UnsatisFi-ed at Tuscaloosa’s New Fast Casual Burger Chain

1320 McFarland Blvd E #510, Tuscaloosa, AL 35404

BurgerFi is part of a family of fast casual food chains that have achieved great popularity in the past several years. While the Tuscaloosa location is only the third in the state, BurgerFi currently has 82 restaurants in the country. According to the website, BurgerFi is conscious of its impact on people, animals, and the environment. They strive to hire skilled chefs, use fresh and humanely sourced ingredients, and recycle whenever possible. The restaurant itself is perfect for college students, professionals, and families. Because it falls under the classification of fast-casual, it is of high enough quality to eat as a treat, but low-key (and cheap) enough to eat on an ordinary day.

Upon entering BurgerFi, one is met with a wall of noise coming from the patrons that inhabit the seating area. Televisions displaying athletic events surround diners who lack conversational skills, while teenagers in baseball caps whip around the tightly packed tables, delivering steaming trays of burgers and fries. Bright lights awaken dazed, end-of-the-class-day eyes to an overwhelming variety of options on a modern and minimalist menu. It would be easy for one to instantly feel overstimulated as one decides whether to order a 28-day-aged brisket burger, giant onion rings larger than the burgers themselves, or the intriguing key lime concrete.

This was my second eating experience at BurgerFi, and my third time driving to the restaurant. The first time I strode into the establishment, it had just opened, and the line was nearly out the door. Hardly surprised by the popularity of a trendy new restaurant among college students and propelled by the basic drive of hunger, I walked elsewhere to the nearest eatery. While frustrated by this experience, I understood that because it was opening weekend, the restaurant had likely hired all new chefs and cashiers who needed time to get used to and speed up the process. When I finally got the chance to eat there, the line was short and moving quickly. I ordered the veggie burger, otherwise known as the VegeFi, which is made with lentils “boiled to al dente perfection” and “flavor grilled onions in a reduction of thyme and merlot” (BurgerFi.com), fries, and a milkshake. I was pleasantly surprised by the entire experience, and vowed to return soon.

My most recent visit to BurgerFi was vastly different from my second. I ordered the “Breakfast All Day Burger” on a veggie patty that came with American cheese, hash browns, grilled onions, maple syrup, and a fried egg. Additionally, I tacked on an order of salt and vinegar fries and a small coffee mocha shake, seeking the full experience of the trendy burger joint. While waiting for my food, I stood in front of the soda machine, which, as no surprise, was a fully customizable Coca-Cola contraption. I opted for water. An apron-wearing teenager appeared next to my table and passed off my meal within a few minutes, including a straw-wrapper protected shake, with drizzles of chocolate syrup decorating the inside of the plastic cup.

As any fellow fast-food consumer would logically assume, I started the meal by delicately picking up a few salt and vinegar-drizzled fries. They were slightly tangy and savory without being saturated with vinegar, except for a few bites at the bottom of the basket. The appeal of a breakfast-themed burger is not hard to understand: breakfast often blends sweet and savory flavors in delectable ways, and is arguably the most comforting meal of the day, if done right. Unfortunately, this burger did not hit its mark. Put simply, the burger was greasy and flavorless, reminding me of a McDonald’s breakfast sandwich and leaving the exact same uneasiness in my stomach. While I left off the bacon in the name of vegetarianism, I highly doubt that it would have provided the textural difference needed to keep the burger from becoming a salted blob of mush on an equally mushy bun. The layers conglomerated and stuck to the roof of my mouth, leaving me to reach for my thick coffee mocha shake in a fruitless attempt to wash it down. The shake, creamy, rich, and mixed with my favorite caffeinated beverage, was probably the best part of the meal, despite its somewhat hefty price tag.

I left the restaurant with a full stomach but an unsatisfied attitude about the experience. Overall, I would recommend BurgerFi to diners who don’t mind shelling out a few extra dollars for a semi-gourmet burger, but caution should be used when ordering. While my last burger experience was lackluster, certain menu items are worth the money, such as the Vegefi burger and the shakes.

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