Ian Russo is a chef who likes to dirty things up with a cayenne-spiked spice blend. He uses this "dirty dust" in almost every dish he offers, mellowing the heat with a bit of honey. Keep in mind that anything on the menu, though, is available "clean."
In contrast to the name of the place, DirtyBurger has a bright, contemporary look punctuated with a pop of graffiti art. Servers are energetic, eager to offer advice on food, beer and wine selections.
You'll want to order the dirty wings -- deep fried, tossed with dirty dust and, if you prefer, also rolled in a dirty house-made barbecue sauce. Both treatments offer eye-opening depth of flavor. Dirty PIB -- pigs in blankets -- features dough-wrapped weiners showered with dirty dust, making them nothing short of addictive. But a wedge salad ordered on one visit is carelessly assembled, served without its most essential ingredient, bacon. While the meat is sent out promptly after a complaint, it turns out to be icy-cold, congealed.
The original dirtyburger is spice-dusted, honey-caramelized, sauced and tucked into a steamed bun. Russo serves the meat as ordered, from rare to well done.
A savory surprise turns out to be the dirty veggie burger, topped with curry mayonnaise, avocado and lemon vinaigrette-dressed greens. A dirty turkey burger comes out juicy, spicy-sweet. But the Greek-inspired dirty lamb burger, topped with an arugula-cucumber mix and yogurt-based "dirtziki" sauce, makes for heavy eating.
Russo redeems himself with a knockout dirty steak sandwich with caramelized onions, arugula, blue cheese and horseradish sauce on toasted French baguette. And then, there are his "sweet and salty" dirty ribs lacquered with hoisin sauce, topped with crumbled feta, a surprise and successful twist.
About sides: Hand-cut fries, available dirty or not, are first-rate. So are sweet potato fries. A genuine treat: Russo's opulent and dirty al dente mac and cheese. Dirty-dusted batter-fried onion rings come out sweet and crunchy.
Finish with respectable molten chocolate cake a la mode. Better yet, a milk shake, clean or dirty. Hard to tell the two versions apart.
Of course, you could call the whole dirty shtick pure gimmickry. Here's the thing: it works.