringing a new approach.
The interior of the smallish restaurant hasn’t changed much. The toppings bar is gone, and the menu has been replaced with a selection of rotating signature burgers. You can still build your own, but not having the toppings bar ensures the toppings customers choose will be chopped fresh to order.
Selections include burgers like the California Dreamin’, topped with avocado, smoked Gouda, spinach, a sunnyside-up egg and garlic aioli; the Luau, topped with prosciutto, arugula, roasted bell peppers, white cheddar and pineapple marmalade; and the Kor-BQ, with slaw, Asian barbecue sauce and chili-lime mayo.
If you want to keep it simple, you can build your own, or simply order The Classic (American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions and pickles). You get the picture.
The choices branch into a selection of six different patties: the signature ground beef, black bean burger, turkey burger, grilled chicken, a crispy potato kale cake or a crabcake, the latter of which is $6 extra (all burgers start at $10 and $11).
Sides are fairly basic and range from hand-cut fries to housemade coleslaw. The focus at Bluegrass Burgers is on fresh ingredients and sourcing locally.
There’s no longer a toppings bar, but there is quite a selection of sauces in bottles for customizing your sandwich, with options ranging from basic mustard to wasabi mayo and spicy ketchup.
I went for dinner recently with my girlfriend Cynthia, and we had our difficulties deciding which signature burgers to order — sure, we could have built them to our specific taste buds, but we decided to try the house specials.
Cynthia eventually decided on the Rise & Shine, topped with a fried egg, bacon and American cheese. For her sandwich, she went with the kale patty. I was in a meat mood, so I chose the Pub Haus burger, topped with pulled pork, beer cheese, beer mustard, potato chips, romaine and served on a pretzel bun (most of the sandwiches are served on a brioche bun).
Cynthia was immediately happy with her “burger,” which she got with an order of onion rings. The patty had a consistency similar to a hash brown, but the flavor was on the spicy side, creating a nice balance for the avocado. The egg rounded things out nicely on the sandwich. Meanwhile, the spicy ketchup went perfectly with the thick, tasty onion rings.
The Pub Haus was exactly as advertised — adding the pork was an odd choice on paper, but the combination of flavors worked quite well. Interestingly, the potato chips — yes, they were on the sandwich — not only added crunch, but amped up the saltiness already provided by the pliable pretzel bun.
The smoked pork at times popped in the flavor mix, while at times it took a back seat to the delicious and perfectly cooked beef (medium-rare) or beer cheese.
The hand-cut fries were darn near perfect, assuming you like fresh, unaltered potato flavor. The skin-on fries also went well with the spicy ketchup, whose heat you need not fear — it’s just a hint of spice for flavor.
It’s also worth noting that not only does Bluegrass Burgers offer a respectable selection of craft beer, you can even get cans and bottles to-go. Might save you a stop at the liquor store on the way home. And if you’re bringing the family, there’s a kid’s menu.
All in all, we had a good experience and won’t hesitate to return to try out more combos. Bluegrass Burgers, located at 2765 Frankfort Ave., is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.