BUSHWICK — Don Karakas couldn’t imagine he’d be opening a burger and milkshake joint in Bushwick, when he jumped off a cargo ship in 1987 and landed his first job in the states at a gas station, servicing cars for $2.50 an hour. But today, the Turkish 54-year-old entrepreneur residing in Staten Island, with many businesses behind his belt, proudly runs the newly opened The Butcher’s Son right off the Jefferson L stop, in the heart of bustling and gentrified Brooklyn on Troutman Street.
Back in Turkey, Karakas’ grandfather and uncle were butchers, with a shop that had no refrigeration, where you were cut a fresh piece of meat and sent off. The new joint is a tribute to the family business that now has been long gone.
“I never was a butcher,” he reminisced. “But I knew how it worked, and I want to keep memories of it.”
The meat blend is currently a secret, but the owner assures his “juicy, sloppy, huge burgers,” are high quality and curated with care from trusted sources. While creating the menu and recipe testing, Karakas went for a couple of chef gloves to avoid getting dirty during a busy day and decided to offer gloves to his patrons to tackle the monstrous creations.
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Their signature burger, The Butcher’s, is beef and pastrami ($14), an ode to the classic delicacy unknown to the new generation of Brooklyn, “it’s real New York stuff.” With Bushwick’s new demographic in mind, Karakas also has a vegan Beyond Burger option ($12) and vegetarian variations, like a falafel burger ($11). A few other non-traditional creations include a salmon burger ($14) and crab burger ($16). You can accompany your sloppy, junky 8-ounce meat patty with a classic milkshake ($7).
Karakas is keeping his team local — the Chef, Enrique Bravard, had a burger shop back in Paraguay, and now is slinging burgers here and is a Bushwick dweller. The Chef’s helper, Jasaun Edwards, is a Bushwick-born, ex-military turned cook, who still resides locally.
Karakas says he fell in love with Bushwick, when he visited the area during the summertime. “Twenty years ago Bushwick wasn’t Bushwick,” he said. “There was really crazy action here, and suddenly I see all the graffiti, and met a lot of open-minded and educated people, and wanted to be here.” Realizing there’s no burger and milkshake joint around, he trusted his intuition and took on the challenge to create a prosperous business in a new food mecca.
A big fan of idea inception, creating concepts, and building out spaces and designing them, Karakas used to flip businesses in the food industry. However, with his latest endeavor, he feels more connected and hopes to open more locations in Bed-Stuy and Williamsburg in the future.
The design is minimal in charcoal tones, filled with lush green plants, natural light, and heavy-wood décor, with a pop of bright red from the accent bar stools. Above the bar the menu is no-frills scribbled over a long chalkboard.
Currently working on their liquor license, they hope to receive it in a few weeks and start late night hours for Bushwick’s nightlife. They’re also working on a grand opening party, but want to keep it low-key for the locals. Karakas is planning events for LGBTQ+, NYPD, FDNY, and even “dog days,” where the neighborhood’s pups will get a free burger.
“I don’t want people to just eat burgers when they come here, I want them to enjoy being here,” Karakas said. “I want it to be a hangout place, I want to have good people here.”
The Butcher’s Son
400 Troutman Street
Open every day from 11:45 a.m. to 11:45 p.m.
Find them on Instagram.