Bareburger: A Haven for Hipbillys and Hippysters Alike

There was a degree of fanfare with the opening of Bareburger, the small New York based chain which offers organic and healthier options to the slew of greasy options which fill the streets of every town and city in North America. One of those cities is now Toronto, more specifically the intersection of Bay and Dundas.

The theme is hipster meets hippy meets hillbilly.  The hipster is the fact that there are usually line-ups at mealtimes and the staff is a mix of lumbersexuals, plastic spectacle wearing stylists and guys with man buns as big as those on the burgers. The hippy is the zen focus on clean eating such as vegetarian and vegan burgers, organic pasture-raised, no hormone meats, non-GMO/pesticide free produce and fair trade purchasing practices to appease the moral consciousness of the anti-capitalists.  The hillbilly comes from unique meat choices including duck, wild boar, bison and elk along with the use of recycled barns and wood for the roof and floor respectively no to mention the bear heads (although not real) hanging on the wall.

The drink list offers a select list of microbrews, wines and spirits but what be more unique are the non-alcoholic drinks such as homemade unsweetened ice teas and 10 different sodas including a traditional cola and not so traditional blueberry .  I was on the clock so I opted for the white peach ice tea ($3.25) served a glass which looked like a billboard for clean eating. It was quite refreshing.

White Peach Ice Tea ($3.25)
White Peach Ice Tea ($3.25)

I started with a jar of spicy pickles which is supposedly a 100 year old family recipe.  They had great spice and flavour and were served in the quintessential  hillbilly/hispter glassware…the mason jar.

The burgers are the main event but Bareburgers offers other sandwiches and salads as well.  You have the choice of building your own or trusting the chefs who have devised 14 different choices using a variety of meat, buns and toppings.  I opted for the blue elk ($13.65) which was elk topped with elk, amish blue, back bacon, stout onions and tomato fig jam all served on a sprout bun.  The meat was cooked perfectly but the taste was hidden a little by the intense flavour of the jam and the bun.  All in all, it was a good burger and clearly unique from most of the others in the area and despite the richness of some of the ingredients, didn’t leave that gross feeling in my stomach despite the side of fries and onion rings ($5.70) which I split with my table mate who also ordered the buttermilk buffalo ($10.90).  It was buffalo fried chicken, amish blue, buttermilk ranch, green leaf and a brioche bun. I snuck a piece and was thoroughly impressed.The sauce was not your typical frank’s red.  It was much deeper in flavour.  The chicken itself was moist and delicious and complemented well with the cheese and sauce. The fries were quite good and the rings were among some of the best I’ve had; crispy and well seasoned versus greasy and salty.  Special mention goes to the Sir Kensington’s ketchup available at the table which was much fresher than the Heinz which typically graces the tables of every other burger joint in town.

Blue Elk Burger ($13.85) and Spicy Pickles ($3.85)
Blue Elk Burger ($13.65) and Spicy Pickles ($3.85)
Buttermilk Buffalo ($10.90) and Side Fries/Rings ($5.70)
Buttermilk Buffalo ($10.90) and Side Fries/Rings ($5.70)
Cooked to a Sweet Medium
Cooked to a Sweet Medium

My Take

What do you call a hillybilly, hipster and hippy all in one?  A hillster? Hipbilly? Hiphilly? Hippyster?  Regardless, Bareburger would make any combination of the three feel at home.  The rustic decor, organic meat choices and man buns would appeal to all of their desires at the same time.  I’m not sure if it is the best burger I’ve ever had but it is certainly one of the more unique.  The meat was cooked beautifully and the toppings, although a bit overwhelming resulted in one of the more unique burgers I’ve had, probably because it relied on fresh ingredients instead of grease and salt as the primary means of flavour.  The chicken sandwich was a step above many (I’d put that shit on everything), especially those which usually play second fiddle in a typical burger joint.  The fries held their own (especially with Sir Kensington’s help) and the rings were divine. When all is said and done a burger, fries and drink will run you $20 which can buy you a whole lotta karma, a cocktail at a hipster haven or an official duck commander quack pack duck call so I’ll let you decide.

Bareburger on Urbanspoon

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Organics: Redefining Food and Footprints

“Organic food” is a term that has always made me scratch my head a little.  The definition of organic, based on dicitionary.com is as follows:

adjective

1.

noting or pertaining to a class of chemical compounds that formerly comprised only those existing in or derived from plants or animals, but that now includes all other compounds of carbon.

So, based on the definition, everything you eat is organic unless you swallow pennies or eat paper clips. However, the term organic has evolved to define the pinnacle of food, both in price and shelf space in a grocery store. Some advocates for organic food have compared consumption of  organic  foods vs “conventional” food to that of breast vs bottle feeding in newborns. The same people will insist  you haven’t lived until you’ve had an “organism*” eating unsprayed papaya.

The breaking news yesterday was the study out of Stanford comparing organic and conventional food in terms of nutritional value, pesticide content and risk of bacterial infection. The shocking report confirmed what I  assume most people know already. There is no difference in the nutritional value of the food and there are more pesticides on the foods where pesticides were used.  Both groups were below the accepted level dictated by local regulatory bodies.  A small side note was the higher risk of bacteria resistant to three or more antibiotics in conventional versus organic food.

Simply stated, a strawberry is a strawberry whether organic or conventional.  The difference is one has pesticides on it.  That’s about it.  It may bring down the organic pundits a bit  but the controversy surrounding the acceptable level of  pesticides in foods was not addressed in this study which allows that camp to plant a very organic seed of doubt.

I’m not against organic food or organic food producers but I am against those who scold value conscious people and parents for not spending premium dollars to fill their families’ bellies with only the best, most nutritious food.  Another fact is that organic eating doesn’t necessarily mean healthy eating. The body doesn’t differentiate between high caloric  baked goods made with organic flour and butter and those which are not.  Too many organic calories will bulk the waist the same as consumption of conventional foods.

It’s also important to keep in mind that an organic banana may still travel the same distance as  the conventional banana and leave the same carbon footprint. I know…let’s call one the organic footprint and the other a conventional carbon footprint. Now I feel better.

Many restaurants are selling the  farm to table concept and rightfully so. It’s more about local and less about organic.  Local produce is abundant and in season right now.  In many cases, it has traveled less than 100 km to get the store or market.  It is full of colour and flavour.   Let’s just wash and prepare it properly and I think we’ll all be good whether it’s organic or not.

*-organism is a feeling close to sexual fulfillment brought on only by consumption of organic foodstuffs.

Appeasing the Organivores