Do you want one of the tastiest burgers in Richmond? Do you want it to have great texture, perfect and crispy browning, and still remain pink and juicy in the middle? Pony up $10 and you’ll get a bacon cheeseburger that’s sublimely delicious. At least that’s what I felt sinking my teeth into a near-perfect patty at Burger Bach (pronounced “batch”, not like the composer) tonight. I don’t know how consistent they’ll be over time and under pressure, but what I tasted tonight might help bring on the pressure that comes from hungry crowds.
Ten bucks isn’t cheap for a burger. Full stop. Not when we’ve grown up on cheap fast food and frozen patties in the grocery store. But there are distinguishing factors about these burgers that, to my mind, justify their seemingly-lofty prices. Right up front is the meat; whether it’s lamb, beef, or chicken, they get their meat from New Zealand and claim it all to be naturally, humanely-raised, pastured as they ought to be (their fish is all supposed to be wild, non-farmed fish, too). I asked if they grind their own meat, and sure enough they do. Besides that making me willing to get a burger thats pink in the middle, I think it did a lot for the texture.
My burger was cooked just right, too. The patty was just the right thickness so that you could get the exterior brown and crispy all over (not charred) but the interior was lightly pink. Melted on top was some really good organic cheddar and some tasty bacon. The rolls, which Valerie and I both thought to be quite good, come from across the parking lot at Ellwood Thompson’s, it turns out. I don’t know whether or not they salted or otherwise seasoned the meat in the burger, but between the texture, cooking, toppings, and bun, it was easily one of the best I’ve eaten in years. I haven’t had a burger this good since eating at The Shake Shack in Madison Square Park.
The burgers come with a fresh-looking side salad, but you can order a side of hand-cut fries. Two people could probably split their small order for $2 that comes with one of their 10 different natural, organic (and in many cases, house-made) dipping sauces. Since they haven’t been open for long, they let Valerie pick out several extra sauces for free, and she loved the cilantro and tzatziki sauces.
This is not going to be a regular stop for grabbing a burger. And a better balance of quality, flavor, and price is still best found somewhere like Five Guys (unless somebody can tip me off on a better option – Carytown Burger and Fry doesn’t cut it for me anymore). But I haven’t yet eaten a tastier burger in Richmond. And you know, maybe burgers shouldn’t be cheap. The true cost of a cheaper burger is poor quality and inhumane farming practices. Better that Americans treat a burger as a special treat that we eat infrequently anyway. At any rate, I highly recommend you try a really simple burger to start just so you get the most out of the burger’s flavor itself.
And I really do want you to try this place out (unless you don’t eat meat – though they make veggie burgers, too). But I have to be honest. I’m a bit conflicted about this place, and it has nothing to do with pricing. It’s this whole New Zealand thing. I’m not anti-Kiwi, but I have to say I find it odd that, in this age of increasing momentum in the direction of “local” we have a restaurant sourcing all of its meat from literally halfway around the world. Owner Michael Ripp told Richmond.com that his plans are economically and environmentally close to or better than trucking domestic beef. A big part of me, though, wants to know whether that’s compared to commercial American agriculture or the many local and regional producers in the Mid-Atlantic. Are there no comparable Virginia farmers raising good grass-fed beef at prices competitive to flying it in from New Zealand? It’s possible I’m being naive; if so, please correct me.
It all just seems so peculiar, though, like the New Zealand thing is mostly marketing (like the tacky neon “Angus” signs in the windows or the t-shirts already available for sale). Delicious beef helped, sure. But that tasty burger I ate tonight was mostly the result of good burger craft, and little to do with New Zealand. But for heaven’s sake, get over your sticker shock and go try one of their burgers.