240 Court Street, Brooklyn NY 11201 (map); 718-246-8259
Cooking Method: Griddled
Short Order: In addition to beef, you can get chicken, bison, elk, turkey, ostrich, or lamb substitutions along with umpteen topping and bun options. Cheffy burgers in a cozy space with a long communal table in the middle and salvaged wood from a Minnesota barn lines the walls.
Want Fries with That? You should. They're golden and crisp with those perfectly soft potato-y insides.
Prices: All-American, $8; Court Street, $12; Greek, $12; Smoke House, $14; fries and frickles $3-$4, shakes $4-$5.
There seems to be a burger wave moving through my neighborhood, from the fast-food to the cheffy. Five Guys opened not too long ago on Court Street (just a short walk from its sibling in Brooklyn Heights and another on Flatbush), as did Two 8 Two Bar & Burger on Atlantic Avenue and Dubuque ("Down Under the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway") on Court Street.
Last year it was JB's Burger on Smith Street and there are plenty of other burger-centric joints cropping up all over. This week another one entered the scene: Moo Burger.*
* The partnership potential is huge. Cluck Chicken, Oink Pork, Bleat Lamb, etc.
Moo Burger's sign went up last winter but they only opened last week. Still no website, Facebook page, or Twitter presence (what is this, 1992? they said they're working on it). The closest thing out there is Moo-Moo's Burger Barn based in Stockton, California; the two aren't related (and before you click that page, be forewarned, it moos and talks).
We showed up to the new organic burger joint on Court Street last week, as did plenty of Carroll Gardens neighbors on that gray, drizzly night. You may recognize the chef, Marc Anthony Bynum, from Food Network's Chopped. He claimed two victories on the show, as the menu points out at the bottom in his bio. He was in the open kitchen on our visit, keeping the line hustling, saucing each plate before it went out.
And boy, are there many sauces here! Chipotle ketchup red pepper and tomato relish (note: that's all one sauce), chipotle blue cheese, chipotle BBQ sauce, honey mustard, horseradish mayo, tzatziki, and the namesake "Moo Sauce" (chipotle blue cheese mayo) just to name a few. On some burgers they come gushing out (the tzatziki on the Greek), while they're more reserved on others (a thin swipe of Moo on the All-American).
Moo Burger's menu is a little overwhelming; the kind in 8-point font that requires at least four whole minutes of silent reading at the table. In addition to sauce options you have 14 burger options, each with six organic meat substitution options. Chicken, bison, elk, turkey, ostrich, lamb, and a seventh non-meat, the veggie.
In addition to the aforementioned meats and sauces, you can add toppings like avocado, pulled pork, brisket (meat on meat!), roasted peppers, wild mushrooms, bacon, or a fried egg. And did we get to buns yet? Brioche, sourdough, whole-wheat, or pretzel, all from Brick City Bakery.
This isn't a purist In-N-Out-style menu or a "no substitutions!" place, for better or for worse.
The All-American ($8) is the simplest burger, at least if you don't start throwing on toppings. It comes with just the Moo meat, lettuce, tomato, raw red onions, and Moo Sauce on a soft brioche bun with a buttery sheen. While the meat is juicy and well seasoned with the right salt-pepper hit, it barely had a crust and the center was, dare I say it, still moo-ing. Ordered medium-rare, it didn't come out juicy-beefy-red, it was more of a tartare-red-pushing-purple (see above).
Ditto on The Court Street ($12) an elk burger with wild mushrooms and balsamic-caramelized onions. In lieu of Brie, they served roquefort that night. The kitchen was more than apologetic when we requested a weller-done, less-moo-ing burger, and the second time was the charm. The meat was juicy and gamy with slightly sweet onions, woodsy mushrooms, and added texture and flavor from the cheese crumbles. As far as cheffy burgers go, it's a tasty synthesis of flavors.
The Greek ($12, pictured at the top) was a sight to behold. Just look at that stream of tzatziki trickling down the side. The yogurt sauce is a bright complement to the earthy, not-too-funky but still quite flavorful lamb meat. The grilled eggplant adds a mild sweetness and there's also olive tapenade and a few dainty pickled cucumbers hiding in there somewhere. For this bun, they serve it on a crusty sourdough. It's quite hard; we sure got a jaw workout.
Moo Burgers are busy but in most cases, carefully constructed, though some of them are a stretch. The Smoke House ($14) includes pulled pork and a bulky onion ring on a burger patty. "Wait, that's pulled pork on top of the burger?" asked a confused diner nearby.
Same with The Surf & Turf (butter-poached shrimp and grilled pineapple on a burger) and perhaps the biggest head-scratcher, the Nova Scotia (smoked salmon and mustard creme fraiche...on a burger). Do we really need smoked salmon and burger meat in the same bite? Discuss.
As for the Bah Mi Burger (pickled daikon, carrots, onions, cilantro, and lemon aioli), it was unclear whether the "n" was forgotten or they were attempting another animal sound reference. (Note to menu copyeditor: If the latter, it really should have been baah.)
Moo Burger also sells hot dogs (though I didn't see any tables ordering them), salads (the best name award goes to "Moo Cobb"), onion rings, fried mac 'n' cheese, and fried pickles.
Unlike other frickles that tend to be sliced pickle coins, these are whole McClure's pickles, battered and dunked right into the fryer. Pickle enthusiasts should have no problem with this greater pickle-to-fried ratio, especially when the pickle is this dilly and vinegar-punchy. But that fried jacket doesn't want to stay on after a couple bites.
In the fries department—and since it's Moo Burger there is a whole department—they do zucchini, sweet potato, Moo fries (chili cheese), and the traditional potatoes, which we got. They're medium-thick, crisp on the outside with fluffy, potato-y insides. They're golden, some with skins still on, and nicely salted with coarse salt flecks still shimmering on top.
Now, fancy ketchup is a polarizing topic, and Moo Burger serves one that's more like a relish or chutney, spiced with chipotle, cinnamon, and other species. Ketchup in name only, it's tasty and interesting, though many of the kiddie customers have been requesting "normal ketchup," so they plan to stock Heinz soon.
Milkshakes come in the standard vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry, all made with nearby Blue Marble's ice cream and organic milk, but this wouldn't be Moo Burger without more options to induce another layer of ordering indecision.
PB&J, Banana Foster, Apple Pie, and the seasonal Pumpkin. Since it's a law to order any pumpkin-flavored anything in autumn, we went with that. Topped with whipped cream, it's important to use that tall spoon to dig down to the pumpkin ice cream clumps sitting at the bottom of the glass, otherwise it goes down awfully sweet.
Moo Burger is still brand-new and finding its groove. It's a welcome addition to the neighborhood, even if you can already find six other burgers in a six-minute walk. It's the cheffier alternative to Five Guys down the street, a comfortable and buzzing room with beers on tap, sweet potato fries, and a different burger permutation everytime you visit. Just make sure to order yours not-still-mooing.