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Burgatory sends some mouths to food heaven

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The owners of Burgatory, a burger bar that opened in January in Waterworks Mall, obviously had fun developing their business. The playfulness of the name continues throughout the menu. But what they serve is driven by serious personal enthusiasms.

"We're really into burgers," says co-owner Michael Hanley. "In traveling to New York and Los Angeles, every once in awhile we'd run into a super great burger that took the burger bar to another level, actually taking seriously what some people consider leftovers or fast food."

Other items on the menu show no less enthusiasm, such as the milkshakes, including hard shakes.

Hanley and brother-in-law and partner Jerry DiLendo also had fun decorating Burgatory as a modern tavern with warmth from natural woods. The lightly upbeat music adds a faintly collegiate air, and is programmed by Hanley's son, Ryan.

Hanley and DiLendo are co-owners of several Uncle Sam's Subs, including the one next door to Burgatory. They expected to open their new place kind of quietly in the dead of winter, but Hanley says they've been very busy from day one. When there's a wait for a table, the front desk will offer to text or call to let you know your table is ready. Since there are nearby stores worth browsing, such as Barnes & Noble books, it's not a big burden.

Burgatory's beef burgers are made from a custom blend of four cuts -- sirloin, short rib, brisket and chuck -- that are freshly ground every day and then grilled to your choice from rare to well done.

The menu lists two finished beef burgers, Standard Deluxe, $8, and Morty's Steakhouse, $10. There also are six non-beef burgers, such Buffaloed Bison and The Crab Shack, $8.50 to $10. Phat Patty's Veggie, $9, is Hanley's wife's recipe (the name is an inside joke because she's trim).

But Hanley says the most popular burger choice is Custom Creation. "There's an order pad on every table. People like taking a pencil and creating their own burger. They love being creative and the idea of being in control."

Custom creations start with choosing from six kinds of burgers and six kinds of buns, $6.50 to $10. A choice of six rubs, 13 toppings and 17 sauces are free. Adding one of eight cheeses costs $1. An additional 17 toppings are $1 each, such as bacon, chili, brandied peppercorn or roasted red peppers.

Among the appetizers is pale onion rings, $6.50 for a very large order that you'll probably want to share with a friend. They're served with peppercorn cream and chipotle horseradish dipping sauces.

Burgatory will make the standard vanilla, chocolate or strawberry milkshakes, but they didn't make it onto the menu. The menu does list five "classic shakes" -- caramel pretzel, campfire s'mores, PB&J, milk and cereal, and coffee and donuts, all $5.50 -- and five hard shakes ($7.50), such as Bailey's Irish Cream gone wild. The Peppermint Patty includes double chocolate vodka, peppermint schnapps, frozen peppermint patties and chocolate sauce.

"We make our own ice cream every day, churned by hand in the kitchen. It's one of the reasons the shakes have become so popular. We serve them in a 16-ounce glass and bring the mixing cup, which ends up being 18 to 20 ounces of shake," Hanley says.

The menu includes other expected side dishes, such as French fries, big plates for sharing with friends, and a children's section. Beverages include soft drinks, a wide selection of domestic and imported beers, cocktails and wines.

If the food at Burgatory is sinfully good, it's a minor sin. Anyway, once the food arrives, you aren't in limbo any more.

Additional Information:


Location: 932 Freeport Mall, Waterworks Mall, Fox Chapel

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays

Details: 412-781-1456

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