Cheap Eats: Bunga Burger Bar uses meat as creative canvas
05:00 AM, Oct 09, 2013
If you live in a college town, you need three things to survive: coffee, beer and burgers.
Those essentials are already nailed down pat as the College Town, the urban village being constructed at the intersection of Mt. Hope and Elmwood avenues near the University of Rochester campus.
Bunga Burger Bar sells beer and burgers, and it’s squeezed between a Starbucks and Chipotle Mexican Grill, so the bases are well covered.
After having barely digested my first-ever doughnut burger at Brockport’s Boardwalk Inn last week, I was curious to see how outrageous this 6-month-old hamburger hangout could go, given its captive target market. The locally owned pub flaunts a Wolfgang Puck philosophy, using burgers (like others use pizza dough) as its canvas.
How can you tell? Because there is no mayonnaise here, but plenty of aioli. And the onions are caramelized with port, the salsa starts with pineapple and one burger is confident enough to come to your table with nothing but a fried egg.
My friend Jann had the Bourbon Street burger ($9.25) with barbecue sauce, cheddar and onion rings. Her house fries were medium thick with a few herbs sprinkled on them.
At Bunga Burger, there also are burgers that aren’t even burgers. They include barely seared and crusted yellow fin tuna strips sitting on cabbage and zig-zagged with a hot wasabi yogurt sauce, which I ate with brown sugar-coated sweet potato fries. It’s on the high end of the price scale at $12.50, but it was one of the healthier options (especially when put on a whole wheat bun), along with a black bean burger, a mushroom sandwich and a turkey burger.
I probably should have gotten a salad instead of fries, but at least I didn’t fall for the adult shakes, which could be the cocktail’s version of the doughnut burger. I’m not sure if the menu zoning board would consider this a violation or just bad taste, but these triple-X frosty thrills were listed right next to the kiddy foods.
Perhaps just as over-the-top is the mac-and-cheese burger, a frequent special that can also be ordered by request. Or the burger topped with an onion ring the size of a doughnut.
Though Bunga Burger bar is locally owned by longtime restaurateurs Brad Sluman of Pittsford Pub and Bob St. George, it looks and acts like the other chain restaurants around it, with a bright Fisher-Price logo, a long neon-accented bar, a disco ball and bar tables orbit in the space between bar and doors.
Those doors swing open to sidewalk seating, which offers an aggravating view of road construction at the current time.
Service was very accommodating and efficient during a midweek lunch.
The draft beers are a democratic mix of no-nonsense brands such as Bud and Labatt and a couple regional brews (CB, Southern Tier) to pacify the microbrew tribe. A nice touch is the seasonal Saranac pumpkin ale served margarita-style with brown sugar and cinnamon rimming the glass.
College Town will be a lot like Rochester Institute of Technology’s Park Point, with housing, hotel, more restaurants and stores and a Barnes & Noble anchoring the mixed-use acreage. There have been restaurants that have come and gone at Park Point but also some that are showing some real originality and longevity, such Lovin’ Cup Bistro & Brews. Does Bunga Burger Bar have the potential to be University of Rochester’s Lovin’ Cup? I am not making any forecasts, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
Bunga Burger Bar
Address: 1370 Mt. Hope Ave.
Phone: (585) 360-4949.
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Bar stays open later.
Accessibility: Fully wheelchair accessible.
Good to know: Full bar. Sidewalk seating. Shared parking lot with Starbucks and Chipotle is limited. Street parking also available. Burgers and hot sandwiches run $8.50 to $12.95 and include fries, mac salad or side salad. Salads, chicken wings and a “Bunga Plate” of mac salad, fries and burgers with meat sauce are also served.