Bison burger at Bluegrass Burgers.

Bluegrass Burgers: Virtuous, Local and Delicious

Mmm, who doesn’t love a hamburger? Hot, juicy, dripping with … um … greasy fat? Let’s get real: burgers appeal to something primal in most of us, but that seductive call can lead us down a path that goes directly to excess calories, unhealthy fat and … well, let’s not even talk about the hormones, the antibiotics, the e. coli or the stench of inhumane stewardship that surrounds industrial feedlot beef.

Why, the not-so-innocent burger’s unsavory reputation has reached the point that even multinational giant McDonald’s was recently caught warning its own employees against overdoing the chain’s trademark product.

The McDonald’s McResource site, which made news recently for offering its low-wage employees helpful tips on how to live on its $7.25 hourly wage for starting burger-flippers, apparently broke the last straw when it warned employees against its own fast food, declaring a cheeseburger and French fries an “unhealthy choice.” The website went dark two days later, on Dec. 26, reported Business Week.

So where am I going with this? Don’t worry. We’re not about to suggest that they take your cheeseburger from your cold, dead hands after that final cardiovascular incident.

But would it kill you to get your burgers from someplace that makes them healthy, or at least virtuous? Behold, Bluegrass Burgers! This small, usually crowded eatery does burgers right, featuring quality beef and a wealth of nutritious alternatives. Let’s count the ways:

1. The beef burger ($7.29) is grass-fed, Kentucky Proud Black Angus, free of the hormones and antibiotics that lace its industrially produced cousins.

2. The bison burger ($8.99) meets all the same criteria in the lean, locally produced deliciousness of America’s beloved and no-longer threatened bison.

3. Avoiding red meat? Chow down on a grilled ahi tuna steak ($8.99) or a grilled all-natural chicken burger ($6.99).

4. Avoiding all meat? Not to worry, a healthy commercial Garden Burger or a mellow house-made spicy black-bean burger (both $6.99) await your attention.

5. Okay, Picky, you don’t want any kind of burger? More options are coming your way, including an all-beef frank ($5.99), a Philly-style cheesesteak made with grass-fed beef ($7.99) or a marinated portobello mushroom ($6.99).

Burgers come with fries or slaw and a trip to the toppings bar (where I highly recommend the wasabi mayo), but that’s just the start. For a modest 50-cent up-charge you can add sundry cheeses, chili, mushrooms, grilled onions or pepper, avocado or even applewood-smoked bacon. Go for Kenny Mattingly’s Kentucky artisan cheese for a buck, and it’s well worth it. A half-dozen sides range from $1.50 (for house-made slaw) to $3.29 (for onion rings).

We were delighted with both a bison burger and a black bean burger, generously portioned and flavorful, perched on quality buns and hot enough to melt generous rations of Kenny’s White Cheddar. I kicked the bean burger up another notch with banana peppers, bread-and-butter pickles, relish and a dollop of wasabi mayo.

Fries are thin-cut and crisp. Onion rings are thick-cut, crisply breaded and grease-free, ranking among the city’s best. If you want to wrap it up with dessert, that’s locavore, too, including Kizito cookies, Cellar Door chocolates or the town’s best ice cream, Comfy Cow.

Our two burgers with all the trimmings, including reasonable up-charges for local cheese and the onion rings, plus a fountain Coke and ice water, came to $22.33, with five bucks for the tip jar.

Bluegrass Burgers
3334 Frankfort Ave.
Robin Garr’s rating: 87 points