Additions to Real Food Restaurants

Elevation Burger homepageI’ve added two burger restaurants to the Real Food Restaurants pageElevation Burger and Burger Guys.  I’m still not sure these belong on a real food restaurants list, so I welcome your comments about your experiences eating at either one or even at other burger restaurants around the area.

At first glance, Elevation Burger seems to be a somewhat better choice.  At least their beef is organic, grassfed, and free-range, and it’s ground fresh at the restaurant.  They use olive oil to fry their potatoes, which may be a little better than using cheap vegetable oil, but probably not much.  Olive oil can be safely used for light sauteing but really shouldn’t be used for deep-frying at high temperatures.  They say that there is no trans fat in any of their foods and that they buy “fresh, sustainable, and local when practical,”  but they give no information about the ingredients in their sides, condiments, or ice cream for malts and shakes.

Burger Guys also make some statements about their food that imply higher quality.  They say they use only 100% Akaushi beef, but what is Akaushi beef?  Akaushi, a Japanese breed, is promoted by the HeartBrand Beef, a breeder in Yoakum, TX, as being hormone free, high in monounsaturated fat, and a source of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid).  I do really like one claim–the feed is free of genetically engineered ingredients; however, the statement implies the cattle are grain-fed.  HeartBrand provides a nutritional analysis of Akaushi beef but compares it only to conventional, factory farmed meats.  Grassfed beef would be healthier and more nutritious.  Burger Guys’ website says their potatoes are fried in duck fat, but a closer look reveals that only the second frying is in duck fat. The fries are “Finished in duck fat.” Who knows what kind of fat is used for the first frying, but it is probably a cheaper, more unhealthy vegetable oil.  I got no reply to an email asking them what they use for the first frying.  They say their sauces are house-made and their soft drinks are made with cane sugar.  I do especially like one of their burger add-ons–a fried chicken or duck egg.  That’s super!    Being homemade is good if the basic ingredients are healthy, but we just don’t know at Burger Guys.  Sugar may be better than HFCS, but it’s still highly processed and empty of nutrients.  A review of the new Downtown location says they shop farmers markets for fresh produce (good!) and that they make their own ice cream (could be a better choice, but, again, we don’t know the ingredients).

Update November 22, 2012:  At the suggestion of a reader, I’ve added JerryBuilt Hometown Burgers to the Real Food Restaurants page, with some reservations. There are problems with this restaurant’s claims as with the other burger restaurants.  They use Niman Ranch beef and bake their buns in house with dough from Three Brothers Bakery.  The beef from Niman Ranch, a San Francisco based ranch and processor, is grazed for the first 14-18 months, then finished on grain.  JerryBuilt’s chicken is from Buddy’s Natural Chicken in Gonzales, TX.  Both Niman beef and Buddy’s chicken are fed a grain mix that includes soy, which is probably genetically engineered since there’s no claim to be organic.  JerryBuilt’s first choice for produce is organic and local, but always fresh.  I couldn’t find any information about the kind of oil used for cooking, so we can probably assume it’s unhealthy, cheap vegetable oil.  While JerryBuilt may be an improvement over standard fast food burgers, they’ve got a ways to go before the food is really healthy.

Do these restaurants belong on the Real Food Restaurants list?

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6 Responses to Additions to Real Food Restaurants

  1. Valerie says:

    Burger Guys I’m not sure about… Elevation you at least know the beef is 100% grass fed and organic – and the founder seems to have truly started the chain for sustainability purposes. I agree on the fries. I have also never ordered cheese there since I haven’t gotten an answer about rBGH (need to email them…), but I have had the organic bacon. I’m looking into Ziggy’s (just renamed to Grafiti) who claims some of their burgers are also grass-fed and eggs pastured AND Boheme Cafe’s burgers across the street in Montrose that also claim to have “clean livin’ grass chewin’ black angus cows” – no hormones or antibiotics. Any word on those??

    • Carolyn says:

      Elevation does seem to be the healthier of the two burger restaurants. I’m glad to hear they have organic bacon. Let me know if you learn anything about their cheese. I love bacon cheese burgers.

      I looked up Ziggy’s, now gratifi kitchen + bar, and found one item labeled grassfed–the buffalo burger. There was no other mention of grassfed beef or organic food. They did say they made everything from scratch, usually a sign of better quality. Their fries are not frozen–also a plus; however, they said they used canola oil, which is not a healthy oil for any food use. Although they said there were no trans fats per serving, that doesn’t mean no trans fats at all. The extreme processing of oils like canola produces trans fats.

      Boheme Cafe’s website does say they use beef from grassfed angus cows with no hormones or antibiotics. They also say their kimchi is fermented. If so, it could be a good choice. I couldn’t find a mention of organic produce or any other health claims. If you read their About page, Boheme seems to be more focused on ambience than on food.

      There does seem to be a general trend toward providing better quality meat. If we ask for grassfed meat every time we go to a restaurant, maybe they’ll get the idea that we want it and will pay for it.

      • Valerie says:

        Gratifi (former Ziggy’s) says also they use local, organic, pasture-grazed, antibiotic+hormone-free eggs. On the breakfast page of the menu. At the beginning of the year they had grass-fed lamb burgers also but perhaps no longer. Also, no word on the cheese from Elevation – so I still haven’t tried it. We usually start some baked fries in the oven (olive oil), get our burgers to go and use our own cheese too.
        Thanks for checking on the oil! There seems to be an exhaustive list of questions to ask and I always forget at least one!

        • Carolyn says:

          I love your solution to Elevation’s cheese and oil problem: cook your own fries and add your own cheese. But sometimes it’s just not convenient to take your food home. Wouldn’t it be great if restaurants used healthy food so that you wouldn’t need to take your food home to improve it before eating? I see a trend toward better restaurant food, but it’s moving slowly. BTW, we should avoid fake American cheese because it contains quite a lot of unhealthy trans fats.

  2. Michael Gold says:

    I don’t like Elevation burger’s cheese. It’s American cheese-style cheese. Ick. I eat there sometimes, but bring my own cheese. Yes, it would be nice if they cooked their fries in tallow and lard. So write them and suggest it!! Give them links to the healthiness of the fats!! Be nice if they had sweet potato fries, too.

    • Carolyn says:

      Yes, those of us who care about what we eat should email the restaurants about the quality of foods we’re looking for. I also think it helps if, every time you eat at a restaurant, you ask questions like “Do you have butter?” “Do you have cheddar cheese?” “Do you have organic wine, vegetables, grass fed beef . . .?” Since often the waiter must go back to the kitchen to get the answer, the word gets around that customers are wanting better quality and more options. The more times people ask these questions, the more likely there will be an influence on restaurant food, especially if, for example, when you ask about the fat for the fries, you don’t order them when you learn they use unhealthy fats like vegetable oil.

      I have been asking these questions sometimes but not often enough.

      There are restaurants which don’t have ANY butter at all! I try not to go back to those.

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