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Burger review: Buzz Burgers, Barrels & Beer

The Great Burgerelli sizes up the ramen burger at this new North Center bar

By The Great Burgerelli

RedEye

October 4, 2013

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Burger review: Buzz Burgers, Barrels & Beer
1935 W. Irving Park Road 773-880-9810
Rating: !! (out of four)

The Great Burgerelli is, if nothing else, a certifiable sojourner. I have traveled all corners of Earth in my quest for the most scrumptious of burgers. I've eaten gourmet ground beef in Tokyo and sunk my teeth into sliders in St. Paul. As a wise soul once said, there is nowhere a mountain high enough and nowhere a river wide enough to keep me from getting to you, you delectable meat patty. So yes, fellow bun lovers, I have been to New York and have heard tell of its fads.

So it was with guarded enthusiasm that I visited Buzz Burgers, Barrels & Beer in North Center to try its version of the ramen burger—you know, the curious specimen featuring a bun fashioned out of noodles that made a fleeting appearance at Brooklyn's Smorgasburg this past summer.

The burger: In a crowded burger landscape, the purveyors of Buzz, which opened last month, seem to be seeking to balance gourmet sensibilities with good, old-fashioned Midwestern approachability. To wit, the marquee ramen burger ($13) is made with kobe beef, while other arrangements are built on foundations of pure angus beef, or other meats such as ground lamb or pork. My wonderful server informed me and my fellow burger-loving companions that all patties come cooked medium unless otherwise specified. At a half-pound apiece, these patties were just the right size for me—not too monstrous and not too minuscule. Despite being a bit too done, mine was relatively juicy and devoid of grease.

The bun: Let us begin with that which has garnered so much attention: The bun made of ramen. Crispy and flavorful, this is not the noodle you remember from university. The flat burger support is made by forming the noodle into a wafer-like bun and frying it up, with egg as the bonding agent. The result is an almost hashbrown-like fiber that marries wonderfully with the beef and fresh veggies. As you might imagine, the structural integrity of a bun made of noodles is not, shall we say, the most supreme, so I did find myself in need of a napkin quite frequently. As for the potato buns on the burgers of my companions (the stroganoff burger, $10, with braised short ribs, for example), they were fresh and spongy but nothing to write home about (at least not for a sojourner such as myself).

The fixings: The Wisconsin aged cheddar on the ramen burger was masterfully melted and played well against sun-dried tomatoes, arugula and a perfectly runny fried egg; however, I must note that I did not find the sriracha sauce particularly notable. On the stroganoff specimen, the cremini mushroom and sauvignon blanc gravy with egg noodles that swaddled my braised beef short ribs tied the creation together beautifully.

The fries: I cannot in good faith make a declaration here on the quality of fry at Buzz, as when I dined the kitchen was having some sort of equipment malfunction resulting in all fries being hand-fried. For what it is worth, however, I will say that the hand-cut Idaho potato fries ($3) were neither the star nor the snag of the meal, as what was good about the good burgers far outshined what was mediocre about the fries.

Everything else: The Great Burgerelli does love a clever name, so it was impossible to resist ordering the Hipster Poutine (house-made frites, smoked bacon, tasso ham, aged cheddar, aged pepper jack, provolone, scallions and spicy sauce, $8). Buzz named its poutine so because, I'm told, the young generation just loves the Canadian export. The spice factor was excellent, although my dining companions lamented its soggy state.

Bottom line: While not everything at Buzz was perfect, I do see potential. Perhaps once this establishment secures its liquor license, chucks its current BYOB policy and lives up to its moniker of serving not only burgers but also barrels (of whiskey, natch) and beer, The Great Burgerelli will be more inclined to venture back.

The Great Burgerelli is a fearless seeker of fine burgers. gburgerelli@tribune.com