Connecticut's first Bareburger, the micro chain restaurant known for organic ingredients, grass-fed humanely-raised protein, and sustainable practices, opened this week in Ridgefield. CTbites tagged along on a Friends and Family earlier this week with fellow Ridgefielders and had the chance to meet its trio of partners, Bareburger’s chef, and taste a couple of their burgers (elk and wild boar, to be exact).
Built in the 1950s, Bareburger's building was originally a gas station and then Chamber Army & Navy. The restaurant, like all its locations, utilizes salvaged reclaimed wood (in this case, from a Pennsylvania barn) for building materials for an extensive, and beautiful, interior facelift. The result is a rustic interior of rough hewn walls, a tin ceiling, inventive lighting, and a wood bar. A series of comfortable booths face four-top tables that sit along two large glass garage doors, with additional seating at either end of the restaurant that in total, seats about 60.
Working through the opening, Bareburger corporate executive chef Mischa Levin discussed a few of its signature dishes and approaches. Many of the burgers, from beef to elk, use about an 80/20 mix and are paired with recommended seasonings and buns. Although he wouldn't divulge his proprietary seasonings, he admitted the key to their special protein seasonings is both a wet and dry rub. He recommends Bareburger’s signature onion rings, fat pieces of onion that are breaded and fried to a crispy, light golden with a corn flour texture and a hint of parsley. Also not to be missed are the sweet potato croqs. These deep fried dollops have a light and crunchy exterior with a creamy interior of sweet potato and come with a slew of sauces. We loved the thai chili mayo, smokehouse sauce, and curry ketchup.
Navigating the options of the burger menu can be a bit daunting at first, but the flexibility is refreshing. You can first choose from a variety of proteins, including: beef, fried chicken, elk, wild boar, ostrich, or a veggie patty. Then there are bun, veggie, cheese and even bacon (as in multiple types of) options to help build your own burger. If this is all too much, you can do as I did, and just opt for one of their pre-built burgers. These are chef-recommended preferred pairings which take the guessing out of which proteins pair well with which vegetables, bun, and sauces. My elk burger, cooked medium, with habanero sauce, pickles, and cheddar, was familiar yet refreshingly different. The composition of the plate was certainly aimed at burger lovers, but the slightly gamey flavor of the elk, paired with a no-holds barred salsa-like habanero sauce, was exactly what I came for. Much of the menu, such as the salads and sides, has this familiar yet unique and refreshing sensibility.
Bareburger, and specifically this location, seems to have gone to great lengths to welcome families and a variety of palates with both the design of the restaurant and the flexibility of the menu. Children-specific menu items abound, yet adult options, such as wine, beer and spiked slushies are plentiful. And for those who don't eat meat, or perhaps need a respite, the salad and other non-meat options are interesting and thoughtful. They aren't meant as a complement to the burger-centric menu, there are some definite winners in the salads (the Asian salad with toasted edamame, for instance).
The franchisees are a trio of Ridgefielders: Truitt Bell, Don Sturges and Chris Sturges. In fact, it was Bell who has known the Bareburger founders for decades who was inspired to pursue this franchise opportunity, the seventeenth for Bareburger, believing it to be a perfect fit for the family friendly town of Ridgefield.
Bareburger is located at Danbury Road in Ridgefield. The restaurant is open 7 days a week, and will soon begin serving from 11 am to 7 pm. Call ahead for restaurant hours in the opening week.