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The Bouley Burger, Upstairs

Note: Bouley Upstairs closed in July 2008. It now operates as Bouley Studio, with a Japanese Kaiseki menu on Thursdays and Friday evenings, and a limited menu of sandwiches and burgers the other days.


When I walked by Bouley Upstairs a couple of weeks ago, I saw a space transformed. The former bakery has high-tailed it across the street, and in its place are about half-a-dozen tables, generously spaced, with crisp tablecloths and wine glasses. The formerly rag-tag place has turned into a real restaurant.

The name “Bouley Upstairs,” which was formerly “Upstairs at Bouley Bakery,” will probably be the answer to a trivia question someday. The restaurant is now both upstairs and downstairs. The added space allows more room to breathe, though the staff told me the second floor is still a tight fit.

The menu seems to be broader than it was, with some classics kept around and seasonal specials. I am not quite sure how they manage it with such a small kitchen, but I suspect there are sometimes long waits for food. The Japanese offerings have been expanded considerably, to the point that Upstairs is practically two restaurants in one. There are now several prix fixe options on the Japanese side of the menu, ranging from $35 to $85, along with a substantial à la carte list.

I’ve started a new project: sampling the upscale burgers that are popping up all over town. Last night, I decided to try Bouley’s ($15 with cheese), which has been on the menu from the beginning. Alas, this wasn’t one of the better ones. An English muffin should not stand in for a bun, and the taste of red onions overpowered the meat.

It’s a messy burger to eat, though that’s not necessarily a flaw. When I got home, my suit jacket went onto the dry cleaning pile.

The $10 glass of red wine I had was pretty good, though I’ve forgotten what it was. The wine list overall seemed to lack the inexpensive bottles that a restaurant in Upstairs’ price range ought to have. When the entrées top out at $21, the wine list shouldn’t be almost all above $50.

I am not sure if this is destination dining or a good neighborhood cafeteria, but based on past meals (here, here) I’ll assume it’s still a 1½-star restaurant. Upstairs has a stratospheric 25 food rating on Zagat. At the very least, it’s a lot more comfortable to graze here than it was before, and the service last night was much improved compared to my previous visits.

Bouley Upstairs (130 West Broadway at Duane Street, TriBeCa)

Food: **
Service: *
Ambiance: *½
Overall: *½

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