Miami celeb chef and barbecue devotee Howie "Bulldog" Kleinberg sank his canines into a new concept this year when the wildly-popular chef behind Bulldog Barbecue in North Miami quietly launched its sister restaurant, Bulldog Burger, in the Spring with a limited menu. Branded "Bulldog" because of his take-no-prisoners persona on the Miami season of Bravo’s Top Chef, Kleinberg (36) has won over locals and visitors alike with his delicious, simply prepared, affordable barbecue served in a casual, comfortable setting. On Monday, October 24, Bulldog Burger will be rolling out its full menu overflowing with delectable appetizers and mouthwatering burgers sure to please even the most discerning burgerphile.
“I always wanted to roll out a couple of concepts under the ‘Bulldog’ umbrella,” says Kleinberg. “The Bulldog BBQ burger is a huge seller, and I originally wanted more burgers on the Barbecue menu anyway, so this concept was a no-brainer.” Another no brainer was location. Kleinberg attributes much of the first restaurant’s success to the fact that it’s nestled in an easily visible and accessible shopping center on bustling Biscayne Boulevard in an area that was in dire need of decent dining; nearby Florida International University alone is chock-full of hungry students and faculty looking for a delicious, affordable quick bite in the ‘hood. Therefore, when the space directly next to Bulldog Barbecue opened up, Kleinberg jumped at the chance to make it his new burger joint.
An intimate, 1,000 square-foot space with approximately 70 seats, Bulldog Burger boasts a rustic, comfortable décor, sporting a unique look and feel – sandalwood-colored floors, dropped copper-style ceiling – that complements Bulldog Barbecue’s design. The restaurants are linked by an arched entryway cut into their shared wall, allowing the "bulldog" to make sure all is well in both his territories. And while there are separate menus, Kleinberg says that regardless of where his guests are seated, they’ll have a choice between his North Carolina-style barbecue and the long list of signature and do-it-yourself burgers the chef has created for the new venue.
Appetizers and sides, in keeping with Bulldog Burger’s concept, run the gambit from crispy pigs in blankets to chili cheese fries, Buffalo chicken tenders, BBQ Nachos and deviled eggs with crisp bacon and chipotle salt. Still available, of course, are Bulldog BBQ’s original starters such as cornmeal crusted oysters, white chili, BBQ flatbread, and Howie’s not-to-be missed Smokehouse wings.
Mouthwatering Certified Angus® Beef signature burgers ($8-12) include the bold flavors and creative combinations for which Kleinberg is known, with some falling into the wacky-but-they-work category. Those looking to make their way through the menu can start with the Morning Glory with a fried egg, crisp bacon, hash, cheddar cheese and Bustello-Red Eye mayo or the Hawaii Five-O which comes complete with crispy ham, roasted pineapple, pepper jack cheese and Kleinberg’s house-made “Big Kahuna” sauce. Destined to make your mouth and eyes water is The Heat with bacon, jalapeno marmalade, fried pickled jalapeno, pepper jack cheese and house sauce.
With a nod to the King, A Hunk of Burnin’ Love features bacon, caramelized bananas, pepper jack cheese – and spicy peanut butter. In honor of its unofficial inventor, the Luther (as in Vandross) is a bacon-cheeseburger served on a Krispy Kreme donut “bun.” For an offbeat burger that’s still guaranteed to please, try the Honky Tonk Woman, with fried bologna, American cheese, coleslaw, fried pickles and Bulldog BBQ sauce. The Not So Kosher complete with crisp kosher salami as its focal point, with coleslaw, Swiss cheese, deli mustard and a Thousand Island dressing “schmear.” Of course, Kleinberg’s very-popular, traditional Black Angus is on offer, and diners can also build their own 8 oz. burger with their choice of sauces, toppings and cheese.
Recent additions to the menu include the Twisted Burger served with caramelized onion, French fries, cheddar cheese, iceberg lettuce, tomato, house sauce on a flour tortilla; the Cubano is served with crisp ham, Swiss cheese, hash, dill pickle and Dijon mayo. Carb-conscious eaters can enjoy the Burger Lettuce Wrap which comes with chopped hamburger, cheddar cheese, chopped tomatoes, caramelized onions and chipotle mayo. Veggie-lovers are invited to indulge in the Smoked Portobello Burger deliciously stacked with caramelized onions, jack and blue cheese, field greens, tomatoes and balsamic mayo. And just like the sauces, all burgers are made fresh in-house by hand from certified Angus beef.
The ‘Grass’ section of the menu includes salad options such as The Wedge served with iceberg lettuce, tomato, twister onions, crispy bacon and buttermilk dressing while the Homestead Tomato Salad includes field greens, pickled onion, blue cheese, candied pecan and balsamic vinaigrette.
Prices are family and wallet-friendly with a check average around $15. The value, the chef says, is in the quality ingredients that go into each sandwich, including house-made sauces and toppings, and hand-formed patties grilled to juicy perfection.
Before his appearance on Top Chef and the opening of Bulldog Barbecue, Kleinberg was already making a name for himself as an up-and-coming culinary talent at the helm of South Florida’s Food Gang and Ivy restaurants. Post-show, and after a brief stint with Gotham City Grill’s Alfred Portale (a well-earned challenge reward from the show), Kleinberg returned to Miami to open Bulldog Barbecue in 2009. Since then, the Zagat-rated restaurant was named by Bon Appetit as “one of the top new barbecue restaurants in America” and became a favorite with locals and BBQ fans from across the country. It was also voted one of “10 U.S. Barbeque Meccas” by the Huffington Post.
Bulldog Burger is located at 15400 Biscayne Boulevard, Suite 106 in North Miami, right next door to Bulldog Barbecue, Suite 105. The restaurant serves lunch and dinner from noon to 10 p.m. daily.