Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Review: Burgatory

Pittsburgh's newest burger bar is sinfully good.



Burgatory, a new burger bar in the Waterworks Mall, truly delivers on its promise to provide a “helluva burger” and “heavenly shakes.”  The eatery is full of treats: a lively interior, phenomenal milkshakes created from housemade ice cream, hormone-free beef that tastes great—and even a top-notch veggie burger. Most fun is the “custom creation” offering, which allows you to build your own burger, starting with your choice of bun and meat and finishing with a dizzying array of toppings.

Burgatory is the invention of Mike Hanley and Jerry Dilembo, who also co-own Uncle Sam’s four locations as well as Joe Mama’s Italian Deluxe and Fuel & Fuddle. “Everywhere we travel, we look for the best burger,” says Hanley. “We’ve been thinking about creating a custom burger bar in Pittsburgh for a long time.”

Pulling together a great team—including executive chef Brad Kohut, architect Jen Bee and brand-design gurus from Wall-to-Wall Studios—Hanley and Dilembo spent months working on bringing a great experience to the ’Burgh. They started with the burgers, which are made of a proprietary blend of sirloin, chuck, brisket and short-rib cuts. Then the pair moved on to experimenting with different kinds of salt. Additional time was spent sourcing cream for the ice cream; Hanley and Dilembo decided on Titusville Dairy Products Co. in Titusville, Pa.

After the food was thought out, their attention turned to how the place would look. The interior features a cool mixture of surfaces—concrete, metal and dark wood—blending into a successful palette of greys and browns, accented by fun graphics in shades of tomato and mustard. The restaurant lighting and mood adjust to the time of day. Families, businessmen and women and students stop in for lunch and early dinner; later in the evening, the neighborhood bar crowd visits to enjoy sports and conversation around the centrally located TVs. The bar stays open late and offers the full menu until 11 p.m. (including late-night favorites like wings, nachos and sliders) as well as a nice assortment of cocktails and bottled beers.

During cold weather, indoor heat lanterns keep the enclosed patio area (separated from the restaurant by garage doors) nice and toasty; in warmer weather, the garage doors open onto the patio overlooking the mall's breezeway.

The centerpiece of the menu is the custom-creation option. If you opt to build your own burger, you’ll fill out a form that lists every detail imaginable—from the rub to cooking instructions. For the base, aside from beef ($7), you can choose chicken ($7), bison ($10), Sicilian sausage ($6.50), lump crab ($10) or veggie ($8). There are six breads to choose from (focaccia included), six choices for rubs (such as kona crust and cracked peppercorn), eight cheeses ($1 extra), 17 sauces (such as bourbon BBQ, avocado wasabi and banana ketchup) and a host of greens, onions, peppers and the like.  If you want to pile on more, you can add the $1 “drive-it-home” toppings like onion straws, chicken chili or a fried egg.  Keeping with the theme, the burgers are served with a red plastic pitchfork in the center. My ideal burger comprised a tender brioche bun, beef patty, farmhouse cheddar cheese and sautéed mushrooms—and I loved it.
 


At Burgatory, the types of patrons change throughout the day, but some things remain constant: their need to grab a tasty meal and enjoy good conversation—whether at the bar or in a booth.

 

If you don’t want to construct your own creation, there are a number of additional menu items. I enjoyed Morty’s Steakhouse ($10), featuring a peppercorn-crusted beef burger with horseradish cheddar, haystack onions and cabernet sauce. My least favorite was What-a-Jerk Chicken ($9.50)—Jamaican jerk-rubbed chicken with provolone cheese, grilled pineapple, caramelized-onion marmalade, cilantro leaves and banana ketchup served on a whole-wheat bun; in my opinion, the bun was a bit dry and the chicken too peppery.

Worth mentioning is Phat Patti’s veggie burger ($9).  Although I didn’t care for the version with smoked Gouda and avocado wasabi (both flavors were too strong for the burger), the veggie burger itself was delicious. Instead of the usual hard, dry veggie burger, Patti’s (which is also vegan) is a creamy, housemade blend of cremini mushrooms, lentils, cashews and cracked wheat that’s mixed with “about a million secret ingredients.”

Each burger comes with crispy housemade potato and sweet-potato chips. For an extra dollar, you can order the house-cut, thin fries seasoned with rosemary, thyme and sea salt. If you’re not a burger person, don’t worry: There are a variety of other offerings like the side and entrée salads, fried chicken, fish sandwiches, ribs and crab cakes; portions are large, and prices are reasonable.

If you opt to build your own burger, you’ll fill out a form that lists every detail imaginable—from the rub to cooking instructions.

If, for no other reason, you should go to Burgatory for the shakes, which are among the best I’ve ever had. Although you may want to try a simple hand-turned vanilla-bean ice cream shake, there are a number of delicious, original combinations. My favorite is the Caramel-Pretzel shake ($5.50): a great combination of sweet and salty that's made with vanilla ice cream, caramel and tiny pieces of salted pretzels; drink it quickly while the pretzels are still crunchy. Another interesting choice is the Coffee & Donuts ($5.50) that's made with vanilla ice cream, kona coffee, chocolate syrup and donut pieces. The shakes are generously portioned (nearly 18 ounces) and are topped with high-quality whipped cream and garnished with panache (such as a giant pretzel or a toasted marshmallow). These shakes, which are worth the calories, can definitely be shared.

There are terrific hard shakes available as well. A great choice is Monkey Business ($7.50), a bananas-foster shake spiked with dark rum and banana liquor, offering the right level of sweetness and spirits. Although I didn’t try it, my server strongly recommended the Apple Pancakes & Bacon shake ($7.50)—made of Gala apple and caramel vodkas, caramelized-apple pancakes and pieces of bacon.

Despite its sleepy location, Burgatory is hopping. You may need to wait for a seat, but the host will jot down your number and text you when your table is ready. Honestly, you won’t mind waiting because, at Burgatory, the food really is heavenly.


» 932 Freeport Road, Waterworks Mall, Fox Chapel, PA (15238); 412/781-1456, burgatorybar.com.
» Sun.-Thurs.: 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri.-Sat.: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. (bar stays open late)
» Classic Shakes: $5.50; Hard Shakes: $7.50; Appetizers & Salads: $6.50-$13.50; Burgers: $6.50-$11; Desserts: $5
» Alcohol, major credit cards accepted, no reservations, vegetarian and vegan options available, wheelchair-accessible, no smoking, mall parking lot, gluten friendly, seats past 10:30 p.m. on weekends, catering/banquet services, outdoor seating.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Trade Now, Sign Later Approach Could Work Again for Penguins

With the NHL trade deadline looming, the Penguins are increasingly employing more forward-thinking approaches to the acquisition of future stars.

Add Some Culture to Your Life with Swan Lake

If you play your cards right, the beautiful production from Pittsburgh Ballet Theater will dazzle even novices.

The 5 Best Places to People Watch in Pittsburgh

A coffee shop, an iconic landmark, an airport and beyond — these are the best places to practice the art of people watching.

Our Dream Penthouse Used to be a Carpet Warehouse

The building that now houses a $1.05 million dollar penthouse was first used for a much less exciting purpose.

HGTV Renews ‘Restored by the Fords’ Starring Pittsburgh Siblings

The finale showcasing Leanne and Steve Ford airs Tuesday, and the duo already are looking for more local houses to restore for the show’s second season.

Five Fun Facts about Pittsburgh Bridges

With more than 440 bridges in the city to choose from, VisitPITTSBURGH shows off the most interesting bridges within the city in its new Official Visitors Guide.

WQED Event to Celebrate Mister Rogers Forever Stamp

USPS will dedicate a new forever stamp to Fred Rogers and celebrate with a party in March.

Mothers Know Best for This Pittsburgh Couple

For Cady Walter and Jared Heningin, happily ever after may never have happened if their mothers hadn’t acted as matchmakers.

Peters Township Native Wins Silver Medal in Speed Skating

After swine flu kept him from competing in Sochi in 2014, short track speed skater John-Henry Krueger finally won a spot on the podium at the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang.

Perspectives: A Better Life

A former Pittsburgh television reporter recounts the lessons taught to him by his grandfather who spent more than four decades as a Pullman Porter.

Pittsburgh MultiStories: Phipps Legacy – The Fulton Building

With its distinctive seven-story archway, the Fulton Building (now the Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel) remains a beloved Pittsburgh landmark.

Kick Back and Relax with a Baby Sloth

For $150 you can book an up-close hang out session with Vivien the two-toed sloth.

Jack Kerouac: Manager of the Pittsburgh Plymouths

In a league of his own making, the famous writer cast himself as the skipper of a (fantasy) Pittsburgh ball club.

Bucking the Trend: Gallagher’s Groovy Growing

Megan Gallagher is part of a small cadre of young farmers bucking demographic trends.

Meet the Woman bringing Dignity and Diversity to Twitter

As Twitter's vice president of intersectionality, culture and diversity, Candi Castleberry Singleton, who splits her time between Pittsburgh and San Francisco, works tirelessly to bring inclusion and respect to companies.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


Five Fun Facts about Pittsburgh Bridges

Five Fun Facts about Pittsburgh Bridges

With more than 440 bridges in the city to choose from, VisitPITTSBURGH shows off the most interesting bridges within the city in its new Official Visitors Guide.

Comments

WQED Event to Celebrate Mister Rogers Forever Stamp

WQED Event to Celebrate Mister Rogers Forever Stamp

USPS will dedicate a new forever stamp to Fred Rogers and celebrate with a party in March.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
First Look: Poulet Bleu in Lawrenceville

First Look: Poulet Bleu in Lawrenceville

PM dining critic Hal B. Klein takes a look at the new Richard DeShantz restaurant ... and he has the scoop on what's next from the energetic restaurateur.

Comments

Avenue B is Closing

Avenue B is Closing

The Shadyside restaurant ends its 8-plus year run in a few weeks.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The 5 Best Places to People Watch in Pittsburgh

The 5 Best Places to People Watch in Pittsburgh

A coffee shop, an iconic landmark, an airport and beyond — these are the best places to practice the art of people watching.

Comments

Sweet Ideas: Our Favorites for Valentine's Day

Sweet Ideas: Our Favorites for Valentine's Day

Where to eat, where to go, what to buy –– some of our favorites to make your Valentine's celebration memorable.

Comments


Add Some Culture to Your Life with Swan Lake

Add Some Culture to Your Life with Swan Lake

If you play your cards right, the beautiful production from Pittsburgh Ballet Theater will dazzle even novices.

Comments

After Dark Hall of Fame: Stage AE

After Dark Hall of Fame: Stage AE

The North Shore concert hotspot is the latest inductee in the After Dark Hall of Fame.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Trade Now, Sign Later Approach Could Work Again for Penguins

Trade Now, Sign Later Approach Could Work Again for Penguins

With the NHL trade deadline looming, the Penguins are increasingly employing more forward-thinking approaches to the acquisition of future stars.

Comments

The Quest is No Less Recognizable Even if Team USA Is Not

The Quest is No Less Recognizable Even if Team USA Is Not

They’re still playing hockey at the Winter Olympics, but without NHL players. Which means the guys doing the playing are relative nobodies. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Black Panther is Marvel's Best Film

Black Panther is Marvel's Best Film

Reviews of "Black Panther" and "Early Man," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments

At Last, We're Freed from Fifty Shades

At Last, We're Freed from Fifty Shades

Reviews of "Fifty Shades Freed" and "The Cloverfield Paradox," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Mothers Know Best for This Pittsburgh Couple

Mothers Know Best for This Pittsburgh Couple

For Cady Walter and Jared Heningin, happily ever after may never have happened if their mothers hadn’t acted as matchmakers.

Comments

Cookie Table Contest: And the Winner Is ...

Cookie Table Contest: And the Winner Is ...

We introduce the winner and the runners up for our biannual cookie table contest.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Our Dream Penthouse Used to be a Carpet Warehouse

Our Dream Penthouse Used to be a Carpet Warehouse

The building that now houses a $1.05 million dollar penthouse was first used for a much less exciting purpose.

Comments

HGTV Renews ‘Restored by the Fords’ Starring Pittsburgh Siblings

HGTV Renews ‘Restored by the Fords’ Starring Pittsburgh Siblings

The finale showcasing Leanne and Steve Ford airs Tuesday, and the duo already are looking for more local houses to restore for the show’s second season.

Comments