As my midsection will attest, I've eaten my fair share of burgers over the years, and in recent months, the frequency seems to have increased, what with the proliferation of "better burger" joints. BurgerFi, a South Florida chain, is one such joint that's causing quite the stir on Park Avenue. Its proximity to Rollins College qualifies it as a boon to starved (cash or otherwise) scholars, and its "farm to tray" approach means local purveyors are sourced for patties and toppings. That's their hook – and, let's face it, every "better burger" joint is going to need one to compete in this rapidly saturating market.
Another hook: The burgers are free – hormone-free, antibiotic-free and cruelty-free. It should be noted that they're on the smaller side and served medium-well with a char on the outside; the buns are all branded, in true cattle-ranch style, with the BurgerFi logo. The pricey double cheeseburger ($10.14), though far from free, was packed with flavor. The well-formed patties inside the squishy bun didn't exactly explode in juices, but the burger was an instant classic nonetheless. Premium toppings like cherry peppers, white cheddar and Peter Luger steak sauce elevated it to a higher gustatory level. On the other hand (and I mean that literally), the ultimate burger ($9.97) was puzzlingly flavorless. I expected more from the double all-natural prime brisket burger, but maybe this particular batch of locally sourced meat just wasn't up to snuff.
Vegetarians may find the VegeFi burger ($6.77) to their liking – the quinoa-based disk is crisp on the outside, soft inside, with flecks of zucchini, carrot and chewy lentils – but I prefer a more carnivorous chew. Seeing a Wagyu beef hot dog ($4.97) on the menu had me grinning, but the bun – soft in some areas, hard in others – relegated this wiener to the doghouse.
Yet another BurgerFi hook is the "secret menu," a ploy used by other eateries to create a loyal following by making every customer feel like an insider. You'd think securing one of these secret menus would involve a dark-alley rendezvous with a fidgety foreigner in a leather trenchcoat, or at the very least, a word-of-mouth recommendation from an in-the-know customer – but in actuality, BurgerFi's not-so-secret secret menu is posted on the website. You won't find exotic meats, toppings or preparations; rather, a majority of the undisclosed items are code-named combos of regular menu items.
This covert bill of fare offers both "fries well done" and "fries limp," a nice customization choice; however you like 'em cooked, try the cry & fries ($4.97), a healthy serving of fresh-cut fries (fried in peanut oil, à la Five Guys) and wide-cut onion rings. Desserts are also worth a look, particularly a thick, rich, frozen custard treat dubbed the "Park Avenue Alternative" ($5.57): Vanilla custard is blended with fresh mango, coconut and caramel to create a ridiculously decadent capper. The double-dip chocolate concrete ($4.97) is a denser frozen custard, which I enjoyed plain, sans toppings.
A playful rustic-PoMo-industrial decor is highlighted by communal wood tables, LCD menu boards and cool Edison bulbs. There's even a touch-screen Coca-Cola Freestyle machine, as well as craft beers and wines for those who prefer a chardonnay with their bacon cheeseburger.
BurgerFi doesn't get everything right, but in the race to claim middle ground in the city's burger battle, they're determined to prove that if you build a better burger, they will come.
538 S. Park Ave., Winter Park
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