Bobby’s Burger Palace/Yelp
The “fast-casual” industry — think of places like Panera — is growing by leaps and bounds. According to Technavio, the market for fast-casual fare is expected to hit $66.87 billion by 2020, and there are dozens (if not hundreds) of fast-casual concepts that have opened in recent years that are going to be competing for their share of the pie, some as offshoots of major fast food chains and some from big-name fine dining chefs. Plenty of burger joints are in this category, and we’ve tracked down 10 that should be on your radar.
Bobby’s Burger Palace/Yelp
Chef Bobby Flay might be best known for his Southwest-inspired cooking, but it’s his burgers that might end up being his legacy. At the sleek Bobby’s Burger Palace, which got its start in New Jersey in 2008 and today has 17 locations in nine states and Washington, D.C., burgers come in a wide variety of styles (“crunchifying” them with potato chips on top is the signature move); and the milkshakes, fries, and onion rings are also worthy of high praise. All the recipes were created by Flay, who announced last November that he’s putting a licensing and franchising plan in place that will allow for rapid expansion. First up? A location opening this year in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport.
South Florida-based BurgerFi has crowds flocking to its hormone- and antibiotic-free burgers, which are customizable with 12 toppings (even fries and onion rings can have up to six toppings); they were also one of the first chains to take the Beyond Burger national. Since launching in 2011, the chain has grown by leaps and bounds, with 98 U.S. locations (104 in total) and plans to add 25 more this year. Odds are, if there isn’t a BurgerFi near you now, there will be one soon.
All the burgers at Burger Lounge are 100 percent grass fed, never frozen, single-sourced from a small farm, and topped with a variety of housemade toppings; other menu items include a cage-free turkey burger, a fried cage-free chicken breast sandwich, an organic quinoa veggie burger, a pan-fried sustainable Alaskan cod sandwich, salads, and shakes. Founder Dean Loring keeps it simple and sources the best ingredients available, and the response has been tremendous: It’s up to eight Los Angeles locations, nine in San Diego, five additional California locations (with two in the works), and one in Vegas.
Farm Burger Berkley/Yelp
Founded nine years ago by farmer Jason Mann and restaurateur George Frangos, Farm Burger spares no expense in sourcing its beef: Its cows are raised without antibiotics, hormones, or GMO feed and are grass-fed and grass-finished, and the resulting burgers are made from the whole animal (instead of just ground chuck, for example). And just about everything else on the menu — which includes sweet potato hush puppies, “superfood”-loaded salads, and hot dogs — comes from trusted farmers and purveyors. There are currently 12 locations in Alabama, California, Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee.
Hopdoddy launched in 2010, and sets itself apart from the pack by serving a wide variety of burgers made from humanely raised cows with fresh ground beef, house-made buns, table service after you place your order at the counter, and a full bar. There are currently 21 locations (up six from last year), and it’s expanded outside of its native Texas into Memphis, Nashville, Denver, Arizona, and California.
Larkburger is beloved in its native Colorado (where it currently has 12 locations, along with one each in Kansas and Missouri), primarily because of the high quality of the ingredients used. All burgers are made from Black Angus cattle, no preservatives or additives are used, and all sauces and dressings are made in-house. All food packaging is natural as well, and all locations are energy-efficient. The limited menu also certainly has a “cheffed-up” component to it, with offerings including a burger topped with truffle aïoli, a grilled ahi tuna burger, edamame available as a side dish, and showstopping truffle parmesan fries.
Street food king Roy Choi (of Kogi fame) and James Beard Award-winning chef Daniel Patterson (Coi) teamed up in 2016 to open LocoL, a fast-casual concept that has the lofty goal of revolutionizing fast food as we know it. Their “LocoL Cheeseburg” is certainly starting them out on the right foot: The patty is made with 70 percent beef and 30 percent tofu and grains to keep the costs down, and it’s topped with melted jack cheese, scallion relish, and house “awesome sauce.” Other options include “foldies,” chili, and fries, all made with high-quality ingredients and sold for very reasonable prices. It’s had some bumps along the way, including a scathing review by The New York Times’ Pete Wells and a brief closure of two locations for a minor revamp, but it was dubbed 2017’s Restaurant of the Year by the Los Angeles Times’ Jonathan Gold, and the three current locations — in LA, Oakland, and San Jose — are going strong.
Founded in Bend, Oregon, by the husband-and-wife duo of Matt and Cierra de Groyter, Next Level Burger is America’s first 100 percent plant-based burger chain. The chain serves a variety of different burger patties, made with mushrooms and quinoa, quinoa and black chia seeds, and black bean and vegetables; a “savory meaty patty,” a sausage-style patty, and a Beyond Burger patty is also available. There’s a wide variety of toppings (all produce is 100 percent organic), as well as soy or coconut shakes and a wide-ranging breakfast menu. There’s nothing else quite like it, and it’s up to three Oregon locations, one in Seattle, one in California, and one in Brooklyn’s new Whole Foods Market 365.
Super Duper Burger, which has 11 locations in and around San Francisco, is the creation of San Francisco-based Back of the House Inc., a major hospitality company, and they put all their weight into creating the best burger chain possible. Beef is from Brandt Farms, is 100-percent vegetarian fed, and fresh-ground daily; organic ice cream comes from the small Straus Family Creamery; buns are baked fresh by a San Francisco bakery; and potatoes are non-GMO. Drop by in the morning and you’ll find fresh-made doughnuts at each location, and make sure to load up on the free house-made pickles when you come back for lunch.
This burger chain got its start in Dallas in 2006, got a major boost from a visit from Guy Fieri for Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives in 2009, and has since grown to 19 locations, most of which are in its native Texas. More than a dozen burgers are on the menu, including The Classic (a single patty with Cheddar), The Western (pepper jack, bacon, fried onion strings, and jalapeños), The Spicy Goat (goat cheese, chipotle sauce, and bacon), and the Freshman 15 (smashed fries, Cheddar, a fried egg, and bacon); patties made from bison, veggie, wagyu, turkey, and one exotic meat daily (ranging from elk and rabbit to camel and beaver) are available as well. Don’t miss the fried pickles, and you might as well try whatever exotic meat they’re serving that day; most of them are actually pretty tasty.
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The 101 Best Burgers in America
The New Burgers That Everyone Is Talking About
America’s Most Expensive Burgers
America’s Unhealthiest Fast Food Burgers
10 Burger Styles You Didn’t Know Existed