Buffalo, NY: Burgers, Beers, and T-Shirts at Pearl Street Grill & Brewery

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[Photographs: Damon Gambuto]

Pearl Street Grill & Brewery

76 Pearl Street, Buffalo NY 14202 (map); pearlstreetgrill.com
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: This large scale bar and grill makes some very good pub-style burgers.
Want Fries with That? The fries are good, but the chips that come with all the burgers are good too.
Prices:The Burger Maximus, $7.49; burger, beer, and T-shirt deal, $20

I'm taking a week off my usual Los Angeles-area review to shine a little light on a burger I had during a recent sojourn in the Northeast. After a beautiful wedding in the very fun city of Toronto (burger review coming soon!) I pointed the family roadster South toward Niagara on our way to the Buffalo airport. The crush of humanity at the Falls meant we were forced to shorten our visit to the truly breathtaking natural wonder. Rather than lemonade, I turned those lemons into burgers.

We found our way to the Pearl Street Grill & Brewery, which sits a stones throw from Coca Cola Field (home of The Bisons). The impressively large restaurant houses multiple dining rooms and a "full-grain brewhouse." Along with the vast beer offerings are a slew of burger options. I was determined to avail myself of both—and learned that meant I'd go home with a T-shirt to boot.

I ordered the Burger Maximus which, despite is name, is a very manageable eight ounces of fresh-ground, aged chuck. The roll is described as "bulky," but it too defies the nomenclature. It's actually a nicely-sized product that splits the difference between traditional hamburger bun and the standard "hard roll" that's probably the source of its name. It really held up well to the robust patty and its serious juice.

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Speaking of which, this patty deserves some recognition. Considering this place probably knocks out hundreds of these guys on a busy night, the quality was great. The clean, minerally chuck was given just that extra bit of bite from the aging and leaked juice after the first bite. That was partly due to the excellent grill work. The char was in full effect, but they didn't overcook the center. What I got was that delightful balance of crunch from the crust against a juicy and smooth interior. If I had to point out a flaw though, it be the patty's fine grind; a coarse grind would be better.

I went with a very conservative cheddar, lettuce, and tomato, but that's just the beginning of Pearl Street's seven-burger menu. They'll doll up your patty with all manner of options (mushrooms, blue cheese, barbecue sauce, et al), but I think this pub-style burger is best eaten with the classics.

On top of all this burger goodness, I was able to take advantage of their burger, beer, and T-shirt deal. For $20 you get your cheeseburger, fries, beer, and a Pearl Street T-shirt. It's not the most attractive article of clothing, but it's soft enough to make it into the around-the-house-wear rotation. Plus, their beer is made right over your shoulder if you're in the back dining room so as to make sampling the offerings a little bit like visiting a brewery. I went with the Lake Effect Pale Ale—it had that pleasant crisp finish that I think matches a burger.

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From what I can gather, Pearl Street has become a bit of a destination in Buffalo (Buffalo folks, please weigh in!), but it's not entirely because its beloved. A few years back they fought a battle to erect a statue of their mascot, The Lake Effect Man, on the building. I don't know if I'd have battled alongside Pearl Street on that one, but I do know that I'll stop in again for burger and a beer should I be passing through Buffalo again. Maybe I'll even score another T-shirt.

About the author: Damon is one of our roving burger reporters and food writers. When he's not eating more than is warranted or healthful (and then writing about it) he can be found writing and producing for television and film. You can contact him at seriouslydamon@gmail.com.

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