Josiah Citrin, the acclaimed chef–owner of the fine-dining restaurant Mélisse in Santa Monica, Calif., is entering the fast-casual burger segment.
Citrin quietly opened a prototype concept in January called Sure Thing Burger in Maui, Hawaii, which he plans to bring to the mainland United States. He is currently looking for a second location in Los Angeles, he told Nation’s Restaurant News Tuesday.
Launched in partnership with Scott Picard, Sure Thing Burger has a simple menu with only four burgers and fries. When the concept opens in Los Angeles, milkshakes will be added to the menu, Citrin said.
His goal is to create “modern fast-food” based on quality ingredients, sourced locally.
The beef burger at the Maui location, for example, comes from hormone- and antibiotic-free, grass-fed beef raised locally on the island.
“It’s not a gourmet burger per se,” said Citrin, whose restaurant Mélisse has a check average of about $180. “But it’s a really great burger. My feeling is that it’s all about the proportions” of meat to bun and sauce to toppings, he said.
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The Maui restaurant is more of a burger stand, with only 325 square feet of space for the kitchen, which serves an outdoor patio that seats 50 to 60 customers. On the mainland, Citrin plans to open in about 1,500 square feet with indoor seating.
The four burgers on the menu are:
The classic Sure Thing burger, made with locally raised beef, lettuce, tomato, grilled onions and white American cheese, and topped with Citrin’s proprietary Sure Thing sauce.
A spiced pork burger includes similar toppings, but the condiment is a Kona coffee barbecue sauce with smoked paprika.
The veggie burger is house made with brown rice, mushrooms, lentils, garbanzos, corn and dried tomatoes. The same mix is the same one that moonlights as the sausages in the vegetarian cassoulet served at Mélisse, Citrin said.
A turkey burger is topped with avocado and a basil-apple sriracha sauce.
The burgers are served on a bun that Citrin described as a mix of brioche with traditional Hawaiian bread. Customers can order the burgers in a lettuce cup instead of the bun, he said.
Prices in Hawaii are about $8 per burger, but Citrin said the mainland restaurant prices will be closer to $6.50 for the burgers.
While the better-burger segment is crowded and competitive, “There isn’t really anything in the $6.50 range,” Citrin said. “There’s $8 and up, and there’s $2.50 to $3, but not so much in between.”
Citrin, who also co-owns the casual Lemon Moon Café in Los Angeles, said there’s room for more burgers, especially a concept where great care is taken with all elements of dish.
“I have been wanting to do a burger place for about 10 years,” he said. “If you do a good job with something and create a cool ambiance and make it enjoyable, you’ll end up doing well.”