It’s fitting that the menu at Burgerhaus (335 W. 9th St., 434-4287) has an exploratory theme since finding the place can be a bit tricky.
Sure, if you’re strolling down the canal you’ll get to it eventually. And if you are a resident at 9 On Canal, it’s conveniently right downstairs. But if you’re driving, you might do a little circling before settling on a metered space and walking down to canal level (make sure you land on the east side of the canal). Or you can stow your vehicle in the 9 On Canal garage on the south side of 9th Street. ($2 for 1 to 2 hours, credit card only).
Once you arrive, you may be surprised at the size of Burgerhaus. Not that it’s massive; it’s just a bit roomier than the Left Bank Café, the short-lived eatery that attempted to pioneer along-the-canal dining a block away.
The first spin-off of a Valparaiso staple, this iteration manages to balance a slightly upscale vibe with neighborhood bar (gotta attract repeat visits from the apartment-dwellers) while not intimidating those who stumble upon it while running or biking.
As for the food, nothing lived up to the “You are about to experience something truly legendary” hype on the menu. But I don’t think I’ve had better Beer Battered Pickle Chips ($7.50). Crunchy but not overly breaded, moist but not soggy, they welcomed but didn’t need the house-made peppercorn ranch dressing that came with the substantial bowl.
From the burger list, we tried The Cozumel ($11) and The Santiago ($13). In the former, guacamole, red onion, jalapenos, mayo, butter lettuce and beefsteak tomato negated much of the flavor of the grilled pineapple. A better understanding of the difference between medium and medium well would have helped. The more effective Santiago found a better balance, with chipotle cheddar, avocado, tomato, lettuce, chipotle mayo and fried jalapeno making nice on a pretzel bun.
On any of the burgers, a Portobello cap or black bean patty can be subbed without an upcharge. And a burger of the month will be added to the mix.
Haus Fries ($4 if ordered separately) aren’t show-offy—unless you upgrade them to Spicy Bleu Cheese, Cajun, or Machu Pichu Chili Cheese ($7)—but they are substantial and just crunchy enough. A little salt restraint and there would have been no trace left of them. As an alternative, the Wild Bean medley is a busy bean salad bordering on soup, with an ample supply of bacon (unannounced on the menu) included.
Beyond the burgers, the kitchen offers five salads, including the hometown Valparaiso, with mixed greens, Bartlett pairs, fennel, candied nuts, Craisins, and blue cheese crumbles with a maple syrup vinaigrette. There are also Haus Specials, including chicken wraps, fish tacos, and a French Riviera Grilled Cheese, which features cheddar and mozzarella with pesto and tomato on a grilled pita.
Two elements that Burgerhaus has in its favor beyond the menu: About 40 bottled beers and eight drafts. And a canal-side patio likely to become a coveted spot once the seasons turn a few more times.•