Eric Halford isn’t interested in having The Cheesecake Factory’s menu.
With his initial restaurant endeavor, Halford wants to do a few things, and do a few things right.
So Bruiser’s Burgers in Surfside Beach, which opened this month, focuses on five varieties of gourmet half-pound hamburgers, two chicken schnitzel sandwiches and hand-cut french fries.
There are also enough ingredients, sides, dressings and dips, which are mostly made from scratch, to require Halford to arrive at the restaurant a few hours before it’s opening. Current hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. It is closed on Sundays.
“If you want a really good burger or a really good chicken sandwich it’s the place to go,” Halford said. “Other than that we’re not trying to be jacks of all trades.”
Halford, a retired police officer, said he tried to have a soft opening with just a couple employees in order to enter the business slow, without advertisement or media attention, but people found the Facebook page and word spread quickly from the first customers.
He was soon inundated and had to add staff. “I said let’s just unlock the door and see what happens, and the locals just blew us up,” Halford said.
Three salads — each with an array of ingredients including roasted beets, toasted almonds, goat cheese, arugula, pickled red onion and chickpeas — have house-made dressing options including mango vinaigrette, Honey Jalapeno Lime, herb goddess and house ranch.
A house-made creamy spicy sauce comes on one of the chicken sandwiches and is also available as a dip. There’s also a truffle mayo and Bruiser’s BBQ.
Sides include house-made cole slaw, chow chow with pickled cabbage and red and green peppers, green bean and bacon salad served cold, a three-bean salad, and mac n’ cheese.
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A basket of fries can be covered in a queso, crumbled bacon and chives, and other apps include a house-made pimiento cheese & crudite (carrots, celery and Granny Smith apple), and chips with house-made guacamole, queso or salsa. There’s also a children’s menu.
Many of the salad ingredients, sides and apps are included on burgers, as well as fried green tomatoes, red pepper jam, country style bacon, smoked gouda and crispy fried onion, and burgers come on brioche or pretzel buns. The schnitzel chicken is pounded thin, rolled in dijon mustard and panko bread crumbs and fried.
Bruiser’s has a bar with a few TVs offering liquor, wine, six beers on tap including local/regional drafts and popular domestics, and several bottled beers. There is outdoor seating on a back patio that has a TV.
Halford is retired from law enforcement in the Asheville, N.C., area and recently moved to the Grand Strand with his wife Melinda, a mental health therapist, and two children, ages 6 and 8. He often hosted people for cookouts at his mountain home and became an expert griller.
“Every time people came over we made burgers and everybody thought it was like the best burger, so we rode around the beach and just decided it needed a burger joint,” said Halford, who had the childhood nickname of Bruiser for constantly fighting with his older brother.
The building space off U.S. 17 Business near 2nd Ave. North was most recently The Goat Bar & Grill’s secondary Surfside location and was previously called Stadium Club for many years.