The Weber Grill
10 N. Illinois Street, Indianapolis IN 46204; map); 317-636-7600; other locations listed at webergrillrestaurant.com
Cooking Method: Grilled, of course!
Short Order: A satisfyingly charred and smoky burger offering a familiar taste.
Want Fries with That? Comes with; nothing special.
Price: Cheeseburger with fries, $10.95
I generally abhor theme restaurants, but I have to admit that I really rather like Weber Grill Restaurant. For once, the gimmick is actually a benefit to the food rather than a distraction and impediment. So while the restaurant has the expected trappings of an upscale theme chain—a vague hunting lodge motif replete with open fireplaces along with awnings in the shape of a grill rack—the food is actually cooked on industrial-sized Weber grills, surely the most iconic of all backyard cookers.
Indeed, before George Stephen converted a buoy (he part owned a sheet metal factory that manufactured them) in to the first Weber kettle in 1952, outdoor grilling was—especially in his native Illinois—a seasonal sport. The Weber kettle, with its covered dome top, allowed cooking year round in less than hospitable climates. The grills became so popular that by the end of the 1950s, Stephen was able to buy out his partners and open a factory dedicated to making only grills.
The rest is history: The term "Weber" is as synonymous with grilling as "Scotch" is to tape. If you think about the number of burgers cooked in backyards across America, a sizable portion are made on Webers. With such brand familiarity, it is not surprising that Weber decided to open a restaurant back in 1989. What is surprising is that they have only opened three additional locations since then. If their hamburger is any measure of the restaurant's worth (and you probably wouldn't be reading this if didn't think it was), then the concept should be viable throughout the country. I mean, who doesn't love a true flame grilled burger?
Okay, I admit that I generally prefer griddle-cooked burgers, especially when the alternative is one of those gas powered "char broilers" that are a poor substitute for real wood or charcoal. Fortunately, Weber Grill only uses charcoal to fire the kettles that cook the burgers and steaks. I think that the flavors evoked are so compelling, not only because they accomplish the task of searing the beef with such aplomb, but also because they are so familiar, even if you have never eaten there before.
Clearly the Weber Grill Company learned a thing or two about cooking burgers after almost eight decades of perfecting and selling grills. The beef—a chunky grind of Black Angus—comes impressively seared, even when ordered rare. The perfectly latticed hatch marks are pronounced and add a pleasing crunch to the burger. The beef, while not being overly juicy, is still moist throughout and well seasoned. The patty is large enough (it seemed to be bigger than 8 ounces) to completely obscure the lettuce, tomato, and onion that comes as standard on the burger. It doesn't need them, nor any condiment.
The beef is salty and smoky enough to go it alone with cheese (a double slice serving, perfectly melted) and the superb bun. The latter is puffy and light, but is able to tame the large patty. If there is one criticism to be leveled at the burger it is that it is a bit too big, but I tend to find this with most restaurant burgers.
Weber Grill produces a much better burger than I would expect to get at a theme restaurant. The patty, while not being the last word in beefy flavor, is perfectly cooked, the bun is excellent, and the synthesis of the two is most satisfying—and familiar.
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