One bite and I was hooked—on a veggie burger for cryin’ out loud. What the heck is wrong with me? One minute, I was sitting at my desk; the next, I was ordering up a “Veggie Burger 1” with caramelized onions, cheddar cheese and balsamic mustard, with a side of fries, at Elevation Burger in Wynnewood. And it was 4:30 in the afternoon—almost five hours after lunch, two hours after a half-slice of Starbucks' low-fat banana chocolate-chip cake, and within five hours of dinner! (Of course, this would be normal if I was an Eagle or a Phillie or either of my teenage sons.)
Despite a recent, failed attempt to give up poultry and “the other white meat,” I've managed to wean myself off the red stuff. I wasn’t exactly sure how that would play out when a friend prepared some killer burgers on the grill last weekend, but when game time hit, I passed in favor of a plate full of veggies. So I knew going into Elevation that I was not going to be able to switch gears there, either. And I'm glad I didn't.
Having avoided veggie burgers my entire life—Boca burgers scare me—I had no idea what to expect. But when I saw all kinds of veggie bits and a patty that was colorful and didn't look like pressed, dried, canned pet food, I was excited. Biting into the soft bun through a modest layer of caramelized onions and cheese, I could taste rice grains and bits of vegetables, although I couldn’t make them out exactly. The promised “fire-roasted” flavor was hard to decipher under the onions and cheese, but I loved the pillow-y potato roll against the burger’s coarser texture.
The shoestring fries were crispy for the most part, though they cooled down fairly quickly. However, for me, all forgiveness is possible if a fry is crisp and salty. These did the trick, and I had no problem downing the entire contents of the cardboard container. Neat side note: Elevation Burger keeps the ketchup on one corner of every table so they can tell when someone has sat down. They told me no one ever puts the ketchup back where it was, so they can keep track of which tables they need to check for sanitation.
Overall, for not-so-bad-for-you junk food and a price of $6, I was pleased. But I've read a lot of mixed reviews on the traditional burgers and, from what I can glean, Five Guys seems to have this place beat—and probably in calories and fat, too.
The burgers here are not large, which definitely has been a common complaint by bloggers, and much has been made (negatively) about the quality of the organic, grass-fed burgers. I'm not an expert, but this type of beef is generally leaner than the regular variety and dries out more readily. Since Elevation makes its patties on the small side and has a well-done-only policy, juicy bites are less likely. It’s probably something they should rethink. I caught sight of one, though, and it looked appetizing—kind of like a Charlie burger, which I personally don’t covet the way its cult following does.
Anyway, if you don’t know much about the chain, the highlights include:
• Recycled, eco-friendly décor details, down to the lights and beadboard walls
• Environmentally friendly packaging
• Reuse of oil for auto fuel (I think one of the staffers said a local guy picks up the oil for his car)
• Free-range, grass-fed, 100-percent-organic beef burgers
• French fries cooked in olive oil
• Veggie burgers
• Hand-scooped milkshakes and malts
• Cookies with organic eggs & butter
• Side salads
• No trans fats
Regardless of how the burgers are received, I am thrilled there are two chains—Chipotle in Ardmore is another—making a conscious effort to serve affordable “fast” food, with an eye on sustainable practices both in the kitchen and the architecture.
I say, check it out the next time you’ve got a craving for something bad—but not so bad—for you. It’s not an investment that’ll wipe you out.
50 E. Wynnewood Road, Wynnewood; (610) 645-7704, elevationburger.com