Situated on Washington Street in Brighton, spaced among dozens of restaurants of a dozen different ethnicities, a restaurant has to stand out in some way or it will just be lost in a haze of pizza slices, Carnitas and Kung Pao. On the surface, Porter Belly's looks like every other pub you've been to dozens of times, the interior is questionable, but I must say, the burgers are pretty decent. But I can't go beyond that. Not the worst we've had, but not the best either, I suppose you could do much worse though. They offer almost an exclusive burger menu, there were some specials written out on a piece of paper separately, but it might as well have said roadkill because I barely glanced at it. The burgers aren't especially memorable by name, and the ingredients are all that imaginative either, and I realize I always order a basic cheeseburger, but I'm open to something beyond that should it be a signature burger of sorts. But why even bother with having a dozen or so burgers (some turkey) if you're not going to be creative about it anyway. Why not just serve burgers and offer free toppings on the side, ala Five Guys, but better? Or make it slightly more upscale but still be a burger at its core, ala The Biltmore, but better? Hmmm, I think I'm starting to realize what my prefect burger might taste like after all, if only someone could execute properly.
My problem with pubs in that they usually have an identity crisis; is it a pub, is it a place to get food, is it a club at night, or is it all three? On this particular Thursday afternoon, I have no idea, because we're the only two customers in there. Is 2:30 that strange of a time to eat lunch? The place smells like Pine Sol, and there are dozens of sports banners throughout (Go local sports teams!) and it feels more like an Elks Club than an Irish bar, although I can't figure out for the life of me what anyone would want to listen to Hoobastank while eating or drinking or doing anything for that matter. Music tastes aside, the burgers are solid, erupting like a volcano of juice at first bite, which actually worries me if anything. The reason being that burgers, and all protein in general, needs to rest a few minutes before serving. Why? Because all that effort spent on making a juicy burger and cooking it to temp. is wasted if it doesn't rest a few minutes before biting into it. The juices need a chance to redistribute, which will make it juicy all the way to the end. Now am I the consumer expected to let it rest in front of me? No way, if the food is served, it must be time to eat. Because of this fatal flaw, my burger becomes drier the more I eat, and more and more cooked as I near the end, so long medium-rare. But overall its good, the fries and right on, salted well and crispy in every way. The service is stellar, but c'mon, we were the only two in there. My biggest problem is with the choice of grilling versus griddling. We can go on and on about the pleasures of grilling (a future blog I'm sure), but for me, a burger has to be griddled, because again, all that glorious juice and beef fat will be lost through the grates. Not only that, over-charred in certain spots yields a slightly bitter, and very unpleasant taste, Porter Bellies is no exception.
I know I sound a bit overcritical, as per usual, but its just my opinion. This place really wasn't bad, if you didn't know any better, you might think its pretty great. Certainly the top tier of what we've had so far, aka, not a train wreck, but i think we still have a long way to go.