By Marek Kulig.
For the employees at “downtown New Bedford,” better known as dNB and the area’s nonpareil burger joint, eating local doesn’t exclusively mean “eat” food grown and produced locally. No, their approach is a little more inclusive, and a little less insular. Sure, the scratch kitchen at dNB get its veggies from within a few-miles radius, grinds its own beef, mixes its own sauces, and pickles onsite. But what’s most impressive and endearing about dNB’s crew is their support of other local businesses–and each other.
“We want to be the place for burgers,” says Patrick McGonagle humbly. He’s the bar manager at dNB, and speaks kind, earnest words about the downtown New Bedford food community.
“You know, if you want soup, go to Destination Soups. Brick is next door if you want artisan-style brick-oven pizza. Pour Farm does some of the best barbecue around, not to mention their strong draft beer selection and their live music. People’s Pressed opened a little while ago a few blocks away. It’s the spot for cold-pressed juice.”
Pat’s list goes on. He lives downtown, has worked at dNB for a better part of its history, and knows as well as anyone that to make it downtown as a new small business finding a niche is paramount. “It’s about specializing, doing the main thing right.”
“As a bartender, I like the challenge of having great burgers to live up to.” Pat knows what it takes to labor for these burgers, occasionally finding himself in the kitchen lending a hand should the chefs and cooks be short-handed. “Everyone is always helping everyone out,” he raves. “We have a really solid team. We’re honest with each other about feedback from customers. It’s all for the betterment of the business, having the community in mind.”
And with their powers combined, the result of even one half-bite into the OG Banksy (Original Gangster, for all you octogenarians) is a teleport back to the 1950s when burgers became as accessible to the greater public as a career in whaling was in 19th century New Bedford.
For those craving something a bit more contemporary, A Chive Called Quest (named after the popular hip-hop collective A Tribe Called Quest) will make you feel current enough to wish people would stop associating you with millennials.
Spice(!), you yell? The Southern Belle, featuring a jalapeno and sweet corn aioli, will check that box…and you won’t be needing one for leftovers. And if you’re just plain burger-jaded, the chili-marinated chicken patty that supplants the beef in the Yeehaw will keep the choice-seesaw at bay.
And may the meat-averse fear not. The no-frills-titled Falafel Sandwich has plenty of thrills on top: smoked tomato tzatziki, fried lemon, carrot tapenade, local greens, and red onion.
It’s a no-brainer that owner and head chef Joshua Lemaire’s burgers are dNB’s priority, right down to the monikers they ascribe to them.
Everything else, though dynamic and delectable, like the New Bedford Poutine, the Coconut Curry Wings, or the distinctive bar program, which features mead and a handful of cocktails sans hard liquor, is always striving to stand up to the flagship product.
Inside, exposed brick walls and antique-style furnishings give dNB the grittiness and character associated with New Bedford’s heritage. In the back room, around the corner and up the steps, you’ll find co-owner Amelia Ruvich’ artwork. On the bar top, a nostalgic collage of vintage newspaper clippings, ads, recipes, and postcards. On the walls, a complementary, patterned mural of various cuts of beef such as English Cut, Heel of Round, and Pinbone Steak.
At dNB, the kitchen and the aesthetic function very much on in-house harmony. Yet it comes as little surprise, given the common, we’re-all-in-this-together attitude, that the quality is in the commitment, and after one visit you’ll understand that, unlike most burger operations, dNB just does it differently.
22 Elm Street
New Bedford, MA 02740
Marek Kulig writes primarily from South Dartmouth, but this summer he’ll take his talents downtown and haphazardly prop himself up at any number of establishments New Bedford has to offer.