At B&B Junction, in the old 4 Rivers spot, Aaron Quinones crafts creative burgers as well as a superb mac ’n cheese.
B&B Junction chef/co-owner Aaron Quinones is hoping to carve out a spot in a massive local hamburger explosion.
No fewer than a dozen chains and independent burger joints are open or will soon be opening, from local faves like Pine22 and Graffiti Junktion to big boys BurgerFi and Five Guys, not to mention Colombian burgers, Hawaiian burgers and perennial standbys such as Tap Room and Johnny’s Fillin’ Station. B&B (“burgers and beer”) is taking the route of locally sourced, organic and free-range ingredients, words that not too many years ago would have sounded as foreign as a French menu, but these days are the new—and thankfully, welcomed—state of business.
Beef from St. Cloud, greens and tomatoes from Mount Dora, Eustis, Winter Garden and Kissimmee, eggs from Ocoee, all remind us that Central Florida is still a great and varied garden, and B&B harvests them all, plus antibiotic- and hormone-free chicken, turkey and bison from well-known farms across the country. But it’s the way they put it all together that makes this tiny place stand out.
Quinones spent years working in small restaurants and South Florida gastropubs before joining the executive chef team at Darden, and then opening Padrino’s Cuban Bistro in the tourist area of John Young Parkway. Now he’s moved from high volume to hand crafted in Winter Park.
Shoehorned into the original 4 Rivers location on Fairbanks Avenue, B&B has even less inside room, if that can be imagined, but it appears that they’ve sacrificed standing room for an expanded kitchen. Seating is still communal style out back; a counter for ordering, a dessert case and six beer taps is about it inside. The burger selection dominates, with 18 variations on meat-and-bun, plus salads, wings, killer mac ’n cheese, craft beers by the bottle, and wine.
Photos by Roberto Gonzalez
Quinones says he wants to offer sit-down restaurant quality dishes in a fast-casual setting, and ingredients like ghost pepper cheese, watermelon-jicama slaw, and fried fennel certainly catch the eye.
The menu of burgers and “alternative burgers” doesn’t seem as overwhelming as some other all-inclusive eateries; chalk it up to interesting pre-selected combinations. Order by the numbers: #5 combines a 6-ounce, inch-thick patty with mellow bourbon ham, brie, smoky bacon and a Lake Meadow Naturals fried egg, served on brioche French toast ($9.50). I ordered the #4 ($8.50), layering gooey Gruyere cheese, spicy watercress and wild mushrooms, and asked to have the burger “subbed” with turkey. A superb handful it was, the turkey thick and slightly pink, charred on the outside and moist within, accented by a hint of truffle oil in the house-made mayo (ketchup and mustard are made from scratch here too, as are the brioche buns).
Having not had a bison burger before (I know, strange, eh?), I looked to the variant menu, where pulled pork, chicken and veggie alternatives also abound. The bison (#14, $11) was complemented by a wonderful half-savory, half-sweet onion jam, sensuous melted bleu cheese and watercress. I’ll warn you that, as when ordering a good steak, and with bison in particular, if they offer “pink or not,” choose pink.
It wasn’t until he had irreversibly settled on “B&B Junction” that Quinones was told about his burger compatriots Graffiti Junktion just a couple of miles down the road. “I wanted to call it something like The Pickled Cucumber,” Quinones says, “but my dad said Winter Park was all about trains and gathering people together, so Junction made sense.” There’s probably room for two good junctions in the neighborhood.