Burgers and More is celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse’s most recent foray into the culinary world, found locally at the Sands Casino in Bethlehem. Strictly burger joints and gourmet burgers aren’t anything necessarily new, but you’d be hard pressed to find anything like them in the Lehigh Valley.
Now, I often compare the Lehigh Valley to Philadelphia, but that’s only because we’re usually two steps behind Philadelphia (who is three steps behind NYC/LA) in terms of culinary, dining, and drink fads. There’s been a burger war going on for years in Philadelphia, with combinations of kobe beef, prime rib, venison, gourmet toppings, etc. being slung around by the like of PYT, Butcher and Singer, Whiskey Village, and other notable restaurants. You won’t find any ultra high-end Wagyu beef patties at Emeril’s, but what you will find will probably appease your palate.
As I neared the new restraurant, there was a cluster of people staring at the menu and peering in trying to take a look at what the hype was all about. The restaurant was understandably packed, as they announced that they were opening a day early in Saturday’s Morning Call. Not a seat was to be had, but as I was by myself I decided to eat at the bar and not take up a table when real estate was that valuable. After a few minute wait a couple cleared out of the bar and I sat down.
When I took my seat I was handed a drink menu and a “Create a Burger” sheet, in case that was the route that I wanted to take. The drink menu consisted of a few frou frou, overly sweet cocktails, a few local beers, and a bunch of macrobrews. I was a bit disappointed at the selection of beers, especially considering I read that the bar was going to focus heavily on selling local and Pennsylvania-made beers. They had a few from Weyerbacher and a few from Victory, but that was pretty muich the extent of the interesting offerings. I decided to settle with a perfectly fine Weyerbacher Winter Ale, which was served to me in the bottle with a very tall pilsner glass.
I opted to do the Create a Burger over the other options. I chose a prime chuck patty, sesame bun, mozzarella cheese, balsamic-braised onions, and applewood bacon done medium rare with a side of BAM fries. The food came fairly quickly and was delivered by a server to me at the bar. The (small) serving of fries was delivered in a stainless steel basket and the burger was pinned together by a bamboo skewer complete with a side of Emeril’s Signature BBQ Sauce. The burger was cooked as ordered, but perhaps could’ve been a bit pinker. The burger was definitely a good size and filled me up by the time I was done with it. The balsamic onions were absolutely delicious and went well with the bacon and mozzarella. The bun was extremely fresh and tasty. The fries were pretty tasty, but as a friend of mine noted, they don’t give you too many. They’re lightly seasoned with something that I couldn’t put my finger on but they might do a little better with some more gratuitous seasoning.
The service itself was alright. The bartender was mildly attentive but friendly. I do have one complaint, which I’m not sure whether I would attribute to my own misunderstanding or some very sly tactics on the bartender’s behalf. We were making small talk as she noticed my camera and inquired if I was Sands staff. Anyways, after we were talking she asked, “So, do you want a shot?” It was kind of out of the blue so I figured she was just doing me a favor. She asked if I wanted it served in “one of the fancy glasses” (note: they’re snifters and yes you should serve your high end straight alcohol in them), to which I replied, “Sure.” Well, as you can guess, it wasn’t on the house and cost about $7.50. You live, you learn.
Besides that, everything else went smoothly, especially for an opening night. I can’t say I was absolutely blown away, but I overheard another patron comment that he “wasn’t impressed, but rather satisfied.” I couldn’t have put it any better myself.
Burgers and More
77 Sands Boulevard, Bethlehem