A creative niche has just been filled in Stamford, and it took co-owners Billy Calyanus, Robbie Cooper and Steve Montello (owners of Saltwater Grill) to hit the ball out of the park. Together, along with Chef Nick Bilello (formerly of Burger Bar & Bistro in South Norwalk) taking control of the reins in the kitchen, the restaurateurs have created Grand Burger, a joint that serves up more than just the average burger.
A perennial favorite and hot spot for diners in Stamford, Grand Restaurant and Bar has been transformed into the brand new Grand Burger Restaurant/Lounge, and it’s not unreasonable to expect imaginative gourmet burgers at the hands of Chef Bilello. So why the shift from the former Grand Restaurant and Bar’s pricier and, arguably, more high-brow cuisine to a menu that features food that is more amenable to diners’ wallets and relaxed attitudes?
“We wanted to make the menu more playful, fun and approachable,” says Chef Bilello.
Grand Burger radiates a club-like vibe with a contemporary feel. The high-ceiling and expansive bar create an atmosphere of openness without getting lost in the sweeping space.
With a dozen different burgers to choose from, including a crispy cod Fish Burger ($15), there’s an interesting and innovative mix of combinations that may not be for the faint of heart. Diners have their pick at a choice of meats: 7 ozs. of grass fed beef, 7 ozs. of free range turkey or homemade veggie. All burgers are served on either a sesame seed bun or in a lettuce wrap.
For those in a hip-shaking, lip curling frame of mind, try The Elvis burger ($13), a quirky concoction replete with peanut butter, bacon and banana chips. Feelings of amore stirring? Then perhaps the Italian Job burger ($13), with parmesan frico, tomato jam and arugula mayo is the one for you. If you’re in a more laid back mood, the Slow & Low Burger ($17) with robiola cheese, braised short ribs and Dr. Pepper-infused homemade BBQ sauce may be the perfect choice.
And while the moniker, Grand Burger, would lead one to believe they’re all about the burger, there’s more than that cooking in the kitchen. The “Not Burgers” side of the menu features a variety of bites that you can find on most any casual dining menu, except with the Grand Burger twist.
Chef Bilello’s ode to the sea includes Oyster Benny ($10), a fried oyster on the half shell with truffled hollandaise sauce topped with crumbled bacon. This dish has a deceptively light and comforting flavor with no one ingredient overpowering the other. The Fish Taco ($12) takes on an interesting flair with the addition of sweet chili relish and avocado. Unfortunately, my first experience with what was supposed to be crispy cod was lacking the crunchiness that would give the dish a much needed dose of texture.
Happily, the soul food-inspired Chicken & “Waffles” ($11) more than made up for the lack of crackle. The free-range chicken, brined for six hours, coated with seasoned flour then slowly fried, was a little piece of poultry heaven. Finished with honey and served with sweet ‘n salty waffle fries, this dish turned out to be the evening’s best.
One thing frequent diners of the former Grand Restaurant and Bar can rest easy about is the inclusion of their famed G/R/A/N/D Mac & Cheese ($12) on the menu. Many a customer has salivated over this American classic comfort food with the indelible spin of truffles and gruyere cheese.
Grand Burger also offers their regular cocktail menu as well as a seasonal cocktail menu, along with a respectable selection of wines by the glass ($8-$18), domestic and imported beer ($6), craft beer ($6-$20), single malts and bourbon ($8-$35) and tequila ($8-$10, with granddaddy of them all, Gran Patron Platinum - $35).
For those with a sweet tooth, the dessert menu changes on a regular basis. However, count yourself lucky if you can grab a taste of the Iced Box Cake or the Banana Bread Pudding French Toast.
The reinvention of Grand is one that reflects a growing trend in this country towards gourmet burgers. A slice of cheese and a pickle is fine, but diners are using their imaginations and their palates crave a spin on the classic. Luckily, Chef Bilello is on hand to offer up burgers like no one else in Stamford.
Grand Burger is open for dinner Wednesday and Thursday from 5p-1a and Friday and Saturday from 5p-2a.
15 Bank Street
Stamford, CT 06901