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Bayou / Bayou Burger – $13
Bethlehem, PA | dat-bayou.com/
Bayou almost singlehandedly spearheaded the Lehigh Valley’s culinary revolution when it opened in March of 2014. The area had never experienced such a high quality, progressive-thinking restaurant.
Bayou’s concept of a menu filled with small plates, all priced under $20, was completely unheard of. And the Bayou Boys executed it flawlessly, as they quickly skyrocketed to one of the hottest spots, and became the hardest-to-get reservation in the Lehigh Valley’s history.
And rightfully so.
Their southern food offerings were a rare welcomed addition to an area otherwise devoid of anything outside of basic BBQ, usually faked by our scourge of inept sports bars and pubs. I personally visited several times within a matter of months, gleefully trying (and loving) nearly everything on the menu.
The one main menu item I had yet to try, somehow, was the Bayou Burger. A patty topped with Pulled Pork (BBQ or Plaine), Traditional Slaw, House Bacon, and a Tabasco Aioli. The description certainly fits Bayou’s southern theme.
On this visit, things went downhill fairly quickly. Visiting this time on a slow mid Saturday afternoon, the service was noticeably poor from the get-go. We’ve all been there. You’re one of the only parties in the restaurant, looking around at the empty tables, and wondering where your server disappeared to.
The burger turned out to be even more disappointing. The cook was closer to rare or medium rare, rather than the medium temp it was ordered to be. It lacked seasoning and had no noticeable char.
But the patty itself almost didn’t matter on this burger because the amount of smoky pulled pork on top masked any flavor the burger might have had. Look at those photos. The layer of pork is actually thicker than the rare patty it sits on. The cole slaw, while added a little textured crunch, added little to no flavor. The strip of dry, chewy bacon didn’t help either. And then there’s that little strip of BBQ sauce in the middle, which looked more like a mistake than something actually meant to be on the burger. As for the aioli, well, do you see any on the burger? Neither do I, and I didn’t taste any either.
The bun? An afterthought of semi-dry breadiness. No reason to go any further, so, onto the sides.
The fries were average at best. They looked great on the plate, but turned out to be on the mushy, soggy side.
As much as it pains me to say it – mostly because of how great Bayou’s traditional southern food has been – their burger was a massive letdown. The worst part is, I’m not this disappointed because my expectations were so high, it’s because the burger was really that bad, at least on this day.
Burgers should be a solid, consistent entry on any menu. Bayou’s burger, coupled with the middling burger at Grain (another Bayou Boys joint), is somewhat troubling for one of the Lehigh Valley’s hottest restaurant groups. I’d like to head back sometime to give it another go, but the problem with living in a culinarily bourgeoning area… there are too many other new places to try first.
Because of their amazing track record, I’ll give them a pass this time. And if you find the burger is back on par with the rest of the menu, please let us know. Otherwise, stick to Bayou’s tried and true southern items.