You know the old saying: Every time a Waffle House closes, an angel sheds a tear. But it's also true that every time a restaurant serves a medium rare hamburger that's actually medium rare, that same angel sheds tears of joy. Which is why I'm not too upset that BrewBurger's Pub and Grill took over an old Venice Waffle House in 2010. This restaurant knows how to cook burgers to temperature.
Sitting at the restaurant's polished-wood bar, I get a front row seat into how the magic happens. Just like back in its Waffle House days, my stool gives me direct views of the bubbling deep fryer and the glistening flattop, as well as the expert staffer responsible for cooking the "black & bleu burger" ($8.75) I ordered just minutes ago.
"I'm a Secondhand Vegetarian," reads the back of his gray T-shirt. "Cows Eat Grass, I Eat Cows." He places my third-of-a-pound patty on the grill and lets it sizzle. When he flips it over, I can see the charred black exterior, as well as the still-bloody center of the meat. The cook places a generous handful of blue cheese crumbles on top and covers the burger with a dinged-up metal lid. I'm feeling anxious. Could it be? Could this be a restaurant that actually knows how to properly prepare a hamburger? After mediocre burger after mediocre burger, could BrewBurger's be my salvation?
I wait. "For those reasons, you're chopped," someone says on the inane food TV show playing above the prep station. Outside, on the restaurant's patio, diners chow down at tables covered with a wide expanse of yellow canopy. The fabric turns all the light inside the eatery into a creamy gold. A server polishes the shake machine then mops up behind it.
Finally, after minutes that feel like weeks, my burger arrives. Placed atop rings of white onion and tomato, a bed of shredded lettuce and a soft, floury bun, and buried beneath a cordillera of gooey cheese, it looks immaculate. Juicy. Pink in the middle. Black on the top and bottom. Good golly.
Guess what? It tastes great. The meat has the thick beefiness of the best burgers, while remaining juicy enough to necessitate multiple napkins. My only criticism would be that the blue cheese overpowers the meat at times, but hey, I feel like I should have expected it. I'll take blame for that.
On the side sits a pile of well-fried fries—starchy goo wrapped in a crispy shell. Lunch disappears quickly.
As the name might indicate, the burger is only half the draw at BrewBurger's. The restaurant also serves a nice selection of craft and local beers. "Two Jai Alais," orders a man down the bar. He and his companion are settling in for a sudsy lunch. They're either on vacation or done with work, the jerks.
And this location, the old Waffle House near the I-75 and Jacaranda interchange, is only half the BrewBurger's story. The restaurant opened a second location on Venice Island last year. I haven't been, but I have little doubt the burgers there have led more than one angel to bawl, too.
BrewBurger's Pub and Grill has two locations: one at 370 Commercial Court, Venice, and a second at 525 S. Tamiami Trail, Venice. To reach the Commercial Court restaurant, call (941) 484-2337; to reach the South Trail restaurant, call (941) 786-3341. Visit brewburgersfl.com for info about both.