Given the ultra popularity of burgers these days, I went to the latest burger-centric chain to come to the Summit City, BurgerFi on Coldwater Road, not expecting to find anything new that really opened my eyes.
But what I found was something that I thought I wouldn't even like that was easily the best thing of its kind I have ever eaten.
Was it a burger? Yes, sort of.
The Beyond Burger has no gluten, no soy and ... no beef. It is made by Beyond Meat of El Segundo, California, from pea protein among other vegan ingredients.
And it is the best fake meat I have ever tasted.
It looked like a beef patty, had a texture similar to meat and had an intense beefy, umami flavor that was perhaps even more prevalent than what BurgerFi's regular burgers exuded.
I had mine “green style” in between big lettuce leaves to make it even healthier than it already was, and it was a game-changer. It was a little more expensive than the regular burgers, but well worth it if you don't eat meat.
I have tried a lot of faux meats and none of them came as close to the real thing as this did. I never wanted to have any of the other faux meats again, but I would be willing and likely to have this again.
BurgerFi also offered a more standard veggie burger, the VegFi, made from quinoa and chopped vegetables. It was seared until it was crunchy and did not emulate a traditional burger as well. You knew it was made of vegetables from the first bite because of the loose texture inside that sear.
It had good flavor and was of decent size, but I would never choose it over the Beyond Burger. I might, however, give it a try as an add-on via the Conflicted Burger, which has the VegFi and a regular beef patty.
No need to quote Clara Peller and ask, “Where's the beef?” I'm getting to it.
The best real burger I had was a simple double cheeseburger with all the fixings – lettuce, tomato, American cheese, BurgerFi sauce (an orange mayonnaise-dressing mix) and grilled mushrooms, which I paid a little more to add. The two quarter-pound Angus patties stood at the forefront, and I enjoyed every bite of this juicy behemoth and its perfectly grilled and nifty logo-branded bun.
The cheese was plentiful and oozed out of the bun – it was this way on all of the burgers – the patties were deftly seasoned and the meat's flavor truly shined. The mushrooms will probably be a must-add for me from now on because they were great.
I also liked the CEO, but it had a lot more going on so the toppings outshined the meat a bit. This double made from the restaurant's Wagyu-brisket blend had aged Swiss cheese, candied bacon-tomato jam and truffle aioli. The jam gave it sort of a barbecue flavor, but I was hoping for more bacon flavor so I would add extra bacon if I had it again.
The Wagyu-brisket blend was also not significantly better than the Angus patties, so don't be swayed by the fancy moniker.
I didn't have to add bacon to my bacon cheeseburger but did add an egg and ended up with a salt bomb that was hard to eat. It wasn't the bacon's fault, it was that egg. It was so heavily salted that I had to remove it from the burger to make it edible.
Whoever was working the line at BurgerFi that night must have had a happy shaker hand because my “Cry + Fry” basket of onion rings and french fries suffered the same fate.
Luckily, I had one of the restaurant's fancy black and white milkshakes to wash the salt down. The shakes were perfectly executed and the perfect complement for the burgers.
My fries were salted just right on another visit and raised to wonderful levels when topped with garlic aioli, herbs and Parmesan cheese to create the Urban Fries. I will never have plain fries there again because these were tremendous and a bargain at only 97 cents more than regular fries.
The onion rings were also much better the second time around. They were big, crunchy and worth having again, but I would not choose them over those Urban Fries.
The salt issue was really the only problem I had that was the fault of the restaurant's staff. It is a fast-service place where you order, take a seat and wait for your buzzer to go off to go pick up your food. So, there was little interaction because nobody was working the dining area to tend to any issues customers might have after picking up their food.
The place had several problems in terms of design. It was crazy busy during all of my visits so you will have to fight to get a table. They were also tightly packed, so there was no privacy and the noise level made conversing impossible.
The tables are so close to each other, anyone who uses a wheelchair would struggle to navigate through them, so a table around the perimeter would need to be secured if it is packed.
The most irritating design flaw concerned the trash receptacles. The openings were so small you could not dump a tray into them without getting food and trash all over the top of the table. And given I never saw any employees tending to them, they were overflowing and disgusting with food remnants smeared all over their tops.
Speaking of remnants, the fried chicken sandwich and Vienna Beef hot dogs at BurgerFi should be treated as such. They were mediocre at best, and I would never go to BurgerFi with the intent of having either.
It's a burger place, so get a burger – even if it is made out of pea protein.
Address: 7777 Coldwater Road
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Handicapped accessible: Yes, but confines tight
Alcohol: Beer and wine
Credit cards: Yes
Menu: Beyond Burger ($8.67), cheeseburger ($7.17), VegFi ($7.17), CEO ($9.97), bacon cheeseburger ($8.77), fries ($3.57), Cry + Fry ($5.77), toppings ($1 for egg, chili, onion ring, mushrooms; bacon $1.57), hot dog ($4.47), chicken sandwich ($6.37), shakes ($4.47)
Rating breakdown: Food: **1/2 (3-star maximum); atmosphere: 0 (1 max.), service: 1/2 (1 max.)
Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at email@example.com; call at 461-8130. DuVall's past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.
Out of a possible five