NOTE: Chef Justin Gaines is no longer cooking at Prime Burgers.
Today's designer burger may turn up capped with wild mushrooms and/or cloaked in hollandaise. Don't be surprise if a fried egg is slyly slipped inside its brioche or whole-grain bun. At Prime Burgers, all is possible, thanks to chef Justin Gaines, who cooked under celebrity chef Thomas Keller at Bouchon Bakery in Manhattan's Time Warner Center.
Out here in the 'burbs, Gaines finds himself in the former home of Deli on Rye, now reincarnated and modernized. Burgers predominate on a menu that also features American comfort classics and a well-priced beer and wine list.
One dinner begins auspiciously with Gaines' savory light crab-intense crabcakes. Although a trifle sweet, BBQ rib tips prove tender and likable. I get bored quickly, though, with a sesame wonton mesclun salad.
From a list of signature entrees comes the spicy, soupy, believably "N'Awlins" style gumbo with andouille sausage, chicken, crab, shrimp and rice. My fork keeps finding its way back into the creamy, crumb-topped truffle-scented mac-and-cheese with al dente orecchiette and four cheeses -- goat, Cheddar, Parmesan and mascarpone.
About those burgers: They don't always come out the precise doneness requested. On an early visit, mine crumbles at the edges. But the next time, it's nicely seared and full of mineral-y juices. I'm pleased with the namesake burger with bacon, avocado mousse, Gruyère, lettuce, red onion and roasted plum tomatoes. A Cabernet burger features a rich, winey confluence of braised onions, wild mushrooms and Gruyère. My favorite, though, is the A.M. burger, opulently crowned with a fried egg, bacon, hollandaise and chives. Heart-healthy it's not. Nor is a seductive braised bacon sandwich with chili mayonnaise, roasted tomatoes and red onion. More virtuous is a moist turkey burger with roasted tomatoes as well as Bibb lettuce and a cranberry-sage aioli.
Not to be missed are the nutty-sweet hand-cut fries. They're also available tossed with truffle oil and Parmesan, but I'm partial to naked simplicity.
And instead of a crepe with a too-tangy cheesecake filling, go straight to the warm brioche bread pudding with whiskey creme Anglaise. It fits well with the restaurant's comfort motif.