Top 3 restauants of 2012: Ace Burger Company

Brooklyn Warehouse's kid sister wins big with simple burgers that are as unpretentious as they are delicious.

George and Leo Christakos - SCOTT BLACKBURN
George and Leo Christakos

There's an almost elegant simplicity to what father and son team Leo and George Christakos, are doing with Ace Burger—the bar burger joint feels retro, but is also very forward-thinking.

While the other new burger shops in town have all taken on the hip fast food models of chains like Five Guys and Shake Shack, Ace made its home in a little hole in the wall at the back of Gus' Pub. "His mother and my grandmother were dear friends," George Christakos, co-owner of Ace Burger and big-sister restaurant Brooklyn Warehouse, says of his relationship with Gus' owner Dimo Georgakakos. "There's a serious family connection. At Gus', the bar business is great, the music is great, but he is at a stage in his life where he didn't want to deal with a kitchen anymore. So this is symbiotic.

"People who come into Gus' are obviously extremely conscious about the music that comes into their life, and we think that that probably translates to what goes into their fridge," says Christakos.

There is a confidence to the small menu at Ace that says removes some of the choices that might be expected at a burger restaurant, but also removes any doubt that what you're going to get is a great sandwich. Taking Brooklyn Warehouse's popular burger and building a menu of other simple protein one-offs—chicken, clam, pork, lamb, lentils—around it, the kitchen has created something that is at once bare bones, but also thoughtfully and delightfully fleshed out.

"We distilled the talent from Brooklyn Warehouse down to a simple, humble burger," says Christakos. "Other places are going the opposite direction—adding all of that weird stuff to make a burger more than it needs to be."

With Ace's classic burger, there aren't many distractions: it all rests on the quality of the meat and the bun. That quality is pervasive, and while the other burgers on the menu have influences that range from Vietnamese to Greek, and Cajun to Caribbean, not once does a dish turn into an overloaded mess.

"It's not like Subway where you give the opportunity to throw 14 different items on them which may academically clash with one another because those flavour profiles don't match up in any way," says Christakos. "It separates us from the competition. They all have to compete with each other and we step out the side door and continue flying under the radar and appeal to a demographic and market that they may not care to reach: the conscious food consumer who loves a burger as much as the next guy."

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