ALL ABOUT THE BUNZ
Casual Downtown Fun & San Antonio’s Softest Buns at
Bunz Handcrafted Burgers
By Janis Turk
Edwin Salazar has the best-looking hottest buns.
Hamburger buns, that is.
That’s because chef Salazar and business partner chef Thierry Burkle worked for years to master the art of making perfect brioche-style buns and bespoke burgers before opening Bunz Handcrafted Burgers last fall.
A super-casual fast-food spot with a juicy agenda—building the best and biggest two-fisted burgers—it’s the kind of place downtowners can grab lunch to go, sit at a booth or counter with the kids, and plugin or zone out. Think fab River Walk-area hamburger joint meets Internet café.
“Eat and stay as long as you like,” says Salazar. “We love our locals.”
Bunz is Burkle and Salazar’s passion project, planned with panache.
“Fresh from scratch is our motto. Our concept is simple: great prices and phenomenal burgers,” says Salazar, “fast and casual, but with a culinary aspect built-in.” Folks might pay $18 or more for a burger this great at a steakhouse, but not here.
Everybody likes hamburgers, but not every burger joint makes a great one, so Burkle and Salazar set out to make the best.
“After two years of research and hard work, they succeeded,” says general manager Andreas Fiel. “Only then were they ready to open Bunz.” A second San Antonio location is slated to open later this year, and franchise talks are on the table.
With mammoth burgers and crazy-good fries, Bunz is hamburger heaven. Enjoy a real-life cheeseburger in paradise, like the ”Bunzilla” with double house-beef patties, bacon, sharp cheddar, tomato, lettuce, caramelized onions, Salazar’s secret “Z sauce” and a handcrafted pickle (flown in from New Jersey). Or try a carnivore’s delight, the “Show Bunz,” with house-beef, arugula, tomato, sliced pears, mayo, blue cheese, and caramelized onions. My favorite? The “Cheek Bunz” with house-made Boursin cheese. Handle heat? Try the Mercedes Bunz, with chipotle mayo, refried beans, pepper jack cheese, lettuce, roasted poblano peppers, egg, and bacon. There are also vegan and gluten-free options featuring an avocado brioche bun. The Ocean Bunz is piled with blackened shrimp, and the Beach Bunz comprises a jumbo crab cake, tartar sauce, and crisp tortilla chips.
“A quarter-pounder’s got only four ounces of beef; Our burger has seven ounces of the finest blend of chuck roll, shoulder clot, and brisket,” says Salazar. “Our beef comes from Texas, and our flour is ground at Barton Springs Mill in Austin to our own strict specifications for just the right cut, size, weight, and density. It makes all the difference in our buns: the perfect crust, toasted for just right amount of time, means meat juices won’t seep in.”
“We make our own mayo, grind mustard seeds, cure meats, grind and press our hamburger patties, and even make cheese. Best of all, we bake the most beautiful four-ounce sweet brioche. Can you smell that? Beautiful!” says Salazar.
Save room for curvy Bunz fries dotted with cheese curds. Taste chili cheese fries, a chili bowl, a Caesar walnut salad, and thick shakes (gotta love the Nutella churro one). Local beers, bottled Mexican cola, Topo Chico, and fountain drinks are available, and there’s a grab-and-go section for lunch on the run.
With a clean, bright, open kitchen, and floor-to-ceiling windows in a historic building steps from the River Walk at Houston and Soledad streets, Bunz offers counter service, roomy booths, and tall eat-in counters (with USB plugs and outlets), where guests can sit and smell warm baking buns and watch burgers sizzling on the grill.
Salazar and Burkle’s quest for culinary perfection began many years and several continents ago. French-born chef Burkle’s career began in Paris before he moved to Washington D.C. to cook at restaurant Rive Gauche. Next he helped open D.C.’s popular Place Vendôme. After that came famed Alamo Heights eatery, L’Etoile, closing in 2009, before opening the still-popular Grill at Leon Springs. Salazar attended culinary school in El Paso, worked in Italy at a Tuscany restaurant where he honed bread-making skills, opened an Italian restaurant in Texas, and spent three years in a high-end Singapore steakhouse where he learned all about the world’s finest beef. Their shared philosophy, gleaned from their cultures and travels, is that the simplest foods are the best.
“Fresh-baked, fresh-ground, fresh-made in-house with a lot of love: That’s Bunz,” says Salazar, as he flings a soft cloud of flour in the air above the sidewalk, like a joyous LeBron James chalk-toss moment after a long day serving happy customers.