Finding a burger isn’t all that hard in a city with a population larger than that of a small country. But finding a burger with some brawn to it is a harder task. Bon Burger delivers just that.
This colorful burger den is run by Zhang Xu and Ray Ray, two old Tianjin hands who are self-proclaimed horror fans. Their affinity with horror is apparent from the decoration of the place, with collectible figurines and statuettes lining the shelves, and B-movies on repeat offsetting 50s Americana, jazz paraphernalia and a surfboard, all of which give the place a homey vibe. There’s an unspeakable charm to polishing off a quarter-pounder under the watchful eye of carnivorous aliens and chainsaw murderers, seemingly ready to collect your scraps and wear them as a trophy mask.
This is Bon Burger’s third incarnation after two previous branches, the first of which opened in 2015. With this current location in Heping district, though, the Bon concept seems to have come into its own. The team says they “don’t want to scale up,” opting instead for a cozy, living room feel, which sometimes does translate into long waits for a table.
The two owners are well attuned to one another and make do with their limited size kitchen. Zhang Xu, who operates the stove, came of age in the burger game by firing up the skillet during home dinner parties. His signature burger is called the Big Bon (RMB65), which, although served with only a modest side of potato wedges or a salad, is surprisingly filling. The grade-A Australian beef he uses is carefully prepped (supposedly smashed 400 times before kneaded into patties!) and seasoned just right. Burgers like the Scarface (RMB70) are listed on the menu with the admonition: “Don’t cut me up!”
Fresh seafood is also heavily represented on the menu, with delectable dishes such as The Sailor (RMB75), a sizeable piece of French cod served sizzling in its own juices with bacon and onion. Add to that tasty sides like butter-fried brussels sprouts (RMB45), fried Vietnamese sole fillets (RMB30) and a beef quesadilla with chestnut puree and pickled cucumber (RMB50), and you have yourself a classy surf-andturf spread.
Rakish-looking Ray Ray, who tends the bar, has the drinks on lockdown. Dressed to a T in his rockabilly and Beetlejuice-esque garb, he concocts smooth-tasting cocktails like the Kaku (Amaretto, Cointreau, Bols liqueur, Kahlua and vodka, RMB45). Spanish and Italian wines come by the glass and are decently priced (under RMB40 per glass), while Australian wines come by the bottle. The limited but varied beer selection is supplemented with mulled wine (RMB45), and soon – from what we hear – sangria for much-needed refreshment in the summer. Vicky, the third member of the team, puts her mark on the menu with her artisanal tiramisu (RMB35) and inebriating margarita cupcakes (RMB35, made to order).
Despite burgers being the staple here, the restaurant’s menu isn’t bound by any cuisine, seeing how Mexican, American and even Italian-style options are featured alongside all that ground beef. The menu’s slightly schizophrenic feel aside, this place has all the makings of a cozy after-work hangout.
[Images via Sid Gulinck/That's]
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