15315 Madison Ave
Lakewood, OH 44107
By Scarlet Pumpernickel
For my first review I decided to go to a place that I know well, the Beer Engine in Lakewood. Located in an unassuming building on a quiet street, the Beer Engine is a bar with a very casual atmosphere combined with good food and a great beer selection. They have around 30 beers on tap including two beers in wooden casks. The casks aren't pressurized like a normal steel keg, so pumping the beer out requires an engine, hence the name of the bar.
The burger selection here is nicely varied. The menu has common standbys like a southwest themed burger and the now near ubiquitous blackened burger with blue cheese, but it also has some more unusual entries as well. I ordered the Cyclops burger. It's loaded with bacon, cheddar cheese, and a sunny-side-up egg. You have the option of either homemade chips or shoestring fries. Most people prefer the shoestring fries, I like the chips better myself.
The first thing you'll notice when you get your burger is the deep fried pickle that comes with it. Normally the pickle on the side of a platter serves as a cool, tart compliment to the meatiness of the burger, letting you cleanse you palette. Breading and frying the pickle makes it much sweeter and heavier so that it can step up to being a full participant in the meal.
The meat in the burgers is, well, unique. It tastes very different from most gourmet burgers. I've heard a range of theories on what makes them so tasty: grass fed cows, grinding the beef themselves, even a little ground pork mixed in (hey, it makes vegetables more tasty), but regardless of how they do it, the burgers are delicious. They even taste great when over-cooked, which brings me to the one real knock on the Beer Engine. The place gets VERY busy Friday and Saturday nights, and on rare occasions your burger will come out more medium than rare/medium rare, or an appetizer will be forgotten, or the wrong beer will be brought (and quickly corrected).
But we need to get back to my burger. When we left it, it was about to be eaten. The Beer Engine knows that the most important part of putting an egg on a burger is to leave the yolk nice and runny. When you place the bun on top, you will break the yolk and it will go running everywhere. That's ok. Much of it will absorb into the top bun (bun consistency is critical here, we're looking for porous, yet durable), but the yolk that makes it to your plate can be sopped up with the side of the burger between bites. It sounds messy, but if the yolk was cooked through, you would have a yolk nugget treacherously waiting for you somewhere at the center of the burger, overpowering all the other flavors for a few bites.
I wandered to another entrée on the menu once. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't as good as their burgers either. Perhaps it's just when you find something you really like, everything else seems worse by comparison.