Non-aficionados maybe not be familiar with the burger scene but scouting good legit burgers is a highly acclaimed skill especially in Japan, where “hamburg steaks” may throw you off the scent. Hamburg steaks are very popular in Japan but do not be fooled, they are arabiki 粗びき meat patties, or a mixture of coarse ground pork and beef. They usually have a machine-made springiness to them and are brought to the table on sizzling hot plates. These gimmicks do not sway the burger meister.
Bareburger was started in 2009 in New York and currently operates at 18 locations. They pride themselves on organic, all natural ingredients and free range meat for healthy, clean foods that are big on flavor and taste. Imagine how psyched we were when Bareburger announced its store opening in the eclectic neighborhood of Jiyugaoka 自由が丘! Just a mere 5-minute walk from the station, we arrived at a grassy arch entrance that looked like it would lead to a beer garden.
A waitress brought us to the second floor of the quaint white building behind it. The place was big and only about one-third full. The decor was absolute kitsch, with frames of whimsical pictures of animal heads on human bodies in suits and various couture covering the walls. We were seated in a nice quiet spot by a glass window that looked out upon the garden.
The Japanese menu was tweaked slightly; most of the burgers are beef, and exclude the more exotic meats like bison and boar available on the U.S. menu. There are options for pork, turkey and chicken, including a localized tsukune つくね, or minced chicken patty. We ordered the El Matador (guacamole burger), the Buttermilk Buffalo chicken burger, sweet potato waffle fries to share, the Banana Foster milkshake and the Hot Honey Milkshake. The burger meister dictates that no burger is complete without a milkshake!
And boy did they not disappoint. The burgers came on trays with grease paper (kudos also to the cute Bareburger logo!), and looked every bit as good as they sounded. The brioche buns were buttered and grilled, and the beef was well seasoned and crumbled nicely. The buffalo chicken fillet had a tangy spicy zing and was perfectly complemented by the chunks of blue cheese. The burgers were sloppy to just the right extent: finger lickin’ but not drippin’ (all that goodness going to waste?!). The sweet potato fries were thinly cut and were served with a buttermilk ranch dip. The milkshakes came in big tin mugs and were thick, creamy, and simply divine. You know a good ice cream shake when it’s hard to suck up a straw!
Overall, the food was great and the environment and location are major plus points. We’re surprised that this gem of a burger place hasn’t caught on! Another outlet is slated to open in glitzy Ginza but I’d still come back to kitschy Jiyugaoka.
Bareburger Jiyugaoka*Automatic translation