The Burger Joint Aims To Be A Classic Neighborhood Spot “Open To Everybody”
Montrose entrepreneur Shawn Bermudez is a busy man. He hasn’t slowed one bit since moving to the area 11 years ago from California. What started out as a temporary arrangement to help run resale shops Leopard Lounge and Taxi Taxi has transformed into a mini Montrose empire that includes the aforementioned shops as well as Pavement, Pistolero’s, Boondocks, Stone’s Throw, Royal Oak and various food trucks. The latest on Bermudez’s roster is The Burger Joint, estimated to open mid-June.
His partner in classically griddled beef patties is chef Matthew Pak, who’s excited to finally have a brick and mortar restaurant at his disposal after running Bermudez’s fleet of food trucks; Golden Grill, Koagie Hots and their newest acquisition, Coreano’s.
Curiously, it’s yet another food truck that has allowed Pak to begin perfecting his patties before the restaurant is ready to fully inhabit the former Little Bigs space early this summer. The Burger Joint’s mobile unit is already up and running, just in time for recipe development, employee trainings and catering gigs.
“With the truck, it opens up a totally new market,” says Pak. “Instead of people having to come to us, we can bring our food to anyone we want. Any big events, making things to order, no chafing dishes, etc.”
Pak will have the best of both worlds when the permanent Burger Joint at 2703 Montrose opens in little over a month, running catering and events out of the truck, plus full-time operations at the brick-and-mortar restaurant. Both will primarily serve classic, diner-style, thin-patty burgers.
“I’ll admit, when I first started Royal Oak, I wanted a big, juicy burger, and when we started Pistolero’s, our original chef came up with a monster burger,” says Bermudez. “I enjoy them, but especially if you’re eating lunch and you have a giant burger, it can just ruin your day. I did a burger tour and tried eight burgers over three days. My two favorites were just classic burgers, which was right in line with what Matthew wanted to do anyway.”
Pak grew up in Upstate New York, where burgers are referred to as “ground rounds,” and has just the right mixture of experience to make him the perfect chef for creating his own version of a classic.
“I grew up in New York cooking in diners and have done all sorts of short-order cooking, but also in finer dining spots like Benjy’s,” says Pak. “What we’re trying to do is use really good product — we’re getting our meat from 44 Farms, and it’s super fresh — and trying to do all of our other stuff from scratch like pickles and aiolis. Along with doing that, we’re trying to keep the price point as low as we possibly can without it hurting us. We want a good, affordable burger.”
That lower price point could be the key to The Burger Joint’s accessibility, which Pak hopes will be “open to everybody,” including families that can make great use of the ample patio, young revelers heading out for the evening and everyday workers just looking for a casual lunch option. Though there will be 24 beers on tap, Pak assures that it will be primarily a restaurant setting, not a bar.
Once open, Pak intends to have 10 regular options on the menu, including a standard diner-style burger with traditional fixings, a Greek burger with cucumber-flecked tzaziki sauce and feta cheese as well as a Mexican-influenced version with crisp, house-pickled jalapeños and ham. To Pak, the most important part of a hamburger isn’t just “all about the beef,” but about the whole package. The ratio of bread, condiments, meat, seasoning and overall texture has to be just so, and he’s hoping to perfect that on all 10 options. There’s also talk of lamb and venison burgers, as well as homemade sausages as the restaurant progresses.
Additionally, there will be sides like hand-cut French fries (some that will be gussied up with toppings like bacon and parmesan), onion rings, chili and a macaroni salad. That last option may seem like an unusual choice, until you find out that it’s a part of Pak’s Upstate New York heritage.
“The macaroni salad is an East Coast thing,” explains Pak. “Where I grew up, macaroni salad is way bigger than potato salad.”
Whether or not it will be a hit with the Houston crowd remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure: Pak is ready to share his menu with the world.
“I’m just really excited to get into that kitchen,” he says. “It’s my first brick and mortar that I’m this big a part of, so I take it very seriously.”
Hamburger lovers around Houston should take it very seriously as well. Judging from a recent taste-test, The Burger Joint’s offerings have the potential to become some of the best in a city already loaded with options. It’s hard to imagine anyone having a beef with that.