The Passion of the Burger Fi (Atlanta, GA)

On Saturday night, we brave near-hurricane force winds, walking two blocks to the BurgerFi.

The space is wearhousey, with high ceilings, lots of sharp and pointy decor, dangerous-looking chandeliers made of giant fishhooks and free-swinging bare bulbs, and many metal tables large and small. Near the back, behind a wide counter, three young men await:

The first guy, skinny and geeky, with a mop of unruly black hair and a beak of a nose, waves his long-fingered hands around in the air and shouts, “Welcome to … BurgerFi!”

The second, a short and swarthy fellow, amuses himself with a pad of interconnected sticky notes, repeatedly shuffling them from one hand to the other.

The third, who looks exactly like Canadian actor Alexander Ludwig, says nothing, but gets lots of attention from the female customers.

After studying the menu boards, we end up with the first guy. “I’ll have the VeggieFi Burger,” Clyde says.

The guy behind the counter, all sharp chin and elbows, asks, “As it comes?”

Clyde pauses. “Yes.”

“I ask … because it comes with white cheddar!”

“Okay,” Clyde says. “And a Co-”

“Wait!” Our new friend flails around a bit, poking at the screen with those amazingly long fingers. “I’m not signed in as me!” He jabs at the screen. “I’m not me!”

The closest guy, the short and swarthy Shuffler, stares off into space, shuffling his inter-connected sticky notes.

Alexander Ludwig walks over. (Behind us, a female customer sighs audibly.) “What’s the problem?” he purrs.

“I’m not me!” Long Fingers says. “I’m not me!”

Alexander Ludwig taps the screen once. “Sign out.” He taps it again. “Sign in.”

“I’ll sign in at the other register,” Long Fingers says. “It’s my favorite register.” He does exactly that, then turns back to Clyde. “Your order, sir?”

Clyde repeats his order, then hands me over to Long Finger’s tender mercies. “I’ll have the BurgerFi Burger,” I say. “As it comes.”

Long Finger bats at the order entry screen. “Want that as it comes?”

“Yes,” I say. “As it comes.”

“I ask … because it comes with two patties!”

“That’s fine,” I say. “And some parmesan herb fries. Or — no — the ‘Fry and Cry,’ with the mixed fries and onion rings.”

“The parmesan will only be on the fries,” Long Fingers says.

“As one might imagine,” I tell him. “And a peanut butter milkshake.”

Long Fingers makes a face. “You want it now?”

“Um, yes.”

“Or … with your meal?

I step back one step. “Now’s fine.”

Long Fingers rings us up. We pay. Long Fingers hands Clyde a bottle of MexiCoke.

Clyde stares down at the bottle. “Can you open it for me?”

Long Fingers scrambles around, finds a bottle opener, whacks it down over the bottle cap, and commences to grunt and strain like a woman in labor. “Wait a minute,” he says. He adjusts the opener. He struggles more. “They give us terrible bottle openers,” he explains. He clenches his teeth. He yanks. He yanks again. The bottle cap flies off, disappearing behind the counter.

“Whew,” Long Fingers says, wiping his forehead. “Whew.”

After being given a vibrating stick that, we’re told, will flash and buzz when our order is ready, we take a table near the front of the shop. For the next five minutes, I watch The Shuffler.

The Shuffler props himself on the counter, shuffling his sticky notes. He demonstrates his skill for Long Fingers … for a female employee with a clipboard … and for the kitchen staff. He tries to demonstrate his trick for Alexander Ludwig, but at the moment, Alexander Ludwig is the only person at the counter actually working the growing line of customers.

One of these is a young woman with three small children. She orders, pays, and gives each of her three kids a drink cup. Her daughter shies away from the Coca-Cola Freestyle machines (you know, the ones that infuse high fructose corn syrup with a billion combinations of artificial flavors and colors), saying, “I just want water.”

This indignation is apparently the last straw for Mommy, who throws her daughter’s cup away, snatches the little girl by the hand, and proclaims to the entire restaurant, “That’s it! That’s it! We’re leaving! We’ll just go!” She drags her daughter out of the front door, hollers for her two boys, and disappears with them down the street.

About five minutes later, her order comes up. The staff call her name. They buzz her vibrating summoning stick. Long Fingers walks her order around the restaurant several times. Finally, after consulting with Alexander Ludwig, he walks over to a table packed with burly firefighters. “This isn’t your order,” Long Fingers says. “But do you want it … as is?”

The firefighter gives Long Fingers the kind of look one gives an insect when trying to determine whether or not it has a stinger. “How much?”

“For free!” Long Fingers says, waving his free hand around.

The firefighters take the tray. Long Fingers hangs out a minute, waiting for an acknowledgement that never comes, before flouncing away.

Despite all the quizzing over the meal’s timing and schedule, my shake and burger arrive simultaneously, handed to me by none other than Alexander Ludwig himself. As he walks off, the young woman sitting next to us stares at his receding figure, rakes her teeth across her lower lip, and mops her forehead with a napkin. Once Alexander Ludwig is back behind the counter, The Shuffler, still shuffling, says, “I’m going on break.”

The burgers themselves are good — a bit more like a backyard burger than any chain-made burger has a right to be. And you know these are BurgerFi burgers, because the buns are branded. Literally. I mean, the word “BurgerFi” has been burned into the bread with a branding iron.

The french fries are overcooked, which distracts from their parmesan dusting, but the onion rings are top-notch. My shake is perfect: thick, but not so thick that sucking it up the straw gives me a hernia. Still, I admit I leave the joint a little put-off by the pricing.

I turn to Clyde. “Did I really just pay $30.00 for two burgers, one order of fried veggies, a coke, and a shake?”

“Not a bad price,” Clyde says, “for dinner and a show.”


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Who Wrote This?

Mark McElroy

I'm a husband, mystic, writer, media producer, creative director, tinkerer, blogger, reader, gadget lover, and pizza fiend.

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