Research has shown (or at least my research has shown) that food and music go together. A restaurant with excellent food but a terrible soundtrack never sits as well as one where the music and food are partners. In the same vein, no matter how strong the ambience and music selection, if an eating establishment has poor food, it is as good as closed. In this column, I look to review what is newer on the scene in food in the Lower Hudson Valley with a constant focus on how things taste and sound.
On a beautiful Saturday, in the early evening, we were joined by friends at one of Westchester’s newest eating establishments, the Burger Barn. The Burger Barn is a new name, but the establishment, at least in terms of the physical building and ownership, isn’t new. The Burger Barn, the newest in the vein of trendy burger establishments, takes over the location of Seasons, a somewhat-sophisticated American eatery that the Tesone family operated for roughly seven years. In re-opening as the Burger Barn, the Tesone’s (in this case, their son) appears primed to wage burger battle against the likes of newcomers Westchester Burger Company, and mainstays like Squire’s and the Blazer Pub. Always looking for a good burger, we had been hoping to go since it opened, but were foiled once by television taping in the restaurant (a promising sign), and again due to their closure on Sundays (this needs to change ASAP). Happily, we were able to get in early on a Saturday when the weather was great, and where the food was even better.
Location: The Burger Barn sits on the stretch of Route 100 between the 35/100 interchange and the Somers Town Center shopping area. You can’t miss the iconic Seasons building with the dual-side parking lot. On this Saturday, parking was fairly easy, though, even at 5:15, the lot was filling up quickly. If lots are filled, options are tough. I’m not sure about parking options on 100 in Somers (different towns seem to enforce parking on this road differently), but with a state police barracks a ¼ mile up the road, you’ll likely find out quickly whether you it is safe to park on the street or it isn’t.
Staff: The staff members at the Burger Barn were friendly enough, and table cleaning and setup was quick and painless. Some staff members seem newer to the scene, with dropped utensils and shaky carrying/pouring hands, but the wait staff was friendly, answered questions professionally, and positively interacted with our kids (that’s always a good sign). Hostesses were quick to serve but a little too high on their new restaurant’s importance. One said, “Thank goodness you got here when you did. You would be waiting a long time if you didn’t.” While this might be the truth, it seemed a little suspect to point out, particularly with no one else in the waiting area at the time.
Music/Ambience: We walked into the Burger Barn with AC/DC playing, and the selection throughout our dinner ranged from early to mid- eighties hard rock tracks up to nineties alternative rock. I didn’t hear much top twenty tunes (which was a nice change), and the anthem stayed “rock-ish” throughout dinner. The song selection fit the demeanor of the restaurant and the menu it has created. Music was loud, but not unbearably so, and the acoustics of the restaurant (really one large room on different “levels”) helped to keep conversation understandable and music audible. Well done here.
The Burger Barn looks like Seasons with a new paint job. If you remember Seasons, you can picture the Burger Barn’s inside. What looks like some newer tables and cutlery as well as a brighter painting motif greet you as you enter. The restaurant shows its kid-friendly side by providing writing paper as table covering (I’ve noticed more and more area restaurants doing this). They also provide markers (washable as we found out, happily), a pretty bold step for a restaurant that definitely wants to be bold. I would recommend stepping down to colored pencils and crayons. Our kids loved the markers, as did their clothes, the cutlery, and tableware. The Burger Barn does something minor that is a really nice touch. The lobby has a popcorn machine that those waiting (or those eating) can grab from and chow down on in the lobby, or back at their tables. It makes for a great snack and likely adds little to restaurant overhead.
Food/Drink: After being spoiled by the likes of Westchester Burger Company, with a plethora of burgers from which to choose, I was nervous with the somewhat stark selection at Burger Barn. There are a number of excellent appetizer offerings (who can pass up fried pickles), and a few enticing looking sandwiches (“I’m Just a Po’Boy” was particularly well named), but when I saw only eight burgers (I know, perish the thought), I did get a little worried. Truth be told, I wasn’t a big fan of Seasons (I always felt it was overpriced for the quality of food, and after two sub-par visits, we never went back), so I was a little nervous about Burger Barn’s quantity/quality factor and was preparing myself for disappointment.
Happily, I was pleasantly surprised. The fried pickles were perfect (sorry about the quality of the picture. . .I was so excited for the pickles, my hand must have been shaking), with the right amount of breading paired with delicious half-sour pickle slices. A side Caesar salad (which was really quite small) ended up being quite tasty, and in reflecting, was actually the perfect size to avoid spoiling an appetite. Our friends started with wings which they said were delicious; not overly spicy, but incredibly flavorful.
After enjoying our starters, and having a few minutes to talk, dinner arrived. Burger presentation was nice, with the burger accompanied by fries in a can (another increasingly common delivery system), and resting in a frying bin covered with “fake” newspaper. For the three of us who ordered burgers, the presentation was identical. One of us ordered a salad which came in a bowl and while it appeared tasty, certainly looked like the weakest dish (our friend who ordered the salad seemed to like her husband’s burger as much as her own dish). Burger Barn must make sure that they supply adequate salad dressing flavors. Our friend asked for a number of different dressings that the restaurant didn’t have, and when our waiter was queried, he mentioned they only had blue cheese and balsamic. In my humble opinion, there are a number of other flavors that would pair well with a cobb salad, and I was quite surprised that they didn’t have more to offer.
I had ordered “The Kicker,” Burger Barns take on a burger with spice. There were fresh jalapeno slices (the menu said “fried” but I didn’t detect that) with drizzled cheddar and standard fixings. What made the burger even more enticing were the “sauces” on the table. I drizzled my burger with the “Sweet Heat” sauce and used some of the Chipotle Mayo for a fry dipping sauce. With so many great burger choices in Westchester, I’m proud to say that “The Kicker” really is at the top of my list. It was delicious (both moist and flavorful) and cooked perfectly to order (slightly pink; temperature exhibiting it was just removed from the grill. . .no heat lamps detected). I’d wager that as good as the combination of jalapeno and cheddar was, it was the addition of the sauce that sent it over the top. My wife loved her bacon cheeseburger, and our friend couldn’t stop complimenting his “John Hancock” (a burger with fried egg and cheese). Our kids had grilled cheese which was piled with American Cheese between two humongous pieces of Texas Toast. Both kids enjoyed the fries much more, but after tasting the grilled cheese, it wasn’t for lack of excellent flavor. You know you’ve found a winner when the grilled cheese is almost as good as the burger.
Drink selection was varied, but I wished for a wider beer list. It’s tough to create an amazing burger joint without an overflowing beer selection, so I hope Burger Barn expands on this. My brown ale was flavorful but not amazing; my friend had a cream ale that really wasn’t worth it. We also had a glass of chardonnay at the table that by all accounts was fine. All things considered, the drinks were likely the weakest part of the whole meal.
What You’ll Pay: Burger Barn isn’t dirt cheap, but it isn’t pricey either. For six, we paid around $130 with tip and three drinks. It fits in with the somewhat “trendy burger” pricing you’ll see in other establishments. Burger costs are a few dollars less than at Westchester Burger Company (on average), but Burger Barn also has a smaller selection. So, if deciding between the two, you might go simply by location or by offerings. Either way, you’re bound to have a delicious burger.
What does Burger Barn need to do to really bypass the competition? Strengthen the drink selection, expand on the burger offerings, and provide more inclusions for non-burger items like salads. Also, really consider becoming a seven day establishment. It’s tough to compete with competitors who never close their doors. Do these and I’ll have no reason to binge on burger anywhere else.
Rating: Gold, for excellent food and service. Further diversifying the menu (both food and drink) and being open on Sundays would take Burger Barn to the next level.