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Monday, October 19, 2009

Don't Believe the Hype: Hubert Keller's Burger Bar is Just Another Pricey Chain. Really Pricey

Posted By on Mon, Oct 19, 2009 at 1:10 PM

click to enlarge Sliders and a shake: The Cheesecake Factory with black truffles? - M. BRODY
  • M. Brody
  • Sliders and a shake: The Cheesecake Factory with black truffles?
Sliders and a shake: Is this the Cheesecake Factory with black truffles?We blush to admit that we got caught up in the hype swirling around Hubert Keller's new Burger Bar. We showed up for a late-night snack on Saturday, its second day of operation, despite having visited the Fleur de Lys chef's Las Vegas Burger Bar shortly after it opened in Mandalay Bay in 2004 and leaving slightly less than, how you say, blown away. But hope springs eternal. Maybe especially when it comes to burgers.

Alas, once we entered the Macy's sixth floor space (reachable after store hours via a dedicated elevator) -- despite its Keller pedigree, the infamous $60 foie-gras- and truffle-slathered Rossini, its extensive beer and abbreviated wine list -- it was eminently clear that this is, after all, a chain restaurant, with all that that implies: beer-sign décor, annoying techno, mini TVs in the booths, T-shirts and mugs for sale, and indifferent service.

click to enlarge Channel surf 'n' turf: Booths come with their own TVs. - M. BRODY
  • M. Brody
  • Channel surf 'n' turf: Booths come with their own TVs.
The rather overwhelming, eight-page oversize menu offers a choice of four basic meats (Black Angus, $9.75; sustainably farmed Country Natural, $10.50; and American Kobe beef and buffalo, both $16.50) and four non-meat patties (veggie, salmon, and turkey, all $8.50; and chicken breast, $9.25), served in six different buns, with tomatoes, onions, lettuce, and dill pickles.

Special orders not only don't upset Burger Bar, the kitchen apparently craves them. There's a list of more than 50 add-ons for customizing your burger, ranging from the expected (cheeses and bacons) to the less so (asparagus, pineapple, and pesto) to the downright unexpected (black Perigord truffle sauce, grilled half-lobster, and black truffles -- the latter a whopping $30).

If you aren't up to creating your own, a list of Chef's Burgers features, in addition to the Rossini, the Hubert Keller (buffalo, caramelized onions, baby spinach, and blue cheese, $22) and the Surf & Turf (Black Angus, grilled lobster, and asparagus, $24.50).

We tried the trio of sliders ($12.75), a relative bargain: buffalo with caramelized onions, Black Angus with bacon, Country Natural with American cheese, served with fries. And, what the hell, a milkshake, the Caramel Latte ($8.75). (Vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry are $7; alcoholic milkshakes $10.75; beer floats, $10.50, or five small ones, called the Burger Bar Beer Float Paddle, $18). The sliders were cute and quite edible; we'd return for full-size versions. But the milkshake (coffee ice cream, caramel syrup, and whipped cream topped with graham crackers and butterscotch morsels) was a too-sweet horror.

After shelling out more than $20 for sliders and a shake, this is what we liked best about Burger Bar: the fabulous view over Union Square. And the fact that it stays open until 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. We took most of the shake to go, and gave it to a homeless guy on Powell. We considered sharing that it'd cost $8.75, but decided against it. We feared he might fling it back in our face.

Burger Bar Union Square Macy's Sixth Floor, 170 O'Farrell (at Geary), 296-4272. Sun-Thu, 10:30 a.m.-11 p.m.; Fri-Sat, 10:30 a.m.-2 a.m.

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Meredith Brody

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