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Hey There, Pilgrim — There’s a New Burger in Town

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A quick perusal of the burger buzz on Chowhound.com reveals a recurring theme: Westchester burger fans are divided between Eastchester’s Piper’s Kilt and Purdy’s Blazer Pub. While we’re not knocking either august patty, we wondered—isn’t there anything new on the burger horizon?

There is. Burgers, Shakes and Fries is a new (6 weeks old) Byram, CT, venture started by Kory Wollins, who looks about 12 years old but has actually worked in every aspect of the restaurant industry (both front and back of the house) for 15 years. While both the Piper’s Kilt and the Blazer Pub adhere to one burger genre—the mammoth, greasy bar burger—Burgers, Shakes and Fries is all about the stand burger. What’s a stand burger? It’s the sort of burger you eat at roadside restaurants with giant food sculptures on top: Dairy Queen, In-and-Our Burger, you name it. It comes on waxed paper resting in a plastic basket, a gingham cardboard faux-basket, or a brown box with a fold-out beverage holder. Unlike bar burgers (which are consumed with beer), one pairs stand burgers with icy, cardboard-cup sodas or shakes. These make one burp on the car ride home.

Burgers, Shakes and Fries is picking up on a huge NYC trend in which serious restaurateurs are re-thinking the stand burger oeuvre. It all started with Danny Meyer, owner of Union Square Café (and The Modern, 11 Madison Park, Tabla, yadda, yadda) — he opened critical darling Shake Shack in 2004. Meyer, who was comfortable atop the New York food world on his high-end restaurant empire, had the guts to announce to gastro-snobs that he grew up in the Mid-West, dammit, and he loved burger bars and hot dog stands. Shake Shack’s claim to fame is its award-winning burgers made with a proprietary combination of ground beef cuts (soon to be available by the pound); daily-house-made frozen custards and shakes; and boutique Abita root beer. The lines at Shake Shack are so long that Meyer installed a live webcam on the restaurant’s website: you can check on the line’s length before you head out for a bite.

Shake Shack was rapidly followed by Stand and BRGR, two restaurants that are all about the concept “proprietary.” We’re talking proprietary meat mixes; proprietary, house-made sodas; proprietary buns. The shtick here is that while these restaurants are serving fast food, they’re not really serving junk food. These are well-thought-out, aesthetically balanced meals – albeit in burger-and-fries form. Others followed.

While Kory Wollins sneers at the whole “proprietary” idea, Burgers, Shakes and Fries shares many haute burger stand aesthetics. For instance, he’s selling a small, locally produced line of boutique sodas, Freaky Dog Soda out of South Norwalk, CT. His beef, while 100% unmixed, non-proprietary chuck, is ground daily by Port Chester’s Meateria and he’s using natural casing, all beef, Boar’s Head hot dogs. Plus, instead of run-of-the-mill buns, he’s got his own spin – he grills sliced Rockland Bakery white bread spread with a proprietary mix of butter and a secret condiment. The result is a crisp, buttery non-bun that yields the perfect ratio of carb to protein.

We love these burgers. The patties are loosely packed, which means there are lots of gaps for meat juices to collect in, plus, they’re never squashed down by impatient grill masters. This is a drip-down-your-arm-juicy burger, enveloped in buttery, nicely crisp and caramelized slices of bread. While BSF’s chuck might lack some of the steak-y notes of, say, a Shake Shack or Stand burger, the chuck wins on pure, luscious juiciness. BSF’s hot dogs are great, too, with the snap of natural casings and the beefy quality of Boars Head. Oh, and their New England top split buns get the same butter, mystery sauce and grill treatment – so they’re crisp and tasty, too. Try a gooey cheese dog – it’s shamefully delicious, though you might need a Wet-Nap or six.

Fries – probably even harder to do well than burgers—are also great at BSF. Wollins buys his fries pre-blanched and frozen, but so are 90% of the fries being dropped into Frialators around the world. The important thing in their ultimate quality is that, like at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery, the restaurant gets good frozen fries. At BSF, look for unpeeled fries, larger than shoestrings, smaller than steakfries — these are a good, crisp, very potato-ey fries. It also helps that Wollins invested in a super-premium deep-fry filter, so his fries will never have that acrid, tired-oil flavor.

Our single quibble with BSF comes with the shakes—they’re just a little off. While the shakes do come in wonderful, house-blended flavors—like cinnamon, Neapolitan and coffee—there is an underlying flavor note in BSF’s shake base that vies with the quality found elsewhere in the menu. Also—while Fox’s U-Bet Chocolate Syrup is a venerable shake-flavoring standard, we’re were hoping for the upped quality found at other haute burger stands — or, for that matter, in BSF’s own boutique, local sodas. But we figure that at only six weeks old, BSF has a while to work out these kinks.

Shakes aside, we love BSF. And once we work off that deadly cheese dog on the elliptical trainer, we’ll be back for more.

Burgers, Shakes and Fries

302 Delavan Avenue
Greenwich, CT (203) 531-7433; www.burgersshakesnfries.com  

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