Stick with the Burgers @Bareburger

The second Connecticut location for Bareburger, in Harbor Point, opened six months ago, its second Fairfield County location (the first opened in downtown Ridgefield in 2013) as the micro-chain-gone-global expands its Connecticut offerings. For an overview of Bareburger and an exclusive interview with its founder, Euripides Pelekanos, click here.

Several months ago CTbites was invited to a media event at Bareburger in Stamford. Downpours and personnel issues left a less than favorable impression of the cuisine. After a three-month hiatus CTbites was invited back and treated to several appetizers, a few burgers and a dessert. Visit number two left a better impression; Bareburger serves very good burgers, with bold flavors and combinations; unfortunately, the appetizers are still a challenge.

The second visit started with three of the smaller selections. The first was the “Macho Fries,” which were ordered with both regular and sweet potato fries. The fries were topped with guacamole, pepper jack cheese, spicy pico de gallo, pickled Jalapeño peppers, and buttermilk ranch dressing, almost a Mexican poutine. The guacamole was very watery and more oniony than I prefer, the pico de gallo delivered even more onions, the Jalapeños and dressing added some kick and creaminess, respectively, but the pepper jack cheese was barely present, and the onions overwhelmed everything. The sweet potato fries were perfectly cooked, but the regular fries were limp.

The “Crispy Brussels Sprouts” were served with Manchego cheese and lemon. Unlike the first visit, the Brussels were well prepared with nice crispy edges and the Manchego was a good complement. I kept looking for the acidity of the lemon to brighten the dish, expecting the next bite to contain this ingredient, but the lemon was MIA, and it was needed to balance and brighten an, otherwise, uninspired dish.

The “Guapo Chop” salad was served with little gems romaine lettuce, topped with scoops of Queso Fresco cheese, guacamole, pickled Jalapeño peppers, pickled red onions, spicy pico de gallo, tortilla chips, and avocado basil dressing. There was a significant miscue on the first attempt and required a replacement. I really enjoyed the pickled onions and Jalapeño peppers but the thin guacamole and pico de gallo were again present and, not surprisingly, the onions overwhelmed the lettuce, which should have been the main focus of the dish. I thought the buttermilk dressing would balance the dish, but there was none present and I was a little reluctant to ask for a third attempt.

The evening took a significantly positive turn when burgers were ordered and delivered. Bareburger offers fourteen pre-determined combinations, plus the option to build your own, and my host was persistent that I sample a diverse array of meats since the menu contains beef, bison, wild boar, duck, elk, turkey, as well as vegetarian options.

The first was the “SoCal,” (seen above) which included a turkey patty, aged Cheddar cheese, pickled red onions, alfalfa sprouts, guacamole, on a griddled sprout bun. I was pleasantly surprised with the flavor and moistness of the turkey patty as well as how the various toppings complemented each other. The guacamole made its third appearance of the evening and this time it was a welcome addition. Since it is more a spread than a true guacamole it worked well to bring a creamy pungency and its heavy onion accents, and the pickled onions added crunch and sour notes. The bun was a good choice and the SoCal was my favorite burger of the evening.

The “Blue Elk” was the polar opposite side of the flavor spectrum, and if you are looking for bold flavors, this is a great choice. The elk was less gamey than I assumed, more a clean, rich flavor similar to a grass-fed beef patty, with a richness you would expect. The key to this combination was the inclusion of two strong, sweet components, the stout onions and the tomato fig jam, each was a fantastic complement to the elk. The country bacon added just a touch of saltiness, and the Amish Blue cheese kicked in a completely different profile, some would love the addition, while others would feel it fought with the other ingredients.

Since Bareburger does not offer a bacon-cheeseburger as one of its pre-determined combinations, I decided to “Be My Burger.” I started with an 8-ounce beef patty, and added country bacon, Colby cheese and Stout Onions. The meat presented a medium richness, and the sweet onions added a wonderful complex profile from the stout. I was not as fond of my cheese choice, the scant amount of crumbled Colby did not work well in the balance of flavors, and the Colby would have benefitted from a better melt. Likewise, the onions were diced and I would have preferred that they were served in larger pieces. The country bacon was soggy and offered little to the dish, I wish strip bacon was an option.

To accompany the burgers, I ordered a side of “Fries and Rings.” The fries were excellent, perfectly prepared with moist interiors surrounded by a thin crisp crust. The rings were coated in a very think, wheat flour based coating. The amount of coating and the boldness of the wheat overwhelmed the moist onions, like biting into fried wheat bread. Stick with the fries.

For dessert I ordered the “Flourless Chocolate Cake.” It was a cross between a chocolate lava cake and pudding. It was accompanied by a few marinated cherries. It was a very sweet way to end the meal.

Bareburger’s business model is to offer organic, healthier products, with unique and creative combinations. This is a not an inexpensive burger joint, more in line with restaurant prices than Shake Shack and Five Guys. A bacon-cheeseburger, fries and a soda will total more than $20 before tax and tip, probably $100 for a family of four. Look carefully at the pre-determined options as each could save $2-3 compared to a build your own. Overall, the burgers were very good, but numerous miscues on both visits need to be addressed, especially with these prices.

Really Liked

  • SoCal ($10.85)
  • Blue Elk ($12.95)
  • French Fries (3.50)

Liked

  • Bacon Cheeseburger ($12.95)
  • Flourless Chocolate Cake ($7.50)

Needs Improvement

  • Macho Fries ($11.95)
  • Guapo Chop ($10.95 / $16.95)
  • Crispy Brussels Sprouts ($6.85)
  • Onion Rings ($4.50)

21 Harbor Point Road – Stamford, CT 06902

203-890-9686

This was a private event. The author were compensated for this review; the meal was provided without charge. The opinions contained herein are solely those of the author.

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Tavern 489 (Stamford) Serving Some Solid Dishes

ctb_489_octopusThe newest addition to the Springdale-Glenbrook neighborhood is Tavern 489, located at 489 Glenbrook Avenue. A stone’s throw from the Glenbrook train stop, the restaurant sits in the space that originally housed the Moosehead Bar decades ago (thank you “Hey Stamford”) and shares the building with the newly relocated and reopened Tawa (reviewed here). The restaurant is the brainchild of owners Eric Monte and Partner/ Executive Chef Regis Saget. Stamford residents also know Monte as the the owner of The Fez downtown, which brought Moroccan cuisine to center stage.

Chef Regis is no stranger to various international cuisines and the Fairfield County culinary world. He spent his childhood in southwest France before receiving joint degrees from culinary school in Morlaas, France as a chef and pastry chef. Before settling in Greenwich in 2000 he worked in various regions including Spain, England, Andorra, Switzerland, South Africa and the East. He settled in Fairfield Count and worked at La Colline Verte and St. Tropez in Fairfield and opened Savvy Restaurant in New Canaan, which earned the highest “Excellent” rating from the New York Times in July 2006.

The fully redesigned interior of Tavern 489  is reminiscent of an Adirondack mountain lodge complete with exposed M-Trusses, a canoe dangling from the ceiling, a full front-to-back 18-seat wooden bar along the right wall, additional wooden high-top tables and chairs plus a large wooden “picnic” table for larger groups, all drawing focus to the imposing floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace in the rear. The walls are adorned with photos of Ernest Hemingway. When I asked Monte about these photos, he told me that Hemingway, in addition to being a great writer, was the ultimate outdoorsman, a true man’s man, and his photos fit the rustic, outdoorsy feel he was striving to achieve. In addition to the rustic décor, Tavern 489 offers live music six days a week.

The current menu is very eclectic, reflecting the various regions from Chef Regis’s background. CTbites was recently invited to a dinner at Tavern 489 where Chef Regis prepared items that both appear on the current menu as well as several specials that oftentimes appear on the menu. They each showed a focus on bold flavors that emphasized the inherent flavor of each ingredient, while balancing and complementing the combinations. (Since this was a sponsored event the photos may not reflect the regular portion size.)

We enjoyed three appetizers.

ctb_489_tomato_soupThe first was a Cold Tomato soup. The chunky texture was “gazpacho style” and accentuated the sweetness of tomatoes, offset with just a touch of pungency from some onions and a touch of vinegar. This rendition was delightfully refreshing.

ctb_489_venison_meatballsI also enjoyed the Venison Meatballs. They were served in a “bone-canoe” and were firm in texture while maintaining a moist interior. The venison absorbed a good amount of smokiness and were complemented by a thin glaze of a red wine green peppercorn sauce. The meatballs were served with simple fingerling potatoes that complemented the venison with a little earthiness.

ctb_489_fried_oysters_singleThe third appetizer was the Taunton bay fried oysters. They were coated in a thick seasoned corn meal and deep fried to a golden brown. They were paired with a lemon tamarind tomato curry sauce to bring a little sweetness to the dish. The crust was a little tick, detracting a bit from the sweet oysters.

ctb_489_bison_burgerThe next course was a trio of hamburgers, two beef and the third was bison. The bison was served with lettuce, tomato, shallots, melted Burrata. The bison was rich and expertly prepared to medium-rare. The shallots were a good addition but I was not as fond of the inclusion of the Burrata.

The seasoned hunter angus beef burger was served with lettuce, tomato, and a truffle pesto The medium-rare patty was medium in flavor and I really liked how the earthiness of the truffle pesto complemented the meat.

ctb_489_blackened_angus_burgerThe last burger was the Blackened angus burger, served with lettuce, tomato, and topped with melted Bleu cheese. Similar to the pesto, the Bleu cheese elevated the mildness of the meat.  All of the burgers were served with home-made fries that were very good.

ctb_489_octopusThe burgers were followed by my favorite dish of the evening, the Charred octopus, served in a mélange of kidney beans, tomatoes, shallots, garlic, parsley and pomegranate chimichurri dressing. The slow cooked octopus sections were soft and moist, some of the most tender octopus I have ever eaten. It was combined with the other ingredients to create a vibrant array of bold flavors. The roasted tomatoes exploded with sweetness and the al dente prepared kidney beans offered a wonderful textural contrast. The entire profile was elevated by the pomegranate chimichurri sauce. This was my favorite dish of the evening.

ctb_489_tomohawk_steakThe table next shared the Tomahawk Steak, which the menu describes as 36 ounces. The wood platter was covered with the pre-sliced steak was accompanied with bowls of red potatoes, mixed greens, and broccoli rabe, a few grilled shallots, prosciutto wrapped asparagus and three sauces, a porcini, a green pepper and a poutine. The meat was served rare and was simply and properly seasoned. It was very tender and slightly juicy, but did have a fair amount of fat. The sauces were excellent and increased the profile of the steak. My favorite of the sauces was the poutine which added a wonderful level of earthiness to the steak.  The potatoes and broccoli rabe were simply prepared and delicious, but the asparagus were a little salty from the prosciutto.

ctb_489_chocolate_mousse

To finish the meal, we enjoyed a platter of chocolate mousse. This was ultra-creamy, light in texture and delivered a medium level of chocolate goodness.

Overall, Tavern 489 is a solid neighborhood spot that is also a good choice as a go-to restaurant for people looking for a menu with eclectic choice that deliver bold flavors in a relaxed environment. With a varied selection of beer and wines, there are also numerous beverage options to satisfy everyone.

Really Liked

  • Charred Octopus $14
  • Hunter Angus Burger $13
  • Blackened Angus Burger $12
  • Chocolate Mousse

Liked

  • Venison Balls
  • Cold Tomato Soup
  • Taunton Fried Oysters $12
  • Bison Burger $13
  • Dirty Tomahawk Steak $MP

 

 

The Cottage (Westport) Burger – Top-Tiered

16_cottage_burger_marrowChef Brian Lewis’ return to the Fairfield County restaurant scene has created quite a buzz over the last few months with his opening of The Cottage, plus an “Excellent” from the NY Times. With the summer months approaching it was time to see if Chef Lewis’ burger is deserving of that same distinction.

Simply named “Burger & Fries,” it includes Gruyere cheese, bacon-onion jam, fries, plus an option for a side of bone marrow (a recent addition). I ordered it medium-rare, included the bone marrow and was asked if I would also like some charred ramps on the burger since they were in season, yes to all.

It was served on a large wooden cutting board, the tall burger sitting aside the bone with a fork protruding from the top to scoop out the garlic topped marrow. The thick patty was seared to a crusty exterior while maintaining a perfect medium-rare on the interior. After one bite of the meat I knew this was a special burger, it was incredibly deep in flavor, probably the richest of any I have tasted and, as it cooled, the flavor intensified. The melted Gruyere was full of nutty goodness. Then the bacon-onion jam hit the palate…this was the best topping of any burger I tasted this year. It delivered an incredible amount of smoky and sweet, and included large chunks of bacon to textural offset the soft and luscious onions. The fun part, the bone marrow, was a treat that I very much enjoyed. Placing a dab on the burger added a level of decadence. If offered the ramps I would definitely choose to include them, they contributed a wonderful earthiness and the grilled sesame seed bun held all of the ingredients together with no issue. The fries were perfectly crisped on the exterior and soft on the interior, and lightly salted.

The Burger & Fries at The Cottage was outstanding. It is one of, if not the best burger in the area and it is absolutely worthy of an “Excellent” distinction.

256 Post Rd E, Westport, CT 06880