Long Island is in the midst of a gourmet burger gold rush. Restaurants with an emphasis on fresh, customized burgers and quick service are giving new life to an American favorite, and the pace of expansion has gained speed. Lorton, Virginia-based Five Guys, which came to the Island in 2007, has opened 12 restaurants here since then.
There are 12 Five Guys locations on Long Island. Pictured is a cheeseburger and fries from the chain. (Credit: Tyler Mallory)
Long Island is in the midst of a gourmet burger gold rush.
Restaurants with an emphasis on fresh, customized burgers and quick service are giving new life to an American favorite, and the pace of expansion has gained speed.
Some are outposts of chains. Lorton, Virginia-based Five Guys, which came to the Island in 2007, has opened 12 restaurants here since then. Long Island City-based Bareburger, which opened in Great Neck in 2013, set up shop in Port Washington last month and plans locations this summer in Plainview and Rockville Centre.
Smashburger, the Denver-based chain with four locations on Long Island, plans to expand to Lindenhurst in July. Shake Shack, the Manhattan-based darling of Wall Street — its shares more than doubled on the first day of trading in January — opened in Westbury in 2012 and plans a Melville location.
Others are locally grown businesses, including two that debuted last month: Local Burger Co. in Bay Shore and New York Burger Bar in Massapequa. LI Burger in Mount Sinai opened in September.
The Island now has burgers A to Z: From the longtime All American Hamburger Drive-In in Massapequa to the relative newcomer Zinburger Wine & Burger Bar in Huntington Station.
The newcomers fall into the “fast casual” niche of the restaurant industry, positioned between casual restaurants like Applebee’s and Chili’s and fast-food eateries like McDonald’s and Burger King.
In Nassau, the number of independently owned burger restaurants jumped to 27, from 14, between 2009 and 2014, said the NPD Group, a Port Washington-based market research firm. In Suffolk, the number climbed to 22 from nine.
“It’s really customers wanting to get a better hamburger but they don’t want to sit for an hour to have a hamburger,” Susskind said.
In some ways, Long Island was way ahead of the fresh burger craze. All American Hamburger Drive-In, which opened in 1963, eschews frozen foods, as fast-casual restaurants do. But its limited toppings, rapid service and prices have more in common with fast-food restaurants. Its hamburgers start at $1.30.
At Johnny’s Burgers in Centereach, a basic Black Angus beef quarter-pound burger with free basic toppings like lettuce, tomato and onions, is $4.25.
At Local Burger in Bay Shore, a single hamburger patty starts at $4.99, with free basic toppings and extra for such things as bacon or an organic fried egg.
The Burger Spot in Garden City charges $6.50 for it basic six-ounce brioche-bun burger that comes with a choice of free basic toppings and extra for fancier add-ons like bacon, avocado, roasted peppers and feta cheese. One of its specialty burgers, the Parisian, which is topped with cheddar, bacon and egg and served with home-cut fries, is $10.
Meanwhile, at the McDonald’s in Jericho, a basic single-patty burger with ketchup, pickles and onions is $1 and a double quarter pounder, the most expensive burger on the menu, is $5.79.
Despite the burgeoning number of burger chains, some local owners believe they can weather the competition because they offer quality products with a more personal touch.
At Johnny’s Burgers, whose chrome chairs, Formica tables and mood music recall the 1950s, owner Pat O’Brien, 53, a former Wendy’s manager, said a quality product and local ownership are key.
“Our burgers are fresh,” said O’Brien, who bought the restaurant a year ago. “We build them the way you want them. We have a lot of loyal customers because we are a family-owned business.”
At the Burger Spot, which was recently brimming with a lunch crowd, Dimitri Londos, 41, who has co-owned the restaurant since 2011 with his wife Ewa, also believes being local gives their business an edge.
“The fresh materials are more superior, and you can control that because you don’t have a franchise board or other boards to answer to,” he said. “So it gives you that flexibility.”
Expansions in a trendy restaurant category always carry risks. About a decade ago, North-Carolina based Krispy Kreme Donuts had several locations on Long Island. Today it has none, after an ambitious expansion effort faltered, forcing the company to close many stores and many of its franchisees to file for bankruptcy. Long Island burger joints like Shake Shack, New York Burger, Five Guys expanding – Newsday