BGR

"The Burger" with applewood smoked bacon and Vidalia onion rings at BGR The Burger Joint. (Kim Hairston, Baltimore Sun / May 19, 2011)

Was it Sun Tzu who said, "There are no losers in a burger war"?

Let's hope that's right, because the great American burger wars are about to get very juicy around here. There looks to be summerlong skirmishing in Maryland, among locally operated joints and among national upscale burger brands and fast-casual restaurants. There's new burger news to report every day.

Coming this summer to Towson is the eagerly awaited first area location of the new Gino's franchise, known now as Gino's Burgers and Chicken.

Hampden looks to be a hot spot. An upscale eatery named the Baltimore Burger Bar is scheduled to open this week on the Avenue in Hampden. The burger joint will be an expansion of Anisha Jagtap's popular Puffs & Pastries bakery (830 W. 36th St., 410-878-1266). Coming this fall is the new casual restaurant from the owners of Woodberry Kitchen, and although it won't be a burger joint, a good hamburger will surely be essential to its atmosphere

The idea that the modern burger wars began in Washington is Mark Bucher's, the founder of the BGR The Burger Joint brand. The war's origins date, Bucher says, to the summer of 2008, when a Ray's Hellburger and a Good Stuff Eatery opened close to the Dupont Circle spot where BGR has established itself. Another big player in the D.C. wars, of course, is Five Guys, which has been glowing under a publicity heat lamp ever since the Obamas professed their love for their burgers. And long, long lines have been spotted on Meat Row since last week's opening of the area's first Shake Shack, the roadside-style hamburger joint that originated in Manhattan's Madison Square Park.

BGR, in an inspired flanking maneuver, has recently moved eastward into Columbia, where it will compete with already established Cheeburger Cheeburger, Fatburger and Five Guys.

Asked about the intense competition, Bucher said, "It's good if you're good. Actually, there's no room to be good anymore, you've got to be exceptional." BGR uses prime, dry-aged beef — "the only ones in the country," Bucher says, who is not shy about extolling his burger's virtues.

Still, he acknowledges that the matter of which burger gets chosen is ultimately out of his hands. "It's up to the consumers to decide what they like."

The new BGR The Burger Joint is at at 6250 Columbia Crossing Circle. For information, call 443-319-5542 or go to bgrtheburgerjoint.com

Miss Shirley's is headed to Annapolis. The new 160-seat location will open this fall in a restaurant space adjacent to the Westin Hotel at 1 Park Place and will include a private dining room, seated bar and outdoor dining. This will be the third Miss Shirley's, joining the original on Cold Spring Lane (actually, the original Miss Shirley's was across the street from the present restaurant) and the second in the Inner Harbor.

Named for Shirley McDowell, a longtime employee of the restaurant's ownership group, Miss Shirley's has established itself as a Baltimore brunch institution in just 10 years.

Sofi's Crepes is expanding, too In late June, a new Sofi's will open in the Valley Village Shopping Center in Owings Mills. Ann Costlow tells me that this new creperie will be owned by Nina Knoche, a longtime Sofi's customer. Scheduled for a late-June opening, this will be the fourth Sofi's, joining the original one next to the Charles Theatre in Station North and ones at Woman's Industrial Exchange Downtown and in Annapolis.

Etc. The Corner is now taking reservations. Business picked up at the Hampden restaurant after a few positive reviews, and folks were being turned away.

Because The Corner has received such intense interest in its off-the-menu exotic meats (e.g., kangaroo) the restaurant is planning an "exotic meats club," which will take the form initially of subscribed fixed-price dinners.

I heard from a few pre-symphony diners who were disgruntled by the buffet-only option that the Mari Luna Bistro was running on Friday and Saturday nights, presumably as a way to get the symphony crowd to their seats on time.

The buffet has been discontinued.

richard.gorelick@baltsun.com


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