Any New York resident walking into the Burgerfi would immediately notice an uncanny resemblance to Shake Shack. The menu, layout, wall of bottled wine, and even logo colors are all remarkably similar to the successful burger chain by Denny Mayer.
Some will undoubtedly shun Burgerfi for its lack of creativity. These are the same highbrow diners who believes Miso Cod only comes from Nobu, Porterhouse for Two belongs to Lugers, and any nigiri sushi with a garnish on top should be a Gari creation. I do admit, the originals are and always will be quite charming, but I’ve personally had fantastic variations of the aforementioned dishes at other restaurants, and my good conscience was intact.
So lets take a step back and imagine if we’ve (gasp) never been to a Shake Shack, and stumbled into Burgerfi while strolling down 2nd Ave. You’re greeted warmly by the expertly trained staff, make your order of burgers, fries, and craft beer. You’re handed a buzzer as you wait for the order, and a few minutes later pick up your order on a small aluminum tray. The burger’s tasty, the beer’s cold, and the concretes provide a satisfying finish.
Keep in mind Burger King was once a copy of McDonalds. Expand fast enough and nobody will care to remember who’s the original.
If rapid expansion is the key to establishing a chain’s identity, Burgerfi is setting the pace. Since its launch in Florida back in 2011, it’s already expanded to over 20 locations with many more in the works. The latest expansion brings Burgerfi into the Upper East Side, Denny Meyer territory. While many non-New York restaurants are tentative about launching in the city, Burgerfi has a unique local advantage. Many of the the management team, including founder John Rosatti are transplanted New Yorkers. In fact you probably known Mr. Rosatti’s business long before you tasted his burger – he’s the owner of Brooklyn’s Plaza Automall before he ventured into hospitality.
Of course, success of a burger chain ultimately comes down to the burger. Burgerfi prides itself on beef that’s free of hormones, steroids or antibiotics. The beef, along with your choice of free toppings are served inside a seared branded bun. Compared to the esteemed Shack Burger, the flavor of the beef in Burgerfi’s offering comes up just a bit short. The difference, I suspect, is once again the trademarked and proprietary meat blend by Pat LaFrieda. The difference though really is small, and to be compared to the Shack Burger means you’re already one of the top in the city.
As for the other stuff in the tray, I loved the selection of craft beers both from the tap and in bottles (Abita Purple Haze makes an appearance). The fries, which can be paired with gigantic onion rings to form the formidable Cry and Fry, were excellent. If you like your onions and potatoes seasoned, there are also a handful of seasonings to chose from.
The “Burger Wars” of the 1980s were a lot of marketing fluff and boring hamburgers. Today’s generation of burger joints have stepped up to the evolving tastes of consumers. As these regional chains encroach enemy territory, options expand for consumers. It truly is a great time to enjoy a hamburger.
What does this rating mean?
From the notebook: The meal was complimentary, though it did not effect my opinion, nor was I required to write.
1571 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10028