Over the past few years, burgers have become all the rage in the Greater Boston area (not that they ever went away, really), with a number of midlevel and relatively upscale burger spots opening up in many pockets of the region, while burger chains such as Five Guys and Smashburger have made their presence increasingly known in the region as well (especially the former, which seems to be everywhere now). Well, the trend seems to be showing no signs of letting up, and yet another new burger place called Best Burger Bar has recently debuted in Brookline Village, though it seemed to open its doors with not a whole lot of fanfare. A recent look at the Washington Street eatery soon after its opening indicated that this spot has some real potential, and not just for its burgers.
Best Burger Bar resides in the space on the southern edge of the village where a restaurant/art gallery/events space called the Middle Gray had been until it closed down in March and went “digital,” becoming mainly a collaborative arts organization. Much like that place, the new burger spot has a funky vibe to it, almost looking like a retro diner with a brightly lit red sign out front, a mix of tables and counter/bar seating inside, and a separate dining room to the right that has lots of windows letting light in. A brick floor, large hanging lights, and an old-looking wooden ceiling with exposed beams add some extra character. A patio is also set up out front as well, giving some additional seating when the weather is nice.
As hinted at earlier, there is more to Best Burger Bar than just burgers, including the fact that this is also a cocktail bar of sorts—and one interesting side note centers around the person behind the bar program here. When the word first got out that Brother Cleve would be the head mixologist at Best Burger Bar, it helped bring a bit more chatter about the spot, and for good reason—Cleve is a legendary figure within the Boston-area cocktail scene, and he happens to be a big name on the local music scene as well, playing for local roots/garage rock band the Del Fuegos along with a lounge act called Combustible Edison. The cocktails tried on a recent visit indeed showed the influence of Brother Cleve, but even though the negroni and the manhattan were very solid versions of each, it’s probably important to keep in mind that this is by no means an upscale craft cocktail bar like the Hawthorne in Kenmore Square or Drink in Fort Point, instead being a simple neighborhood hangout for a couple of drinks and a burger. And speaking of burgers, the dry-aged Angus burgers really shine at Best Burger Bar, especially for such a low price point; two burgers that were tried on a recent visit included a gut-busting Big Tex burger with pepper jack cheese, bacon, house-made BBQ sauce, and onion rings; and a burger called Le Big Mac which pretty much blows away the McDonald’s Big Mac (which really isn’t such a bad burger when you think about it). Some of the other food items offered include an excellent version of poutine with fries, brown gravy, and cheese curds, though perhaps even more impressive is the simple but oh-so-good fries with manchego cheese on top. A veggie burger is available in addition to beef burgers, and hot dogs and wings are offered as well. For those who would rather opt for a drink other than a cocktail, Best Burger Bar has some craft beers from the local area and elsewhere available (with beers from Two Roads and Lagunitas being a couple of options), and it will also be serving boozy milkshakes at some point, though as of this writing, they were not available just yet.
While really more of an unassuming local spot, Best Burger Bar does seem like a place with great potential, especially based on the burgers tried there, though the sides and cocktails also impressed for the most part. It’s interesting that this place kind of snuck into the neighborhood around the time that a highly anticipated burger spot called Worthy Kitchen was canceling its plans to open in the same block, much to the disappointment of many in the Boston area. (Worthy Kitchen in Woodstock, Vermont, and Worthy Burger in nearby South Royalton are almost cult-like places for lovers of burgers and beers.) But even though there will apparently be no Worthy Kitchen in Brookline Village after all, Best Burger Bar isn’t too far off in quality and is in some ways a similar place, so one burger place’s loss is another’s gain, and for the people who live in this little section of Brookline, this dining spot certainly does seem to fill a niche even in these burger-crazy times. [Ed note: Best Burger Bar, which offered dinner only when it first opened, began lunch service as well in mid-September.]
BEST BURGER BAR. 195 WASHINGTON ST., BROOKLINE. BESTBURGERBAR.COM
Marc is the founder of @hiddenboston, a textbook editor, a hike leader for @AppMtnClub, and a food and travel writer and commenter for DigBoston, NBC/NECN, WBZ, WMFO and indie617.