Our Gourmet: Burgers great, but a bit of a wait

September 25. 2018 10:57PM

With fall looming and temperatures cooling, our thoughts turned to youth hockey equipment so we headed to Concord on a recent Sunday to browse, buy and get something to eat.

The capital city was crowded this afternoon, with a big event at the State House, parking at a premium and plenty of people about.

Our first dining choice had closed early, so we’re saving that spot for a future review.

After a drive down Main Street, Our Gourmet (OG), the Dining Companion (DC) and the almost-9-year-old Fussbudget (FB) were able to grab a parking spot in front of Red River Theatre and found ourselves staring at Vibes Burger Bar next door.

After making sure there were salads and a veggie burger for the vegan(ish) DC, and with excitement building in the burger-loving FB, we headed in.

Brick outside, Vibes shares an entry with the (related) Buza Dairy Bar. Inside, it’s hip, with hardwood floors, an exposed brick wall, pressed tin ceiling, plenty of brushed steel, booth seating, and even couches in the rear for the especially laid back.

There are several bar stools at the front counter and along the windows facing Main Street. It was crowded this late afternoon, with many customers sporting clothing bearing St. Paul’s School name or logo.

We found a small table in the front corner and perused a menu that promised vegetarian-fed, pure beef and locally and regionally sourced ingredients before heading to the counter to order.

The FB went with a kid’s meal cheeseburger — just ketchup and a tomato slice, thanks — with a side of fries and a Coke ($5.99). The DC ordered a Malibu burger ($9.99) with veggie patty instead of the Open Prairie Angus beef that Vibes uses, and a small order of Crispy Fried Green Beans ($3.99). She bent her vegan(ish) ways and asked for Vibes Poutine ($7.99) and a root beer. OG decided upon a Concord’s Own burger ($9.99) and just to sample something different, an Italian Sausage Sandwich ($6.99), as well as a chocolate shake ($1.99).

Sodas were served immediately and our shake, made at the dairy bar, soon after. The shake was quite tasty, and a good size for two bucks.

Then we waited and people-watched, especially enjoying the view of those quaffing the craft beers available.

And we waited.

And waited.

About 40 minutes later, and after inquiring if we’d been forgotten, our food was ready, served in little tin trays. It was surprisingly tepid. We also noticed the sliced pickles promised with our meals were missing.

What we did get, though, was pretty tasty. The FB dug right in and didn’t stop until his plate was empty. Vibes’ burger, cooked to a perfect medium, was a winner with the boy.

He wasn’t fond of the poutine, which consisted of shoestring fries topped with a beefy, salty demiglace and uniformly square bits of mozzarella. Vibes calls them curds, but these were more like sliced cheese, and they weren’t melted.

DC’s Malibu came with a hefty veggie patty made of chickpeas, black beans, corn and bread crumbs, topped with sliced avocado, chipotle mayo, baby arugula and herbed goat cheese, with a mound of fried green beans on the side.

The veggie patty was a bit bready and lacked flavor. She took about half out to enjoy the sandwich sans the burger.

The roll — in fact all of our rolls — were stellar. Baked nearby at the Bread and Chocolate Bakery, these brioche buns were fresh and springy, with a glistening top. We were underwhelmed with the green beans, which, though fried crisp, were heavily breaded, burying most of the green bean flavor.

OG’s Concord’s Own was one of the most interesting burgers we’ve tried anywhere. Covered with cheddar, bits of Applewood smoked bacon underneath added a hint of salty goodness without being overly crunchy or show-stealing. Thinly sliced apple offered a muted sweetness, as did a drizzle of maple syrup, combining into a taste treat we’ll remember. The syrup was a brilliant touch, and could even be used more heavily.

Our sausage sandwich was OK, the meat well-seasoned and cooked through, but it missed a satisfying snap. The roll was more bready than the burger roll and made the sandwich a tad dry, but that was offset by grilled sweet green and red pepper strips hidden below the meat.

It tasted like we were at the fair.

Vibes has been on Concord’s Main Street for a couple years now, has won several customer awards and was crowded when we visited. Given our long wait, it made us wonder if we’d simply hit it on an especially busy or bad day. The food was good enough for a return visit, but we’d want to make sure we had a long lunch hour in which to enjoy it.

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