Opening a burger joint down the street from Grover’s Bar & Grill is an ambitious undertaking, but the new Bugsy’s Burger Bar held its own on our visit.
Styled after a 1950s burger joint, a picture of Bugs Bunny hangs under one of the flatscreen TVs. We were stumped if the other decor referred to real life gangster Bugsy Siegel or the kids’ movie “Bugsy Malone.” Regardless, we enjoyed hearing Elvis belt out “Little Sister” and Dion’s “Ruby Baby.”
The concept is simple — order at the counter, get a number and the staff brings your food. Aim for a seat away from the front door and a spinning overhead fan where it felt chilly.
There are two ways to go. Order a specialty burger ($7-$10) or “Build Your Own Burger” ($7) by grabbing a slip with check-off boxes. Pick a bun, burger, cheese, sauce and toppings.
Bun choices include classic, pretzel, kimmelweck, sesame, multigrain, brioche and a lettuce cup. Burgers choices are beef, turkey, bison, black bean and portobello mushroom. Cheeses include American, cheddar, Swiss, pepperjack, provolone, shaved parmesan, feta and crumbly blue.
Sauces and regular topping choices are extensive. More interesting sauces included everything from Grey Poupon Dijon mustard and sriracha ketchup to specialty mayos like horseradish or mango habanero.
Included toppings are the standard lettuce, tomato, sautéed peppers, etc. but “extra add ons” feature brie, goat cheese, guacamole, bacon and stuffed hot pepper for $1 to $3 more.
For a $3 upgrade to a Burger Box, you also get beer battered fries, onion rings, sweet potato fries or chips, coleslaw plus a soft drink with your burger. Sides can be seasoned with Cajun, olive oil and sea salt, dry ranch or dry cheddar.
On our visit, two special burgers (both $8.50) were offered. The Flamingo has cheddar, black olives, cucumbers with cranberry mayo. The Couch Potato is topped with caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato, provolone, sweet potato fries and honey butter.
Yes, there is work and thought involved in ordering. We ordered from the menu’s specialty burgers, added a soup and a couple of sides.
The regular Cheeseburger Soup ($3.50) was tasty with a nice light cheese broth. It could have used a few more chunks of meat or other stuff like potato however.
Our thick burgers, arriving in baskets lined with checked paper, were really delicious. The burgers — made from ground chuck brisket and short rib meat — came well-done (we weren’t asked for a temperature). They were absolutely juicy, too, with nicely toasted buns.
The Avocado Motto ($8.50) was topped with green leaf lettuce, onions, applewood smoked bacon, avocado, garlic aioli and crumbly blue cheese.
The Bugsy Classic ($7) came with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle and Bugsy Sauce, a version of a Big Mac sauce.
My Carmine with applewood smoked bacon, caramelized onions, cheddar and barbecue mayo was delicious, too, especially on the nice light brioche bun. Paired with a super thick chocolate shake ($5), it was heaven.
Sweet potato fries were hot and crisp with honey butter. The homemade potato chips with olive oil and sea salt were addictive. Had we read the menu closer, we would have tried the intriguing beer battered fries. “Other Great Stuff” includes Stuffed Hot Pepper Dip with warm tortilla chips ($5) and Cheeseburger Nachos ($7).
Salads ($6-$10) — Cobb, Caesar, Greek and Chef — are available for “those kind” of folks. We’d cut a little slack for someone ordering the Cheeseburger Salad. After all, when in a burger joint, there really is nothing else one should order.
Bugsy’s Burger Bar
Where: 9370 Transit Road, East Amherst (688-2000, bugsysburgerbar.com)
Hours: Open daily 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Extra: Take-out available. Kids Bugsy Bunny Burger is $5.50 with American cheese.