Marshall: Just a Burger? Just a burger. Robin, it’s so much more than “just a burger.” I mean…that first bite—oh, what heaven that first bite is. The bun, like a sesame freckled breast of an angel, resting gently on the ketchup and mustard below, flavors mingling in a seductive pas de deux. And then…a pickle! The most playful little pickle! Then a slice of tomato, a leaf of lettuce and a…a patty of ground beef so exquisite, swirling in your mouth, breaking apart, and combining again in a fugue of sweets and savor so delightful. This is no mere sandwich of grilled meat and toasted bread, Robin. This is God, speaking to us in food.
Lily: And you got our wedding vows off the Internet!?
~How I Met Your Mother: “The Best Burger in New York”
As that episode illustrated, men are inspired to rhapsodize romantically about truly outstanding burgers. We’re similarly compelled to masterful oratory when discussing our favorite National Football League team. Our passion for fine, fast cars elicits a facile fluency with words. We can discuss our 60-inch flat screen television with the eloquence of a bard. It makes our wives and girlfriends wonder how we can express ourselves so clearly and magniloquently about burgers, football, cars and televisions but become so tongue-tied and inarticulate when expressing mushy sentiment about them.
Any discussion among men of the best burger in Albuquerque will inspire reverential discourse, the type of conversation which draws out eloquence in the most verbally clumsy of men. A new candidate for any “best of” discussions are the burgers proffered by B2B Bistronomy which launched in October, 2012 in a 1,700 square-foot space previously occupied by the late, great and much-missed Vivace. The curiously-named burger restaurant might well serve the very best burger from among the half-dozen or so vaunted gourmet-upscale burger joints to have launched in recent years. Arguably (and that’s the point), most men (as well as women and children) will also find B2B’s burgers better than some, if not most (maybe all), of those served by well-established burger purveyors throughout the Duke City.
As for the quaint name, “B2B” stands for “Beer to Burgers,” an apt description for a menu showcasing forty New Mexican micro-brews and some of the most inventive and delicious burgers around. “Bistronomy” is obviously a portmanteau (a combination of two (or more) words and their definitions, into one new word) of “bistro” and “gastronomy.” The term bistronomy, which has its genesis in the 1990s, basically defines a movement among chefs to present gastronomic dishes in a bistro setting sans stuffiness and break-the-bank prices. It could easily be argued that burgers don’t belong in the “gastronomic” dish category, but that’s beside the point.
The restaurant’s cynosure is a decidedly unmanly square bar skirted with what resembles yellow-striped wallpaper. Behind the bar is a wall of tap handles which dispense a locavore’s treasure trove of local micro-brews from Turtle Mountain, Chama River, Marble and more. The beef is also procured locally–it’s New Mexico farm-fresh Angus beef that is grass-fed, free-range and sustainable. B2B uses a custom grind of one-third premium cut, all natural, humanely handled beef which is steroid, hormone and antibiotic free. All patties are house-made and weigh in at over a third-pound when they hit the open flame grill. Burgers are prepared at medium unless otherwise requested.
The canvas for the never frozen beef is hand-rolled and custom-baked artisan buns from the Flying Star bakery. Whenever possible, vegetables are procured from local farms. The menu advises that B2B serves fresh food, not fast food and that good things come to those who wait. While you’re waiting, you’ll be busy studying the walls which are the color of a slate board. Scrawled on the walls are diagrams of cow parts, the head of a long-horned cow, a deconstructed burger and in text, the six recognized taste sensations: salty, savory, sweet, bitter, sour and umani.
The menu lists only eight burgers (two of which aren’t made with beef) in addition to a build your own burger (BYOB) option offering your choice (for a pittance each) of:
- Patty: New Mexico Black Angus beef, chicken, turkey, veggie, salmon or tuna
- Two slices of all natural cheese: smoked Cheddar, jalapeño pepper, Jack, Danish blue cheese, feta, Gruyere, herb goat cheese
- Specialty toppings: New Mexico pecan wood smoked bacon, fried egg, New Mexico green chili (SIC), sauteed onions, sauteed mushrooms
- Specialty buns: brioche, wheat or low-carb burger in a bowl with tossed salad
- Signature sauces: bacon ranch, bleu cheese, chile queso, demi glace, honey chipotle BBQ, red chile, green chile, house stout chile
Included by request on all burgers are ketchup, mustard, mayo, butter lettuce, sliced red onion and vine-ripened tomato. Dietary and lifestyle considerations are addressed with a black bean veggie burger (sliced goat cheese, Szechuan sun-dried tomato sauce) for vegetarians and a topless burger in which any burger on the menu is served not on a bun, but on top of butter lettuce, spring mix, tomato, cucumbers and radishes.
10 February 2013: Homer Simpson once chided vegetarian daughter Lisa that “you don’t win friends with salad.” With B2B’s Lemon Ginger Chicken, you might win their undying devotion. The name only begins to scratch the surface of everything going on with this ingredient-laden masterpiece of creative and concordant goodness. The foundation for the salad is a heaping helping of mixed greens and butter lettuce. Interspersed within that tangle of green and purple, you’ll find goat cheese, pecans and cranberries. The salad is topped with frytons (fried wontons). It’s a salad so good you might forgo a burger altogether.
3 March 2013: Among carnivores, salads often get a bad rap. Plates full of sundry greens are generally considered boring and not filling enough. Two visits and two B2B salads will change their minds. Emma, our delightful server during our first two visits revealed that while the lemon ginger chicken salad is the restaurant’s most popular, when guests order the chopped salad with green chili (SIC), they will order it again…and again. It’s easy to see why. The green chile elevates and enlivens the chopped salad (literally a salad in which all ingredients are chopped into relatively the same size) to heightened levels of deliciousness. A tangy sesame dressing marries well with the green chile to make every bite a joy. Even staunch carnivores will enjoy it.
8 December 2013: B2B Bistronomy takes license with its version of the Caesar salad. Calling it a Southwest Caesar salad implies punch, personality and piquancy and that’s exactly what you get. As with other B2B salads, it starts with a heaping helping of mixed greens and butter lettuce. The salad is then topped with a pile of pulled pork, tender tendrils of moist porcine perfection as well as Parmesan, niblets of corn and chopped tomatoes. Unlike most Caesar salads, this one doesn’t have croutons…not that you’ll miss them.
10 February 2013: While the meaty chef-inspired bistronomy burgers would elicit involuntary salivation among committed vegans, culinary curious diners should deviate from the path of red beef deliciousness at least once and try the tuna burger. It’s made from ground tuna formed into a patty and topped with pickled ginger, a pleasantly piquant mint slaw and a wasabi aioli spread lightly so it doesn’t dominate the flavor profile. The very least that can be said about this burger is that it’s interesting. You might also find it a pleasant departure from the ubiquitous succulent slab of beef on a bun. The mélange of ingredients works well, but this is a burger not everyone will appreciate.
10 February 2013: In building your own burger as in designing your own home, some prefer the simple to the ostentatious, the time-honored and proven to the nouveau and daring. My Kim is among the former. Given the nearly unlimited options offered by B2B, she requested a burger constructed with New Mexico Black Angus beef patty, New Mexico pecan wood smoked bacon and smoked Cheddar on a brioche bun. That’s it! No saucy experimenting! One advantage to her approach is that there’s less to mess with the flavor of the beef. It’s good beef grilled to perfection, the one-third premium-cut discernibly superior to the beef from which most burgers are created. The burger is delivered so you can see the B2B brand toasted right on the top bun. It’s a western touch that will give men something else to wax eloquent about.
3 March 2013: One of B2B’s most popular burgers is The Rosa, a burger constructed with chile queso, Hatch green chile and tortilla (actually cheesy Doritos) chips. This cheesy behemoth is a bit on the salty side and the Hatch green chile lacks piquancy, but it’s a very moist and flavorful, multi-napkin burger. The tortilla chips lend a textural change of pace with its discernible crunch. The signature branded bun is buttery, golden brown and freshly baked, a triumvirate that makes for an excellent canvas for a sizable burger. As with all great burgers, the star is the beef which (this may come as a surprise to you) tastes predominantly like beef, not like filler and condiments.
3 March 2013: The Sunrise is the perfect lunch or brunch burger answer to the ubiquitous breakfast sandwich. As with its breakfast counterpart, bacon (a New Mexico pecan wood variety) and a fried egg are key components of this burger. So is Pepper Jack cheese. At over easy, the egg yolk will run down the brioche bun and probably onto your hands. That’s where finger-licking (or napkins) comes in. The bacon is every bit as good as the popular applewood smoked bacon while the Pepper Jack cheese adds just a bit of punch.
8 December 2013: When the percipient Hannah Walraven described The Pierre as “intense umami and seriously delicious,” it immediately jumped to the top of my list as a burger I had to have. Contrary to most American burgers which derive at least some (often too much) of their flavor profile from mustard and condiments which at least partially mask the flavor of beef, The Pierre’s flavor profile is earthy with an emphasis on beef. The woodsiness of the mushrooms, the mellow savoriness of the Gruyere cheese and especially the demi-glace all accentuate the flavor of an excellent beef. The demi-glace, a rich brown sauce, is rich and redolent with a beefiness carnivores will enjoy thoroughly.
Regular readers know that a recurrence of visits within a short period of time is a rarity for me. More often than not, I won’t return to a restaurant for weeks, months or even years unless that restaurant offers something unique or intriguing–an item not found at other restaurants…an item imbued with uncommon deliciousness or an item so surprisingly revolutionary and different that beckons me to return. At B2B, there are several such items.
8 December 2013: Put the Waffle Burger (or maybe it’s a chicken sandwich) near the top of that list. Available only on Sundays, it’s unlike any burger you’ve ever had: a succulent Southern-fried boneless chicken nestled between two bacon, Cheddar, green onion buckwheat waffles served with sautéed kale and maple mustard with or without syrup. It’s chicken and waffles as you’ve never had them. Being skyscraper tall, the sandwich may be too large to put in your mouth as is, so you’ll likely eat its components separately. The buckwheat waffles have a surprising bite, courtesy of the maple mustard. The Southern-fried boneless chicken is moist, tender and delicious. Make it your Sunday surprise.
10 February 2013: Frites, the haughty French word for French fries, are not-to-be-missed. They’re fresh, crispy, twice-fried frites hand-cut on the premises. Served in two varieties—original or Cajun—and available with your choice of one, two, three or more sauces, they put to shame the de rigueur out-of-the-bag fries served elsewhere. Opt for the original fries then ask for the curry, berry and smoked ketchups, all three of which would kick sand on regular ketchup.
3 March 2013: During our second visit, we were treated to fried green beans (green bean fries if you will) with a chile queso. They’re an alternative to the restaurant’s standard and Cajun fries, but aren’t on the daily menu yet. They should be although as an alternative option, a good green chile Ranch dressing might bring out more of the green bean flavor than the chile queso does.
When it launched in 2012, B2B Bistronomy instituted a program designed to give back to the community. Every Sunday the restaurant donates 20 percent of its proceeds to a different local charity. Over the first thirteen months of its existence that amounted to some $16,000. It’s yet another reason to to visit what may just be the Duke City’s best up-and-coming burger restaurant.
As much as men like to discuss great burgers, place one in front of them and you won’t hear a word out of them save for an occasional “wow” and “ummm.” That’s what you’ll hear a lot of at B2B Bistronomy.
3118 Central Avenue, S.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 8 December 2013
1st VISIT: 10 February 2013
# OF VISITS: 3
BEST BET: Tuna Burger, Frites, BYOB, Lemon Ginger Chicken Salad, Rosa Burger, Sunrise Burger, Chopped Salad with Green Chil, Fried Green Beans with Chile Queso,