Burger love, the second time around

Bocado Burger

Overall rating: 1 of 4 stars

Food: burger, fries, New American-style salads and milkshakes

Service: counter service followed by table service — at times confusing, best at the bar

Best dishes: Bocado Burger Stack, quinoa salad

Vegetarian selections: better to stick to the salads than the veggie burger

Price range: $

Credit cards: all major credit cards

Hours: 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m Mondays-Fridays; 4:30-9 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays and 4:30-10 p.m. Fridays. 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturdays and 11:3o a.m.-9 p.m. Sundays.

Children: family-friendly, includes a place for kids to play

Parking: ample

Reservations: no

Wheelchair access: yes

Smoking: no

Noise level: medium

Patio: yes

Takeout: yes

Address, phone: 2820 Old Milton Parkway, Alpharetta. 678-248-5223

Website: bocadoburger.com




One of west Midtown’s most popular watering holes, this playground for grown-ups sports an impressive beer and liquor selection and serves up a solid menu of pub fare. Come for dinner and stick around to enjoy the basement bar games like shuffleboard, pool and, if you are lucky enough to get a spot, a round of bocce ball on one of their two indoor courts.

11 a.m.-3 a.m. Mondays-Fridays, noon-3 a.m. Saturdays, noon-midnight Sundays. 1170 Howell Mill Road, Atlanta. 404-968-2033, ormsbysatlanta.com. $-$$


Manuel’s Tavern

A local institution since 1956, this neighborhood tavern in Poncey-Highland has earned praise as one of our best bars by the likes of Atlanta Magazine, The New York Times and Esquire Magazine. Regulars return for bar food favorites like wings, chicken fingers and the famous selection of burgers, including the oversized McCloskey. With multiple levels, a sprawling floor plan, and more than 15 beers on tap, Manuel’s is perfect for groups looking for a friendly place to meet for a few cold ones.

11 a.m.-2 a.m. Mondays-Saturdays, 11 a.m.-midnight Sundays. 602 N. Highland Ave., Atlanta. 404-525-3447, manuelstavern.com. $-$$


Lucky’s Burger & Brew

This burger and beer joint takes its name from owner Ernie Geyer’s golden retriever, Lucky. And true to the breed, Lucky’s is a friendly neighborhood watering hole serving up some excellent burgers. The burgers come on a toasted challah bun and include choices like the imposing Undertaker, a stack of beef, bacon, cheese, fried egg, mayonnaise and fried onions.

11:30 a.m.-close daily. 1144 Alpharetta St., Roswell. 770-518-5695, .luckysburgerandbrew.com. $

Five years ago, I fell in love with a cheeseburger.

She didn’t play hard to get, like the Holeman & Finch Public House burger, or bother getting gussied up in unbecoming costumes, like Richard Blais’ experiments at Flip Burger Boutique. She was just two beef patties, American cheese, pickles and mayo on a sesame seed bun. Her simplicity was her charm.

This affair happened at Bocado, the airy westside restaurant where Todd Ginsberg was first making his name as chef. Ginsberg might have been cooking some other great dishes at the time, but I wouldn’t have known. I only ever ordered the burger back then.

Ginsberg has moved on to open the General Muir (as well as two stalls at Krog Street Market) but it should surprise no one that Bocado owner Brian Lewis has expanded to Alpharetta with Bocado Burger, a casual joint inspired by Ginsberg’s recipe.

I felt a need to revisit the old flame. Bocado Burger offers a new selection of burgers and sandwiches, though none as perfectly balanced as that namesake offering.

Tucked into Avalon, the latest prefabricated community from Mark Toro (Atlantic Station), Bocado Burger is more casual and family-friendly than the original Bocado. Tables are plentiful. The bar serves decent cocktails and lots of beer. A pair of flat-screens are perpetually tuned to a game. Beside the ample patio is an artificial-turf strip for throwing bean bags and bocce balls, which might be even nicer if it didn’t face the parking lot. But, hey, parking is easy.

The restaurant has the makings of a chain prototype, starting with the crowd-pleaser of a menu. Chef Thomas Davis has concocted a few familiar burger variations and sandwiches along with the invitation to “build your own” burger with toppings of local cheese, grilled onions, bacon, and so on.

You might try the Southwestern, a cheeseburger topped with heat-bearing poblano pepper and just enough avocado to mellow it out. There’s a fried chicken sandwich, not bad but a little overwhelmed by heaping helpings of spicy mayo and mayo-based cabbage slaw.

I would avoid the veggie stack, composed of two dry, beige pancakes of vague vegetal matter and dressed with arugula and radish slices. While suffering to finish it, I had to wonder if the kitchen intended to insult vegetarians.

I tried to order the turkey burger, but it was unavailable on both of my visits.

There’s more vegetable pleasure to be found in the sides, particularly the quinoa salad, a chopped mix (avocado, cucumber, radish, cowpeas) that sings with cashew lime butter. The herb fries are worth ordering, though they don’t always arrive as crisp as they should.

The service is confusingly afflicted by the current vogue for “fast casual.” Why must we stand, order and pay at the counter first if we’re going to have a waitress who brings the food, refills the drinks, and gladly takes an order and payment for a milkshake to-go at the end of the meal? Is this a restaurant or a burger chain? I’m not sure if the owners know yet. Grab a seat at the bar and you can avoid the confusion.

The real ticket here, of course, is the Bocado Burger Stack. The magic of the recipe is in the balance: the fatty cuts of short rib and brisket ground up with the lean cut of chuck, the soft, salty richness of American cheese paired with sweet, crisp pickles, the pillowy bun toasted to a crunch inside. It is a delicate balance, and it shows the same attention to detail Jacques Pepin would give an omelet.

On a recent Friday night at the bar, that’s just how I found her: the balance, the simplicity, the stuff that made me fall in love with the Bocado burger the first time. Even though she’s in a new neighborhood now, I’m glad to see she’s still doing well.