Here's the thing. I'm not a foodie. Don't get me wrong – I like food. Correction: I LOVE food. But I don't have what you would consider a sophisticated palate. My favorite foods are peanut butter and cheese fries. Not together. But still. I've rarely felt impressed by food. It's just food. I like my meat VERY done (read: burnt) and I probably use way too many condiments, but I'm ok with that. I get by.
Eating is more of a social experience for me than anything else. I eat lunch with my work girlfriends at least once a week, and I usually get to go with non-work friends several times a month. It's something I look forward to, but I am rarely the one who requests one restaurant over another. I'm usually the unhelpful, indecisive friend who reads the group email with the subject line "Where do we want to eat today?" and answers back with a "Wherever. I don't care." Because I honestly don't. I could eat Chick-fil-A for lunch every single day and not feel tortured.
But I'm not without favorites. Which is what brings us here today. For months, my friend Nancy and I upheld a weekly tradition of meeting at Marketplace Express in Fayetteville and catching up over a Chicken Berry Salad. In fact, you may remember one particularly notable Chicken Berry Salad experience from about six months ago. We took it very seriously. Marketplace Express was a tradition for us. A social experience. A favorite.
And it's gone.
Just like that, our Marketplace Express closed and reopened as a brand new restaurant called Burger Life.
And word of it is tearing through Northwest Arkansas like wild fire. I honestly don't remember the last time something like this came with such a fanatical hype. It's a burger place, people. But it's everywhere– people talking about it at work, people posting about it on Facebook. So when I got the "Where are we eating today?" email last Friday morning, I quickly replied with a request to try Burger Life. And it was on.
After fighting the crowd in the parking lot, we stepped in the door and came face to face with The Burger Revolution. The atmosphere of this place is bold and intense and larger than life — and they don't ease you in. Two steps into the restaurant you see a menu board that goes all the way to the ceiling — with options of meat, bun, cheese, toppings, etc. Like so:
I was handed a small, laminated copy of the menu and a marker, and a Burger Life employee was there to explain the process. Choose your meat (or veggie burger!), choose your bun, yadda yadda — thousands of combinations, yadda yadda. We were shuffled in the door and through the line, still struggling to take it all in. 12 different cheeses?! What on earth is Jezebel sauce? Who puts a fried egg on a burger?
I felt completely unprepared for what was happening. And I was unavoidably distracted (and frankly – disappointed) by the multiple typos I immediately noticed on the menu. It's BLEU cheese, for example. And I've never heard of a sandwich called "grill cheese". As I navigated through the line and placed my order, I noticed my pretzel bun was abbreviated on my receipt as "prztl". Seriously?
Proofreading aside, the food was very good. But since we've established that food isn't really my area of expertise, it's not surprising that the experience had a bigger impact on me than the food itself. I don't know what better word can describe it but INTENSE. The colors are bright. The imagery is big and bold. There are huge photographs of big, sloppy burgers on the walls. The music is loud. There are MANY employees scurrying around, and that particular day (opening week) there was a crowd WAY too big for the space. Oh – and it's a little on the pricey side for a place that has you retrieve your own lunch out of the kitchen window and bus your own table. And frankly, the ordering process was a little too complicated for me. I crumbled under the pressure and chose safely.
I selected an Angus burger on a Pretzel bun, and finished it with two different kinds of cheese, some bacon, lettuce and honey mustard sauce. Here we are:
A word of advice — you almost have to work backwards through the menu to make the most of it. For example, I made my way all the way to Step 5 and my interest was piqued by Asian Peanut Sauce, but I'd have had to go back and change all my other stuff just to make it work. And I wasn't willing to make all 472 of those decisions all over again.
It's new. And they are brilliantly capitalizing on their own novelty. So far, so good — as the line was out the door the entire time we were there on Friday. And after briefly mourning our bygone meal tradition, Nancy and I were able to enjoy dinner together on Saturday. Yes, Saturday. I was there twice in 36 hours. And if anyone suggests it for lunch in the near future – I'll compliantly go along.
But I've gotta be honest, I'm already missing my Chicken Berry Salad.
Check out their website or find them on Facebook. And let me know if you go, I would absolutely love to hear about your burger revolution experience. Also be sure and visit my friend Lyndi at NWA Foodie should you be looking for a real, live expert in all things food.