Bombay Burger Bar
143 S. California St.
$5 – $12

The folks at Bombay are really onto something. With the arrival of Chef Andy Brooks and his creative burger menu, this bar, known mostly for its drinks and music, is now getting all sorts of new foot traffic: hungry Venturans and loyal fans of Chef Andy Brooks (formerly of Restaurant Brooks), curious to see what this burger bar is all about.

We stopped in for dinner and drinks early one Saturday night. Though it was quiet when we arrived, by the time we left a few hours later, the restaurant was full and vibrant with the sounds of a rock band that had recently taken to the stage.

Now before we get started, let’s get one thing straight: this is not your typical bar food. Sure, burgers are the backbone of the menu, but these aren’t your average burgers and they aren’t topped with your average ingredients. They even come served on tin pie plates — just another small touch that adds to the dining experience.

All of the burgers at Bombay are made with 100 percent Angus chuck, and all the toppings, sauces and sides are housemade. Bread options are from La Brea Bakery, and include brioche or whole wheat buns. Even the veggie burger is made in house, and the fries and onion rings are painstakingly hand-cut. Dipping sauces like chive ranch dressing and coffee barbecue sauce — yes, those are homemade, too.

So if you’re not salivating already, get ready, because I’m about to lay it all out for you. First, let’s talk about the Beach Breakfast burger — topped with Applewood smoked bacon, Hass avocado, a fried egg, Tillamook aged cheddar, and a maple aioli. The burger is tender and pink, the brioche bun soft and sweet, and the whole thing is infused with the comfort of breakfast. You get the salty smoke of the bacon, and the egg yolk slowly draping over every morsel, and then you get the unique maple flavor infusing every bite. This is where breakfast meets burger. You are now in heaven.

Switching gears, another favorite from the new menu is the Upstream burger — a salmon burger with some serious Asian flair. Moist on the inside, crispy on the outside, it is topped with Vietnamese pickled vegetables, arugula, cilantro, shredded carrots, and finished with a chili garlic lime sauce. It’s punchy with hints of ginger, vinegar and citrus, mellowed out by the silky sweet sauce. This burger will knock the socks off any pescatarian or meat lover you may know.

And then there’s the hotdog — not just a Nathan’s hot dog, but a foot-long Nathan’s hot dog, wrapped in that same Applewood smoked bacon and tucked into a sweet Hawaiian roll. The whole thing is topped with roughly chopped onion and tomato and served with roasted red pepper ketchup and feisty whole-grain mustard. We enjoyed dipping the dog in both sauces.

Other burger options include the Nacho Volcano burger topped with crispy tobacco onions and jalapeño jack lava sauce, a turkey burger topped with crispy mozzarella and arugula, and a garden burger topped with the signature chi-chi sauce.

With our sandwiches, we munched on an order of onion rings, served with that chive ranch sauce. Puffy and light brown, they look like little donuts with their doughy batter. (Think thick egg batter like you often find on a good chile relleno.) Unusual in that the end goal isn’t a shatteringly crisp or dark brown exterior, these rings are delightful in their individuality, and surely some of the best I’ve ever tasted when dipped in the tangy, bright sauce.

Now let’s talk drinks. Unfortunately, on this particular night, the bar staff was struggling with some issues with the taps. First it was a Guinness that just didn’t taste right. After sending that back and requesting a Fat Tire, a sad looking flat beer arrived at the table. Our server couldn’t have been more gracious and apologetic; and after a visit from the bartender, who took the drinks off our tab and assured us they were calling the technician to check the tap lines, my dear and thirsty husband settled on a Lagunitas IPA, in a bottle. Third try is the charm, perhaps.

I enjoyed a margarita made with agave syrup and top-shelf tequila (discounted to $4.50 because I also ordered a burger from the “Add a drink and save” menu). It went down fast. Later in the evening, I ordered a glass of zinfandel — and boy was this a generous pour. Bombay offers a full cocktail list, and for those not drinking there are homemade organic sodas.

All in all, with its exposed brick walls and barstools upholstered with red leather, Bombay has a cool vibe going on. Each table is topped with a bin full of ketchup, mustard and a roll of brown paper towels, a bit of foreshadowing of the serious chowing and drippy burger goodness that lies ahead. 

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