BurgerFi is moving faster than a pack of paparazzi chasing a million-dollar smile. The Palm Beach County-headquartered chain, established in 2009, will soon have some 50 outlets from coast to coast.
BurgerFi takes its cue from Manhattan-based Shake Shack with a pared-down menu focusing on juicy double-patty burgers and a collection of rich “concretes,” custards layered with decadent mix-ins.
The gleaming setting might be described as eco-conscious industrial. Stainless ceiling fans the size of riverboat paddle wheels help reduce electricity consumption, metal trays that look like jelly-roll pans eliminate the need for plates, and chairs and tables are made of recycled materials.
Ironically (or conveniently), BurgerFi’s first Miami-Dade location is wedged between a Jenny Craig and a Pilates studio tucked in an Aventura strip mall. Even with the wide glass doors closed, the smells of boiling peanut oil and grilled meat fill the parking lot.
Bustling with young families and couples in shorts and tees, the spot is super casual, but the food is upscale for a burger joint. Wagyu beef hotdogs have a lovely snap, and can be topped with neon green relish, brown mustard and hickory-smoked bacon among other choices.
Grass-fed Angus beef burgers include the off-the-charts Breakfast All Day (B.A.D.) burger with a fried egg, American cheese, bacon, hash browns, maple syrup and griddled sweet onions. It comes on the chain’s signature branded bun, a sweet, squishy specimen reminiscent of the addictive, eggy Hawaiian bread you find in grocery stores. It all adds up to an insane indulgence that only the most calorie- and cholesterol-unconscious could love.
The standard cheeseburger with two thin, medium-cooked patties has the perfect proportions of meat to bread with nice, crisp iceberg lettuce and tomatoes that were a bit anemic.
Non-beef options include a chicken and apple hotdog and a surprisingly tasty veggie burger made of quinoa, lentils and shredded vegetables on a soft, multi-grain bun topped with oats. This deep-fried patty has a nice golden crunch and a soft, satisfying center. Meatless, of course, doesn’t mean low-calorie, especially slathered with a tomato-mayo sauce topped with a slab of nicely aged white Cheddar cheese.
French fries are delicious if not quite crisp enough with their deep amber sheen and skin-on earthiness. They can be topped with everything from vinegar and salt to chili and cheese sauce, but, for my money, plain is best. The golden onion rings are crisp on the outside and softly sweet inside.
You order and pay at a walkup counter, where the staff is incredibly on the ball. One of the store managers took time to demonstrate the sexy, Italian-designed, freestyle soda machine, which boasts more than 125 customizable combinations of Coca-Cola products from vanilla ginger ale to peach Mello Yello.
Adults will be thrilled to know that BurgerFi has a respectable lineup of wines at silly-cheap prices, from $4 a glass to $19 a bottle. Beers include bottled and draft craft selections from Dog Fish, Shipyard Applehead and Florida’s own Orange Blossom pilsner.
If all that is not sweet enough, the thick shakes and concrete combos are tantalizing. My favorite is the tangy Key lime pie, complete with chunks of graham cracker crust, layered with vanilla custard — even at nearly 1,000 calories. (Man, why do they have to list calories on the menu?)
Hip, efficient, inexpensive, friendly and ecology-minded, BurgerFi is definitely onto something good.
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Contact Victoria Pesce Elliott at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @VictoriaPesceE.