Burger surprise

New spot is cooking, and baking, something fresh for the downtown scene.

Bun Burger (photo by Ken Smith)

There is an interesting phenomena known as “multiple discovery,” which describes how different peoples—though separated by oceans, continents and thousands of miles—tend to stumble upon the same, groundbreaking advancements independently of one another: things like fire, the wheel, and the bow and arrow.

Perhaps the greatest of these universal human discoveries is that when you stuff a bunch of things that taste good together inside of something doughy and bake it, the whole is more delicious than the sum of its parts. From potstickers to pierogis, Cornish pasties to pupusas, and pizza pockets to pigs-in-a-blanket, most cultures’ cuisines include some sort of savory, globally popular, pie-like entree.

Now a Kurdish-American family—inspired by an Italian(ish) re-engineering of an American culinary standby—is hoping that Chico diners will find their new application of this age-old concept tasty and novel. They opened Bun Burger—which serves as both the restaurant’s name and an apt description of its signature menu item—at the beginning of October in the Third Street space formerly occupied by Momona.

Bun Burger’s titular entrees are single or double burgers paired with selected toppings (choices include cheese, bacon and jalapenos, eggplant, mushrooms and tomatoes) which are first grilled and then sealed with the flame-broiled meat into a hollow bun and baked. The breaded portion of the bun becomes a thin, soft crust to the toppings’ tasty mantle and meaty core. Suat Dasdemir, who operates the restaurant with his wife Kim and his brother Nasir, said he was inspired to make them by a YouTube chef who called his creations “calzone burgers.

The Ultimate Double Bun Burger (pictured with chicken strips, cole slaw and fries). (Photos by Ken Smith)

During a recent visit to the clean, airy and sparklingly reappointed eatery, Suat said he and his family members had been looking to start a new restaurant since their San Jose-based auto detailing business closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and dreamed of opening a restaurant despite having no experience in the food industry.

He shared the calzone burger video with Nasir and asked him, “Are you down to get into this?” Nasir said yes, and he now oversees the kitchen while Suat greets and charms new customers at the front end. Kim is in charge of the restaurant’s marketing, which is so slick one might guess Bun Burger is an existing franchise. Suat says turning it into a family-owned chain is their long-term dream, but the restaurant is one-of-a-kind.

Suat said some people questioned their sanity: “They said, ‘You’re crazy! You have no experience and there are already a lot of burger restaurants.’ But we didn’t listen and we didn’t let it discourage us. If out of ten people nine say you are going in the wrong direction, then perhaps it is the right way. You have to go against the herd!”

He also said that, though burger-based and social media-inspired, the restaurant’s creations are something entirely different and original. The family experimented with several recipes, which were then fine-tuned by a chef with decades of experience, whom they hired to help them run the place.

Thusfar, Suat’s assertion that “Sometimes it takes crazy people to get good something done!” appears to be paying off. My dining partner and I visited the restaurant on a recent Friday night to find the Dasdemirs doing brisk business. It was before our meeting and before they knew I was there in an officious capacity, but both brothers were exceptionally attentive, welcoming and obviously excited about their new venture.

Wanting to maximize my experience and taste as many of their signature flavors as possible, I ordered an Ultimate Double Bun Burger with a slew of different sauces on the side. It came as a meal with an exceptional side of fries and some cole slaw for $21.50. My companion had the chicken tender meal—deep fried chicken strips with the same sides ($15). For dessert, we shared and order of “semolina delight,” a warm, sweet, cookie dough-like treat popular in the Middle East.

The food was excellent. It takes a little longer to prepare because of the baking process, but this was to be expected. And the restaurant’s comfortable décor was a cut above your average burger joint, making it a decent destination for a casual date night.

Brothers and partners in their new burger business, (from left) Suat and Nasir Dasdemir.

There were a few rough edges that can be chalked up to the restaurant’s recent opening and the owners’ developing experience: my date’s chicken tenders were slightly overdone and a juice machine stood empty but at-the-ready, leaving soda and water as the only drink options. Though a fork was provided for the coleslaw a knife was not, so Nasir had to cut open my bun for me … not a big deal, but I feel like slicing into a Bun Burger, seeing and feeling the texture as steam pours from the golden bun and its yummy insides are revealed, must be a satisfying and unique experience in itself.

None of this dampened our enjoyment of the meal or the setting, and the Dasdemires’ sense of hospitality is impeccable. Nor did it my dampen desire to return—soon—for another Bun Burger.

Bun Burger, 230 W. Third St., 530-399-3992, buntheburger.com.

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