Anyone planning to open a burger place in Dallas had better have a novel story to tell. It seems just about every variation on the simple meat and bun has already been done.
Enter Elevation Burger, a franchise that focuses on quality of their food and the awareness of their footprint on the environment. The first Dallas location opened last January in the Preston Hollow at Hillcrest and Northwest Highway. I met with owners David and Fiona Barleggs and they walked me through the process that they claim elevates the hamburger.
They really have a unique product. Jump.
Why the name Elevation Burger”? Is it from Colorado? No, actually, it is from Virginia. The name applies to their idea of elevating the product, elevating the customer experience, and elevating the staff experience.
The elevation of the product is epitomized by the company’s slogan “Ingredients Matter.” David can describe how every thing they use to build a burger is better than what is sold in similarly priced restaurants around town. The pride of place is the beef. It is organic and fed solely on grass (no ‘grain finishing’ as is sometimes done with grass fed beef). The cheese is cheddar, aged at least six months, not the processed cheese widely used elsewhere. The buns are made from potato flour. The fries are cooked in olive oil. The drink dispenser serves soft drinks made with cane sugar.
The ingredients arrive fresh, not in some semi-finished form. The potatoes come from Idaho and are peeled and sliced on the premises. The meat is ground and made into patties in the kitchen.
Methods matter: The fries are put through a two-stage cooking process (not the three-stage process made famous on the web, unfortunately) in order to arrive at a crisp crust and soft interior. Each order is made fresh and delivered to your table.
The menu follows dietary trends and styles more than most burger houses. Vegetarian? There’s a burger for that. Vegan, there’s a burger for that too? Want to avoid bread? Have a ‘bun’ made of lettuce. Want a massive burger, or anything in between? Get the Elevation Burger. Buy as many patties as you want and choose your toppings. The Multi-story burger is delivered with a vertical skewer holding it all in place. The patty size of 3.2 oz makes one patty suitable for most children, two for hungry adults, three for guys with small penises trying to impress dates. Raised on In-n-Out ‘animal style’? They have that too: It’s off-menu but ask for ‘messy’. Southwestern chile lover? Ask for the hot sauce. Its superior.
They are passionate about saving energy. The sign at the top is LED. Lights are on a timer, so they are selectively turned off on bright days. Bulbs are various low-energy types. Drinks are almost all in glass bottles (a few plastic remnants remain). The tables look like wood but are actually compressed sea weed fibers. Wild huh? The chain is aiming for LEED Certification, the de facto conservation standard for green buildings. The notion of a restaurant getting it is unusual since a restaurant is, by definition, an energy user. However, it is possible, assures David.
Some things are simply innovative without having a green angle. My absolute wow moment was the soda machine. It’s the new Coca Cola ‘Freestyle’ and it mixes 129 different drinks. Ten year old kids learn its
multi-level menu immediately – it takes adults a bit longer. It is connected by WiFi to Coke in Atlanta and will download new recipes automatically at night. Ingredients go in to interchangeable cartridges at the back. Best of all, it is designed by Pininfarina (the designer of most Ferraris). Way cool. Another neat thing: The Dyson Airblade hand dryers in the bathrooms – they are getting more common but they are still the only air hand dryer that works. Considerately, the bathrooms also have paper towels. David and Fiona are going to monitor their use for several months to see if people still want paper after trying the Airblades.
Target demographic for Elevation Burger is the mum seeking to feed her kids a better diet when they want burgers. So the places are family-friendly (e,g. no music, family-sized tables available, etc). The outside patio is certified dog-friendly. On a Saturday lunchtime the place saw a busy flow of people. Since some seats were empty, many people must have got take out.
The acid test of any restaurant of course is the food. How does the burger stack up? All that attention to ingredients and process pays off. The cheeseburger I had was one of the best of the non-single site operations around. Better than the Mc…clones, better than Whataburger, better than In-n-Out. Better also than the higher level Smashburger. I have not tried Five Guys, one of the chains that Elevation regards as their direct competition and the chain out of which the Elevation founders emerged. It was not as good as Restaurant Ava’s, which is the best burger I have ever had (and twice as expensive). The main taste aspects where Elevation wins are the tastiness of the meat (no grey puck stuff here) and that cheddar is smoky and fairly sharp, not just the fatty emulsion that passes for cheese at too many places. I also tried a chocolate shake, which was good and had an intense chocolate flavor, and then a vanilla shake with Oreo and Banana add-ons (these are actually blended into the ice cream in the preparation). It left the chocolate shake in the weeds and, subject to diet setting the timing, I’ll be back for that one.
Additional stores in the Dallas area are planned for the next few months.