Burger Bar and Bistro – Quality Burgers and Much More


Burger Bar on Urbanspoon

One of the last places I dined at before leaving Connecticut in 2006 was Tenero on North Main Street in South Norwalk. Tenero was a cozy restaurant putting out quality Italian favorites, sitting unassumingly, in the shadow of the Sono Crown Regent Movie Theater. Local reviewers raved about Tenero and the New York Times critique of the establishment sparkled, stating “in several visits, I was increasingly impressed by Tenero’s transformation from a restaurant worthy of a “good” rating into a “very good” one, bordering on “excellent””. I had just discovered the place a few months earlier and was upset that I was leaving, what was becoming, my favorite Italian restaurant. Despite the great food, unbeatable location, and gleaming praise from critics; I got the feeling from conversations with Chef/Owner, Nick Bilello, that Tenero was not doing as well as he would have liked. It’s possible the menu was a little intimidating, for those looking for a simple bite before a movie, featuring things like froie gras, mussels in compagna, and garganelli con vitello. Nick and, his wife/partner, Dana talked about the idea of turning Tenero into a Burger Bar; and the last time I saw him, I wished him luck with Tenero or the Burger Bar, if that was the direction he was headed.

Portabella Mushroom Pizza

Fast forward to 2010, where Tenero once stood, now stands the Bilello’s new creation, Burger Bar and Bistro opened in late 2006. Gone is the sophisticated menu, and in its place, a new family friendly one focusing on quality and natural ingredients.  They felt there was a void that need to be filled in the area’s cuisine and critics have agreed; handing a hat trick of awards in 2009, Best Burger CT Magazine, Best Gold Coast Burger, and Best of Fairfield County Burger.

Chimi Burger, Fries and Mark performing

On a chilly Thursday night, I made my way to Burger Bar and Bistro, to kill two birds with one stone. Try out a burger (as I had missed the opportunity on previous visits back to Connecticut) and see my friend and musician, Mark Pires, an acoustic performer who played in the bar area. When I stepped in from the cold, I was immediately surprised to see the new place was significantly larger than Tenero, due to an expansion into the neighboring pizzeria. It was early evening when I arrived and the place was packed with a mid-twenties to late-thirties crowd. There was a buzz in the bar area and tables were full in the adjoining dining room. While Mark strummed in the background, patrons chomped on man-sized burgers and fries, cleverly served in a Chinese food box, or sipped wine and beer while carrying out their conversations.

 After jockeying for a position at the bar, I ordered my faithful Dewar’s on the rocks, and perused the menu. The menu was innovative and packed burgers with all types of toppings from cherry preserves to a fried egg; as well as burgers of  Kobe ($15.00), Chicken ($6.50), Veggie ($6.50) Mushroom ($6.50) and Turkey ($7.00). Not in the mood for a burger? No problem, there are salads ($7.00-$13.00), Mac and cheese, chili, humus, hotdogs wings, and much more!

Mac and Cheese

When it comes to drinks, there is something for everyone, 14 wines by the glass or bottle (6 white / 8 red). Adult milkshakes like the Randal ($8.50) Irish cream, banana liquor and strawberry ice cream, and for the kiddies virgin milkshakes and floats are also available. The beer lover can chug away  on either four selections from Coney Island ($14.00, 22ounce), a choice of 10 specialty beers from around the world, or your standard domestics, including good ole Pabst Blue Ribbon ($2.00). After working up a good drool, I ordered the Chimi Burger (will talk further about this burger later), and took in the laid-back vibe.

A few days later, I made another trip back to The Burger Bar, to talk with Nick and delve further into the menu. During the day, The Burger Bar and Bistro made a transition from trendy burger and wine bistro to a more family friendly atmosphere with various games adorning some tables.

Asparagus fries and sliders

WHAT I ATE:

Mac and Cheese ($6.00-$8.00) – Fresh pecorino, parmesan and cheddar cheeses with crisp bread crumbs. A great take on this classic comfort food. The crunch of the bread crumbs team up with the 3 cheeses to make this major winner.

Beet Salad ($7.00) – Baby beets, goat cheese, mint and truffle. An interesting salad with an intriguing presentation that I would not normally think to order. I was unsure how to take this salad, as it was my first time eating beets. Since I am not convinced I like beets I am on the fence about this dish, but the goat cheese was brilliant. For the beet lovers out there you should try it and let me know what you think.

Asparagus Fries – Tempura-like batter fried asparagus with lemon zest and truffle hollandaise dipping sauce. Like the idea, and the taste of these guys, but came off a tad oily. The dipping sauce was great.

Mini Burger Selection: (3 for $7.00 or 6 for $13.00) All of these little guys were great and showed off Nick’s imagination. A lot of places overcook sliders because they are so small, but I was impressed that they were all cooked to perfection, and still held their juiciness

Chimi Burger – avocado, Argentina cilantro sauce. I could put chimichuri sauce on just about anything! And it tasted great on this burger along with a fresh avocado

The Rob – Guacamole, chili sour cream and pico di gallo. This was a quality guacamole and blended nicely with the Pico di Gallo.

The Fireman – chipotle glaze, sliced cherry peppers, spiked coleslaw and ranch dressing. This is the newest burger on the menu and was the standout. The flavors blended nicely and had a little kick to back it up. As a feel good bonus, one dollar of the price of this burger is donated to the Connecticut Burn Camp; on behalf of the Norwalk Fire Department, this should offset some of the guilt of snarfing down burgers…if you find guilt in such things.

Portobello Mushroom Pizza – scallions and mushrooms sprinkled with aged balsamic vinegar. This was an excellent thin crust pizza. The mushrooms were marinated in the balsamic vinegar and the pizza was topped with fresh mozzarella.

Beet Salad

I was extremely impressed with the food served at Burger Bar and Bistro, and it was nice to come back to see an idea come to fruition, and become a great success. As Nick explained his creations, I could hear the excitement in his voice, and see the passion in his eyes. It is evident that he enjoys what he is doing and sharing his creations. I give the Bilello’s a lot of credit for recognizing that a perfectly good restaurant, was not succeeding in its current environment, checking their pride and making the necessary changes. Now in the same place where Tenero once struggled in a fair economy, the Burger Bar is cracking out quality-handcrafted burgers and a host of other tastys at a rapid pace. Burger Bar and Bistro keeps a nice balance between being a laid back place with great food while keeping its trendy edge for the evening crowd. The menu is fun and incites immediate mouth watering that is the engine behind the accolades and local following. I look forward to my next trip north so I can work deeper into this menu (plus they may be getting a cotton candy machine this summer).

A burger and disco fries (topped with warm brie and white truffle oil)

 If you have been to the Burger Bar and Bistro, please leave a comment and let me know what you thought.

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Categories: Reviews

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