Bare necessities

Photo courtesy of Bareburger

If you’re new to Hoboken, maybe originally from a rural area with maybe only a diner and decent Chinese takeout around, the first thing you’ll think of when you walk into Bareburger is fine dining. This is the culture you came to the NYC area for. If you’re not part of this subset of people, you’ll probably think that Bareburger is one of the crown jewels of Washington Street, a Mecca of food that combines everything you love about burger culture with the vigor of ecological sustainability.

The first thing you’ll notice when you walk into Bareburger is that everything breaths a certain neo-rustic aesthetic, seamlessly combining the homeliness of a well-used barn with the pumping beats of Paramore’s “Misery Business.” The chandeliers are made of old spoons, knives, and forks, and the walls are a deep chestnut. The occasional bear head (all fake, don’t worry) reminds you that yes, you are in fact at Bareburger. After you’ve taken your seat, the waiter or waitress usually arrives promptly. They’ll fire off a list of specials for the night, make some small talk, and then take your drink orders with impressive speed and sincerity. The second thing that reminds you that you’re in Bareburger is that the water comes in a dark green wine bottle with small glasses. There’s something about pouring water out of a wine bottle that makes you feel a little more upscale, and a little old-timey. The bottle definitely adds to the aesthetic.

After fiddling with the bottle for 15 to 20 minutes, the food will usually be ready. Be sure to order the fries and onion rings at the same time as your meal, or you’ll eat them immediately. The onion rings are fried to perfection, with the onions retaining just enough texture to complement the outer breaded layer. I recommend them. The fries also have a strong flavor that I assume is what actual potato fries taste like, as opposed to, say, McDonald’s potato product. In addition, you get a curry ginger ketchup, a smoke sauce, a habenaro mayo, and a special sauce with your rings and fries. Definitely try all of them, despite what your instincts may say.

At the same time, I had the fortune of being able to try two burgers. As a true Duck, I ordered the “Fire Quacker,” a duck burger covered with pepper jack cheese, habanero mayo, pickled jalapeños, red onions, spinach, and tomatoes all on a crunchy yet soft brioche bun. Despite what the words habanero and jalapeño will have you believe, the burger will not have you breathing fire. The burger itself was expertly prepared (I ordered mine well done, don’t shoot) and had a unique taste that reminded me of the savory profile of dark chicken meat with the heaviness of beef. The pickled vegetables added just enough moisture to counter the intensity of the patty, and the cheese offered a tang that persisted throughout each bite. I highly recommend combining the fries (or onion rings) and burger in your mouth.

The other burger I got to try was the “Guadalupe,” a rich black bean burger with pickled red onions, tomatoes, alfalfa, and guacamole on a sprout bun. The black bean burger by itself deserves a round of applause, substituting seamlessly for a meat patty in both savory flavor and texture. The guacamole as well is fresh, well-seasoned, and creamy. If the burger was solely the patty and the guacamole, it would have been a great meal. The other vegetables round out the taste and keep it from being too dry. The alfalfa sprouts resembled strange tentacles poking out from my meal, but after the first bite it was obvious they were delicious tentacles. Once again, eat the fries or rings at the same time as the burger.

After making a complete mess of myself, I washed down the meal with a blueberry soda. Yes, I said blueberry. Yes, you should try it. The soda tastes eerily like its description, with a refreshing blueberry and vanilla flavor that isn’t as heavy as your average cola. The ice also comes in surprisingly cubic chunks; avoid the urge to chew on them in case you go there without your mother. After I downed the drink, I got ready to roll myself back home, but it was too bad they never played Ariana Grande’s “Into You”. That one is probably my favorite.