Iron Sulfide (FeS2) is so exciting. Grab a handful from a cold spring and you’ll think you’ve struck it rich. It’s so shiny! My god, I’ve struck gold!
Iron Sulfide (FeS2) is also known as pyrite, brazzle, or more commonly, fool’s gold.
And, if you’ll bear with me for a minute or five, that’s what the Burger Haus in Indianapolis is like. (FeS2)
It’s a good idea, you know, really excellent hamburgers, lots of cheese, bun, and patty options; great apps, microbrews, and a beautiful site right on the Canal in downtown Indianapolis; banquettes and brick and Edison bulbs. What could possibly go wrong?
Oh, dear reader, let’s start with what is right. Sure, the decor is inviting: plenty of brick, specialty texture lighting, raw cement, a mix of the industrial, the whimsical, and the geographic. Like if Eddie Bauer, National Geographic, Pinterest, and HGTV all had a craft baby, Burger Haus’ interior would be that: banquettes! Edison lights! An attention to surfaces and lighting! Beautiful woods, highly-varnished next to industrial elements and world maps! It’s so…pleasant, and Brewhouse-y, and, well…appealing. Only, not any more appealing than the other places and/or Pinterest sites that look exactly the same (and there are oh-so-DIY-many). According to the official Burger Haus website, the environment has “the feel of a new-European pub” (whatever that means) and dining there will “transport you to a relaxing mini-vacation meal” (that’s a big promise for an $11 burger).
Well, in the ladies’ room, the trash can blocks both women’s stall doors, does that count? (I sure did enjoy the bamboo bird’s nest-inspired lamp in the dining room, though. And polished cement next to mahogany is always pleasing, and hey, that’s the canal, right there, so I can sort of forgive having to dodge the trash can in order to make water, no matter which stall I choose.)
So, despite the insufferable website script, the interior really is quite nice, the patio gorgeous, the canal siting perfect. If the details of the loo are wrong and if the prints on the walls smack of “trying-too-hard” and if there is no such thing in the Burger Haus as unique, well, it’s still inviting and pretty to look at.
What else is right? The idea is spot on. At the end of the day, (unless you’re vegetarian), what is better than a really, truly, fundamentally authentic burger, with cheese, on excellent bread? Well, nothing (and, at the Burger Haus, the vegan issue is resolved with the following options: a black bean burger or portabello mushroom cap. If you’re non-beef: you can choose turkey, or chicken, or Ahi tuna. The Burger Haus is very accommodating.) To be fair, you can choose your cheese. Perhaps you would like feta, or goat, or Gouda? Bleu? American? Swiss? They have it. No extra charge. (If our party’s burgers were any guide, there will not, under any circumstances, be enough cheese, no matter which you choose, but oh, my dears, at least you had the choice!) And on buns, they offer brioche, or gluten-free (it’s a bun!), wheat, pretzel, white. Have it your way? Screw you, Burger King, it’s Burger Haus!
Alas, the burgers are so-so (one of our party said his was better as leftovers the following day, after microwaving, when it was “not so dry”). It’s not like they’re bad, poorly cooked, cold, or unappealing. They’re just, well, underwhelming in a place that has named itself after, well, the BURGER.
But we’re discussing what’s right, so let’s put the “burgers” of BurgerHaus aside for a moment (FeS2) (Admittedly, for a “Burger” Haus, this is a big thing to put aside. So just stick it in the ladies’ room next to that trash can.) Lots of options, nice use of brick and canal and patio. Good concept (even if BruBurger, Five Guys, and Kuma Corner and others have arrived at the same destination). What’s definitely, one-hundred-and a thousand percent right about this place? The “New Orleans Pickle Chips” ($7.50). Those are spot-on. They’re substantial, plentiful, crisp and beautiful, the best fried pickle chips I’ve ever had (and very popular at our table, a party of ten). Imagine good old-fashioned refrigerator pickles, made from fresh from the garden cucumber, thickly cut, pickled with vinegar and onion and dill. Now tempura-batter it, pile a pound of it on a plate. That’s the “New Orleans Pickle Chips.” Less French Market than Farmer’s Market, but worth going back for, times a thousand. And easily better than the burgers.
What else is right? The “Castroville Parmesan and Artichoke Dip” ($8.00 with pita chips). Sure, you’re thinking you’ve had all you can stand of the 1990’s era spin-dips. This is not (NOT!) that. This is pure artichoke: fresh and leafy and creamy. It tastes freaking green, not like ranch; this tastes like the garden you dreamt you grew. If the burgers skimp on the cheese (and they do, friends, lord knows they do), well, there is no skimping on the artichoke in the artichoke dip. For the first time in American restaurant history, this dip is fully-artichoke, dip optional. It’s delicious. And, like the pickle chips, seriously overshadows the burgers. (Perhaps the name should be changed to “Artichoke Haus” or “Fried Pickle Haus”).
If there is actual gold in them thar’ hills, well, that gold is the pickles and the artichokes.
So: solid gold at the Burger Haus? The pickle chips, the artichoke dip. The canal view. The patio.
The decor is pleasing, but more gold-plated than gold.
The burgers? (FeS2)
The fries? I have not yet mentioned the Haus Fries. Well, the website (“neo-European!”) advertises these as “so good they are accepted as currency in many civilizations.” I rate them as…(drumroll) better than White Castle but not better than any other fry on the planet. The fries were so bad I could not eat them (it should be noted that, excepting the dreaded crinkle fry, this has never before happened). These were not gold, not fool’s gold, not silver, not copper. These were not BPA. These were cold. Stale. Over seasoned but under-salted. These were mealy, unappetizing, and (my god, this is what they’re so proud of next to the burgers????)
You know who has better fries? Penn Station. Five Guys. Mc Donald’s. The neighborhood hospital cafeteria that doesn’t even fry the damn fries.
These were…terrible. (Which is funny, because the website claims that the “Haus fries are so good they are accepted as currency in many civilizations.”)
Some members of our party (spendthrifts, all) opted to pay two dollars extra for the bleu cheese fries: these were so cayenne-peppered that one member of the party had an allergy attack, and the other? Well, he looked at his sadly white-sauced and cayenned fries (the bleu cheese is a sauce and not crumbles) and cursed the universe that would tempt him with bleu cheese (mold) and then not actually provide it.
(Score: cayenne pepper and BurgerHaus: 2, Bleu Cheese: 0. Diner: Non-plussed.)
Now, in fairness: the soup of the day, a tomato tortellini was rhapsodized about: cheese tortellini in tomato soup? Who needs grilled cheese?
No one in our party of ten griped about the burgers, the fries (okay, I totally did, because they were inedible), the slow times for service and refills, and food.
Who wants to gripe? I mean, everyone is rooting for gold. And everyone can appreciate the virtues of a shiny surface, so FeS2 seems good enough.
(Do not go to the Burger Haus with a party of ten. You will have to order appetizers and still maybe have to gnaw your own fingers off to deal with the hunger. Such…slow…service.)
(When you ask the Burger Haus server if this is a Coke or Pepsi establishment, they will answer Pepsi. This is weird, because then you open the menu and, hand to God, it will say “proudly serves Coca-Cola”.) But the Iced Tea tastes brewed and not bagged, so mystification is a small price to pay. Metaphorically.)
If one in your party orders fish and chips, you’ll notice that the “chips” are dry, withered things and the establishment is skimpy on the fish. But it’s not called “Fish Haus.”
It’s called “Burger Haus” and the burgers are underwhelming. The environment pleasant but pedestrian. The fries inedible. The site perfect. The beverages confusing.
I would go back. I would sit, quite happily, in the summer, on the patio, looking at the canal, eating the oh-my-God artichoke dip and this-is-so-freaking-fresh-pickles. I would, me being me, still make fun of the J. Peterman-like stoogery that is the “myth” of “J.E.Burghstein” and his “world travels,” which founded the damned Burger Haus.
Well, J.E. Burghstein is not real. And if he were, he’d be pretty pissed by the insubstantial burgers, the dry and inedible fries, and the totally, utterly disappointing use of cheese (but, please, pick: Gouda, American, bleu? Cheddar? Feta? Swiss?). No matter which you choose, it will be applied sparingly.
And that, like the fries, and the prices, the similarities, the soap scum on the silverware (did I mention? All the utensils were coated in white chalky build-up), the slow service (sure, we were 10 people, but we were 10 people who ordered hamburgers), and the under-utilization of cheese products all leads up to…Fool’s Gold.
You head to the Burger Haus, looking for the real thing. But you end up with Brazzle. It’s worth the visit for: artichoke dip and pickle chips. If these two things aren’t gold, well, they’re solid silver, and the best of their kind.
But for the rest? Better eating your dinner at Five Guys. Rally’s (even). Penn Station. Chili’s.
The fries will be better anywhere. The burgers will at least match anywhere but White Castle, McDonald’s, or Burger King.
Never quite trust a place that relies on a fake story (J.E. Burghstein?) and smallish portions. But go there for a beer and an order of fried pickles or astonishingly good artichoke dip.
Fool’s gold has never been so satisfying. (And, like FeS2, the BurgerHaus is somehow less than meets the eye; it is not quite the real thing (excepting the pickles and the artichoke). It doesn’t live up to the initial excitement of finding something golden and sparkling in the creek.
There’s something gold-like in them thar’ hills. But Burger Haus is not quite it.
But order the pickles and the artichoke dip. Both are quite good.