Brome Burgers & Shakes 

A better burger

View 26 photos of Brome Burgers and Shakes here

We're often asked what the best burger is in the Detroit area. It's such a loaded question because it depends on your opinion of what a good burger is. Is it the lean-to-fat ratio of the proprietary blended meat? Is it the wild topping combinations? Is it found in a high-end suburban bistro, prepared by an award-winning chef, or can it just as easily be found at your local sports bar, to be enjoyed by auto plant workers?

Because of these impossible-to-answer questions, and because our esteemed colleague Michael Jackman already embarked on a monthslong pursuit for the perfect patty (which, for the sake of heart health, he says he was happy to give up when we came on board), we're not going to attempt to crown the end-all winning burger. Instead, we'll introduce Brome Burger in Dearborn as possibly the healthiest, if not most sustainable burger around.

That notion may seem blasphemous to some. The very idea of the burger is usually that of unabashed indulgence, or at least a quick, hand-held, tasty meal when you're out and about. But after a stint on the West Coast, where just about every comfort food can be found in trendy, all-natural, non-GMO form, Brome founder Sam Abbas wanted to bring that concept to his hometown of Dearborn. 

What you find is a place where sustainability is considered in every detail of the restaurant. The interior is spacious and bright, thanks to natural light that floods through huge windows. Ordering is cafeteria style. When you walk in, you're immediately instructed via lines painted on the floor where to stand, both to pick up a to-go order or dine in. Give the cheerful cashier your order, grab a number, and find a seat at one of the many long, communal benches that surround tables sourced by Reclaimed Detroit. We usually struggle with the idea of communal seating because the acoustics always seem to force diners to yell over each other. Here, that headache is remedied with two living walls with ivy growing from them that seem to soften the noise.

To drink, choose from a beverage case of craft teas, juices, and pops (they've got Vernor's in glass bottles), a fountain drink, or grab a free cup for water. OK, so no Michigan-made beers or cocktails, but that would take away from the healthful nature of the place. Plus, Brome takes great care in delivering an appealing, refreshing presentation. For example, that complimentary filtered water is infused with real fruit like lemon, lime, orange, even pineapple. Our dining guests all agreed it's little touches like this that make the place special.

Now back to those burgers. You can really taste the difference in chef Zane Makky's menu (which is all halal). Never-frozen, premium all-natural burgers start at $8.50 and go up in price, depending on whether you want to go organic (for $2 more) and the types of fixings you want. Black Angus beef comes from Iowa, and the organic variety is grass-fed (in fact, the name Brome is derived from the type of grass the cattle munch on).

Of course we scarfed down as many burgers as we could manage. Keep it simple with an "Original," made with red onion, tomato, McClure's pickles, romaine lettuce, and Brome sauce. The "Deluxe" comes with aged white cheddar, Dijonaise, and beef bacon. One dining companion likened the bacon to a very thin, well-done cut of steak. While it didn't have quite the same smoky essence as pork bacon, he said it was quite delicious. The burger selection (there are about a half-dozen to choose from) has several surprises, including "The Mex," featuring a Southwest twist, the "One-Eyed Brome," with a soft-yolk fried egg, and a heaping "Wild Mushroom." We sprang for a "Dante's Heaven." Be warned that, with cherry pepper relish, ghost pepper jack cheese, and sweet habanero, this burger (also topped with turkey bacon) will likely make your eyes water, but is particularly pleasing to fans of spice. We also sampled a "Vegumami," made up of an organic vegan patty, cheddar, field greens, wild mushroom, tomato, braised onion, and chipotle mayo. We've been disappointed by countless, bland veggie burgers in the past. This was an exception to that boringness. A slight crisp to the flavorful patty, with the umami of the mushrooms, this certainly qualifies as a legit burger. A completely vegan option is also available.

Other sandwich options come in the form of chicken, fried haddock, brisket sliders, hot dogs, grilled cheese, and a breakfast sammy. We dug into a newly added crispy chicken sandwich with the most delectable, crunchy skin and dill pickle slices. A fellow dining guest who hails from Texas (land of the Southern-style chicken sandwich) couldn't get enough of it. The brisket sliders were tender and lightly smothered in a tangy barbecue sauce, fried onion, and slaw, and came in a much more fulfilling portion than your typical dinky slider.

Non-GMO house-cut fries from Kennebec potatoes had fun sprinklings of kosher salt and cracked pepper, and Cajun spice, or for a little extra, garlic and cilantro, or truffle and Parmesan. Fried in light sunflower oil, they didn't feel drenched in grease and came in generous servings.

A healthful menu wouldn't be healthy at all without a variety of fresh-made salads. Makky's five selections do not disappoint. They come in two sizes and can stand alone as meals. We tried the popular Farmers Market chopped salad. It came with an herbaceous vinaigrette, crumbled chèvre, Kalamata olives, quinoa, cherry tomatoes, and red bell peppers — all creating an aromatic and pleasantly complex veggie option.

For dessert, get a shake. At about $5 apiece, they may have you thinking of John Travolta, when he looked incredulously at a '90s Uma Thurman who ordered one in a scene in Pulp Fiction, but, trust us, it's worth it. The hand-spun shakes are mixed with a house-made vanilla-bean custard and can have a number of candy or cookie bits added to them. And for an even daintier dessert, try the macarons at $1.50 each.

More by Serena Maria Daniels

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