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BurgerFi


A slight breeze blows in through the open garage doors at BurgerFi in Leawood’s Park Place. A mom balances a tray with burgers and tries to steer two kids toward a table. The lunch rush is over and proprietor Joshua Kurzban has just finished ringing her up.

He pokes his head into a rectangular cut-out in the wall behind him to see how a Breakfast All Day Burger -- a potato bun with a hashbrown disc (made with BurgerFi fries), a single cheeseburger with American cheese, an overeasy egg, two strips of bacon and a drizzle of maple syrup – is coming along.



BurgerFi’s burger, which Kurzban first encountered at the original location in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is why he’s wearing a black shirt emblazoned with the shop’s logo and decided to open a franchise in Leawood and another in Lawrence, Kansas.

“My kids don’t eat fast food. But they wanted to eat there every day that we were on vacation,” Kurzban says. “That’s when my wife Michelle and I knew we had to bring that concept home with us.”

How do you build a better burger? It’s a question as American as baseball and one that BurgerFi set out to answer five years ago.

“Chipotle was going to change the way people thought about fast food, the burrito-ification of a nation,” Global brand ambassador Steve Lieber says. “We saw this as a tribute. It’s the burgerfication of the nation.”

Lieber had an idea for a burger franchise that would serve all natural hamburgers, hand-cut fries, hand-breaded onion rings, and custard. But first he had to define what ‘all natural’ meant.



For him, it started with the meat. He chose Meyer Natural Angus because no hormones or antibiotics are given to the cattle, which are also fed a vegetarian diet. The hamburger patties, just under a quarter-pound, are never frozen and are cooked to order. They’re sprinkled with salt and pepper and then placed on a clamshell grill.

“When we need salt. We use Kosher salt with a coarse grind. When we need pepper, we put it in a coarse grinder. That’s our secret weapon,” Lieber says.

That grill, which BurgerFi is the process of patenting, has been dramatically reengineered. They stripped the Teflon coating off the grill and replaced it with stainless steel because Lieber wanted to keep the burgers free of nitrates. They also added 50 pounds of pressure to the top arm, in order to get a proper sear on the patty. The underside of that arm is lined with parchment paper to keep the burger from sticking. The result is a 4-inch patty that can be cooked medium well in 51 seconds.

“Think of it as a $20,000 George Foreman grill,” jokes Kurzban.

The burgers are just under a quarter-pound when cooked. They fit snuggly in the 3½-inch Martin’s potato rolls and keep what Lieber sees as the ideal ratio of two-to-one between the bun and burger.



“We didn’t want it to be a food coma burger where all you want to do is a take a nap after you eat,” Lieber says. “But we wanted it to have a good feel in your hand and not feel like a slider.”

The VegeFi Burger underwent the same exhaustive process to find the right equation.

“We only have two recipes in the entire store with more than five ingredients. One is our secret sauce – a classic French remoulade sauce – and the other is our VegeFi Burger,” Lieber says.

The VegeFi burger is a mix of cooked quinoa and lentils, carrots and zucchini, parmesan and fontina cheese, panko bread crumbs, and mushrooms and onions that have been sautéed in a merlot reduction. One of every eight diners at BurgerFi opts for the vegetarian option.

“I challenge every customer. If it’s not the best veggie burger they’ve had, then it’s on me,” Kurzban says. “No one has taken me up on the offer.”



Both the VegeFi burger and standard beef burger (there’s also a 28-day aged brisket option) are available on a potato bun, multigrain bun or green style (wedged between two cups of iceberg lettuce). For those who can’t pick, Kurzban steers them toward the Conflicted Burger, which has a VegeFi patty and a burger patty.

“If it’s your first time in and you don’t know what to order, that’s the best of both worlds,” Kurzban says.