Burger Bach brings a bit of New Zealand to Durham
By Greg Cox
Review originally published 10/22/2015
The gourmet burger trend seems bent on exhausting all efforts to discover new variations on the theme, each more outrageous than the last.
How about ground prime rib stuffed with foie gras, wine-braised short ribs and black truffle? It’s yours for only $35 plus tax, tip and airfare to New York, where you can order it at DB Bistro Moderne. Closer to home – and at 10 bucks, a lot easier on the wallet – you can score the My Wife Said It Would Never Sell burger (topped with peanut butter, honey, cheddar cheese and bacon) at Salem Street Pub in Apex.
But if you’re under the impression that we must surely have explored every possible permutation of ground beef on a bun by now, Burger Bach is ready to show you how wrong you are.
In an era when “farm-to-fork” is practically a requirement in a new restaurant’s mission statement, Burger Bach specializes in burgers made with beef flown in from New Zealand. In fact, the entire concept of this small Virginia-based chain (the Durham location is the third) is inspired by the New Zealand institution of the holiday home called a “bach” (pronounced “batch” as in bachelor pad).
Carbon footprint notwithstanding, New Zealand beef – grass-fed, humanely raised and certified Halal – makes a fine burger. Grilled to order (here you specify “pink” or “no pink”), 6-ounce burgers are offered in a globe-spanning variety of builds. Purists will find the straightforward Basic Deluxe (organic ketchup and yellow mustard, dill pickle, diced onion, lettuce, tomato and free-range egg mayo) a reliable vehicle for delivering the beefy goodness. More adventurous palates can indulge their gastronomic wanderlust with anything from the East Coast (blueberry chipotle barbecue sauce, uncured bacon, brie, caramelized onions and garlic aioli) to the Wellington (New Zealand blue cheese, HP sauce, brown gravy, caramelized onions, sautéed wild mushrooms and garlic aioli). You’ll want to ask for extra napkins.
New Zealand lamb – more famous than that country’s beef on this side of the ocean – is well-represented by a trio of lamb burger variations. The North Lamb, dressed with tzatziki, diced onion, lettuce, tomato and garlic aioli, is a comparatively simple presentation that doesn’t upstage the star ingredient. Alternatives to red meat include a veggie burger and a handful of free-range chicken variations such as the French Chick (grilled green apple, turkey bacon, brie, caramelized onions and manuka honey mustard sauce).
Bucking another tradition (and in keeping with Burger Bach’s healthy-eating philosophy), all burgers are served with a small mixed green salad. Fries are available separately with your choice of more than a dozen house-made dipping sauces, from basil pesto aioli to roasted jalapeño remoulade. Or you might attempt the Fry Indulgence, a shareable pile of skin-on fries topped with the likes of Mexican green chile sauce and New Zealand Egmont cheese, or (a Kiwi riff on poutine) blanketed with brown onion gravy and organic cheddar.
If the very thought of poutine sends your cholesterol count soaring, you can bring it back down with a healthy pick from the list of small plates and sides – cilantro-apple coleslaw, say, or a fresh fruit cup. Tantalizing as it is, order the broccoli with Belgian beer cheese at your own risk.
After 4 p.m., the menu expands to include seafood. And if you’re thinking that seafood at a place named Burger Bach is an iffy proposition, be advised that in New Zealand, a bach is very often a beach house. Raw oysters, a daily changing selection of three or more varieties, are always tempting. So are sautéed shrimp (four versions, from Old Bay to Dijon mustard, tarragon and cream) and steamed mussels (try them Australasian style, in a red coconut curry).
Order the roasted oysters (Rockefeller, Casino or New Zealand style, with drawn butter, lemon and house hot sauce), however, and you’re in for a pleasant surprise: not one but two oysters in each shell, said shell being made of aluminum molded in the shape of an oyster shell. Your server will explain that this is because health regulations don’t allow serving an oyster in a shell it wasn’t taken from. Who knew?
A well-stocked bar has got your thirst covered, whether it’s beer (30 on tap, including 20 local brews – and, to my knowledge, the only tap in the Triangle dispensing a beer from Moa brewery in New Zealand), wine (56 labels from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, 16 of them available by the glass) or a craft cocktail you’re craving.
High ceilings, exposed ductwork and brick walls framed by panels of corrugated metal give Burger Bach a look that might be described as pub-casual with an industrial edge, tempered somewhat by warm woodwork and a large black and white mural of a steer on one wall. A patio edged in flower-filled planters is a popular option when the weather cooperates.
This time of year, of course, there’s always the risk that you’ll be lured onto the patio by a 70-degree afternoon, only to have the temperature plummet when the sun goes down. If it helps, you can remind yourself that it’s summertime in New Zealand.
737-220 Ninth St., Durham; 919-973-4416
Cuisine: burgers, seafood
Noise level: moderate to high
Service: enthusiastic, generally attentive
Recommended: burgers (beef and lamb), oysters Rockefeller, Australasian style steamed mussels
Open: Lunch and dinner daily
Other: full bar; accommodates children; limited vegetarian selection; patio; parking in lot.