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PAUL RODRIGUEZ, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
A BYOB (Build Your Own Burger) from Crow Burger Kitchen in Newport Beach with smoked Nueske Bacon, fresh avocado, roasted jalapeño, fried egg, house-made onion ring and 10,000 Island dressing on a Brioche Bun.
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Crow Burger Kitchen a good fit for The Balboa Penninsula

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

The new gourmet burger bar has a casual vibe with neighborly communal tables. An entire wall slides open for sunlight, fresh ocean air and patio seating. Another wall is a giant chalkboard with menu items and the names of 12 rotating “guest kegs” scrawled on it.

The servers take your order with iPads. And the music mix is upbeat, stretching from alternative bands like Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros to the Who.

Crow Burger Kitchen, which opened in late July, is an offshoot of the Crow Bar and Kitchen down PCH in Corona del Mar. The menu at Crow Burger, though, is stripped down and new. Only a few of the sides from the Crow Bar made it over, including, fortunately, the Duck Fat Fries.

Most importantly, Crow Burger is cranking out amazing burgers.

All of the patties are made with a blend of prime chuck, short rib, brisket and hangar steak, ground onsite daily. There is one exception: the Green Label Burger, which is made with all prime chuck and topped with bacon butter, and sells for $13.95. The regular blend is tasty enough, so save yourself the extra bucks.

The menu has a handful of specialty burgers.

My favorite is the Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger ($8.95). Black pepper cheese, cream cheese and goat cheese are whipped into a creamy, tart spread that melts over the hot burger. It's topped with a single, giant onion ring and is perched on an English muffin slathered with garlic mayo.

I also like the “Frenchie” ($8.95), topped with a slab of brie, Dijon mustard, tangy cornichons and the sweet, nutty French mache lettuce, on a buttermilk bun. The burgers are on the small side, 5 ounces of meat, and come on an artisan bun made by an Anaheim bakery.

You can pay $4.95 for The BYOB (build your own burger), a patty on a buttermilk bun, and then choose from 10 toppings (roasted peppers, 75 cents), six types of cheese (gruyere, $1) and six spreads, like the bacon butter (50 cents), which is as delicious as it sounds. All of the dips, dressings and sauces are made from scratch.

For $4, you can get your burger Hangover Style, with an organic, fried hen's egg, smoked bacon and sharp cheddar. And for $3.95 you can add to any burger an order of the signature Duck Fat Fries, which are hand-cut thick and cooked in duck fat, which gives them a slight flavor that is tough to describe other than to say it's delicious. The fries come with housemade ketchup and truffle aioli for dipping.

The menu has a section of Other Stuff if you're not up for a burger. One day I tried the Just Out of Water ($7.95), a grilled opah sandwich on a wheat bun with a creamy horseradish coleslaw and tartar sauce. It was a good sandwich, but I wish they used a softer bun. The Bird Burger ($7.95) was pretty good, too. A patty of ground Diestel Ranch turkey and Mary's chicken is bathed in Dijon and then grilled and topped with caramelized onions and avocado slices. It also comes on the drier wheat bun. The Crow Caesar ($6.95) is tossed with fresh slices of avocado and sunflower seeds for a twist.

Crow Burger carries 32 craft beers, 12 of which rotate as the kegs run out. I tried a tasty house hef for $6. They also make shakes ($7.50) with gelato from their neighbor, Whimsical Italian Gelato; grown-up combos like chocolate and salted pistachio.

Bottom line: Crow Burger is just what the peninsula needed.

Orange County Register reviewers visit restaurants anonymously and pay their own way, for an objective and unbiased look at each establishment. After visits, reviewers may phone the restaurant to get more details. Money, gifts or free meals are not accepted.

Contact the writer: 714-932-1705 or lbasheda@ocregister.com


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