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BUNS, minimal hamburger joint on St Catherine

As you may see in the Tapioca The thread, I ate at the szechuan hole-in-the-wall last night and loved every bit of it (only question is when we're returning...)

Killing time before meeting friends there, we rambled a bit on St. Catherine and spotted "BUNS", a very narrow space between St. Mathieu and St. Marc.
We stopped in after Tapioca to help out the young entrepreneurs as well as procure perhaps a late night snack.

They have a 48" BBQ which is in the window showcase and offer hamburgers and grilled potatoes - thats it.
Burgers are served on what looks like custom-made buns (they come out of a box and cut them to order) which are toasted on the grill. $4 and include cheese which looks like hand cut mozzarella.
Potatoes are par-cooked (I think in the microwave) to al dante then seasoned and grilled up on a griddle which sits on the grill.

I'm not savvy on the burger scene in MTL, but I hope these guys do well. They have a very simple idea and the burgers, perhaps not an epiphany, make good late night snacks.

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  1. Sounds good, I will definitely try it this week; I live in the area and there is not one burger place closeby.

    1. Is "al dante" part of a temperature scale based on the circles of hell?

      All kiding aside, I noticed this place a few days ago and am looking forward to trying it out.

      6 Replies
      1. re: SnackHappy

        Sorry, it got through my spell checker alright, but didn't bother with the the the thesaurus.

        I did ask for my burger rare..."sorry, can't do that"
        OK, how about med rare..."sorry, not allowed to do that"
        "I'll sign a waiver if you like?"
        "Nope, because of possible health issues, only med well"
        Inwardly, I graoned, remembering a recent thread from a canadian asking if is was usual for americans to eat burgers less than well done, etc etc...

        The burger wasn't over done, but I would have preferred less...
        Aslo speaking about their place, I said that I couldn't smell the grill from outside.
        "Thats because the city made us vent the hood 80 feet behind the building so it wouldn't affect St. Catherine"
        Ahhhhh, city wisdom. I guess its alright to enjoy the wafting aroma while walking on DeMaisonneuve, going crazy while trying to find its source.

        1. re: porker

          I find that response quite humorous regarding the ventilation, considering Coco Rico et al just up the street seem to take perverse pleasure in filling the street with chicken smoke.

          1. re: blehfu

            Scent is such a strong sense that bakeries and restaurants often vent their smells into the street ti entice you to come in.

            1. re: Andria

              I've heard of this in Amsterdam as well...

              1. re: porker

                Actually, it is well known in the world of psychology... it is even being done on subways (scents in seats), in books (to increase retention)... it is all over the place!

          2. re: porker

            Lolll! "Ahhhhh, city wisdom. I guess its alright to enjoy the wafting aroma while walking on DeMaisonneuve, going crazy while trying to find its source."

        2. I made a quick run there from Concordia for lunch. I grabbed a burger to go. It reminded me of a backyard BBQ except instead of using frozen hockey pucks separated by wax paper, the burgers had the wonderful shape and texture of being hand formed. Mine ended up medium well done (though i didn't try to ask to have something else) and wasn't completely dried out. Didn't have time to try the potatoes but i noticed them grilling and they looked interesting. I wouldn't drive across town for one but it's another nice addition to a huge assortment of eats around the university.

          5 Replies
          1. re: blond_america

            When I was at the Sir George campus, like just about farever ago, the area was pretty much a resto wasteland...

            1. re: porker

              I went for lunch at Buns today and loved the hamburger with cheese; the potatoes were charred and greasy, unedible- they would do better with crisp fries, imo.
              It must be hard to bbque all those thin slices of potatoes, those are usually roasted in a pan or a griddle, he was flipping them on the grill, one thin slice at a time.

              I'll go back and grab a burger there anytime; it's just as well there are no french fries as far as I'm concerned, less calories.

              1. re: superbossmom

                Maybe I'll give them another try. Tried their burgers maybe close to a month ago, & was unimpressed.

                1. re: superbossmom

                  Tried Buns again yesterday, after seeing this post by you. As with my first visit to Buns several weeks ago, the Buns burger was tasteless(I really really tried to like them). FYI, the owner of Buns, is the same owner as current owners of Bistro B3 downtown(which you have commented on recently).

                  1. re: BLM

                    I might be biased because my mom makes her burgers like that; I also like the fact that the buns don't get soggy. I fail to see how they'll succeed selling only those though, specially with no french fries available.

                    I live very closeby to Buns, but I wouldn't recommend anyone make a special trip to try them. The burgers would be a big improvement over their sandwiches at b3, to say the least.

            2. I decided to try BUNS today, must say it was a pretty good burger, homemade tasting, meat was still juicy, didn't try their potatoes though, wasn't that hungry.

              Would i make the trip from across town to go there, probably not, but it's a nice addition to the area, and different from those asian cuisine places

              1. I overheard an employee say that Buns has been doing so well that the owner is gonna open another one up somewhere "in the mont royal area".

                1. I’ve eaten at BUNS a few times before. Each time I wasn’t given a choice as to how they’ll cook my burger. Because of this, they always came out safely on the well-done side, which to me made them seem somewhat flavorless and lacking and real character. Not bad, but bland.

                  I asked them if they were going to expand, maybe include bacon, but I was told the owner didn’t want to risk cross-contamination. It seems like a tightly run, small venture, snack shop. I’m not sure why, given the extremely small amount of options, that there aren’t more versatile preparation options.

                  Maybe I could order a burger on a poppy seed Kaiser roll, instead of the sweet and awkward potato-bread-like roll that they give everyone. I would also like some variety in the cheese. Mozzarella cheese is ok for a burger like these, but Sharp Cheddar usually tastes better.

                  The kid cooking gave me a free small container of grilled potatoes that were left on the grill after a large order, which was nice. And the free extra cheese is a nice bonus.

                  All in all, I’ve gotten better burgers at sidewalk stands and food carts, so I don’t see why with the space they have, they can’t do a little more with the food. But at the end of the day, or realistically, at the end of a looooong night, dropping four dollars just to get something in your stomach at the place isn’t so bad, it just isn’t so good either.

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: sksoze

                    Ummm, where are these sidewalk stands and food carts that serve great burgers? Montreal has bylaws preventing anyone from selling food from a stand or cart.

                    1. re: maisonbistro

                      There's a secret hamburger cart over by Bishop street.

                      If you go through the alley where the old hotel is, I forgot what it's name is, there is a small parking lot in back.

                      In between 11 A.M. and 3 P.M. there's a man tucked away behind the...

                      I'm kidding.

                      I meant in places like New York, not specifically in Montreal. I should have been more specific.

                    2. re: sksoze

                      To this day, I find the concept behind Buns really mind blowing. The first time I've seen the place (I live in Toronto) I thought it was a joke. It's like someone just turned a vacated retail space into a "chip(burger) truck". (just like those trucks permanently parked in front of the Toronto City Hall, selling burgers and fries) I felt like I've got to try this. The burger reminded me of those backyard BBQs with ample amount of veggies, plus the grilled potato are pretty good as well.

                      The nicest surprise is that it's cheap! A non-everything-shipped-from-somewhere-in-the-USA burger, made fresh, only costs $4. Grilled potato for $2. (mind you, at least you know it's potato, not some god-knows-what mashed in together, formed into a matchstick shape and fried) Plus a pop for $1. The whole a la carte combo cost only $7, still cheaper than Micky Dee's "Angus" burger combo.

                      The whole business is a money making machine, everything about Buns is about making money. The reason why they don't sell fries (or anything fried) is because they don't need to invest a seperate fryer. All they need is the one and only grill/flat top. Frying requires a lot more oil than grilling potato wedges and a lot less work to clean and maintain the fryer, as well as less work for the staff, which also means less staff is necessary to keep this place running. The simple menu means simple logicstics, which translates to less time spent on "managing" the operation, hence lowering the cost to run. The prices of items on the menu only comes in $4,2,1, which means less time are spent on dealing with change, which also lowers their labour cost. I think Buns should be included in MBA courses, as an example of an efficient money making enterprise.

                      With that aside, I love walking into Buns and I don't need to think much about what I'm getting, because ordering is so simple! I hate going to Hero's Burger (Toronto) and take 15 minutes to decide what patty I'm getting, what veggies I want and what sauces goes in. Plus the evil glare if I dare to change my mind or made a mistake.

                      I think Buns should open shops in TO, I bet their lineups wouldn't end if they open outlets on Queen St. West and the Annex. At least I know where to go if I "just want a burger".

                      1. re: Pieji_oh

                        ya meanwhile it's pretty much dead on st-catherine
                        i wonder why

                        1. re: celfie

                          St-Laurent still does crazy business, though. A guy who works there told me it does 3 or 4 times what the other places do combined.

                          It may be "mediocre" but as Pieji said its cheap and dependable, and especially seeing as they have lines out the door at closing time (& often run out of food), most ppl know it's a hell of alot tastier and more filling than the other 3 a.m. options, and a solid bet as for quick bite on the run when starting the night, or when the munchies strike between bar-hopping.

                        2. re: Pieji_oh

                          Unclean, low rent, mediocre food. You get what you pay for.

                          1. re: Pieji_oh

                            "the concept behind Buns really mind blowing"
                            If only they can consistently come through on the execution part of the concept...

                        3. It's pretty silly to go to Bunz for a mediocre (an extremely expensive!) burger, when Cabane de Poulet is down the street and will sell you a huge chicken breast burger (on a homemade bun), and fries and a drink for less than $6 dollars. The old woman roasts chicken and ribs every single day and has been doing so for 20 years--she knows what she's doing. Stop wasting your money on Bunz.

                          6 Replies
                            1. re: Anth

                              extremely expensive? 4 dollars (taxes in) + 1 dollar drink + 2 dollars for the potatoes = 7 dollars.. that's pretty cheap to me. Extremely expensive would be 20$ for a burger at M:burger.

                              1. re: mak2k

                                I think Anthony is agreeing with you.

                                1. re: BLM

                                  oops.. i think hit reply on the wrong box :P

                            2. re: whiskeytits

                              I'm not trying to defend Bunz. I'm also not questioning the old woman's chicken prowess. But isn't it a bit of comparing apples and oranges? OK, they're both served on a bun, but why would one opt for chicken when one specifically wants a beef hamburger?

                              1. re: whiskeytits

                                whiskeytits : as porker mentionned, a chicken burger and a beef burger are completely different things. Buns is also dirt cheap so both your statements.. I'm not sure what you're talking about here. Unless you're mistaking Buns for another restaurant.

                              2. According to their twitter feed Buns now offers bacon!

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: unlaced

                                  Finally! That's what they were really missing. Also they're burgers are inconsistent, the sizes seem to vary when I go. Definitely not a great place unless it's late and you're desperate to eat.

                                  1. re: jay_81k

                                    The starting sizes are consistent, it's the end size that's inconsistent. Unfortunately, a couple guys there (at the St Lo location I frequent anyway) cook the burgers well into hockey puck territory. The buns always hold up, and the toppings are always fresh. I eat there all the time during the summer, day and night, and if you get the right cook, it's one of the better burgers in town.

                                    Hopefully the addition of bacon doesn't cost extra as they already raised the burgers to $5 a few months back.

                                    1. re: jay_81k

                                      I found their quality and taste varied too much. I was disappointed too many times to want to return...