When talking food with Jerome Mango, the owner of Bergen Burger at 16 Glen Road in downtown Rutherford, it doesn’t take long to realize the man is a true culinary artist. With Bergen Burger, Jerome has combined a background in fine dining with his Filipino heritage to create a delicious variety of burgers with an international twist.
A veteran of such all-star Manhattan eateries as Brasserie 8-1/2 and Mercer Kitchen, and a graduate of The French Culinary Institute, Jerome opened Bergen Burger in the summer of 2014. Part of the reason for opening his own restaurant, he says, with barely a hint of a knowing wink, was that “I couldn’t find a really good burger in New Jersey.” Jerome credits his love for food to his father, who in 1973 opened New York City’s first Filipino restaurant.
Bergen Burger’s menu choices include the “Americano,” “Italiano,” “Mexicano,” and, highlighted by the “Filipino Burger,” all of which are custom blended, and seasoned, from short rib brisket, chuck, and pork, ground fresh daily in the restaurant’s kitchen. Most notable, the Filipino Burger is inspired by Adobo, the national dish of the Philippines, the specific ingredients for which are often left to the individual chef’s imagination, but always includes soy, garlic, cane vinegar, pepper, and bay leaf in its spice mix.
As Jerome’s menu boldly proclaims, he wants to transform “the burger from an American Classic to a contemporary dish.” Menu extras such as both a chipotle and a truffle aioli, “Banana Ketchup,” and a intriguingly pink but explosively flavorful “Special Sauce,” are each designed to complement the burger selections. Of course such traditional comfort sides as hand cut fries, onion rings, and mac & cheese work as a delicious counter balance to any of Jerome’s burgers.
The truth is Jerome sees the culinary business as a unique art form, and simply loves to cook for people. “I saw Rutherford as a real Foodie town,” Jerome adds, noting the eclectic choice of restaurants lining Park Avenue helped in his decision to open up shop here. With the local Farmer’s Market operating through the spring and summer, Jerome quickly realized Rutherford as a great location to be part of the growing “Farm to Table” movement, now popular in America’s most cutting-edge eateries. In fact, Jerome makes a point to buy in-season produce from market vendors just up the block. From these he’s created a number of daily specials, including a Jersey White Peach Sorbet, and a corn chowder made from Jersey sweet corn. Of course Jerome sees another selection on the menu, the Veggie Burger, as the perfect candidate for incorporating seasonal produce from the market.
What sets the creations at Bergen Burger apart, Jerome suggests, is the way he selects the meats for his creations. “I look for the soft, snowy caps of fat in the short rib and brisket,” he says. “The result is a perfectly juicy burger that is lean and doesn’t shrink on the grill.”
Jerome’s customers seem to agree with the artistry grilled up at Bergen Burger. He recalls a time when two electricians, both connoisseurs of Manhattan’s best burger houses, compared their lunch at Bergen Burger to the famous $20 Black Label Burger from Minetta’s Tavern in Greenwich Village.
“But at half the price,” they happily added.
Another satisfied customer happily Tweeted out to David Chang that the famous chef’s chicken sandwich “ain’t got nothing on Bergen Burger’s” finely seasoned and buttermilk battered creation.
Quite simply, Jerome at Bergen Burger wants to serve everyone—from the strolling shopper, the hungry student, to the local business person on lunch break from the office—the best possible burger he can serve.
“One that’s entirely me!” he says proudly.
By Clifford Evan Weinstein in cooperation with the RDP