How do we like our burgers around here? If the recent success of local chainlets Boston Burger Co., Uburger, B.Good, and Four Burgers is any indication, the answer is fast and made to order — and served up in a supercasual space, thank you very much.
Apparently, the tastemakers behind some of Boston’s most popular restaurants have been paying attention: In 2010, the Franklin Restaurant Group added the wildly successful fast-food joint Tasty Burger to its roster of eateries, which includes higher-end spots such as the Franklin Café and Citizen Pub. In February, Ten Tables owner Krista Kranyak unveiled her J.P. “burger bar,” Grass Fed, and now Evan Deluty of hot spot Stella says he plans to open a globally inspired gourmet burger joint, as well. So what is it about these sandwiches, and why are so many Boston chefs falling under their spell?
Call it the Shake Shack effect. Danny Meyer, the New York restaurateur behind such agenda-setting fine-dining destinations as Gramercy Tavern and the Modern, found global success with this inexpensive burger eatery, which opened its first location in Madison Square Park in 2004. When the recession hit but Shake Shack outposts continued popping up everywhere from Connecticut to Dubai (one is slated for Chestnut Hill in 2013), it became apparent that burger joints were a safe bet in a tough economy.
But beyond their value, burgers seem to offer some sort of familiar connection that’s especially resonant at this moment in time — a comforting mouthful of nostalgia with a side of fries. “It reminds you of being a kid,” says Paul Wahlberg, who already had plans in the works for his Hingham burger spot, Wahlburgers, when he opened the upscale Italian restaurant Alma Nove in 2010. Tasty Burger co-owner David DuBois, who will launch a Southie takeout stand this summer and a third location in Harvard Square this fall, agrees: “It’s just an emotional type of food for people in a strange way. There are seldom things that make you happier.”
Whatever the reason for the burger’s reign, DuBois thinks it’s here to stay, citing similar surges in popularity in the ’30s and ’50s. “Honestly, this same conversation will probably be taking place 100 years from now,” he says. “When is the burger ever out of fashion?”