Burger Barn, Flushing
Went to Burger Barn a 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th time (hey, I live a 5-minute walk away) since my mixed review above (based on my subpar 1st and quite nice 2nd visits), and each time the meal was excellent.
I’m sure BB will earn the reputation (alongside Joe’s) as Flushing’s best burger, and as an excellent burger regardless of neighborhood. It’s clear my subpar 1st visit was an aberration, since my 2nd-6th visits were consistently quite good-to-excellent.
I had the cheeseburger twice (my 2nd and 3rd cheeseburgers), a double/double (my 2nd), fried sweet potatoes twice, fried pickles, fried onion rings, French fries twice (my 3rd and 4th), and a hot dog.
The problem with the cheeseburger my 1st visit was the 3 oz patty disappeared under the sauce. On my subsequent visits the sauce was applied with a lighter hand, and it (and the quality toppings) complemented the patties quite well, regardless of whether the patty was the cheeseburger’s single 3 ouncer or the double/double’s 2 3 ounce patties. Since one of the best things about BB’s burgers is that the char the cooking puts around the edges of the patties makes for a noticeable taste and mouth feel, the burger makes a big step back if the char is smothered by over saucing.
The fried food was outstanding, a real compliment since fried sides are often orphans in a burger restaurant’s scheme of things. The sweet potatoes, pickles, and onion rings were cooked perfectly. Lightly breaded, generally not oily (more on this next paragraph), and cooked in clean oil, it was deep fat frying the way it should be done.
In the two instances where there was oil on the food, it was because of inadequate drainage rather than improper cooking, as the oil wasn’t in the breading but instead was on top of it. Both these instances were items that are probably cooked completely to order (sweet potatoes and onion rings), as compared to French fries (which are probably started in anticipation of people walking in the door), so perhaps the cook was trying to hurry the delivery of the food. If so (and if BB is reading this), I’d say 30-60 seconds more time to properly drain would be worthwhile, the customer won’t notice it after he gets the food. But I’m nitpicking here, since I’d order those particular orders again.
Since the French fries (and other fried foods) were excellent my last 5 visits, I’ve thought about why the fries were so bad my 1st time at BB. I’m guessing it’s because I arrived soon after the place opened (11 AM), and the deep fat fryer hadn’t got up to its proper temperature. Not an excuse, BB should have someone there at 10:30 to turn it on. But for me, it’s an easily solved problem, I won’t show up at the place before 11:30.
The hot dog was good, but is only a local’s choice. Bottled water is a 20 oz Dasani for $1.
Ambiance is nice, not typical fast food. (After entering, a fast-food-phobe would require a couple of seconds before he started sweating, and during one of my visits a 10-yo laughed at one of the wall decorations.) Counter service is excellent, and my best sources (the counter servers) say the place is a single restaurant (not part of a chain or franchise).
Flushing doesn’t have much in the way of even average American food options (other than pizza), so I’ve been to Burger Barn twice since I came across it a couple of weeks ago. It’s another entrant in the “high quality fast food” niche, and it’s likely to succeed at that.
My conclusion is it’s a nice neighborhood burger, and could take its place alongside Joe’s Best Burger (Main Street at Roosevelt Ave) as Flushing’s best burger. (I hesitate to compare it to Joe’s since I haven’t been to Joe’s in awhile, and the patties are different.)
Is BB worth a trip? If you think Joe’s is, maybe; otherwise, no. But if I got my burger fix at BB’s closest (non-fast food) competitors, IHOP 1/2 mile to the east and the diner in the Parson’s Blvd shopping center a mile to the north, I’d travel past those two. (Joe’s is 3/4 mile to the west. Did I mention Flushing doesn’t have much in the way of even average American options?)
BB’s problem is it was inconsistent on my two visits (just a few days apart). The first time if I didn’t live in the nabe I wouldn’t have come back, the second time I would have.
Besides burgers, BB has hot dogs ($2.25) and a chicken burger ($3.50). It also has “exotic” options: a portobello burger ($5.25), sides like sweet potato fries ($2.50) and fried pickles ($1.99), burger toppings like fried egg and guacamole (99c each), corndogs ($1.50), and grilled corn-on-the-cob ($1.99).
Positives are that BB uses quality ingredients, cooks the burgers to order (the time this requires is no more than a couple of minutes longer than the wait on a fast food line), and according to BB makes its fries each day and nothing is frozen.
My first visit I had a slider (1.5 oz patty, 99c), a cheeseburger (3 oz patty, $3.80), and fries ($1.99), and on the second a slider, a double/double (two cheeseburgers (3 oz patty/cheese slice, 3 oz patty/cheese slice) on one bun, $4.99), and fries. (Fountain sodas are $1.99, ordering combos (burger, fries, soda) generally knocks $1 off the price, and there are many other drink options, including bottled water for $1 (no idea whether it’s a half liter or a mini).)
The double/double on my second visit was quite good. The toppings (iceberg lettuce, raw onions, tomato, and BB’s take on Thousand Island dressing) complemented the burger very well (more on the toppings below). The patties were not high-fat/melt-in-the-mouth, but more along the lines of having a dry, beefy flavor (and as a result, the sauce was probably necessary to provide moisture). The thinness of the patties meant they were cooked medium, which I don’t like, but the flavor and the char around the edge of both patties made for a very tasty burger with a nice mouth feel.
The sliders and cheeseburger were less successful. (Cravists will cringe since neither of the two I had were true sliders.) On my first visit the slider came with a pickle circle underneath the patty and the sauce on top. The pickle had quite a crunch to it and tasted far better than the typical fast food pickle (I assume because it had the textural mouth feel that is usually missing). The TI sauce was perfectly fine, and a step up from the slop slopped on Whoppers and Big Macs.
The problem was the toppings overwhelmed the tiny patty to the point of making it invisible. The slider was significantly improved by taking the pickle off, since it still retained some of the pickle’s tanginess and the patty emerged a little. But the sauce still dominated. (The naked pickle did taste good.)
On my second visit the slider didn’t come with a pickle and had noticeably less sauce. I could taste the flavorful patty much better, so overall it was an improvement. I’d say the best BB slider would probably be the second visit’s smaller amount of sauce, and the first visit’s “kiss-of-pickle” (after I interrupted the patty and pickle’s make out session).
The same patty disappearance problem occurred with my first visit’s cheeseburger (which, like my second visit’s double/double, was also topped with raw onions, iceberg, tomato, and the TI sauce). As I was eating it I was thinking this is not the typical fast food burger taste, and when I crunched a raw onion, I realized that I could taste/feel the onions, tomato, and lettuce, all of which had discernable texture (the iceberg wasn’t crunchy, but it wasn’t the typical wilted mess).
Realizing there actually are vegetables on top of your burger isn’t a typical fast food experience.
But again, the small patty was overwhelmed by the toppings. (Based on my second visit, I assume the culprit was the overuse of the sauce, but I don’t know since didn’t have the frame of reference I needed at the time.)
The fries were terrible my first visit and excellent my second. First visit they were very soggy, but I could tell they were a proper cooking away from being at least very good. My second visit I went from a guy who has fries with his ketchup to not using ketchup on his fries.
BB is located on the north side of Northern Boulevard between 146th/147th streets, it’s been open a month, and has parking in the back.