Is it possible that conventional wisdom once again is wrong and maximum customization isn’t what diners are seeking? Judging by the new burger restaurant openings in 2015’s second half, operators believe diners want top-quality ingredients and fair prices but aren’t hugely concerned about whether they can add banana peppers or Gorgonzola cheese.
This return to have-it-our-way menus was evident in the 18 first-half-of-the-year openings we listed here in June and it continues in the 32 new burger bars below that have opened since June. At the aptly named The Burger Joint in Houston, the menu description is simple: “Our burgers are hand crafted with 100% Angus beef, locally sourced from 44 Farms. Always fresh, never frozen. We use fresh, natural and delicious ingredients. Served on toasty, classic buns.” Burger Shed 41 in Chester, England, declares, “All our burgers are locally sourced brisket and skirt from David Joinson Master Butchers and served in Wallis the Baker brioche buns.”
Similarly, WuBurger in Woburn, Mass., says of its newly opened concept, “When creating our menu, we focused on making fresh food that is ‘Consciously Sourced & Crafted with Love.’ Our burger blend is delivered to us fresh, never frozen, three times per week; our chicken is locally sourced from Acushnet, MA; our turkey and roast beef are roasted in-house daily; and when available, our vegetables are locally sourced.” The menu choices are a plain burger, the WuBurger, a veggie burger or grilled cheese. You can add toppings for small upcharges but the concept is about quality and freshness not having a thousand possible burger builds.
“Classic” is the new menu watchword. Largely unadorned burgers are menu heroes. At the new Hello Burger in Bexley, England, there isn’t an arm’s-length list of add-ons, but what would you add to its classic Lamb Burger with a patty of lamb, coriander and chilies served with yogurt, mint, lettuce, tomato, red onion and mayo? It also offers a Classic Burger with a beef patty topped with lettuce, tomato, red onion and mayo.
Burger Daddy in Grimes, Iowa, has a Classic Burger on the menu, too. But I think the one I’d order would be its Jalapeňo Ranch with jalapeňo ranch sauce, lettuce, tomato jalapeňos and pepper-Jack cheese. Stack City Burger Bar in Columbus, Ohio, calls its classic the 1940 Burger: a 6- or 9-oz. patty with grilled onions, American cheese and bread & butter pickles. The Fire Station, which opened in London, offers just six burgers, but each is well-built, including a Glazed Short Rib Burger.
Burger customization isn’t completely over and done, of course. The new Krafty’s Burgers & Brews that opened in Garner, N.C., offers six signature burgers plus a build-your-own option. And 2015 concept Beta Burger in Boston has just one burger choice (the MVP Burger) other than the “build-your-own-burger experience.” But most of the Class of 2015 are burger bars that put quality, freshness and value ahead of customization.
Please check out the complete list of the top new burger openings of 2015’s second half. If we missed your opening, introduce yourself and your burger joint in a comment below.