New York stacks served ’til late
It’s shaping up to be the year of The International Franchise® for the local dining scene. New York’s simply named Burger Joint is another one in the convoy rolling in from overseas, and it’s here to try its luck with Singaporeans’ love for patty and bun.
On the back alley of Gemmil Lane, shift through the metal doors next to the neon burger sign, run your fingers down the red velvet curtained passageway, and enter the joint. Split into burger kitchen and craft beer bar, the space feels like an underground bunker, clad in graffiti-covered swirly timber. ‘It’s almost creepy how much this one looks like the original in New York,’ an expat friend tells us in shock horror.
The menu of hamburgers ($13.10), cheeseburgers ($13.80), bacon burgers ($15.10) and bacon cheeseburgers ($15.80) is scrawled on torn-off sheets of packing cardboard tacked to the wall, as are instructions on how to order right – 'or else you go to the end of the line!' it menaces in bubble calligraphy. (Another scribble below de-claws the threat: ‘I’ve never seen anyone return to the back of the line, so chill!’) Choose a burger, its doneness and trimmings like lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles, ketchup, mayo and mustard. We’re never fans of paying extra for fries, but the crispy shoestrings ($5.50), salted just so, are a must.
The soft, almost-steamed patty – it lacks an outer crunch – and fluffy bun are cooked inconsistently between visits. It’s seasoned when an all-American team mans the kitchen, but undersalted when the local cooks take over. Local franchisees Nicholas and Benedicte Heaney have piled on the effort to replicate the NYC experience here, hiring a staff butcher to break down and grind Nebraska-raised beef daily, and importing American yellow cheese slices and pickles from the US. Still, in a town of $20 stacks, Burger Joint’s prices are pretty realistic for its no-frills and non-pretentious approach.
To have a thick, three-vanillascoop milkshake ($11.80) with a burger requires more roomy stomachs than we’ve been endowed with. So it’s a good thing we have an impressive bourbon selection ($12-$90/shot) and 18 beers on tap to pick from. The tap list ($9-11/half pint, $15-$19/ pint) at launch time is thoroughly impressive, pouring esoteric hopbomb IPAs, sour-salty goses and heavy stouts.
So much of the evaluation of a good franchise teeters on how well it clones the original experience. That’s if it can emerge through the big clouds of hype wafting up around it. But it’s time we stopped venerating imported concepts like Burger Joint and start appreciating its utility on the local dining scene: as a place for decent, warm, reasonably priced burgers until late at night.
Time Out reviews anonymously and pays for all meals.
|Venue name:||Burger Joint||Contact:|
115 Amoy Street
|Opening hours:||Mon-Wed 11am-11pm; Thu-Sat 11am-midnight; Sun 11am-10pm|
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I disagree with this reviewer, respectfully but strongly..
I don’t think the point was to ‘venerate’ the concept, but to completely recreate it and bring it to Real life, so that those of us who want it (unadjusted) without traveling to the original (NYC), can get it here in Singapore. If we just wanted another Singaporean version of the burger (though it may taste very good in its own right) that has this ‘utility’ on the local dining scene as she says, there’s already plenty around.
However, as someone who has spent much of his life in the USA, and is a lover of the real American burger, I will say that I have waited many years for a place like Burger Joint. Prior to this, I could only find local interpretations of the burger.. (ok, and some British and Australian)—which I have no disrespect for---but are clearly different in taste, from what Americans imagine when they think ‘Burger’.. Burger Joint does this perfectly for me, and those of us actually familiar with the American taste.. It’s like back home.. with all the quality of ingredients and preparation that the reviewer herself has mentioned. If I were to note one key difference: the hamburger patty isn’t supposed to be flavored.. in the authentic American burger.. The taste is supposed to be purely that of the beef, not additives or seasonings. I realize this may be alien to many in Asia, or possibly even other continents.. In addition, the done-ness needs to be perfectly calibrated, from ultra rare to well-done... many places here do not provide the option, or can not execute correctly.
In terms of execution.. I have already had more than a dozen burgers at burger joint, my experience has been very different from the reviewer’s (soft almost steamed non crisp burger patty)… But I’ll admit we all have differing perceptions of same reality..
Furthermore, I am frankly puzzled on her assessment of the turnover of beer.. since discovering this place, I have been back a few times a week, every week. I see the beer-board transform every visit.. sometimes to my chagrin, where my favorite beer keg disappears in 1-2days.. I doubt if she has been there often enough to accurately make that kind of statement – i.e. ‘Kegs don’t move’. That’s quite an overarching statement to make after a few visits, and most likely untrue.
In conclusion, I would say if you did want to taste exactly how a burger at BJ NYC tastes (which New Yorkers rank at the very top), without making the 24hr trip,… and have great craft beers at the same time, then it’s worth a try… otherwise, many other options already exist here (not my cup of tea, but could very well be yours)—on this I will agree with the reviewer…
It’s the All-American burger joint, Not just a 'concept', the Real deal, in Asia.. Amazing!