While gourmet burgers have become immensely popular in Western New York, the trend had yet to really catch on in the self-proclaimed home of the Hamburger – Hamburg, New York. That all changed this summer when former Tempo Executive Chef, Andrew P. Murtha, signed an agreement with the owners of Buffalo Street Grill and Bistro in the Square to oversee and revamp operations. Bistro in the Square was closed, remodeled and rebranded as a gourmet burger bar, touting a menu of burgers, small plates and creative sandwiches created by Murtha. I’d been intrigued for a while now given Chef Murtha’s pedigree and we finally got to JuiCy Burger Bar a few weeks ago to check it out for ourselves. I’m pleased to report that the burgers compared well to the best around and have given the birthplace of the hamburger a destination worthy of its history.
My wife and I arrived at Juicy around 6:00 p.m. and the restaurant was nearly full with standing room only at the bar. Luckily, we were able to get a table shortly after arrival. I selected one of my favorite local IPAs – the Hayburner IPA from Big Ditch Brewing Company – from a list largely composed of local brews to enjoy while I looked over the menu. The menu is broken down into three categories – The Burgers ($9-$12), Firsts & Shareables ($4-$11) and “Other Awesome Stuff” ($7-$14). All sandwiches are served with fries and the burgers have several upgrades available including a pretzel bun (additional $1.50), gluten-free bun (additional $1.50) and/or an additional patty ($3.50). The restaurant offers several house-made products in its preparations including chili, BBQ sauce, pickles and hand pulled mozzarella. There is a small kids menu as well as a list of craft cocktails.
My wife selected the Gobbler ($10) with a side of house-made sweet potato fries instead of the regular hand cut potato version. I opted for the Divine Swine ($12). Our server was relatively attentive and quite friendly. The service slowed a bit after we ordered, but the wait certainly wasn’t excessive.
My wife’s turkey burger arrived first. The Gobbler is a turkey burger topped with avocado, lettuce and hard cider BBQ sauce. The burger was cooked properly with good caramelization on its exterior and an interior that was cooked through, yet still moist. The sauce was good but did not taste much like its namesake. It was a tasty burger nonetheless. The fries were cooked perfectly with good browning around the edges and a good crisp on the exterior while the interior remained fluffy and light.
My burger arrived at the requested medium rare with good caramelization on its exterior. It was topped with smoked heritage bacon, cheddar, mayo, tomato and romaine lettuce. The grind on the burger yielded more chew than I’m used to in the gourmet burger market, but was still tender and juicy. The bacon was delicious with plenty of smoky pork flavor that went well with the burger. The burger could have used some acidity for balance in the form of pickles or a piquant sauce. The bun was excellent, though. It was toasted nicely and was soft enough while still being able to maintain the integrity of the sandwich. My fries were quite good – cooked properly and seasoned well.
Our first meal at JuiCy Burger Bar was very good. Chef Murtha certainly makes one of the best burgers in the Southtowns. While not exceeding the best in Buffalo like the ones you can get at The Black Sheep, Marble + Rye and Buffalo Proper, they come close enough to make Juicy Burger Bar worth a trip from points across Western New York. I’m looking forward to returning to try one of the other burgers and other options on the menu. There are several interesting selections like the Hogzilla with bacon and fried onions and the Weck Yo Self with a Kimmelweck bun and horseradish aioli. In its first few months of business, JuiCy Burger Bar is offer to a good start. With continued consistency and some minor improvements, it may join the Pantheon of the best burger joints in town.