Burger Bar officially opened 10:30 am 16 October 2009. The night before a group of us attended a test dinner. These are shake-down cruises and anything can happen. Some years ago at an unrelated restaurant, a waiter bumped into my chair and dropped a drink down my neck. So a test dinner is a treat but you must also accept being a bit of a guinea pig.
This is a restaurant with a view. Up on the 6th floor, its floor-to-ceiling windows overlook Union Square. That part of town was electric. Obama was scheduled to speak across the street at the St. Francis and protesters lined the streets. Nearly all of Union Square was under a huge tent in preparation for the celebration of the Women’s Marathon. The electricity inside the restaurant was no less. Hubert Keller, the founder of Burger Bar, (as well as long-time chef and partner of Fleur de Lys SF and LV) was there, as well as his wife Chantal and his executive chef Laurent Pillard.
Only when I downloaded my photos did I realize I had forgotten to photograph the burgers! The whole point of the restaurant! I did get the chocolate milkshakes sitting on our table overlooking the action on the square. Just as Burger Bar has built its burger menu around a build-your-own theme, now you can build your own milkshakes! Ice cream, syrups, add-ins, toppings—you choose! Given the choice (not available on test nights), I might have chosen “all of the above”. I hope that’s not an actual option.
We started with a Caesar salad, tasted the Cobb salad, tried three kinds of fries not counting the onion rings which makes 4, and we all had beef burgers. Mine was the Black Jack with tapenade and cheese on a ciabatta bun, two of us had caramelized onions, one had jalapeno bacon. And I had Burger Bar’s own beer, crisp and good. It was terrific fun for us but I felt for the waiters who were still finding their way around: “Do you have coffee?” “I’m not sure; I think so; I’ll check.” And after a quick scouting expedition, he returned with good news, “We’ve just made it fresh. Would you like cream and sugar?” It helped us all better understand all the many details that must come together perfectly for every meal, for each diner and plate. Daunting. Made me glad I get to eat, appreciate, and write the book.