Marcel Somfelean, owner of former West Loop restaurant Pasha, loves Kuma's Corner, but doesn't care for the heaping serving of noise he gets while dining there. He's hoping to appeal to others who share that feeling with Buzz – Burgers, Barrels & Beer, which opened in North Center on Monday.
"There are lots of places for burgers," Somfelean said. "We try to go high-end, sophisticated, but at the same time reasonably priced."
The restaurant uses grass-fed beef sourced from farms in Missouri and Wisconsin and buns from Highland Baking Co. in suburban Northbrook. They're currently using all local produce, though they'll have to ship in ingredients for the winter. Buzz also serves organic coffee grown in Guatemala—and sells bags of beans for diners who want to take some home.
Based on feedback from friends and family members who Somfelean enlisted to sample dishes, early favorites include the ramen burger ($13), which uses two "buns" fashioned out of ramen noodles bound together with egg and is inspired by the one served at Brooklyn's Smorgasburg this summer. It's stuffed with a Kobe beef patty, arugula, sriracha, bacon and cheddar that helps provide some additional structural integrity. Fries ($3) are served on the side with a trio of homemade sauces: spicy ketchup, Dijon mustard and truffle aioli.
The menu also features shareable dishes such as poutine ($10) made with three types of cheese, gravy, scallions and chunks or bacon and ham, plus a Brussels sprout salad ($8) with shaved sprouts, raisins and slivered roasted almonds tossed in a citrus dressing.
Don't see anything on the menu that excites you? Ask for the "secret menu" and you'll be given an entirely new list of options, including the Blastoff Burger ($10) with four cheeses cooked into the patty along with bacon, aioli and, appropriately, a secret sauce.
Located in Blue Stem Martini Lounge's former space at 1935 W. Irving Park Road, Buzz offers a mix of tall tables and bench-style half-booths. To make it clear that this is not a sports bar, the two TVs above the bar show black-and-white movies, said Somfelean.
He and co-owner Mara Milanovic chose to open in North Center because it appeals to young professionals and gets so many visitors for other nearby neighborhoods. "We feel like this area is really, really interesting," he said. "You have a little bit of Lincoln Square coming, you have everybody from Wrigleyville walking here, Avondale is not far from here. It's a really lively neighborhood."
The restaurant is currently only open for dinner, but plans to start lunch service next month. It's also BYOB for now, but look out for 100 varieties of beer and a house wine to have Buzz - Burgers, Barrels & Beer living up to its full name come October.