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Burger Fee Fi Fo Fum

August 12, 2015

Yesterday Angelo Mazzone tried to kill me. Bill Lia was in on it too. Ask Albany Jane. She saw the whole thing.

Today is the grand opening of the Capital Region’s first BurgerFi. I think, technically, it’s supposed to be written BURGERFI. That’s how it looks in all the press kits, but the the “BURGER” part is green and the “FI” part is grey. The green isn’t accidental, as there is a strong sustainability story that runs deep with this brand.

Anyhow, yesterday was the media preview, and I was invited along with a few other familiar faces. As with other media previews, there was a tasting menu so we could get a better understanding of what the place is about. Unlike other media previews the tasting menu was huge, and instead of offering samples we got full sized specimens.

For the record, that’s four full sized burgers, two sides, a hot dog, a concrete, and a shake. Doing some back of the napkin calculations, I was served over 4500 calories of food in about a ninety minute period.

I lived to tell the tale, but the diet has been completely shot to hell.

I suspect that some of you are getting bored of the burger wars raging in our region, and potentially have little interest in another contender to the throne. My suspicion is that BurgerFi will not be nearly as mobbed as the beloved Sonic was just a little bit down the road from their new restaurant on Route 9 adjacent to Latham Farms.

However, I think that BurgerFi has a unique identity that sets it apart from the competition. Not only that, but it’s one that resonates with me and my belief structure.

That would be the quality and sourcing of its beef.

“Natural” is a meaningless word. But here is what’s not meaningless: the beef at BurgerFi is sourced from Meyer’s Natural Angus, and the cattle operation employs an impressive level of transparency in its husbandry guidelines. The short version of the Meyer Way can be found here. If you’re curious about an expanded definition of “humanely handled,” there’s a handy dandy grid. And for those of you who want to check out all the gory details, those too are made readily available.

It’s this commitment to better beef that compels me to see BurgerFi as the Chipotle of the “Better Burger” chains. One could make the argument that Elevation Burger should be a closer parallel, but having been to an Elevation Burger I just couldn’t get past the dry overcooked grassfed patties.

Which brings us to a discussion of taste, which is a very tricky subject indeed.

Media previews are amazing. Years ago I went to one for Chipotle, and the samples I enjoyed there were the best tasting bites of Chipotle I’ve ever had. Which makes perfect sense. When preparing food for the media, a chain restaurant brings out its corporate trainers who prepare the food with extra special care. So please take the following descriptions with a grain of salt. Your milage will likely vary. By how much, will remain to be seen.

Having never had a BurgerFi burger, my first impression of my first bite was one of pleasant surprise. I was surprised by how juicy it was for a double stack of well-done quarter pound patties. But I didn’t fall in love with the basic beef patties. I thought the dressed up version with a fried egg and bacon was a good bit better. It’s the “Breakfast All Day Burger” and it comes with drizzle of maple syrup, which I thought I would hate. However, the sweetness was subtle and balanced out some of the saltiness. Still, in the future, I might ask for it without maple.

Really, the only burger to get at BurgerFi is what they call “The Twenty-Eight” for the number of days the brisket is dry aged. That has some beefiness to it. And with the standard build of swiss and blue cheese, it packs a serious flavor punch. At $10.57 it’s not cheap. But let’s remember what goes into that: it’s half a pound of never-frozen ground brisket from conscientiously raised cows that has been dry aged for the better part of a month.

When Chipotle came to town, I was excited because a fast food restaurant was going to be putting better quality food in consumers’ mouths than some of our best restaurants. Nobody is making a burger like this here in the Capital Region.

The fries are good. The onion rings are comically large (to their detriment). The Chicago dog is a bit misguided in its construction. The crisp quinoa based veggie burger is excellent. The vanilla custard concrete and chocolate custard shake were both a bit too sweet.

There’s beer on tap. Beer in bottles. And wine by the glass. Rare Vos is the top pick on the tap line, which isn’t bad for a burger place.

BurgerFi isn’t quite the Chipotle of burgers, but I think that they could be. I’d love to see their commitment to sustainably produced ingredients go a bit deeper. Their Mexican inspired competitor has found a supplier of cheese and sour cream made from the milk of grass-fed cows. It would be amazing to see the burger maker take that leap.

And elements like the drizzle of maple syrup, which in reality isn’t 100% pure maple, fall short of expectations. Because while it’s great the chain makes its own BurgerFi sauce in-house from fourteen ingredients, they don’t make their own mayonnaise (which would be totally badass, and really not that hard to do).

Regardless, I’m excited to have this new burger maker in our midst. I’ll be back to try variations on the dry aged brisket burger, grab another veggie burger, and snack on their fries. It wouldn’t be hard to come here and drop $20 a head on fast food, but you don’t have to do that. Quarter pound burgers start under five bucks, and a family sized portion of fries (1500 calories including the supplement for parmesan, herbs and garlic aioli) is only another five dollars.

Skip the custards, drink tap water, and a family of four can have a reasonable 600 calorie meal for $25, made with beef that you can feel better about. Is it health food? Heavens no. But you can feel better about it knowing that it was made from better ingredients.

P.S. I didn’t actually eat all that food. BurgerFI was nice enough to give us take away containers, so that the leftovers weren’t wasted. I’m told they reheat well. And I’m also told that there’s now a microwave in my kitchen. We’ll see.

P.P.S. For the sake of full disclosure, we also got some BurgerFi schwag. I got a beer koozie, a t-shirt, a draw-string bag, a couple of pens, a Livestrong-style bracelet, and a pair of green sunglasses. Oh, and there were some coupons tossed in too.

P.P.P.S. BurgerFi isn’t a riff off Semper Fi, so you won’t find US Marines paraphernalia. It’s supposed to be short for “burger-fication of the nation.” Now you know.

P.P.P.P.S. BurgerFi uses Martin’s potato rolls, and I’m totally okay with that (now that Martin’s has removed yellow 5 from its ingredients list).

3 Comments leave one →
  1. -R. permalink
    August 12, 2015 10:08 am

    Honestly, I was completely ambivalent about BurgerFi’s arrival because yes, we’re becoming over saturated in burger joints. However, your post has changed my mind and if I’m cruising through the Lathams, I’ll try them out.

  2. August 12, 2015 10:49 am

    Commenters on Tablehopping are freaking out about the proliferation of burger chains that’s happened in the last two years.

    But we haven’t scratched the surface for burger chains in this area. There are at least a dozen other good ones that we will probably never see in this corner of the country. Whataburger and In-N-Out are just two.

    I’m tempted to head over to BurgerFi for the opening. I may well just do that.

    On a related note, Crave opens up next Monday the 17th. Have a gander at the pics of burgers and the menu. The place looks very promising. And it’s just a few blocks away from me on Western. I’m a bit concerned about the menu though, it’s huge. I hope they can keep quality up with so many items available.

  3. Chad permalink
    August 13, 2015 5:03 am

    There’s a Burger Fi about five minutes from where I live in South Florida (they’re based about an hour north)..They are good, but not blow your doors off good. I like Smashburger and Elevation burger a little better. You guys are dead on though, the brisket burger is the best on the menu…

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