Ambience, Ingredients, Neighborhoods, Service, Techniques and tools

Winghart’s.

Brie, white-truffle aioli, arugula, caramelized onions and bacon. On a burger.

In case you were wondering:

And the fries were good. Seasoned, crispy — I think I liked them better than the ones at D’s in Regent Square. Maybe that’s heresy.

Anyway — Winghart’s. Market Square. You should go there.

I’m finding I don’t spend a ton of time downtown. Not that there isn’t anything to do. More like it’s a place I rarely wind up.

Which is a little silly. I can walk there. It’s a mile or so from my apartment. From the right spot at the end of my block, I can see the giant ’80s fantasy castle that is PPG Place.

Then two days last week found me downtown around lunchtime. And starving. And three blocks from Market Square.

It’s a place I find perplexing. The city clearly wants attention there but it’s mostly chains, national and local — Starbucks, Primanti Bros. — and not a whole lot of character. A couple blocks either way, sure, I know where I am. But standing down there I might as well be in Seattle or something. No sense of place.

But I’d heard of Winghart’s, perplexing in its own way because it promises whiskey yet does not yet have a liquor license. No matter. And to say I’d heard of it doesn’t quite do it justice. I’d heard universally good things.

That’s sort of odd. To have everyone I know who’d been there say glowingly how absurdly good it is. People have different palates. Everyone doesn’t have to like something for it to be good to me. Almost makes me nervous to have consensus on a place — especially something like a burger joint.

AmyJo happened to be downtown, too, so we met there.

It’s a tight little place, cash register by the door, not too many seats inside. You can smell what they cook there. It’s obvious, though not overwhelmingly so.

And damn. Just damn.

She stayed more basic than I did, just bacon and cheddar. And that, too, was something special, even for a combination of ingredients I’d had a thousand times before.

They do pretty much everything right. Open kitchen but without ambient grease sticking to everything. Buns that are good bread on their own. Simple syrup on countertops because granular sugar doesn’t dissolve properly into cold things like iced tea. And I asked for my burger medium — to be a little safe in a new place — but the quality of the meat and their skill cooking it means medium-rare at least next time.

And friendly. As long as you’re not getting in the way of their being busy — and the do get busy — the folks there will answer any question you’ve got or even just chat a little.

Also of note: It’s not what I’d call cheap but the prices are more than fair for what you get, volume and quality.

Maybe I’ll have to find my way downtown a little more often.

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