Nothing naked here

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From the first day it opened, Bareburger proved the old maxim, “Nothing succeeds like success.”

“We couldn’t believe it when people were lined up for dinner that very first evening,” said co-owner Chris Sturges. “We had a waiting list from Day One and the customers keep on coming.”

Bareburger in Ridgefield appears to have hit a sweet spot, offering a varied menu of organic and all-natural foods emphasizing free-range burgers and an assortment of salads and sides. The food served at Bareburger is sophisticated but family-friendly.

The restaurant, first a vintage gas station and then a clothing store, opened for business in December 2013 after the old building stood empty for many years. Since then, highly favorable word-of-mouth combined with a menu that allows diners to customize their food choices, has made it one of Ridgefield’s most popular dining spots.

Sturges knows Ridgefield well. He was born and raised in the town, one of three offspring of parents who are also Ridgefield natives.

“I graduated from Ridgefield High School then went on to the University of Denver, getting a B.S. in economics in 2006,” he said. “I worked for an investment bank in Stamford but was not especially happy there. I was drawn to a more entrepreneurial experience. I wanted to be my own person with my own business.”

As luck would have it, a slightly older friend and fellow Ridgefield resident, Truitt Bell, knew of Sturges’ aspirations and was also acquainted with the founders of the original Bareburger, part of a small chain that started out in Queens several years ago.

“Truitt was the inspiration for bringing Bareburger to Ridgefield,” Sturges said. “He presented the idea of a partnership to me and we decided to join forces in 2012.”

The pair leased the brick-and-glass building that now houses Bareburger and started renovations in July of last year.

“We had a vision of maintaining the beauty of the original building while creating a comfortable restaurant interior,” Sturges said. “The high ceilings and big windows give the space an airy feel and we kept to an open floor plan.”

Almost everything in the restaurant is built from sustainable and reclaimed material, using lots of wood for a rustic atmosphere. The ceilings are paneled with reclaimed tin siding from deconstructed barns and the gleaming central kitchen is within view of diners.

The business is set prominently in the center of Ridgefield’s business district, adjacent to the town’s historic district. “We are fortunate to be in an excellent corner location with good parking,” Sturges said. “We can seat 60 customers inside and another 25 or so on our covered patio.”

Bareburger’s menu features all organic and all-natural, free-range meats from grass-fed, pasture-raised animals, giving them robust, hearty flavors that Sturges said cannot come from animals raised in an industrial feedlot. The organically grown vegetables and fruits that accompany the meats also taste better, he added. “They are juicier, sweeter and riper.”

The Bareburger menu is organized to give customers the opportunity to create their very own special burger with toppings of their choosing.

“First, you choose a 6-ounce patty of beef, turkey, chicken, lamb, wild boar, elk, bison or ostrich,” Sturges said. “Patties are also available in quinoa, black bean and portobello mushroom.”

Diners then move on to a choice of different buns; more than 20 possible veggie toppings; several cheeses; bacon; and a selection of sauces. For those overwhelmed by the scores of different possible combinations, Bareburger offers a large selection of “pre-styled” burgers, from California to Maui Wowie and on to Big Blue Bacon, Mediterranean and Habanero Express, among others.

Salads, served in dinner-size portions, are equally varied and can be customized with additional meat and vegetable toppings. Side offerings are not to be missed, including delectable breaded onion rings.

Bareburger shakes draw rave reviews and are made from organic ice cream, organic milk and organic fruits. Flavors range from the traditional to the unusual, including peanut butter and raspberry.

The youngest diners are not forgotten, with Bareburger offering 2-ounce patties, chicken tenders, grilled cheese panini and the classic beef hot dog.

Sweets include a selection of cookies, carrot cake, chocolate cake and sundaes.

Responding to demand, Bareburger has recently added Saturday and Sunday brunch featuring French toast, buttermilk waffles, fried chicken and waffles and a selection of panini egg sandwiches.

Sturges said Bareburger’s menu and approach to providing the best possible customer service are always a work in progress.

“We are elated and excited by our success so far but know that we have to keep our customers happy and coming back. The positive response we have received deserves our attention and we take special care to hire and train the very best people we can find. We adhere to strict standards of meal preparation and service. Friendliness, courtesy and what I call the ‘core personality’ of our 40 employees are very important.”

Thanks to attention to detail, the Bareburger operation is running smoothly.

“I am the point person, here every day, but Truitt is a great business manager and a great extra set of eyes, ears and taste buds.”

Sturges said he is pleased that Bareburger’s approach to eating healthy has taken hold. “We are proud of our lean, antibiotic-free proteins and our fresh organic produce with no pesticides that comes from local and regional sources. It’s amazing how well-educated our clients are about the value of eating whole, healthy foods.”

In Sturges’ view, the entire Bareburger concept has fit perfectly into his hometown.

“Everything meshes,” he said. “We recycled a long vacant but valuable building and are offering wholesome food that is a benefit to the community. We are very pleased that the people have spoken with a resounding vote of approval.”

Bareburger is at 38 Danbury Road in Ridgefield. For more, call 203-438-2273 or visit bareburger.com. 

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