NYC Restaurant Review: Beer & Buns Opens in Murray Hill

New Manhattan Burger Joint Serves Up Sliders with a Pan-Asian Twist

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••• A trio of lip-smacking sliders at Beer & Buns. Photo credit: Beer & Buns

This casual new Midtown eatery, tucked into The Court–A St Giles Premier Hotel in Murray Hill, debuted in March 2014, spicing up good old-fashioned favorites, burgers and brews, with a pan-Asian twist. Already proving popular with Midtown lunch and after-work crowds, the laid-back Beer and Buns restaurant delivers reasonably priced and tasty fare via several standout sliders. Order up a diverse sampler of burger sliders, several of which come infused with Asian flavors, and wash them down with a generous selection of international and domestic craft beers.

My husband and I popped in for lunch recently, and quickly took to the fresh-concept menu. Out of the 10 burger sliders currently on offer, not a single one of them is based on traditional ground beef (though staff hinted that a beef-based slider option is indeed currently in the works). They're clearing thinking outside of the bun here, with burger menu items centered on more nontraditional "patties" like crab cakes, short ribs, grouper, and more.

Taste away by ordering a selection of sliders in combinations of three (priced at $12) or what proved to be an ambitious five ($17). We decided to go through the menu of all 10 sliders, ordering up five apiece. I'm still thinking about the "Bangkok Dangerous," a tom yum shrimp-infused patty cooked in lemongrass, lime, and a Thai vinaigrette, all wrapped neatly in a brioche bun. For the hubby, the Japanese-inspired "Southern Smack Down" ranked tops, another brioche bun contender, but filled with marinated pork shoulders, fresh herbs, vegetables, and soy sauce.

Vegetarians will likewise rejoice here with solid meat-free burger options right up their alley, like the lip-smacking "Roman Evergreen," a grilled and marinated Portobello mushroom, served with brie and greens on a mini ciabatta roll; and the chickpea "Mediterranean Garden," prepared with lettuce, tomato, and Tahini sauce on a pita roll.

 

If you're intent on a traditional (ahem, boring!) beef burger, they do offer one full-size beef burger entrée on the menu, the "D.C. White House" ($7.50) made from ground beef, soy, and herbs, and served on a brioche bun with tomatoes and pickles.

À la carte sides include Parmesan truffle fries, sweet potato fries, lobster mac and cheese, and more; plus, tack on side sauces like chipotle mayo or soy ginger sauce. Oh, and if you possibly have have room for anything more, the menu touts a selection of starters (coconut shrimp, pulled pork quesadillas, etc.) and salads, too, though if you skip the sliders here, you're missing the point. And a tip to the wise: Do leave a little room for the phenomenal signature house dessert, homemade bread pudding, coated in a caramel sauce.

Beer choices span domestic and international brands, including Blanche de Bruxelles from Belgium, Kingfisher from India, Xingu from Brazil, as well as local options like Harpoon UFO, Blue Moon, and more. Wine by the glass, and a soon-to-launch cocktail menu are also on offer, as are traditional burger-pairing favorites like milkshakes and root beer floats.

The Beer & Buns menu comes crafted by self-taught Thai-born Chef Wisit Panpinyo (better known by staffers as Chef Nok), who is busily working on putting out a newly expanded menu, set to debut in September 2014.

The venue itself, which seats 125 patrons, touts a mod-minimalist decor, with plenty of sleek lines and several white banquette booths, all set somewhat jarringly against several large TV screens (the restaurant has become a local hangout for sports buffs, and was filled with World Cup watchers when we popped in). A small courtyard out back sets the stage for a series of upcoming summer BBQ nights, set to launch on July 10, 2014, with an alternating mix of classic American-style or Southeast Asian-themed barbeques (contact the restaurant for the most up-to-date outdoor BBQ schedule).

Oh, and lest I forget: For those with deeper pockets (myself excluded), combined with a deep-burning passion for burgers, Beer & Buns is also offering an entrée-sized $250 "Indulgence Burger," made from melt-in-your-mouth Kobe beef and garnished with rich toppings like foie gras, beluga caviar, and white truffles.

Too pricey? Not to fret: The staff assured me that plans for a slider version of the expensive burger is currently being developed, which is slated to be offered at the comparatively bargain-basement rate price of "just" $100. Beer & Buns is open for lunch and dinner, Monday through Saturday; 130 E. 39th St. (btwn Lexington & Park Aves.); beerandbuns.com.