2013-05-29 / Restaurant of the Week

BareBurger

If you haven’t already discovered BareBurger, what are you waiting for? With 13 locations in Queens, Manhattan and Long Island, and franchises set to open in several more cities around the country, there’s no excuse not to. In Queens alone, there are two locations in Astoria and one in Bayside, plus several Manhattan and Brooklyn locations and the phenomenon is spreading. In fact, just this past month, three more locations opened outside of New York.

BareBurger is the brainchild of a group of friends from Astoria, including John Simonides and Jimmy Pilikanos. Manager Jimmy Brikes and the lovely operations manager, Debra Jans are always on hand to ensure a fantastic meal, punctuated by fresh, organic ingredients, including grass-fed organic meats and as much locally produced ingredients as possible. The atmosphere is rustic and chic, utilizing reclaimed materials, sustainable bamboo floors, light fixtures made from old silverware and more. The service is friendly and casual with thanks to Tim, our charming waiter, along with all the beautiful BareBurger staff, which makes BareBurger ideal for families, friends and casual dates.

I personally frequent BareBurger’s original location, on 31st Avenue in Astoria, where it all began with organic, grass-fed beef, bison, elk, ostrich, lamb, turkey, and wild boar meat complemented by all organic toppings such as bacon, Portobello mushrooms, cheese and more. Even the rolls that the burgers rest on come from local artisanal bakeries fresh every day. The menu lists more than a dozen burger items and recommends which meat goes best with which toppings but you can always have it your way. Still, you are invited to design your own burger with the “Barest Burger”. Now, even vegans can enjoy a black bean vegan burger topped with vegan cheddar, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and cilantro-lime dressing ($10.45).

The secret to any restaurant’s success is consistency, and BareBurger’s quality is consistently delicious and fresh no matter which location you visit. Extensive training and hiring the “right people” is key to the company’s success and Debra tells me that they take customer feedback very seriously and incorporate it into their product offerings. Case in point is the addition of several new salads, including the “Farmer’s” salad composed of greens, Portobello mushrooms, radishes, cucumbers, red onion, carrots, grape tomatoes and organic olive oil and white balsamic vinegar. The Asian salad is made from broccoli slaw, pickled mangos, dried edamame, carrots, cucumber and peanut, sesame ginger dressing. All salads now come in small or large sizes.

We tried some new appetizers: crispy zucchini sticks made from fresh spears of zucchini and crunchy bread crumbs, begging to be dipped in the accompanying ranch sauce, and the sweet potato croqs. These crunchy morsels are made from mashed sweet potatoes and organic sharp cheddar cheese, fried until golden and served with habanero chipotle mayonnaise and stone ground honey mustard. My dining companion and I devoured them, good enough to eat even without the de lectable dipping sauce. Getting back to the core burger business, the most popular burger is the California burger, topped with sharp cheddar, avocado, maple bacon, lettuce, tomato, red onion and cilantro lime dressing ($11.95). Next, the Big Blue pleases the crowds with Danish bleu cheese, sautéed mushrooms, smoked onions, bacon, lettuce, and apple chutney ($12.15). My companion dove into the Roadhouse burger with bison meat, topped with smoky, outrageously delicious organic bacon, avocado and caramelized onions with fire roasted peppers on a multigrain bun or soft, yummy brioche bun. If you like it hot, try the Jalapeño Express that goes great with elk and is topped with lots of pepperjack cheese, red onion, jalapeño relish, horseradish mayo and chipotle ketchup. Burger purists will love the Original with Colby jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion and that irresistible BareBurger sauce. Try this one with elk or ostrich meat, which are high in protein and low in fat and cholesterol.

This time I decided to try one of BareBurger’s delicious sandwiches which require two hands and a hearty appetite. My Buffalo chicken sandwich was made with buttermilk fried chicken breast, lettuce, tomato and Buffalo ranch sauce ($9.95). The brisket sandwich is a new item, hardwood smoked and served with apple grilled onions and homemade Carolina slaw. Speaking of slaw, BareBurger’s new version is mayo-free, making it less caloric, crunchy, delicious, and good for you. The Haas avocado chicken club remains one of the most popular for its tender, grilled chicken, avocado, country bacon, tomato, red onion and smoked paprika mayo on fresh ciabatta bread ($12.15).

Order BareBurger’s addictive French fries and onion rings separately, but I’m warning you, they’re irresistible. You can also try the sweet potato fries, which also come with yummy dipping sauces.

Who would have thought that even vegans can have a decadent dessert? We tried the vegan carrot cake and were very impressed with the moistness, texture, and flavor of this delicious treat and its sweet icing. There’s also rich, dense, flourless chocolate cake, apple tart and BareBurger’s incredible milk shakes made with organic ice cream from “Blue Marble Dairy” in Brooklyn. The organic, free trade coffee is delicious with dessert and you can have a locally brewed beer or organic wine with your meal.

Debra told us that there are two major camps of visitors at BareBurger; those who are health- conscious and seek out organic alternatives for dining out and those who just enjoy a really good burger, fries, or sandwich with all their favorite toppings, served with ice cold beer and a milk shake for dessert.

Whichever camp you belong to, or perhaps you’re somewhere in between, you’ll absolutely love a meal at BareBurger, be it for lunch or dinner, seven days a week at all locations. Want to own one? Visit their Web site and click on “Franchise” for more information. There’s free delivery too so call now for the best burger you’ll ever eat. Thank you BareBurger for making all the good stuff!

33-21 31st Ave. & 23-01 31st St.
Astoria  718.777.7011

and nine other locations in Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan www.bareburger.com

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