By JOHN T. WARD
Let’s talk turkey: when it comes to the piquant aromas of summer, ground turkey on the grill is not the first thing that comes to mind. Has a turkey burger ever kicked anyone’s salivary system into high drool as surely as an onion-studded patty of juicy, red beef?
Still, even in summer, variety and health consciousness occasionally nudge PieHole in the direction of the turkey burger when we crave a hot, meaty sandwich, even if we’re a bit dubious it can come close to a real burger on flavor.
A recent What’s For Lunch? outing brought us to the Downtown in Red Bank, a high-ceilinged, voluminous bar space that on a nice day is open to West Front Street courtesy of giant casement windows. A high-top table at that end of the room offers something like a shaded skybox seat on one of the liveliest spots in town: great for people-watching without the annoyances of sidewalk dining.
On the extensive lunch menu: 14 “small plates” (including wonton poppers, $10; steak-and-cilantro empanadas, $11; Asian chicken lettuce wraps, $12); nine sandwiches (poached pear grilled cheese, $12; citrus shrimp wrap, $13); eight salads and four burgers, including a black bean burger and a BBQ bacon burger, both $13.
For $14, we opted for the turkey burger ($14) topped with candied bacon, sharp cheddar, and sauteed apples on a multigrain bun, according to the “pub grub” menu. Our server, though, brought the apples – granny smiths, sauteed in butter, salt and pepper – on the side. Perhaps she sensed, correctly, that we’d find they weren’t needed.
It’s a big sandwich, held together impressively by the oat-flecked bun. Does it match a great beef burger in flavor? Not quite. That’s probably expecting too much. Still, we all but devoured this handful, compelled by its just-right juiciness and the smoky blend of bacon and cheese. We tried it with the apples, too, but found they undercut, rather than added to, the flavor combo.
The Downtown, at 10 West Front Street, is also a popular night spot, with live music upstairs several nights a week. Here’s the current schedule.