Our search for The Lowcountry’s best handmade burgers continues… at Wren.
Jules: You know what they call a Quarter Pounder with cheese in France?
Jules: Tell ’em, Vincent.
Vincent: A Royale with cheese.
Jules: A Royale with cheese! You know why they call it that?
Brett: Because of the metric system?
Jules: Check out the big brain on Brett!
– from Quentin Tarentino’s “Pulp Fiction”
WREN Bistro and Bar
210 Carteret Street, downtown Beaufort
“It’s most of a cow and the top of the bun is another measurable elevation above sea level.” That’s how we described the burger at Wren back in 2009 for a Moveable Feast. This time we’re back specifically for the burger – a monster 14 ounce slab of choice ground beef topped with cheese (more on that later), lettuce, tomato, onion, bacon, etc. and served on a fresh roll with a mountain of crispy pommes frites. Tony Bourdain would be proud. He’d also know that you can’t rush perfection. This is not fast food – in fact, let’s be blunt about this. There are no two more offensive words in the culinary vernacular than “fast food.” In the decades since the golden arches became ubiquitous in this country the corporate armies of darkness – fueled by greed – have marched across the earth crushing all who oppose them. Okay, that might be a bit hyperbolic, but it’s pretty cool if you imagine Sean Connery narrating that last line. The fact remains that corporate logos bearing the clown, the crown and the pigtailed kid have heavily (and I mean that literally) influenced the way the world eats. But recent trends seem to indicate that a lot of us are literally fed up with what the big boys (and girl) have to offer and want something that looks and tastes more like the burgers dad flipped on the grill.
Dad could give himself a hernia lifting one of these babies. And here at Wren each and every burger comes custom crafted and made to order.
“There are a million different ways to cook a burger,” says Owner/Chef Annie Sergent, “but 14 ounces takes some time.”
We order ours at the bar (the preferred Burger Beat method) and decide to split a pair of burgers between the two couples – a wise decision. The other key decision – barring lactose intolerance – involves the choice of cheese. This could take a while.
“The list of cheese that we offer is almost endless,” says Annie. She’s not kidding. It reads like Monty Python’s Cheese Shop sketch. A sampling includes two kinds of cheddar, Swiss, provolone, smoked gouda, fresh and aged mozzarella, brie, bleu, feta, goat and – the caviar of the south, pimento. Our partners do what I like to call The All-American and top their burger with cheddar and bacon. We go with goat cheese and the works – lettuce, tomato and onion.
The splits are still the size of most regular burgers and mountainous enough to challenge the bite radius of a great white shark. In fact, if this beast were a shark we’d need a bigger boat. The All-American burger is an obscene indulgence of crispy, thick cut bacon wedded to the beef with enough cheddar to warm the head of a Packers fan. I’ve tried a lot of different cheeses on burgers over the years, but I’m pretty sure this is my first with chevre. It won’t be the last. The goat cheese is rich, creamy and slightly smoky with the burger. In fact, I’m down to my last bite before I realize I’ve not added a thing to the burger – not a grain of salt, not a drop of ketchup.
Someone says the pommes frites – the shoestring fries – are “like crack cocaine: addictive as hell.” I agree and I’m usually more of a crinkle cut kind of guy. Annie says the “skinny fries” dominated a spuds poll when customers cast ballots for their favorite fry. “Pommes frites won hands down,” she says. “It wasn’t even close.”
Like Jules Winnfield in “Pulp Fiction” we do like a tasty burger and absolutely live for the moments when we can mimic Sam Jackson’s famous line. And while there is no doubt that the Wren Bistro Burger is as tasty as it is tremendous, our publisher sums it up best after polishing off the last bite: “I have to go to sleep, now.” Check please.
Annie says to watch for changes in the bar as Wren prepares to celebrate its fourth anniversary. The famous (or infamous) wicker stools are being replaced with oversized plush leather seating and several tables modeled after the bar will look out on Carteret Street. More cocktail seating will be added on the Port Republic side. “We’re trying to create a hopping bar environment without sacrificing the quiet of the dining room,” she says. That scene will include a beefed up happy hour Annie and husband/partner Brad are calling “7 B4 7.” “Basically we’re going to offer seven exceptional values from four to seven o’clock every day at the bar,” says Annie. “We truly believe we have to continue to give back something of value to our customer base.”
Mark Shaffer’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org.