It's Elemental At Elevation Burger
The name could be considered eponymous, but there is a clear implication nonetheless: We’re better than the rest.
I visited Elevation Burger this week at their new location on Western Avenue in South Portland. This is a relatively small burger chain operating in California, Texas, New York, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Florida and now Maine.
Their message — different from other such quick-serve burger restaurant chains — is quality of ingredients—namely that the beef is 100 percent organic, from 100-percent free-range, grass-fed cows. What we’re not told is whether the cows led a stress-free life while grazing, I assume, somewhere in the Continental United States and from what part of the cow their burger beef derives? Grass fed beef is expensive. And at $5.79 for the basic burger are we eating tail parts or chuck?
Don’t get me wrong. That such a burger chain as this endeavors to bring a better product to market is commendable.
But whether this ultimately translates into a yummy and exciting burger is, however, questionable.
I had a lightly adorned burger so as not to be distracted from too many extraneous add-ons. There are ten free topping choices with a fifty cent surcharge for blue cheese dressing. (Why is blue cheese always more? It’s not an expensive cheese per se.) My topping picks included ketchup, caramelized onions, pickles and the original Elevation Sauce.
The ketchup (generic brand, I assume) dominated, leaving the Elevation Sauce a mystery concoction that should be renamed “secret sauce.”
The basic burger is two one-third-inch (approximately) thick patties, brown as shoe leather but not tough. Did it have the inimitable beefy flavor that high-quality grass fed beef should have?
The beefy flavor was mildly assertive without being objectionable.
Their other unique product at Elevation Burger is “fresh fries” aka French-fries deep fried in plain, relatively flavorless olive oil — a healthier, perkier alternative if you’re used to stronger stuff. This mass of potatoes was limp, stringy, and virtually tasteless except for a light dash of salt. I’m not a big salt user, but I looked around for a pile of salt packets, which I couldn’t find. In fact, the only a la carte condiment option is the pointy red ketchup dispenser on each table.
As for the soda/beverage machine, it’s a wondrous looking high-tech contraption in an old-fashioned style case that looks like it came from a Rachel Ray retro kitchen stage set. It’s a little cumbersome to use, but regulars will get the hang of it quickly. In the center is a computer screen with a “push” button in the middle. Gimmicky? Yes. User friendly? No.
When I went to the machine for my Coke, the display screen showed only water. It took a few seconds for me to notice the directional arrow that would take me to another menu that deployed all the drink choices.
You then put your container under the dispenser spout, push in the lever for ice and then press “push,” for soda choice, holding it down until your cup is full. But be warned: If everything is not in perfect alignment your hand gets soaked with soda.
Speaking of messes, these are messy burgers. But there’s an art to eating them. They come half wrapped in a paper bib, which you’re meant to draw down as you eat.
I wasn’t familiar with the drill. I unwrapped my burger, only to be left with a surge of topping and burger drippings all over my hands, which I wished I had washed thoroughly before starting this meal. My initial pile of napkins were replenished twice.
The room looks like many other upscale fast food burger restaurants like Five Guys with its fire-engine red walls. Except here it’s cooler and more serene with a soothing blue on blue tile motif.
The restaurant is in a strip mall with more fast-food joints like Subway and Buffalo Wild Wings and such sundry storefronts as Gentle Dental and Centra Health. It’s a disparate setting in which to wind up for a mediocre burger. But if you find yourself lost and hungry along the nether lands of Western Avenue on your way to the airport, give it a whirl.
John Golden makes no bones about sharing his opinion. If you'd like to share yours, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org