At the end of a white wall in the back alley of Amoy Street is a lone neon sign – a vibrant burger above a red arrow pointing towards a set of large, brown double doors.
Through these doors is the recently opened “Burger Joint.” Small and easy to miss, this diner is a replica of a hotel restaurant in the lobby of New York City’s Park Meridian Hotel. From its imported ingredients to its rustic atmosphere, Burger Joint strives to bring a taste of good old-fashioned New York City to Singapore.
When diners walk in, they encounter a narrow pathway with an identical neon sign that opens up into a cozy, diner-esque space, buzzing with a contagious energy from diners and employees alike. The wooden walls are plastered with famous movie posters from the ’80s and colorful cardboard signs – some of which have the menu written on them and others which invite diners to scribble on the walls.
The menu, holding true to its origins, is concise. The choices consist of a hamburger ($13.10), a cheeseburger ($13.80), a bacon cheeseburger ($15.80), and a double cheeseburger ($24.90). Sides include fries, dessert includes a brownie sundae, and drinks include a wide variety, from water to milkshakes.
Kelly and I both opted for a cheeseburger and fries, which was nothing short of incredible. Everything about the burgers screamed authenticity – including the imported beef freshly ground into patties daily, perfectly toasted homemade buns, the fresh leaves of lettuce, thick slices of cheese, and flavorsome pickles. Assembled in front of us through the open kitchen, each of the burger’s components were treated with the utmost care.
But the best thing about the burger was its simplicity. It wasn’t adorned in truffled onions or flaming pickles or whatever is cooked up by some of Singapore’s experimental restaurants nowadays. The extravagance is left to those countless other diners – here is a hearty, traditional American burger, plain and simple, given to you in a rustic brown paper bag.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of the restaurant is its backstory – how exactly it was brought to Singapore and why. It begins with Mr. Nicholas Heaney and Ms. Ben Heaney, two long-time residents of Singapore and parents of SAS students.
A frequent traveller, Mr. Heaney often used to visit New York City and stay in the Park Meridian Hotel. During one of his trips, he discovered in the lobby a small, unnamed burger joint, which, after multiple trips, became a favorite spot for him. With every trip, he fell more in love with the hidden diner until one day he thought to bring it back to the place where he could go to it as much as he pleased – his home in Singapore. After speaking to his wife, and reaching out to the Park Meridian owner, Steven Pipe, plans were soon in motion.
For Mr. Heaney, organizing this became an extra project aside from his job. For Ms. Heaney, however, the process of recreating the restaurant halfway across the world became an around-the-clock job.
“So he’s got his full-time job,” Ms. Heaney laughed, “and he’s like, ‘you go run with it’… I just didn’t realize how involved I would be. [Now] it’s like my little baby.”
From speaking with suppliers to scouring for designers to hiring cooks, Ms. Heaney has spent the last six months taking care of all the work that goes into building a restaurant. She had the reference – the original restaurant in New York – but everything else had to be organized by her.
Now, after a year and a half, the project has finally been opened up to the public.
After a conversation with the couple, it was clear that they had only one intention: to bring to their home in Asia a true taste of New York. For Kelly and me, they seemed to have ticked all the right boxes – the food, the ambience, the service. For those missing the authenticity of American food, Burger Joint certainly has the potential to be a favorite in Singapore’s competitive food scene.
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