Citizen Burger Bar was everything I hoped it would be, and more. I’m staying here in Charlottesville, VA for a 3 month course called the Judge Advocate Officer Basic Course (JAOBC). JAOBC is meant to train attorneys into Army officers called JAGs. We spent most of the time here learning about the intricacies of military law, but don’t be fooled, we spent plenty of time eating our way around Charlottesville. After a very in depth perusal of Yelp, I found a little diamond of a restaurant called Citizen Burger Bar. It mentioned craft beer and truffle fries on the website, and my heart soared. Maybe, just maybe, I’d get to have a little taste of my home, San Diego.
Citizen Burger Bar, VA
To start, the beer list is beautifully crafted, with local favorites from one of the best breweries in the area, Starr Hill, among others. But once drinks were ordered, the true pleasure begins. The menu has a few classic starters… But don’t assume anything here, they are far above average. The onion rings in particular blew me away; thick pieces of onion hand battered to deliver amazing flavor in your mouth, and to top it off, house made ranch and BBQ sauces.
And now, what you’ve all been waiting for. The burger.
The menu at Citizen Burger Bar is uniquely presented, beginning with the ability to choose between grain fed or local grass fed beef. You then choose how you’d like it cooked, with choices ranging from “Red” to “Pink” to “No pink”. The toppings are listed, and are certainly plentiful — Including bacon, several varieties of cheeses, a fried egg, and many more. I personally chose a cheddar cheese, bacon and iceberg lettuce (sometimes you just need to pretend you’re being healthy). Lastly, you have a few choices for a bun. But let’s be honest, the only true choices came down to brioche, or truffled brioche. I’m pretty much an addict to all things truffle, so there was no debate on which bun I would have to have!
As for choice of sides, you can have regular hand-cut french fries, or sweet potato fries. But my eyes darted to the top of the menu and realized… there are truffle fries listed under appetizers. Perhaps, my waitress wouldn’t mind swapping out regular fries for truffle fries? Nope, she certainly didn’t, and just like that, I was drooling in anticipation!
My burger arrives and it looks like heaven. Perfectly fried bacon protrudes out from under the truffled brioche bun, the cheddar cheese is thick cut and just melted enough to begin to fold over my grass fed beef patty, with a touch of iceberg greenery to make me feel better about myself. The truffle fries are lightly dusted with parmesan cheese and accompanied by a dipping sauce of garlic aioli. While the truffle fries were not the absolute best I’ve ever had (Banker’s Hill Bar and Restaurant in San Diego, you’re still my number one!), I was nonetheless blown away by their quality. The fries were hand-cut, and the basket was a great mixture of the crispy little guys, and the larger more steak-style fries. The garlic aoli made for a great companion with its creamy saltiness, yet the truffle oil created a decadent experience that left me delighted that truffle oil is in fact taking over the french fry world!
I grabbed my knife, which was perfectly adept for cutting such a stately burger. I indeed thought to myself; “Dominic would be impressed with how this restaurant passes the knife test.”
I cut into my burger, picked it up with two hands and took my first bite. It was like an orchestra crescendo in my mouth. The truffled brioche was sweet, moist and melted in my mouth. Next, the perfectly fried bacon crunched down on top of the meat, combining with a melted bit of cheddar, into a harmony of flavors. The bacon was just crispy enough to break off when you bit it, and full of smoke house-woodsy flavor. The cheddar was just tart enough to offset the sweetness of the truffled brioche, yet still creamy. And thankfully, the flavor didn’t over take the power of the meat itself. The local grass fed beef was tender and lightly salted.
I sheepishly devoured this phenomenal burger creation faster than I am ready to admit.
And as I sit here writing this, I’m actually getting ready to head over to Citizen Burger Bar for my last burger here in Charlottesville. It’s not often that you are able to find a burger where each individual ingredient has the ability to stand alone as you take each bite, yet ultimately combine together to create something much greater. What really makes a difference in restaurant burgers, I think, is using those ingredients closest to you. Citizen Burger Bar really emphasizes local and organic ingredients and, in a place like Virginia, it’s easy to see why. Just outside the city of Charlottesville are the farms that raise the pigs and cows that produce such quality bacon, cheese and beef. When you take the time to appreciate what your regional land can give you, it truly creates quality that is evident in every single amazing burger bite.