HopBunz Pops Up in South Tulsa

By on March 17, 2015

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I can never pass that HopBunz store on Brookside without wanting to be inside eating. No matter what I’m heading towards—a lady, a banquet, a bright, sunny drive—there’s always a moment when my head turns, my eyes get bright and big like Homer Simpson’s, and I say “MMMMM…BURGER!!” And now, with a bright, shiny, new branch of HopBunz slated to open at 106th and Memorial, I can’t even drive south to escape my addiction.

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I thought a few eyebrows would be raised, either in amusement or horror, when the HopBunz Classic Burger with American Cheese beat out top chefs and fancy banquet dishes for a place in 2014’s five best dishes in Tulsa. But I had to be honest, and when I thought back on all those dishes, the one I craved the most was at HopBunz. Maybe it’s those huge 7-ounce patties, made fresh in HopBunz’s large and gleaming kitchen daily, with a blend of chuck, Black Angus sirloin and about 10% bacon. (Who could resist bacon?) Or the toppings, which all melt together so gloriously, and for an extra dollar, include options like thick bacon and even an over easy egg. Perhaps it’s the bun, the unsung hero of any burger. Theirs come from a Mexican bakery called Pancho Anaya. Every morning they arrive fresh, hot, and steaming in the pre-dawn light.

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There have been a lot of changes since HopBunz’s opening, many in response to customer suggestions. For example, the thin tiny patties became thick. And if you don’t like their buns or patties, they’ll accommodate you. Don’t want bacon? They offer an all-natural, all-beef patty, as well as chicken and turkey options. Patty too large? They have a 3.5 ounce slider. Want another bun? There’s whole wheat and gluten-free options. They want things to be perfect, and they’ll tinker and fuss and improve until they get it right.

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I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve strolled in and headed for the sign where the line begins to order my usual: a Classic Burger with American cheese and bacon, medium, regular bun, with mayo instead of dijonnaise. For me, it’s just a masterpiece, and I barely even think as I devour the whole, juicy burger in an orgy of carnal, carnivorous greed. But it’s a long menu, and I’ve been ignoring everything else on it. So one evening, HopBunz challenged me to try some of its other offerings and see if I’d still stick with the Classic.

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Inside is a huge, happy dining room designed by the same decorator who did Waterfront Grill. “It’s upbeat, a fun place, with bright colors that really pop,” General Manager Bryan Pasek told me. I headed to the bar (where you can order burgers without having to go to the counter) to choose a beer—that’s the Hop in HopBunz—from an impressive lineup of Oklahoma breweries including Prairie and Marshall. There’s also booze, wine by the glass, and cocktails.

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We chose a table and then Bryan met up with us. Nine years ago, while studying at OU, he got a job at Los Cabos to pay his tuition bills—a temporary thing, he thought. Then he met Jimmy Blacketer, the genial genius behind Los Cabos, Waterfront Grill and HopBunz, and was promoted to manager. “I’ve been with that family a long time,” he said. “…It’s so much fun, especially when you’re starting a new concept like HopBunz.”

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Back at my table, the burgers started coming. First up was the Samurai, made with Kobe-style Akaushi Beef, vine-ripened tomato, onion, pickles, and mayo. “That beef is bursting with flavor,” said Bryan. “It’s like The Classic but better.” And oh it was! In fact it was so good that, as our expert photographer took pictures of some of the other dishes, I stole her portion. “It’ll help me write about the flavor,” I told her as I chewed the luscious, meaty patty.

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Next to arrive was the Big Daddy, and it definitely earned its name. Stuffed with Swiss cheese, caramelized onions and pickles, it’s crowned with a thick layer of pastrami. At first, it was the pastrami that scared me off. “Pastrami in Tulsa is inedible,” I told Bryan. (Except, I should add, for the pastrami at Trenchers.) But this pastrami was quite good, and added a fine flavor to the meaty blend. Once again, I left a clean plate.

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Now, what’s a burger without fries? In this case, Parmesan Truffle Fries with Truffle Aioli. They’re made from Kennebec potatoes, which have a high sugar content, thus allowing for a crisp, caramelized exterior while the inside stays soft. There was a hint of truffle flavor too, and the truffle mayo was a nice complement. If you don’t like fries, there’s always the onion rings, and they’re great too.

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Meanwhile, the burgers kept coming. Tall and quite a mouthful, the Chicken Enchilada made a splashy arrival. Of course I was skeptical. A chicken burger? “It’s phenomenally popular,” Bryan assured me, “a staff favorite.” The patty is made from ground chicken and herbs, and it’s topped with tortilla strips, pepper jack cheese, salsa verde, pico de gallo, and a fried egg. Thanks to the corn tortilla strips, the dominant taste is the funky corn flavor that usually permeates an enchilada casserole. And it was good. Not my favorite, but good.

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I’m always up for the unusual, but I never thought I’d try a vegan burger. “A lot goes into that vegan patty,” Bryan said. “There’s corn, there’s beets, there’s squash, there’s rice… ” And he continued to list veggies faster than I could write them down. The patties for The Woodstock are made in-house using a recipe inspired by Ben Alexander, who, by chance, first appeared as a master chef in this very building back when it was Wolfgang Puck. Well, it looked fine, a crisp, fried croquette, and on top was a heap of goat cheese and avocado. I bit in. I liked it! The patty was not a wan imitation of meat. It did not try to taste like meat. It was like a sweet, rich vegetable. But my true love, still the Classic, need not feel jealous. She’ll never be replaced by vegetables.

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But there’s a bright, young thing that provides serious competition. “This is our newest,” Bryan announced, “The Malibu! It’s nice and fresh, a lot of flavor, a lot of pop.” Just one bite confirmed this. There’s that juicy beef, complemented by avocado, thick mounds of goat cheese, chipotle mayo, pico de gallo, and radish sprouts with cilantro lime dressing. We ate every last crumb.

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Picture this: it’s the end of the meal, and you’ve already loosened your belt, but don’t even think of leaving without trying a custard shake. I’ve never had better. They’re made from a high-end premium custard, “the only place in Tulsa to use it,” Bryan assures us. It’s not a diet food; it’s a thick, rich dessert, but it’s oh sooo good. I always go for the strawberry, but for about $2 extra there are “adult” milkshakes. Ask for a Strawberry Mudslide and they accent your strawberry shake with Irish Creme, coffee liqueur, and vodka! Now that would be fun!

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HopBunz has only one problem: they are too good. “People see our slick decor and branding,” says Brian, “and they assume we’re from somewhere else. They think it’s a big chain. But we’re local, family owned and operated, and we’re the only one in the world until the new South Tulsa branch opens.”

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HopBunz
Mon – Sun: 11:00 am – 10:00 pm
http://hopbunz.com/

Brookside 
3330 S Peoria Ave
(918) 949-6595

South Tulsa
7891 E. 108th. St. South #10
(918) 943-3304

See an error? Please send corrections to suggestions@TulsaFood.com. Thanks for reading!

Brian Schwartz

About Brian Schwartz

Born in NYC, age 0, on my birthday. College in Oxford at age 16. Law School in New Haven, Conn. 6 years travel in Africa and Asia. Haven’t done much lately. Still, I’m the only Tulsa member of the little-known Omega Society. www.theomegasociety.com I speak enough Chinese to order food not on any English menu. Spanish French Italian too (not fluently but food-ently) My favorite restaurant is Jean-Georges in New York. But those NYC chefs would sell their soul to get the produce available from the farms around Inola. “A writer writes alone. His words tumble forth from a magical inner void that is mysterious even to himself, and that no one else can enter.” And yet, the most important thing to me the writer is YOU. Without you to hear them, my words are worth less than silence.

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