$15 including fries and onion rings. Burgerac's authoritative new reviewer, Major Tightbuns, has just filed a most favourable report from NYC...
The newest addition to the Burgerac reviewing team, MAJOR TIGHTBUNS found himself (and his deputy) in NYC's Soho district last week on a sweltering summer day with just one mission in mind: to check out Burger & Barrel
's highly rated burger menu – and the joint's Bash Style Burger revealed to them why it's an award-winning jewel in its burger-shaped crown...
TeeeeenSHUN! Major Tightbuns here reporting for duty in the US of A. Currently deep undercover in the Big Apple, hunting out anyplace serving up fine quality meats between two slabs of dough. Any below-par foodstuffs encountered will immediately be issued with a COURT MARSHALL, dagnammit!
Right, first things first. Burger & Barrel, situated on the south side of W Houston Street, just a block west of Broadway, describes itself as a "winepub". That was a new one on us but translates as chef Josh Capon's combination of gastropub and American bar. That means a packed wine list (some house wines on tap, hence the "barrel" of the title), a selection of house cocktails (Tequila Mockingbird, anyone?) beers on draft (and also in bottles), plus, far more importantly, a great looking menu full of fine-tuned comfort food and classics with a twist – at the heart of which are B&B's fabled burgers.
Decor is somewhere in the region of Gallic-bistro-meets-hip-winebar, resulting in much dark wood and high slung wine racks, celebrity vintner-signed bottles, and a comfortable looking bar greeting you as you enter the room. It's a cosy layout, plenty of room but with an intimacy to the individual tables. Ever entered a fairly quiet restaurant and they seat you at the worst table in the place? The opposite happened here and we were offered a great spot by the open fronted restaurant, a good combination of sunshine and air con. Nice. Service was fine - friendly, efficient, and if the waitress couldn't answer a question (there were a few burger shaped gaps in her knowledge) she was happy to consult the chef.
We made the most of salivating over the lunch menu by immediately ordering a couple of Bacon Bloody Marias to help us through: Bacon and Jalepeno Tequila with spiced tomato juice and a finely sliced grilled bacon garnish. Now then, bacon in a drink may sound strange but this, let me tell you, works.
Refreshing deep tomato, just the right amount of kick coming out of that Jalepeno-infused tequila, mellowed by the smokey saltyness of the bacon smuggled into the mix. Delish, and as far as the Major is concerned, a new benchmark for the brunch cocktail. The Caramel Twist "spiked shake" (made with Makers Mark bourbon) was also winking at us from the menu, but by then we'd pinned our colours to the flag.
Navigating the Bison sliders, Tuna Tartare, and Shrimp Ceviche, a tough decision was made and to start we went for the Spicy Buffalo Chicken Lollipops (the fine bone of the chicken providing the "lollystick"), served with a blue cheese dipping sauce, plus a summer special of Watermelon with Shishito Peppers (which are similar to chargrilled Padron peppers), feta cheese and lime juice – a perfect plate for a humid summer day in NY. Both were amazing and lasted mere nano seconds on our plates.
And so, to the burgers. Six were listed on the menu – although given that this place takes its burger innovation seriously, more appear throughout the year as seasonal specials, such as the the Black Truffle Burger, aka the BTC burger. However, we were interested in B&B's round-the-year show stoppers, and so ordered a B&B Classic and also a Bash Style Burger.
The B&B Classic is good. Good bun, good burger patty (although possibly slightly underseasoned), but juicy, served with lettuce, tomato, pickles and American cheese. The pickles start to take over the taste party, but it's a good burger. There's nothing really wrong with it. But is it a great
burger? Well, all bets were off as soon as we tasted the Bash Style Burger!
Named after B&B's award-winning entry in the People's Choice category of New York's 2009 Burger-Bash event (now a well-established and much loved part of the city's annual Wine & Food Festival
), this is an amazing heavyweight of flavour. A griddled 6oz beef patty, like the Classic, is served with American cheese, finely sliced pickles, and a soft glazed Parker House roll. However, the key ingredient that lifts it higher than the Classic is the inclusion of a caramelized onion and bacon jam.
Apparently devised by Capon to deliver bacon and onion in every bite, it also helps the structure of the burger by making sure the thing doesn't collapse around strips of bacon and onion rings. It brings a sweetness (but not too sweet) and depth of flavour to the whole affair which perfectly compliments the meat - super juicy and complete with rivers of oozing fat (in a good way), which you notice creeping down your hands half way through the meal. Somehow the bun perfectly stands up to such saturation without slipping out of place, getting too soggy or falling apart: a great piece of burger engineering. Just enough thinly shredded iceberg lettuce adds a little texture to the experience. Ketchup is provided on the side.
Both of these burgers came with plenty of thin potato fries (fried only once but full of flavour), and were topped with crispy red onion rings that, when you took a bite, left the rest of the onion in place – one of the first times we've had an onion ring and the onion didn't slip out of the batter to slop around your chin after the first bite.
After that there was barely room for a desert, but we valiantly managed to squeeze in an order of mini ice cream cones: two small chocolate dipped, vanilla ice cream caramel cones topped with almonds. Simple but just right, served in a yum-tastic belgian waffle-esque cone.
Without a doubt, Burger & Barrel lives up to the multitude of favorable reviews it has received since opening last year. Interesting to note that although the B&B burgers are the obvious draw, everything we ordered was top notch and it is clearly a place that prides itself in quality across the menu. All in all, this was a great experience and one ripe for repeating next time the Major finds himself undercover in the USA.
Major Tightbuns' verdict?: "Son, you're gonna go far: 5 stars!"
Burger & Barrel
25 W Houston
New York, NY 10012