Despite scurrilous predictions the burger boom would run out of steam, it hasn’t. Five Guys, Elevation Burger, The Counter, Umami Burger, Smashburger, Shake Shack, Bobby’s Burger Palace and others weren’t on the map a few years ago but now they’re booming, opening outside their original markets and spreading.
There’s no reason to suspect this pattern won’t continue. To prove it, here are 11 burger concepts worth watching in 2011 because they’re riding the crest of the burger business’s next wave .
◙ Jake’s Wayback Burgers; based in Cheshire, Conn.; 21 units open. The place began nearly two decades ago as Jake’s but “Wayback” was added this year (at Mr. Peabody’s insistence?) to fit its retro style. There’s a Burger of the Month (a potato chip-topped Crunchy Peppercorn Burger this month) and a changed-monthly shake (egg nog). For November it offered a Turkey Dinner Burger (a turkey burger topped with cranberry sauce and stuffing) and Pumpkin Pie shake.
◙ Burguesa Burger; Dallas; 3 units. If McDonald’s married Taco Bell, Burguesa Burger would be their offspring. The creation of Jeff Sinelli, who earlier developed the Genghis Grill and Which Wich chains, Burguesa Burger’s signature item, La Monumental, combines two beef patties, two slices of cheese, ham, avocado, lettuce, tomato, onion, refried beans, crunchy tostada, and a creamy sauce on a sesame-seed bun, topped with a whole jalapeño.
◙ BGR The Burger Joint; Lansdowne, Va.; 4 units. A fave in the D.C. area, this concept is spreading out fast. Upcoming locations are in Mobile, Ala.; Columbia, Md.; Clemson, S.C.; Arlington, Va.; Springfield, Va. Check out the Cuban Burger topped with slow roasted pork, Serrano ham, sweet pickles, Dijon mustard and Swiss on a brioche bun and grill pressed.
◙ 5 Napkin Burger; New York City; 3 units. New York’s beloved burger joint is invading Red Sox territory with a location in Boston’s Prudential Center opening this winter. The menu goes on beyond burgers to include a foot-long Kobe beef hot dog and lobster-roll sliders.
◙ Burger Lounge; San Diego; 4 units. This champion of grass-fed beef has a spare menu: one beef, one turkey and one veg burger plus salads, fries and panko-coated onion rings that have won plaudits from Rachael Ray’s magazine.
◙ Mooyah Burgers & Fries; Frisco, Texas; 17 units. Mooiyah is about to open out side Texas with an impending location in Knoxville, Tenn. But it has its sights set much higher: The chain claims to have signed multi-unit development agreements that will add 221 units. The basic Mooyah burger is a double-patty creation. Points for that.
◙ Blanc Burgers + Bottles; Leawood, Kan.; 3 units. Three locations in three states (Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska) is some sort of record. A fourth location/state in Little Rock, Ark., is under consideration. The winner of the 2010 BurgerBusiness Burger Brackets is definitely worth watching.
◙ Cheeseburger Bobby’s; Kennesaw, Ga.; 5 units. Worth watching because it’s an old-school, hand-pattied-burgers concept. There’s nothing off the wall here, but there’s everything you’d want when you’re hungry for a good burger.
◙ Zinburger Wine & Burger Bar; Scottsdale, Ariz.; 3 units. This Fox Restaurant Concepts brand just opened in Clifton, N.J., an unlikely third step after Phoenix and Tucson. But that indicates Fox might keep going, opening more outside its Southwest territory. The signature Zinburger is Angus or Kobe beef topped with Manchego cheese, Zinfandel-braised onions and mayo.
◙ Twisted Root Burger Co.; Dallas; 5 units. What was once Dallas’ favorite upscale burger joint has grown into a five-unit chain. All are in Texas, but it wouldn’t be surprising if TRBC goes wide. Burgers are half-pounders and a mix of brisket and chuck.
◙ Epic Burger; Chicago; 2 units. Worth keeping an eye on because this is how all successful burger joints will operate in the future: With all-natural meat that’s never frozen, hand-formed and cooked to order and fresh-cut and fresh-cooked fries.