When a burger goes down on the grill, Jamey Bunch can always tell if it’s fresh or frozen. That’s because he’s been in the restaurant business for so long. It’s actually been for most of his life.
“I started messing around in a restaurant when I was 12,” said Bunch, 40, who has now been cooking for 25 years. “My dad was in the restaurant business and we’d go and help out there in the kitchen and bussing tables. Silly stuff like that.”
Bunch’s Burgers & Breakfast
Where: 3008 McEver Road, Gainesville
When: 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday-Friday; 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday
So with just one part of the restaurant business left to be a part of, it was inevitable Bunch would open his own place. When he happened upon an empty spot just over six months ago, nestled into a little strip across from Free Chapel on McEver Road, Bunch’s Burgers & Breakfast was born.
“It was crazy,” Bunch said. “It still is. We kind of shut our eyes and just jumped.”
And that’s kind of how he’s lived his entire life. He grew up in Michigan but never really liked the cold. So, one year when it snowed in October, he had finally had enough.
His brother lived in Georgia and convinced him to visit in 2006. As soon as he did, Bunch was making arrangements to move just a few weeks later.
He eventually met his wife, Sam, while working at a private preschool in Cumming where he was a chef and she was a teacher.
“When he gets bored, the next thing I know we’re opening a dang restaurant,” said Sam Bunch. “That’s what life is like with him.”
They serve everything from pancakes, biscuits and burritos for breakfast, to hot dogs, sandwiches and burgers for lunch. Sliders are the specialty, though.
“We serve everything you cannot get everywhere else,” Jamey Bunch said.
They’re smaller burgers, with one-eighth of a pound of fresh, ground chuck wrapped in wax paper to “keep everything warm and gooey.”
Besides the slider being unique, Bunch’s uses toppings a little differently, too. Instead of the typical lettuce and tomato, they use grilled onions, pickles, ketchup and mustard.
Even the way they serve the burgers is unique, too.
“We serve everything in brown paper bags, so if you’ve got to go, you can,” Jamey Bunch said. “If you don’t, you just bust the bag open at a table.”
Really, everything about the restaurant is unique. It’s run completely by Jamey Bunch and his wife, except for when their 10-year-old son, Jacob, steps in to roll silverware.
There are just four tables in the restaurant. They’re painted green because it’s Jamey Bunch’s favorite color, and because they were pink and purple before. The walls are painted gray with the leftover paint used on the walls in their home. There’s an old cash register instead of a “fancy new iPad.”
“We funded this out of our pockets, so everything is tight-budget,” Jamey Bunch said. “We didn’t go and sink a ton of money.”
Even on a tight budget, though, there’s no lack of hospitality. That’s also the specialty at Bunch’s Burgers & Breakfast. There are regulars they know by first name. They know the customer’s order before they ever say a word.
Customers sometimes order and stay for more than an hour, just spending time with friends and talking with the owners. The Bunches are OK with that. Sam Bunch said they “genuinely” want them to be there.
“I love to entertain the customers and talk to them and get to know them while he’s fixing their food,” Sam Bunch said. “We’ve made a lot of friendships that way.”
As the restaurant evolves, and the menu evolves, Bunch wants to build out a fleet of food trucks. His dream is to cater different events on-site and be able to get out and meet as many people as he can.
He and his wife both think that’s a realistic goal. And even though the business is still growing and experiencing typical growing pains, like trying to keep the restaurant full with people, the Bunches know they’ll get it to where they want it for one simple, but important, reason.
“Every time I try to cook anything new, I always nail it,” Jamey Bunch said.