Uncle Sam's: Burgers with Asian flavor due in New York

Updated: 2015-05-15 11:29

By Paul Welitzkin in New York(China Daily USA)

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 Uncle Sam's: Burgers with Asian flavor due in New York

Uncle Sam's, a burger restaurant with an Asian palate, owned by a Chinese businessman, plans to open on Monday in Manhattan. [Han Meng / for China Daily]

The Chinese burger invasion of the Big Apple starts on May 18 when Uncle Sam's restaurant opens on Fifth Avenue and 32nd Street near the Empire State Building.

Uncle Sam's is the brainchild of Zhiming Bai, a Chinese businessman with interests in mining, cement and real estate.

"He is a serial entrepreneur who has a passion for food and beverage," said spokesman Stephanie Fray. "Uncle Sam's will be a fast-casual restaurant serving American classics with an Asian flair."

The classics Fray refers to include chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, and of course hamburgers. Uncle Sam's has turned to Bellyfull Consulting and James Beard Award-winning chef Bradford Thompson to manage and develop the menu.

Offerings will include the K-Town Burger with Galbi beef, kimchi and fermented bean sauce for $12.95. (Koreatown is down the block on 32nd Street.)

The Dim Sum Burger will feature a pork-shrimp patty, shitake mushrooms and soy ginger sauce for $12.95.

Chicken "samwiches" include the Beijing with a panko-crusted chicken breast, cucumber, hoisin glaze and scallions for $8.95. A New York-style hot dog topped with either sauerkraut or onions is available for $4.95.

Fray said Uncle Sam's goal isn't to compete with well-known rivals such as Shake Shack or TGI Friday's. "I believe the company is aiming to create a one-of-a-kind experience for the burger-eater," she said.

The 888 Burger is a pork and shrimp patty topped with Canadian bacon and barbecue sauce, for $13.95.

After the opening of two locations in Beijing earlier this year, the company believes the concept can succeed in the US as well. "What we've found through our research is that true passion for delicious flavors and taste is universal," Bai said in a statement.

The New York Uncle Sam's was designed by the firm Alvarez-Brock, which has taken the typical farm and cow imagery and flipped it over, somewhat literally, to create a modern, urban setting.

Mary Chapman is the senior director of product innovation at restaurant consultancy Technomic Inc in Chicago. She said that whether it wants to or not, Uncle Sam's will be competing with Shake Shack and other well-known names.

"We consider Shake Shack a fast-casual restaurant. Remember, customers don't bother to make this designation as they are seeking a delicious hamburger," said Chapman.  

Will burgers with an Asian taste succeed in the demanding New York marketplace?

"Asian flavors are gaining in popularity, so this certainly has the potential to appeal to many consumers," Chapman said.

Chapman said Uncle Sam's also will have to execute on other aspects of the dining experience.

"They have to provide a compelling reason for consumers to visit for the first time and then to come back again," she said.

As for the choice of New York, "he wanted a well-known location that has a strong tourism industry", Fray said.