San Diego: Close, But Not Quite at Urge Gastropub

AHT: San Diego

Burger reviews in the San Diego area.

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[Photographs: Erin Jackson]

Urge Gastropub

16761 Bernardo Center Dr, San Diego CA 92128 (map); 858-673-8743; urgegastropub.com
Cooking method: Grilled
Short Order: A tasty burger, simply prepared, with some cheffy tweaks
Want Fries With That? Definitely; go with an order of sweet potato fries and some chipotle aioli
Price: Burger of the Gods, $11; sweet potato fries, +$1

Burger purists may shudder at the thought of ingredients like truffle-mushroom pesto, green goddess aioli, or "artisan" buns, but if there was ever a place to challenge preconceived notions, it's at Urge Gastropub. The measuredly cheffy burgers are made with a half pound of Angus beef topped with myriad house-made sauces. For those looking for something beyond regular beef, their menu also features burgers made with wild boar, veal, and Wagyu beef, plus one vegan option. With so much creativity on display by chef Marc Liautard, you'd be completely missing the point by ordering the "Plain Jane" burger.

So I didn't. I went for the loftily named "Burger of the Gods"—an Angus patty with balsamic cured onions, applewood-smoked bacon, green goddess aioli, and dandelion-feta pesto. After hearing nothing but good things about Urge from several trustworthy sources, my expectations were high.

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Though worthy of the detour to Rancho Bernardo, the burger did have a few flaws. Let's start with the good points: the coarsely ground half-pound Angus beef patty was fairly moist, though not terribly juicy (to conserve the limited moisture, order it medium-rare). The beefy flavor was straight-forward and satisfying, and the toppings were fresh and tasty (though I couldn't wrap my head around the stone-cold balsamic cured onions). The cheffy additions rounded out the flavors of the burger: The dandelion feta pesto brought earthy, herbaceous elements, and the green goddess mayo upped the patty's moistness. Even the lightly toasted fluffy brioche bun was right on, bringing a touch of sweetness, which balanced out the saltiness of the thick-cut bacon.

The burger had so much going for it, but one flaw was keeping it from achieving a gold star: It was served at room temperature, and quickly turned cold. Granted, I was eating outside and taking photos, but the weather was only slightly brisk and burgers don't cool off that drastically after a minute or two of photo-taking.

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Upgrading to the sweet potato fries is a must. For an extra buck, you get a sizeable handful of lightly battered fries, cooked light and crisp, and seasoned with sea salt. They're perfectly tasty on their own, but even better with one of the flavored mayos. My instinct is always chipotle aioli, and Urge has a great one. The smokiness of the chipotle is balanced by creamy mayo that's whipped up so light and fluffy, you can almost convince yourself it's low-fat.

Ordering at least one beer should be considered mandatory. Start with a few "tastes" from the tap list, which includes over 50 options updated daily, many of them local, limited edition brews priced at $2 to $3 per taste.

Even flawed, the burger at Urge is worth the detour to Rancho Bernardo, and the extensive tap list and stellar fries and starters (including the battered mac and cheese bites pictured above) redeemed the meal. I'd go back, but to be safe, I'd eat inside.

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