Up in your grill
Hidden gem: Retro burger joint beefs up Southtown's tasty vibe
Walk into Burger Culture, and you’ll know immediately you’re in the heart of Southtown. With swirling Peter Max-style murals of ’60s pop culture icons and a classic rock soundtrack, the casual eatery isn’t too hung up on being hipper than thou. Instead, it effortlessly blends in with the artsy and casual vibe of the neighborhood restaurants, bars, and shops that surround it.
That’s no accident. Owners Randy and Julie Vrana were already well acquainted with the neighborhood through their other restaurant, Southtown Pizzeria. A few months ago, it dawned on them that Southtown needed a neighborhood burger joint. In keeping with the eclectic spirit of the area, the Vranas gave the menu a few intriguing twists.
Burger purists will gravitate to the traditional burgers, juicy third- or half-pound patties, griddled or mesquite-smoked and topped with lettuce, tomatoes, onion, and pickles. But there are plenty of other choices for those who want to go off script. The Bombay tops a brioche bun with a grilled lamb patty and a dollop of avocado curry. The pizza burger layers a beef patty, pepperoni, mozzarella, and marinara on a ciabatta roll. And the Rico magically puts all the best things you like about nachos — ground beef, refried beans, corn chips, pico de gallo, and queso — on a jalapeño cheddar bun.
If you would prefer to choose your own adventure, Burger Culture offers a lengthy selection of add-ons and beyond basic condiments ranging from a tangy blue cheese dressing to a rich rye whiskey sauce. Or you can skip the burgers entirely and order a lighter blackened ahi tuna sandwich smothered with a bright remoulade, or a sloppy Joe that will make you feel like a kid again.
Sides are no afterthought either. Comfort food staples like chicken wings, fried mushrooms, coleslaw, jalapeño hush puppies, and pinto beans are all available, but we like to stick to the hand-cut fries (available in sweet potato, shoestring, or a thicker cut) and thick, greaseless onion rings. Either can be jazzed up with the addition of cheese, chili, truffle oil and sea salt, or a rosemary garlic oil.
And of course, a burger joint would not be complete without offering milkshakes and malts. If you’re in the mood for something a little more adult, Burger Culture has a selection of beers and wines, including local craft brews.
By spring, the dog-friendly patio will likely be filled to the brim with happy neighborhood customers, but we suggest you go there now. After all, there's nothing cooler than saying you knew about a hidden gem all along.