By Karen Billing
One of the most often used “buzz” terms in the restaurant world right now is “fast casual”— an eatery where the food comes out quick but is high in quality and served up in a space that, while relaxed, treats every customer as a valued guest.
Burger Lounge, the latest new business to open up in the refreshed Flower Hill Promenade, sits comfortably in that fast casual niche. With its growing chain of restaurants, the Lounge offers the “original grass-fed burger” — healthy and authentic tastes, sustainable and green business practices and “superlative” guest services.
“Our goal is that every guest leave happier than when they arrived,” said Robert Lane, marketing director.
The first Burger Lounge opened in La Jolla in 2007, founded by J. Dean Loring and Mike Gilligan. The son and grandson of butchers, Loring started his first restaurant company at age 17 with a remodeled cable car/food truck in San Francisco. He ran a burger restaurant in Humboldt County before coming south and opening Cody’s in La Jolla in 1998 – but he always wanted to get back into the burger business. With his neighbor Gilligan, a banker, he opened the Burger Lounge in La Jolla, the first of what would be seven San Diego-area eateries. In addition to Del Mar, there are locations in Hillcrest, Kensington, Little Italy, Coronado and the Gaslamp.
There are now 10 Burger Lounges open and one under construction in Brentwood, as the restaurant broke into the crowded Los Angeles market a year and a half ago. Burger Lounge restaurants can be found in Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and West Hollywood.
“North County San Diego is a natural fit for the progression of our company. We’re very selective about the locations we pick, it has to be a good mix of residential, commercial and tourism,” said Lane. “With the recent remodel of Flower Hill and the commitment the management has made to upgrade, we felt like this was a good place for us to be.”
The restaurant has an outdoor patio with orange umbrella-covered tables and inside the look is sleek and modern with orange vinyl booths, dark wood benches and white tabletops. Customers order at a walk-up counter but Burger Lounge is known for its full service after the order, with staff circulating to offer “superlative” service.
One of the restaurant’s mottos when it comes to the menu is “no junk all food”— the burgers are handcrafted with 100 percent fresh, single source American grass-fed beef.
“The grass-fed beef movement has become more prevalent as consumers are paying more attention to the food they put in their body, especially in the fast casual space,” Lane said.
The great thing about having relationships with the partners the Burger Lounge owners source their ingredients from is that they’re able to develop the types of products they would like to have. They worked with their cheese company Rumiano Cheese (the oldest family-owned cheese company in the state) to develop a line of grass-fed organic cheeses.
Everything at Burger Lounge is scratch-made.
“The whole menu isn’t organic but it is as sustainable and organic as it can be from our proprietary bun recipe to our house-made 1000 Island dressing,” Lane said.
The result is a taste that is unmistakably authentic.
The most popular burger on the menu is the signature Lounge Burger, which comes with choice of organic American or cheddar cheese, fresh or grilled onion, lettuce, tomato and 1000 Island dressing.
Burger Lounge also does a free-range turkey burger and an organic quinoa veggie burger, made with quinoa, brown rice, corn, zucchini, garbanzo beans and carrots.
“This is a great veggie burger, it’s not a beef wannabe,” Lane said. “It stands alone as a great menu item.”
Side options include French fries and onion rings cooked in 100 percent refined peanut oil and, as it is called on the menu, a “nice little side salad.”
Burger Lounge also offers “truly healthy salads” as an entrée choice: A fresh vegetable salad and an organic quinoa salad packed with quinoa, spinach, kale, arugula, roasted baby squash, corn, tomato, red onion, toasted almonds and feta with a house-made smoked tomato vinaigrette.
Organic cane sweetened Maine Root sodas are on tap, as well as local craft beer and premium wine. The menu also includes chocolate, vanilla, coffee and brownie shakes made exclusively with Dreyer’s ice cream.
The menu is kept relatively simple but Burger Lounge does offer a limited edition burger series that changes with the seasons. In season right now is the spring lamb burger, with melted asedero cheese, jalapeño relish and tomatillo green chile aioli.
Other limited editions have included game such as bison, boar and elk.
Since the April 19 opening at Flower Hill Promenade, Burger Lounge has enjoyed a wonderful response and Lane said it is proof of the perfect fit.
“Over the last two years the majority of our growth existed in Los Angeles and this is the first San Diego store to open in the last two years,” Lane said. “It’s nice to open in a city where the brand is well-known and well-received.”
Visit Burger Lounge at 2720 Via de la Valle in Flower Hill Promenade, open every day from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information, visit