Inside Portland’s new burger and adult milkshake bar

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Just when you thought Portland’s dining scene had no holes left to fill, along comes BRGR Bar. Opening Monday in the former Margaritas space on Brown Street, this sleek, art-filled burger bar is a modern Golden Arches for urbanites.

A daily baker’s dozen of grass-fed beef, local bison, duck and tuna burgers accompanied by adult milkshakes sets the carefree, youthful vibe.

Since July 2016, owner Phelps Craig has pumped resources into the high-ceilinged space and retooled its feng shui. This is her second BRGR Bar. The first opened in Portsmouth, N.H. in 2014 and Manchester, N.H. is next.

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Gone are the brick arches and ceramic Mexican tiles. In its place is an open, industrial room with a stainless steel center bar. It is here that decadent shakes (all made with vanilla soft serve ice cream) are whirred to order. Shakes cost $6, or $11 if you add booze.

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The Thin Mint — brownie bits, chocolate syrup, rum and peppermint schnapps — should leave you swooning. The Original, made with bourbon and maple syrup, or the Oreo Lift, featuring crushed Oreos and espresso vodka, will take the sting out of a bad work day. There are also virgin milkshakes, like the sea salt, caramel and pretzels for rainy days and Mondays.

Colorful graffiti by Portland artist Ryan Adams anchors one wall. Soon neon signs from East Bayside neon bender Dave Johansen will complete this newcomer’s cheerful interior.

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What about those burgers? The Maine Family Farms Meat Company is grinding an “aged, primal blend” for executive chef Jon Vogt. The bison comes from Hackmatack Buffalo Farm in Berwick and tuna patties, seared rare and served with miso aioli and red cabbage slaw, is just the short list.

You want fries? Vietnamese style served with pickled daikon carrots and shredded pork is one of many gourmet side options. Vogt has cooked for nine years and earned his way around an all beef patty at Plan B Burger Bar in Connecticut. This is his first time behind the range in Maine.

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Chef Vogt.

True, there are oodles of options for quality burgers in Portland (Nosh and b.good), but BGBR Bar, in an antique brick building between between Congress and Free streets, is hyper focused on the American sandwich. Its special sauce — adult milkshakes — gives this food bar a decadent edge.

“The Portland dining scene is inundated,” admits Craig, “but we are going to do it anyway.”

BRGR Bar opens Monday at 4:30 p.m.

Kathleen Pierce

About Kathleen Pierce

A lifelong journalist with a deep curiosity for what's next. Interested in food, culture, trends and the thrill of a good scoop. BDN features reporter based in Portland since 2013.