With big doings, Bin 33 forces a reporter’s hand

by Brian Clarey

Texas veal chili with homemade corn tortillas are but one of the culinary gems in the offering at Bin 33 in downtown Greensboro. (photo by Brian Clarey)

Generally speaking, I like to allow new restaurants a few months of operation under their belts before I come in and check it out. That way they can work the kinks out of their systems, tweak the menu and have some idea of what they are about so I can give a fair assessment when I come in to eat.

This was the plan for Bin 33, downtown Greensboro’s hot new dining space at Hamburger Square, which opened to much fanfare in the fall, and from the beginning it was tough to stick with it.

For one, my good friend Erik Beerbower spent much of the summer creating the ironwork and other artistic flourishes for the place, giving me steady updates along the way. I knew about Bin 33’s striking pewter bartop, for example, when it was still just an idea. I also poked around in the weeks before it opened, in the process becoming chummy with managing owner Trey May who let me know something of his culinary philosophy and teased me with a few of his menu ideas.

Still, I thought, I should wait. Then the place started to blow up, attracting enough bodies on weekends that they were overflowing into the parking lot. They held a high-profile blues show and then, in a stroke of visionary genius, constructed a giant steel ball and dropped it at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. And then, last week, I got a straight-up lunch invitation from a colleague.

And though I wasn’t quite ready, I grabbed my notebook and loosened by belt a notch anyway. Bin 33’s time had come.

May dropped in at my table shortly after I sat down and initiated an onslaught of food: grilled cheese with tomato soup, pea-shoot salad, brick chicken, New Orleans shrimp, a tall burger with hand-cut fries, Texas veal chili on a bed of black beans and what I deemed the pick of the litter: a carmelized onion tart with two types of cheese and a crust laced with walnut dust.

And here I must say that I had this dish pegged as an artsy throw away, more style than substance. The plan was to take a quick bite before I dug into the burger, but I ended up macking down about half of it in three creamy, nutty bites. It’s grown-folks food, to be sure, with a long list of strong wine pairings to it.

The burger, too, deserves mention for a few reasons. For one, the burgers are cooked to order, and you can still get one cooked mediumrare. For another, the patty is ground in house with a generous portion of short-rib meat. And the thing was about a foot tall when it came to the table, stacked with layers of toppings and a fluffy, house-made brioche.

They make all of their own bread at Bin 33. Along with the brioche, I tried a fine baguette and a crusty, rustic loaf. I admire a restaurant that makes its own bread, a tricky endeavor to be sure but one well worth the effort in qualified hands.

“The conditions are different every day — temperature, humidity,” May said. “You’ve got to have a guy who really knows how to work with the dough.”

Impressive, too is the array of dishes on the menu, which changes often enough to keep things interesting. May is one of those restaurateurs who is eager to hear ideas from employees and customers and then incorporate them into the shop.

“Everybody eats,” he said. “They may not be able to cook, but everybody has food ideas. Food plays a big role in all our lives.”

So, he said, customers’ favorite home recipes may find their way onto a menu, or a staffer’s idea for a dessert may become a best seller.

Speaking of dessert: May brought out a chocolate bread pudding made from the light brioche and rich chocolate custard. It was perfect timing.

wanna go?

Bin 33 324 S. Elm St. Greensboro