The recently opened Lowell Burger Co. is going to be an interesting test of Lowell’s culinary progress. There are plenty of top-notch restaurants galore in the Mill City, but it also has a long history of cheap eats, from its multiple diners and Elliot’s Hot Dogs to the late, great Kelly’s stands with their 15-cent burgers.
Most municipalities began seeing the arrival of “craft burger” establishments awhile back. Now, finally, it’s Lowell’s turn. Is the city ready for a $17 burger?
The nice thing about the Lowell Burger Co. is that even if the city isn’t — or you aren’t — there are still plenty of other options on the menu. But be forewarned, that $17 burger is a beauty. The Bon Marché, named after the stylish building that houses the LBC, is a flavor blast of braised short ribs, shallots, horseradish cream and cheesy mashed potatoes. Add a tender potato bun and a side of big, fresh, rough-cut french fries, and it’s serious eating.
The Bon Marché and the Greek Boy (a $16 lamb burger with feta and tzatziki) are on the high end of the menu. Along with a handful of other burger options, the LBC also features a stripped-down offering of salads, appetizers, fries and desserts.
The basic burger is the B3 ($9), with homemade ketchup, American cheese, lettuce and tomato. It was tender, tasty and done right. I have become very accustomed to being asked how I want my burger done and then having the cook/chef completely ignore my request. But the LBC nailed our burgers each time we visited.
The Lowell Burger Co. utilizes local pasture-raised meats, and that is only one of many examples of an eye for quality details that should grab the attention of even the casual diner.
The cloth napkins are oversized. Ask for sweetened iced tea and you don’t get a glass and a saucer of sugar packets. They sweeten the tea with simple syrup. Ask for a Coke and you’ll get the tall glass bottle of Mexican Coca-Cola made with real sugar. Serious Coke enthusiasts will tell you it is the Champagne of Coca-Colas. And any place that plays a lot of Otis Redding and Ray Charles gets high marks from me.
The room, formerly home to La Boniche and the recent Lowell version of Bishop’s, seats about 70 patrons in a space divided by a windowed faux wall. Prints and large graphic images of Lowell accent the white tiles and natural wood decor.
Though the eatery had not yet received its liquor license when we made our most recent visit, it has retained the small bar that was a gathering place for many years under previous ownerships, and the intent is to offer a variety of specialty cocktails and IPAs.
When we have dared to venture away from the nine available burgers, we have still been rewarded. The beet salad ($8) with lima beans, micro greens and a garlic sauce was a treat. Thai chili wings ($10) featured five wings in a spicy plum-orange sauce with jicama, scallions and cilantro — a smart mix of high spice but little burn.
There are five varieties of french fries. The basic LBC fries ($3) are sturdy enough, but the German fries ($4, with bacon, scallions and sweet-and-sour mustard) were a favorite over other contenders, including the Greek ($5), truffle ($5), and sweet potato ($4) varieties.
At our last visit, only three desserts were available, but we were pleasantly surprised. I am not a pumpkin guy — not pumpkin pie or pumpkin latte or pumpkin anything. However, even I could not refuse the allure of When Pigs Fly ($8), an oversize pumpkin whoopie pie with a bacon cream cheese frosting that had the flavor of trippy spice cake.
It’s time for the Merrimack Valley to embrace a place like the Lowell Burger Co.
Editor’s note: Lowell Burger Co. has since acquired a liquor license and the specialty cocktails and IPAs Dean Johnson mentioned are now available, just in time for the holidays. Enjoy!
Lowell Burger Co.
Mon-Thursday: Noon to 2:30 p.m.
and 5 to 9 p.m.
Friday and Saturday, 11:30am to 10 p.m.