BGR the Burger Joint is one of the few chains that still manages to feel like a local secret. From the super-soft brioche buns to the premium ingredients, this eatery has taken the humble hamburger to new heights of deliciousness. Although we've been fans of BGR since it arrived in Washington in 2008, we've been careful to avoid thinking about what those decadent sandwiches might be doing to our insides.
But the time has come. Cheryl Toner, MS RD, took a look at the menu, which doesn't include nutrition facts, and passed down the hard verdict.
"It was hard to make out the portions and fat content, but it seems the size of most of these burgers is enough to put you over the edge in terms of calories for a day--and red meat for a week," she says.
Find out what you can do to keep this beloved spot in your resto repertoire without breaking your heart in a more literal sense.
• The Southwestern: Toner says several of the burgers could qualify as the worst (such as the cheesy, pork-laden Cuban), but the ten-ounce Southwestern is too big to ignore. "It has lots of great toppings and I'm sure it's delicious, but if you look at cancer prevention and red meat, they say you should have less than 18 ounces of red meat for the week--and you're more than halfway there with this burger."
• Turkey burger: "Turkey burgers are something you have to watch out for," Toner explains. "Most people assume they're lower in fat, but that depends on how it's prepared and where the meat is coming from--whether it's white meat or dark meat." This burger is freshly ground and slow-cooked, but if the beef burgers are made of ground sirloin, for example, there's a fair chance they're leaner.
• Ahi tuna: This option boasts grilled pineapple and pickled ginger atop sushi-grade tuna--a simple but wholesome sandwich. "In terms of nutrition you're getting great fatty acids from the tuna, and more protein and probably less sodium than the [bean-based] veggie burger," our expert says. Of all the burgers on this menu, it's probably the only one that promotes heart health.
This colossal burger is more like an engineering feat than a meal. Topped with two heads of lettuce, eight tomatoes, three red onions, four whole pickles, and a "river" of the signature mojo sauce, the entire thing weighs 15.4 pounds (the moniker refers to the patty alone). It's served with a bottle of Maalox and feeds 10 to 15 people--but it's free for anyone who can eat it alone in one sitting.
Which is something you absolutely should not attempt.
Even if you shared it with nine friends, you'd each have to eat about a pound of meat--which is four times the four-ounce serving recommended for a balanced plate. Our expert concedes, "Some people are still entertained by [competitive eating]," but adds, "just don't be the one in the competition."
Monster-size burgers aside, Toner says you can eat healthily at BGR if you keep a few things in mind. First off, the mojo sauce is a mystery that's best kept on the side, if not avoided completely. There are plenty of flavorful and nutritious vegetable toppings, so load up on the grilled onions, pineapple, mushrooms, and peppers whenever possible.
And sharing is caring--for your own health, that is. "Most people eat too many calories when they eat out," Toner says. "When you keep the calories down it keeps other things, like sodium and fat, under control. And if you share with someone, you're automatically cutting calories."
But if you want your own order, she recommends sticking with the leaner burgers and forgoing the fries or opting for the Green Standard "fries"--Parmesan-sprinkled grilled asparagus spears--which make an excellent substitute.
Finally, if you must have red meat, add as many veggies as you can and be mindful of how the burger will fit into your diet overall.
"Think about your whole day and your whole week--we all splurge sometimes, but we have to be honest and realistic about how often we do it," Toner explains.
Remember our expert's mantra: "Food is not about gorging ourselves--it's about enjoying every bite and being good to ourselves with the food we put into our bodies."
You can connect with Cheryl Toner on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @CDToner, or reach her at Toner@CDTConsult.com.