Sometimes you have to break the rules, even the rules you made up for yourself. Today was such a day. I don’t usually go on media tours and get comped meals, and I don’t usually review chain restaurants, but I did today. So, keep that in mind when you read the following (media tour – meal was free).
I was invited to visit Burger Bach, a New Zealand-inspired gastro pub that opened about a year ago in Durham’s Erwin Square, where George’s Garage used to be. James Foley, Carolinas Director for Burger Bach (Bach is pronounced like “bachelor” ) was our gracious host. I told him I made an exception for this chain because it is still small, just a couple of restaurants in Richmond, Virginia and one here in Durham. He asked me how I defined a chain. We agreed that most chains are not very original, the quality is sub par and ingredients are not always that fresh. However, at Burger Bach, nothing is frozen at all, in fact they don’t even have a freezer, just some coolers. And while the burgers and lamb come from New Zealand, the chicken comes from an American Humane certified farm in the U.S. from Georgia called Springer Farms. Twenty of the thirty beers are local, and many of the other ingredients come from the local farmer’s market.
Burger Bach was started three and a half years ago in Richmond by Michael Ripp, who sadly died from bladder cancer a few years ago. The Durham branch opened last year and the restaurant is about to open a place in Charlottesville and one in Midlothian, both in Virginia, later this year, making a total of five locations.
James gave us an exclusive, behind the scenes tour of the kitchen. I was impressed to see a very clean operation. All the bins in the cooler were marked and clearly dated, so anything beyond five days was thrown out. All the meat is hand ground daily in the meat grinder. And the fries are hand cut each day as well. All the sauces are homemade, including the ketchup, with fresh, and when available, locally sourced ingredients.
We started our meal with a cocktail. I had the Brooklyn Sour, which was made with bourbon and fresh lemon juice that was muddled into the cocktail, along with some simple syrup, some bitters, a little wine and an egg white to give the drink some froth. It was very good! Unfortunately, the three photos I took of the drink all came out blurry! Too bad, because it was a pretty drink.
We tasted the vast array of dipping sauces while trying some of the thick, hand-cut fries. The fries were crisp on the outside with a bit of skin on them, while the insides were soft and chewy. My favorite sauce was the blueberry barbecue sauce (2nd to the bottom on the left). The blueberry flavor was very prominent and it was sweet, but not over powering. I also really enjoyed the garlic aioli sauce (bottom right), the Manuka honey mustard sauce (more on that in a minute), which and the chipotle barbecue sauce (middle row on the bottom), which was rich and tangy. Manuka honey is imported from New Zealand. The bees gather pollen from the Manuka trees, which are known to have many enzymes that help with digestion.
We tried the South Lamb burger, which had a thick slice of goat cheese, and baby spinach. It was topped with the Manuka Honey Dijon vinaigrette and a cilantro sauce. These burgers are very thick. Be prepared to eat them with a knife and fork. This was my favorite of the three burgers we tried.
Next we had the French Chick, which featured the free-range chicken from Georgia, topped with the Manuka Honey mustard sauce, a green apple, turkey bacon (sulfite-free), triple brie cheese and caramelized onions. The triple brie cheese was very tangy and tasted almost like blue cheese.
The beef burger we tried was the Aucklander. It had avocado, bacon, Egmont cheese, greens, tomato, mayonnaise and dijonnaise sauce. The meat was very fresh and delicious. James told us the meat is so lean they actually have to buy some fat to put back into the meat to give it a little more flavor.
The burgers are reasonably priced between $8.99 – $12.99 for a burger and side salad. And, if that’s not enough to keep you satisfied, if you come in the evening, there is a whole seafood section!
Yes, fresh oysters flown in 6-8 times a week with four to six varieties offered each day, muscles and shrimp dishes as well. We had the spicy shrimp, which was in a sauce that was absolutely to die for. The sauce had chipotle peppers, jalapenos, olive oil, cilantro, garlic and shallots with a generous dose of fresh cream. Yum!
For vegetarians, they have a freshly made black bean burger that looked really good. We didn’t taste this, but I might order it next time I go, though it will be hard to resist having another lamb burger.
The buns are all made from Neomonde Bakery, just down the road in Morrisville. And, if you are gluten intolerant, they have gluten-free buns from Udi’s. You also have the option of ordering any burger in a lettuce wrap.
I highly doubt anyone would leave Burger Bach feeling hungry for dessert, but if you do, it will be time to go somewhere on Ninth Street for your sweets, or have a dessert wine from the bar. There are no desserts at the restaurant. I know I didn’t think about or miss having a dessert.
Burger Bach is located at 737 9th Street in Durham and is open Sunday – Thursday from 11am-10pm and Friday and Saturday from 11am-11pm. You can follow them on Twitter, or like their Facebook page to hear about specials and events.