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
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
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,”
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
“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
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.