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CHEAP EATS

A burger bonanza

(Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff)
By Kathleen Burge
Globe Correspondent / June 3, 2009

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Eating at Boston Burger Company could tell you a lot about people, and quickly. Are they playful enough to order The King ($8.50), a burger topped with peanut butter, fried bananas, and bacon? Or traditional, choosing the staid Boston Burger ($7.50), cloaked in lettuce, tomato, and onion? Or entrepreneurial, building a hamburger masterpiece with mango salsa and pineapple? Do they order conch bites ($7.95) on the side - a daring choice - or go with more familiar onion rings ($5.95)?

Sometimes getting a meal at Boston Burger feels like a dare. Only the intrepid would request The Kitchen Sink ($9.95), where the burger is a mere platform for a mishmash of fried egg, ham, bacon, onions, peppers, mushrooms, three cheeses, and barbecue sauce. The King, where the fried bananas and peanut butter turn deeply sweet, is so decadent that its namesake's infamously favorite sandwich - without the burger - seems abstemious by comparison. The Artery Clogger ($8.25) goes one step further: the burger is beer-battered and deep-fried.

Given the boldness of the menu, the affordable prices, and the chance to imbibe enough calories to propel a body through an all-nighter, it's not surprising that Boston Burger, which opened this spring in the narrow space where Antonia's once served Italian food, attracts a lot of college students. But there are also middle-aged couples and families with young children, entertained on a sultry spring night by sitting in the middle of Davis Square and watching the night's theater unfold.

The burgers are really good, even in their most primal version. The meat is juicy, slightly soaking the bun, which is lightly grilled. We love both the bruschetta burger ($8.25), especially the tangy combination of marinated tomatoes and basil pesto mayo, and the Greek burger ($7.95), piled lightly with feta cheese and black olives. The classic ($3.95) and sweet potato fries ($5.95) are also excellent, large and lightly spiced. Some of the 11 varieties of fries also run to the theatrical, including nacho and bacon cheese (both $6.95).

For a restaurant that prides itself on serving half-pounders, even vegetarians have some options. Veggie burgers can be substituted for any hamburger (they cost $1 extra) and several salads are meatless.

There are still minor glitches in service. On our first visit, although we order sweet potato fries, classic fries arrive. On our second visit, our silverware includes one very grimy fork. And not every bodacious concoction works. The kids' menu contains mac and cheese bites ($4.95), a euphemism for deep-fried triangles of the dish. Should mac and cheese ever be deep-fried? No, decided our 4-year-old, it should not.